© Lance Anderson

12th Arctic Council Ministerial meeting convenes in Reykjavík

The meeting will further cooperation among Arctic States and Indigenous Permanent Participants, and mark the end of the Icelandic Chairmanship and beginning of the Russian Chairmanship

On 20 May, Iceland will host the 12th Arctic Council Ministerial meeting in Reykjavik and online. The meeting marks the end of the two-year Icelandic Chairmanship of the Arctic Council and the beginning of the Russian Federation’s Chairmanship for the years 2021-2023. The meeting is also the first to be hosted in-person, under the auspices of the Arctic Council, since the Covid-19 pandemic put a halt to gatherings in early 2020. Owing to the situation the meeting will be held in reduced format, with Foreign Ministers from the eight Arctic States and representatives of the Indigenous Permanent Participants on site in Reykjavik and the majority of delegates joining the meeting through an online platform. The meeting will review and welcome around 80 deliverables compiled by the Council’s Working Groups during the Icelandic Chairmanship. Arctic Ministers furthermore plan to sign a Reykjavik Declaration and to mark the Council’s 25th anniversary by adopting the first ever strategic plan of the Arctic Council.

The Arctic Council is the pre-eminent intergovernmental forum for cooperation on Arctic affairs. The Council’s Ministerial meeting is held every two years, giving the Foreign Ministers of the eight Arctic States and the political leadership of the six Indigenous Permanent Participants the opportunity to strengthen international cooperation in the region, and review the quality work produced by the Council’s Working Groups. A preview of select key reports and other deliverables that will be released at the Ministerial meeting will be presented in four thematic briefings on the topics of climate change, Arctic shipping, human health and innovation in Arctic communities. Click here for more information about the briefings and registration.

For the past two years Iceland has chaired the Council under the heading “Together Towards a Sustainable Arctic”, which reflects not only the country’s strong commitment to the principle of sustainable development but the necessity of close cooperation in the region and beyond. During its Chairmanship, Iceland highlighted four priority areas: the Arctic marine environment, climate and green energy solutions, people and communities of the Arctic, and a stronger Arctic Council. Under Iceland’s leadership, the Council undertook significant initiatives focusing on marine cooperation, plastic pollution, gender equality, Covid-19 in the Arctic, meaningful engagement with youth, enhanced cooperation with the Council’s Observers, and more.

“The Arctic Council’s success lies in the Arctic Council family’s ability and willingness to work together. This past year is a proof of that. I’m incredibly proud of the Working Groups. Their reports, assessments and action plans are crucial for informed decision making, and the fact that they are successfully delivering numerous quality products despite being hindered by the pandemic, shows their swift adaptability and dedication to their work,” said Ambassador Einar Gunnarsson, outgoing Chair of the Senior Arctic Officials. “Iceland had an ambitious program for its Chairmanship at the outset. We’ve had to work around some unexpected challenges, and that makes me even more pleased that we are on track to conclude the Chairmanship with a strong Ministerial declaration and a strategic plan that reaffirm the Council’s commitment to a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable Arctic region,”

The 12th Ministerial meeting takes place in a historic year for the Arctic Council, which celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2021. The 25-year collaboration between the 8 Arctic States and 6 Indigenous Permanent Participants remains unique in the world; a forum where Indigenous Permanent Participants, Foreign Ministers and State representatives sit together at the same table to jointly shape a prosperous future for the Arctic.

At the Ministerial meeting, Iceland will pass the Chairmanship gavel to the Russian Federation, which will highlight sustainable development throughout its Chairmanship. The Russian Federation will maintain a strong focus on the people of the Arctic – including enhanced efforts towards promoting Indigenous cultures and languages, the Arctic environment and sustainable economic development.

Meeting logistics

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the representatives of the Arctic Council Working Groups and Observers, as well as additional delegates of the Arctic States and Permanent Participants, will participate in the meeting via an online conferencing platform.

Media representatives are invited to attend the meeting in person in Reykjavik, following Iceland’s national travel and health regulations. The virtual Ministerial meeting platform will be open for media unable to attend in person. Media representatives that wish to attend the Ministerial meeting, either virtually or in person, are required to register for accreditation in the registration form.

An overview of the Icelandic Chairmanship of the Arctic Council is available here: https://oaarchive.arctic-council.org/handle/11374/2594

Information about the Arctic Council’s 25th anniversary is available here: https://oaarchive.arctic-council.org/handle/11374/2595