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Arctic Council Ministers meet, sign binding agreement on science cooperation, pass Chairmanship from U.S. to Finland

At the 10th Arctic Council Ministerial meeting in Fairbanks, Alaska, Ministers of the eight Arctic States and leaders from the six indigenous Permanent Participant organizations of the Arctic Council met to mark the passing of the Chairmanship from the U.S. to Finland. Ministers also signed the third binding agreement negotiated under the auspices of the Council.

Today in Fairbanks, Alaska, foreign ministers from the eight Arctic States and leaders from the six indigenous Permanent Participant organizations of the Arctic Council convened at the 10th Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting to mark the conclusion of the two-year U.S. Chairmanship and to herald the beginning of the Finnish Chairmanship, which will run from 2017 to 2019.

Foreign ministers of the eight Arctic States signed the third binding agreement negotiated under the auspices of the Arctic Council, the “Agreement on Enhancing International Arctic Scientific Cooperation,” which will help to facilitate entry and exit of persons, equipment, and material; access to research infrastructure and facilities; access to research areas; the use of traditional and local knowledge; and education, career development, and training opportunities for students and early-career scientists.

Ministers also signed the Fairbanks Declaration, which reviews the work of the Council during the outgoing U.S. Chairmanship and provides guidance for the Council’s work during the incoming Finnish Chairmanship.

The four priorities for the Finnish Chairmanship’s two years are: environmental protection; connectivity; meteorological cooperation; and education.

Foreign Minister Timo Soini of Finland, which now holds the Chairmanship of the Council, said “Climate change proceeds rapidly in the Arctic, and we need to continue the successful work of the Council.”

In his remarks at the opening of the Ministerial meeting, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said: “The Arctic Council, which recently celebrated its 20th anniversary, has proven to be an indispensable forum in which we can pursue cooperation. I want to affirm that the United States will continue to be an active member in this council. The opportunity to chair the Council has only strengthened our commitment to continuing its work in the future.”

The accomplishments of the Council during the U.S. Chairmanship (2015-2017) include projects like the Circumpolar Local Environmental Observer Network (CLEO), Marine Protected Areas (MPA) Network Toolbox: Area-based conservation measures and ecological connectivity, and a series of health-related projects aimed at improving the health and mental wellness of indigenous and Arctic communities. Major reports released on our around the Ministerial meeting include “Telecommunications Infrastructure in the Arctic: A circumpolar assessment,” “Snow, Water, Ice and Permafrost in the Arctic” (SWIPA, 2017), the “State of the Arctic Marine Biodiversity” (SAMBR) report, and “Standardization as a tool for prevention of oil spills in the Arctic,” as well as many others. All public deliverables will shortly be available via the Arctic Council’s public archive (

The Council took this opportunity to welcome seven new Observers.

  • The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea
  • Oceana
  • The National Geographic Society
  • The Oslo-Paris Commission
  • Switzerland
  • The West Nordic Council
  • The World Meteorological Organization

The Heads of Delegation for Arctic States in attendance included:

  • Canada: Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland
  • Kingdom of Denmark: Minister for Foreign Affairs Anders Samuelsen; Minister for Independence, Foreign Affairs, and Agriculture for Greenland Suka K. Frederiksen; and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade for the Faroe Islands Poul Johan Sundberg Michelsen
  • Finland: Minister for Foreign Affairs Timo Soini
  • Iceland: Minister for Foreign Affairs Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson
  • Norway: Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende
  • Sweden: Minister for Foreign Affairs Margot Wallström
  • Russia: Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov
  • United States: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson

The Heads of Delegation for Permanent Participants in attendance included:

  • Aleut International Association: O. Patricia Lekanoff-Gregory
  • Arctic Athabaskan Council: Bill Erasmus
  • Gwich’In Council International: Ethel Blake
  • Inuit Circumpolar Council: Josie Okalik Eegeesiak
  • RAIPON: Vladimir Klimov
  • Saami Council: Åsa Larsson Blind

The first meeting of Senior Arctic Officials during the Finnish Chairmanship will take place in late October 2017 in Oulu, Finland.