Arctic Council meets in Finland, addresses pollution prevention and education

26 October 2017
At the meeting just concluded in Oulu, Finland, the Arctic Council addressed overarching issues for the region like pollution prevention, education, and strategic focus. In addition, a new director was appointed for the Arctic Council Secretariat.

Representatives of the eight Arctic States and six indigenous Permanent Participant organizations, as well as the Arctic Council’s six Working Groups and more than thirty Observers, met in Oulu, Finland on 25-26 October 2017.

This is the first Senior Arctic Officials’ meeting during the Chairmanship of Finland (2017-2019), as well as the first following the 10th Arctic Council Ministerial meeting, which took place in Fairbanks, Alaska in May 2017.

The meeting opened with the announcement of the appointment of Nina Buvang Vaaja as the new director of the Arctic Council Secretariat. This decision was warmly welcomed by all delegations. Delegates then addressed overarching issues for the Arctic Council, such as pollution prevention, education, and the Council’s strategic focus for the years ahead. Much of the Council’s work in these areas is accomplished by its six Working Groups — ACAP, AMAP, CAFF, EPPR, PAME, and SDWG — as well as its Task Forces and Expert Groups.

In addition to these broad thematic discussions, the Council also received progress reports from the Working Groups and specific updates on:

  • the Council’s plans for an official side event on Monday 6 November during the upcoming UNFCCC COP23 taking place in Bonn, Germany;
  • work by ACAP, AMAP, EPPR, PAME, and the Expert Group on Black Carbon and Methane that addresses pollution prevention;
  • education-related work ongoing in SDWG and CAFF;
  • plans for an Arctic Resilience Forum to take place in September 2018 in Rovaniemi, Finland; and
  • the ratification of the 2017 scientific cooperation agreement, which is progressing quickly.

Discussions in Oulu also covered the current and potential future contributions of Observers, UArctic, and the Arctic Economic Council to these lines of work. Observers were invited to present their ongoing efforts on pollution prevention as part of the meeting, and the seven newly-admitted Observers were also invited to provide introductory remarks.

Chair of the Senior Arctic Officials Ambassador Aleksi Härkönen said of the meeting: “It has been enjoyable to chair this first full-scale SAO meeting of our Chairmanship. The contributions from the Arctic States, the indigenous representatives, the Arctic Council Working Groups and the Observers were useful and forward-looking. The City of Oulu provided excellent circumstances for organizing our meeting. I look forward to continued fruitful cooperation with all of our Arctic colleagues, including the new director of the Arctic Council Secretariat.”

The next Senior Arctic Officials’ meeting will take place in Kittilä, Finland in March 2018.