Apply for observer status

Observer status in the Arctic Council is open to:

  • non-arctic states
  • inter-governmental and inter-parliamentary organizations, global and regional
  • non-governmental organizations.

Criteria for admitting observers:

As set out in the Declaration on the Establishment of the Arctic Council and governed by the Arctic Council Rules of Procedure, observer status in the Arctic Council is open to non-Arctic States; inter-governmental and inter-parliamentary organizations, global and regional; and non-governmental organizations that the Council determines can contribute to its work.

In the determination by the Council of the general suitability of an applicant for observer status the Council will, inter alia, take into account the extent to which observers:

  • Accept and support the objectives of the Arctic Council defined in the Ottawa declaration.
  • Recognize Arctic States' sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction in the Arctic.
  • Recognize that an extensive legal framework applies to the Arctic Ocean including, notably, the Law of the Sea, and that this framework provides a solid foundation for responsible management of this ocean.
  • Respect the values, interests, culture and traditions of Arctic indigenous peoples and other Arctic inhabitants.
  • Have demonstrated a political willingness as well as financial ability to contribute to the work of the Permanent Participants and other Arctic indigenous peoples.
  • Have demonstrated their Arctic interests and expertise relevant to the work of the Arctic Council.
  • Have demonstrated a concrete interest and ability to support the work of the Arctic Council, including through partnerships with member states and Permanent Participants bringing Arctic concerns to global decision making bodies.

Role of observers:

Decisions at all levels in the Arctic Council are the exclusive right and responsibility of the eight Arctic States with the involvement of the Permanent Participants.

  • Observers shall be invited to the meetings of the Arctic Council once observer status has been granted.
  • While the primary role of observers is to observe the work of the Arctic Council, observers should continue to make relevant contributions through their engagement in the Arctic Council primarily at the level of Working Groups.  
  • Observers may propose projects through an Arctic State or a Permanent Participant but financial contributions from observers to any given project may not exceed the financing from Arctic States, unless otherwise decided by the SAOs.
  • In meetings of the Council’s subsidiary bodies to which observers have been invited to participate, observers may, at the discretion of the Chair, make statements after Arctic states and Permanent Participants, present written statements, submit relevant documents and provide views on the issues under discussion. Observers may also submit written statements at Ministerial meetings.

Observer Manual

At the 2013 Kiruna Ministerial Meeting an Arctic Council Observer Manual was formally adopted.

Thirteen Non-arctic States have been approved as Observers to the Arctic Council:

  1. France - Barrow Ministerial meeting, 2000 
  2. Germany - Iqaluit Ministerial meeting, 1998*
  3. Italian Republic - Kiruna Ministerial meeting, 2013
  4. Japan - Kiruna Ministerial meeting, 2013*
  5. The Netherlands - Iqaluit Ministerial meeting, 1998*
  6. People's Republic of China - Kiruna Ministerial meeting, 2013
  7. Poland - Iqaluit Ministerial meeting, 1998*
  8. Republic of India - Kiruna Ministerial meeting, 2013
  9. Republic of Korea - Kiruna Ministerial meeting, 2013
  10. Republic of Singapore - Kiruna Ministerial meeting, 2013
  11. Spain - Salekhard Ministerial meeting, 2006
  12. Switzerland - Fairbanks Ministerial meeting, 2017
  13. United Kingdom - Iqaluit Ministerial meeting, 1998*

 *"Also present at the signing ceremony" in Ottawa 19 September, 1996. (See 3rd paragraph of the JOINT COMMUNIQUE OF THE GOVERNMENTS OF THE ARCTIC COUNTRIES ON THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE ARCTIC COUNCIL)

Contact information

Fourteen Intergovernmental and Inter-Parliamentary Organizations have an approved observer status:

  1. International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) - Fairbanks Ministerial meeting, 2017
  2. International Federation of Red Cross & Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) - Barrow Ministerial meeting, 2000
  3. International Maritime Organization (IMO) – Rovaniemi Ministerial meeting, 2019
  4. International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) - Barrow Ministerial meeting, 2000*
  5. Nordic Council of Ministers (NCM) - Barrow Ministerial meeting, 2000*
  6. Nordic Environment Finance Corporation (NEFCO) - Reykjavik Ministerial meeting, 2004
  7. North Atlantic Marine Mammal Commission (NAMMCO) - Barrow Ministerial meeting, 2000
  8. OSPAR Commission - Fairbanks Ministerial, 2017
  9. Standing Committee of the Parliamentarians of the Arctic Region (SCPAR) - Iqaluit Ministerial meeting, 1998*
  10. United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UN-ECE) - Iqaluit Ministerial meeting, 1998 
  11. United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) - Inari Ministerial meeting 2002
  12. United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) - Iqaluit Ministerial meeting, 1998*
  13. World Meteorological Organization (WMO) - Fairbanks Ministerial meeting, 2017
  14. West Nordic Council (WNC) - Fairbanks Ministerial meeting, 2017

At the Kiruna Ministerial Meeting in 2013, the Arctic Council “receive[d] the application of the EU for Observer status affirmatively”, but deferred a final decision. Until such time as Ministers of the Arctic States may reach a final decision, the EU may observe Council proceedings.

*"Also present at the signing ceremony" in Ottawa 19 September, 1996. (See 3rd paragraph of the JOINT COMMUNIQUE OF THE GOVERNMENTS OF THE ARCTIC COUNTRIES ON THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE ARCTIC COUNCIL). 

Twelve Non-governmental Organizations are approved Observers in the Arctic Council:

  1. Advisory Committee on Protection of the Sea (ACOPS) - Barrow Ministerial meeting, 2000*
  2. Arctic Institute of North America (AINA) (Formerly Arctic Cultural Gateway (ACG)) - Reykjavik Ministerial meeting, 2004 (as: Arctic Circumpolar Route) 
  3. Association of World Reindeer Herders (AWRH) - Barrow Ministerial meeting, 2000
  4. Circumpolar Conservation Union (CCU) - Barrow Ministerial meeting, 2000
  5. International Arctic Science Committee (IASC) - Iqaluit Ministerial meeting, 1998*
  6. International Arctic Social Sciences Association (IASSA) - Barrow Ministerial meeting, 2000
  7. International Union for Circumpolar Health (IUCH) - Iqaluit Ministerial meeting, 1998*
  8. International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA) - Inari Ministerial meeting, 2002
  9. Northern Forum (NF) - Iqaluit Ministerial meeting, 1998
  10. Oceana - Fairbanks Ministerial meeting, 2017
  11. University of the Arctic (UArctic) - Inari Ministerial meeting, 2002
  12. World Wide Fund for Nature-Global Arctic Program (WWF) - Iqaluit Ministerial meeting, 1998*

*"Also present at the signing ceremony" in Ottawa 19 September, 1996. (See 3rd paragraph of the JOINT COMMUNIQUE OF THE GOVERNMENTS OF THE ARCTIC COUNTRIES ON THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE ARCTIC COUNCIL). 

For further details on any of the Intergovernmental, Inter-Parliamentay or Non-governmental Organizations, please visit their websites by clicking on the relevant link listed here above.