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A Stamp of Approval

14 March 2019
At the meeting just concluded in Ruka, Finland, the Senior Arctic Officials reviewed and approved many deliverables for the Ministerial meeting in Rovaniemi in May 2019 in close consultation with the Permanent Participants.

Thursday, 14 Mar 2019 Ruka, Finland. For the fourth time, 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 for a Senior Arctic Officials’ plenary meeting during the Finnish Chairmanship. This time the meeting was held in Ruka in Northern Finland.

It was the last plenary meeting held during the Chairmanship of Finland (2017-2019), which will conclude with the Ministerial meeting in Rovaniemi in May. Over the past two years, the Council’s Working Groups, Task Forces and Expert Groups have worked on more than 50 projects and initiatives. The main task during this week’s Senior Arctic Officials’ meeting was to prepare for the Ministerial meeting, and to review and approve the deliverables from the subsidiary bodies of the Arctic Council. These will be presented at the Ministerial meeting in Rovaniemi.

“Within one and a half days, we have covered the full range of topics that the Arctic Council and its subsidiary bodies have worked on during our Chairmanship. We have approved results from projects that focused on education, oil pollution risks, biodiversity, marine ecosystems, Arctic climate change, and ocean acidification – to name a few. These are projects that have a real impact on Arctic communities and benefit the people living and working in the Arctic”, states Ambassador Aleksi Härkönen, Chair of the Senior Arctic Officials.

Several of the approved projects have been conducted in cooperation with Permanent Participant organizations. Ellen Inga Turi, Head of Delegation of the Saami Council, highlighted one of these projects led by the Council’s Sustainable Development Working Group: “The Good Practice Recommendations for Environmental Impact Assessment and Public Participation in the Arctic is an example of a great outcome of a joint effort. We have expectations that it can become a useful tool to engage communities, both indigenous and other Arctic residents, in assessing possible impacts of projects that are planned in the Arctic".

Prior to the Senior Arctic Officials’ plenary meeting, the six Arctic Council Working Groups and Observers met for a joint session focusing on marine litter. During the session, participants shared best practices and discussed measures on how to reduce marine litter, including micro and nano plastics. “Marine plastics truly is a global issue and cooperation between Arctic States and Observers is key. Despite the challenges we face, our discussions were very encouraging and showed that we all are ready, willing, and able to address the issue of marine litter”, says Renée Sauvé, Chair of the Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment Working Group.

Marine litter will be one of the priority topics during the Icelandic Chairmanship, which will commence after the Ministerial meeting on 7 May 2019. During its two-year term, Iceland will place sustainable development as the umbrella theme for its Chairmanship program with special focus on the Arctic marine environment, climate and green energy solutions, people in the Arctic, and strengthening the Arctic Council.

Background facts

Established in 1996, the Arctic Council is at the forefront of Arctic cooperation. In its first 22 years it has become the most important body for promoting a positive agenda and coordinating joint action on all vital issues in the region. The Council is presently developing a strategic plan, the first of its kind for the Council as a whole that will guide the Council’s activities into the future.

The Arctic Council focuses on issues of sustainable development and environmental protection in the Arctic.

The Council holds Senior Arctic Officials’ meetings roughly every six months, and Ministerial meetings roughly every two years. The next Ministerial meeting will take place 6-7 May 2019.

The Finnish Chairmanship runs from 2017-2019, after which Iceland will assume the Chairmanship of the Arctic Council.

The eight Arctic States are Canada, the Kingdom of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, the Russian Federation, Sweden, and the United States.

The six indigenous Permanent Participant organizations are the Aleut International Association, the Arctic Athabaskan Council, the Gwich’in Council International, the Inuit Circumpolar Council, the Saami Council, and RAIPON – the Russian Association of Indigenous People of the North.