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Frequently Asked Questions

7 May 2015
Frequently Asked Questions about the Arctic Council and Arctic Council website...

How and when was the Arctic Council established?

The Arctic Council was established on 19 September 1996 when the governments of Canada, the Kingdom of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, the Russian Federation, Sweden, and the United States signed the Ottawa Declaration. The establishment of the Arctic Council was preceded by the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy (June 1991), a declaration on the protection of the Arctic environment. 

Who are the members of the Arctic Council?

The members of the Arctic Council are the eight Arctic States (Canada, the Kingdom of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, the Russian Federation, Sweden, and the United States), as well as the six indigenous Permanent Participant organizations (see below). There are six Working Groups within the Arctic Council (see below), each of which focuses on a particular set of issues for the Arctic Council. In addition, the Arctic Council has more than thirty Observer states and organizations (as of 2018). All Arctic Council decisions and statements require consensus of the eight Arctic States.

What is a Senior Arctic Official (SAO)?

Each Arctic State appoints a Senior Arctic Official (SAO) to manage its interests in the Arctic Council. Each SAO is thus a government representative, usually from an Arctic State's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The SAOs guide and monitor the Arctic Council's activities in accordance with the decisions and instructions of the Foreign Ministers of the Arctic States. That guidance is usually provided in the form of Ministerial Declarations, which are produced roughly every two years when the Chairmanship of the Arctic Council rotates.

When and where does the Arctic Council meet?

Senior Arctic Officials and PPs meet at least twice a year, while all partners meet at Ministerial Meetings held every two years. These meetings are typically held in the Arctic State that holds the Chairmanship at the time of the meeting. Working Groups and Task Forces hold additional meetings in other locations and at other times.

Who are the Permanent Participants (PPs)?

Permanent Participants is a common term for organizations that represent indigenous peoples in the Arctic Council; either by representing a) a single indigenous people resident in more than one Arctic State; or, b) more than one Arctic indigenous people resident in a single Arctic State. The PPs participate actively and are fully consulted in all deliberations and activities of the Arctic Council. The Indigenous Peoples' Secretariat (IPS) serves the six Permanent Participant organizations. The six PPs are listed below.

What is a Chairmanship?

Each Arctic State in turn is responsible for the leadership of the Arctic Council for a period of roughly two years. This is called a Chairmanship.
The order of rotation of the Chairmanship has thus far been as follows: Canada - United States - Finland - Iceland - Russian Federation - Norway - Kingdom of Denmark - Sweden.
The Chairmanship rotates every two years among the eight Arctic States.

Who are the Working Groups, and what do they do?

The six Arctic Council Working Groups study issues that are of concern for the Arctic environment and its inhabitants. This includes a broad range of themes; those interested in learning more should consult our backgrounder, explore the websites of the individual Working Groups, or browse reports from each Working Group in our Open Access library. The Working Groups' reports provide knowledge, advice, and recommendations to the Arctic Council and others.


Who are the Observers?

Observer status in the Arctic Council is open to:

a) Non-Arctic states;
b) inter-governmental and inter-parliamentary organizations, global and regional;
c) non-governmental organizations

Does the Arctic Council sponsor projects?

All contributions to the work of the Arctic Council are made on a voluntary, project-by-project basis. Such contributions are largely provided in the form of people, expertise, scientific data and/or financial resources to implement specific projects undertaken within the Arctic Council's subsidiary bodies (Working Groups, Task Forces, and Expert Groups). Thus, the Arctic Council does not sponsor private/university/research projects.

What is the role of the Arctic Council Secretariat (ACS)

The Arctic Council Secretariat is an administrative office that works under the direction of the Senior Arctic Officials and the Arctic Council Chairmanship. For more on the tasks of the Arctic Council Secretariat, please see the ACS terms of reference or search for our most recent annual report in the Open Access library. Any available vacancies at the Arctic Council Secretariat are posted on the Arctic Council website.

Are internships available with the Arctic Council Secretariat?

It is possible to get an internship lasting from two to six months. The ACS gives priority to students from the Arctic States. High proficiency in English is a must. Open positions for interns will be announced on the Arctic Council website.

Where can I find specific Arctic Council documents? 

For any publicly available document, please visit the Open Access library at