The Permanent Participant (PP) organizations are a unique feature of the Arctic Council. They give indigenous peoples the opportunity to make valuable contributions to the Arctic Council's activities. The PPs have full consultation rights in connection with the Council’s negotiations and decisions. Delegates from the PP organizations attend the Arctic Council meetings and sit at the table together with the Member state and Working group and task force delegates.

Indigenous Peoples Organizations became Permanent Participants

The Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy (AEPS) was formed in 1991 as a framework for intergovernmental cooperation on environmental protection initiatives among the 6 Arctic States. From the beginning, the AEPS distinguished itself by its intention to engage Arctic indigenous peoples in the cooperation in recognition of their right to be consulted in any issues concerning the stewardship of their ancestral homelands.

Thus, 3 Indigenous Peoples Organizations (IPOs) representing Inuit (Inuit Circumpolar Council, ICC), Saami (Saami Council, SC), and Russian indigenous peoples (Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North, RAIPON), respectively, were welcomed as observers in the AEPS. As a consequence of a growing recognition of the special relationship of indigenous peoples to the Arctic region, the Arctic countries assigned the special status of Permanent Participants (PPs) to the three IPOs, thereby giving them a privileged status compared to the other AEPS Observers.

In 1996, when the AEPS began evolving into the Arctic Council (AC), the 3 IPOs retained their status as PPs within the renewed cooperation as well. A little later, the number of PPs doubled to make up the present six, as, in 1998, the Aleut International Association (AIA), and then, in 2000, the Arctic Athabaskan Council (AAC) and the Gwich'in Council International (GGI) were appointed Permanent Participants.

The Indigenous Peoples Secretariat

The Indigenous Peoples Secretariat (IPS) was established in 1994 under the auspices of the AEPS. It was around the same time that the category of Permanent Participants was being developed and applied to the three indigenous peoples’ organizations then observers in the AEPS. When the AC was established in 1996, both the PPs and IPS were transferred over into the new intergovernmental framework. Since commencing business in 1994, the role of the secretariat has always been to facilitate contributions from the PPs to the cooperation of the eight Arctic states and to assist the PPs in performing communicational tasks.


Historical information and text provided by Erik Gant/IPS

This article is part of a series:
Read Part 1: Saami Council
Read Part 2: RAIPON

Photo: Some Permanent Participant delegates at the Nuuk Ministerial Meeting May 2011. Photo by Harald Finkler, used with permission | Original photo