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Current Affairs 2023

Arctic Council - UPSC Current Affairs

The Arctic Council is an intergovernmental forum established in 1996 to promote cooperation among the Arctic states and indigenous peoples in addressing issues related to sustainable development and environmental protection in the Arctic region. The council comprises eight member countries and six indigenous peoples' organizations as permanent participants, and it focuses on issues such as climate change, biodiversity, and maritime safety in the Arctic region.

Apr 07, 2023

2 min read

The Arctic Council is an intergovernmental forum that addresses issues faced by the Arctic governments and indigenous people of the Arctic. The council has eight member states, which are Canada, Denmark (representing Greenland), Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the United States. The council also has observer states, which include non-Arctic states approved by the council at ministerial meetings. These observer states have no voting rights in the council, but they receive invitations to most council meetings.


The Arctic Council is unique in that it has a category of Permanent Participants, which provides for active participation and full consultation with the Arctic indigenous representatives within the council. The Permanent Participants can raise points of order that require an immediate decision by the chairman, propose supplementary agenda items, and propose cooperative activities such as projects. The Permanent Participants also have the right to address the meetings and have their agendas consulted beforehand.


As of 2021, six Arctic indigenous communities have Permanent Participant status, including the Aleut International Association (AIA), the Arctic Athabaskan Council (AAC), the Gwich'in Council International (GCI), the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC), the Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North (RAIPON), and the Saami Council. The Permanent Participant status does not, however, confer any legal recognition as peoples.


The role of observers in the Arctic Council has been re-evaluated, and the distinction between permanent and ad hoc observers has been dropped. The criteria for admission of observers have also been clarified, including a requirement for applicants to recognize Arctic States' sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction in the Arctic, and to recognize that an extensive legal framework applies to the Arctic Ocean.


Pending observer states need to request permission for their presence at each individual meeting. The European Union (EU) requested full observer status in 2013 but was not granted, mostly because the members do not agree with the EU ban on hunting seals. Turkey is also a pending observer state.


While the Arctic Council provides a unique platform for dialogue and cooperation between Arctic governments and indigenous peoples, decision-making in the council remains in the hands of the eight-member states on the basis of consensus. However, the council's recognition of the concerns of indigenous peoples and the involvement of Permanent Participants make the Arctic Council a crucial forum for discussing the unique challenges facing the Arctic region.

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