© Arctic Council Secretariat

Arctic Council advances resumption of project-level work

28 February 2024
Consensus was reached for the gradual resumption of official Working Group meetings in a virtual format, enabling project-level work to further advance

In February, the eight Arctic States, in consultation with the Indigenous Permanent Participant organizations, reached consensus to gradually resume official Working Group meetings in a virtual format. Prior to this update, Working Groups advanced project work and decision-making only via written procedures after consensus was reached in August 2023. By resuming official Working Group meetings, the Arctic Council aims to take a critical step forward in ensuring that the Council can continue to deliver on its mandate as the preeminent forum for circumpolar collaboration on issues of environmental protection and sustainable development in the Arctic.

“As I’ve emphasized in the past, without functioning Working Groups, we don’t have an Arctic Council,” said Morten Høglund, Chair of the Arctic Council’s Senior Arctic Officials. “In May 2023 at the 13th Meeting of the Arctic Council, all Arctic States and Permanent Participants reaffirmed their commitment to safeguard and strengthen the Arctic Council. Allowing Working Groups to virtually meet and advance their work is critical in meeting that commitment and the responsibility the Council has to play a leading role in addressing issues of emerging concern as it relates to environmental protection and sustainable development in the Arctic.”

In resuming virtual Working Group meetings, the Arctic Council aims to improve efficiency and collaboration within project work and enable Working Groups to advance more complex issues. The ability to meet virtually extends to all project-level teams and Expert Groups to ensure project-level work advancement. Observers and external experts are invited to reengage in these meetings as relevant. The resumption of official Working Group meetings will take place gradually over the next three to four months. As Chair of the Arctic Council’s Senior Arctic Officials, Morten Høglund will play an active role in the resumption of Working Group meetings, reviewing and providing guidance to Working Groups as they begin to plan schedules for project and Plenary meetings.

"With just over one year left of the Norwegian Chairship, I am very pleased that Working Groups can take more steps to advance their projects and initiatives for delivery at the end of our Chairship. This is critical in enabling the Council to effectively respond to rapid climate change and other urgent issues impacting the region and beyond." Morten Høglund, Chair of the Arctic Council's Senior Arctic Officials

“The decision to resume virtual Working Group meetings was the result of productive consultations with all Arctic States and Permanent Participants that have taken place over the last months,” said Morten Høglund. “With just over one year left of the Norwegian Chairship, I am very pleased that Working Groups can take more steps to advance their projects and initiatives for delivery at the end of our Chairship. This is critical in enabling the Council to effectively respond to rapid climate change and other urgent issues impacting the region and beyond.”

"Engaging with our counterparts in real time is key to the short and long-term success of the Arctic Council." Patrick Huber, Chair of the Arctic Contaminants Action Program Working Group (ACAP)

“There simply is no replacing the connections and creativity that are generated in real-time interactions with subject matter experts. Engaging with our counterparts in real time is key to the short and long-term success of the Arctic Council,” said Patrick Huber, Chair of the Arctic Contaminants Action Program Working Group (ACAP). “Trust, understanding and respect are the cornerstones on which we build our Arctic cooperation, and we need to strengthen those elements to ensure the viability of our work. As projects approach key milestones and approval of final products are prepared, Arctic Council Working Groups will need to act with certainty and confidence, and they will want to ensure that the communities of Arctic are informed and engaged in a timely manner.”

“The Arctic Council is critical for Arctic cooperation and the permanent participation of Indigenous Peoples is what makes this body unique. The ability of the Arctic Council Working Groups to continue to effectively respond to the environmental, climatic and social development is of great importance to the Peoples of the Arctic,” said Sara Olsvig, International Chair of Inuit Circumpolar Council. “Resuming virtual meetings of the Arctic Council Working Groups is a key step in maintaining and advancing the strong partnerships built over decades, as well as the full and effective participation of Arctic Indigenous Peoples in the work of the Arctic Council”.

"Resuming virtual meetings of the Arctic Council Working Groups is a key step in maintaining and advancing the strong partnerships built over decades, as well as the full and effective participation of Arctic Indigenous Peoples in the work of the Arctic Council." Sara Olsvig, International Chair of Inuit Circumpolar Council

Official Arctic Council meetings were put on pause in March 2022. The 13th Meeting of the Arctic Council took place in May 2023, where representatives of the eight Arctic States and six Indigenous Permanent Participants convened to conclude the two-year Russian Chairmanship and mark the beginning of the Norwegian Chairship 2023-2025. The gradual resumption of virtual Working Group meetings will be the first working-level meetings to take place since March 2022. Diplomatic-level meetings on the Senior Arctic Official-level will remain on pause until such time as consensus is reached by the Arctic States, in consultation with Permanent Participants, on further modalities for their resumption.

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