Arctic Council logo

The final stretch

23 April 2019
Ambassador Aleksi Härkönen, Chair of the Senior Arctic Officials speaks about the preparations for the Ministerial meeting in Rovaniemi, which will conclude the Finnish Chairmanship in May. He also goes into some of the common solutions the Arctic Council has explored during Finland’s two-year term.

The Ministerial meeting in Rovaniemi is approaching. How are the preparations going?

We are on track. We have a schedule of meetings, which we are following, and we are progressing according to our plans. The most important thing for the upcoming Ministerial is of course that the Ministers will attend. Finland has invited the Foreign Ministers of the Arctic States, and we are receiving positive signals from all eight. In the meantime, it’s the obligation of the Senior Arctic Officials to prepare the meeting well and that includes the Ministerial documents.

How are the Senior Arctic Officials, joined by the Permanent Participants, advancing with these Ministerial documents?

There are certain decisions, which need to be taken in relation to the deliverables from the Working Groups, Task Forces and Expert Groups and it seems possible to reach the necessary agreement. Then there is the Ministerial Declaration. This is the only document that is signed at a political level in the Arctic Council and in circumpolar Arctic cooperation. Therefore, we need to find consensus on all the issues that will be included in the Declaration. We are approaching that consensus on most issues. There still are some open questions but I hope that we will be able to find solutions well in advance of the meeting.

If finding consensus requires more time, are the Senior Arctic Officials and Permanent Participants prepared to take last minute decisions?

We are prepared to do that as well. We don’t expect that new questions will be raised, or previous decisions will be reopened before the Ministerial. However, there are open questions that we know will be difficult and we try to solve them well in advance. But if necessary, we will have to make the last moves immediately before the Ministerial – nothing extraordinary in negotiations within international organizations.

The Ministerial meeting will mark the end of the Finnish Chairmanship. Looking back with Finland’s Chairmanship theme in mind: What are some of the common solutions that the Arctic Council has explored over the past two years?

These are solutions that are going to become evident in the long-term. When thinking about opening up new opportunities for livelihoods in the Arctic, then connectivity is a common solution. When thinking about engaging Arctic communities in sustainable development, then education is a common solution. And when talking about climate change, then meteorological cooperation is a common solution as the scientific work strengthens our understanding of climate issues, phenomena, and change. We don’t have to agree to disagree if there is climate change or not. We can base our understanding on solid data through meteorological research and other scientific fields. The Arctic Council should continue to make necessary recommendations, that is more important than ever.