International cooperation in the Arctic

The establishment of the Arctic Council was considered an important milestone enhancing cooperation in the circumpolar North. In the Ottawa Declaration, the eight Arctic States established the Council as a high-level forum to provide means for promoting cooperation, coordination and interaction among the Arctic States – including the full consultation and full involvement of Arctic Indigenous communities and other Arctic inhabitants.

International agreements

On three occasions, the Arctic States have negotiated legally binding agreements under the auspices of the Arctic Council. These aim at enhancing international cooperation on issues related to maritime search and rescue, marine oil pollution, and Arctic scientific cooperation respectively:

Relationships with external organizations

From time to time, the Arctic Council or its subsidary bodies develop relationships with external organizations to further Arctic cooperation. See the list of relationships here.

The Arctic – An area of unique international cooperation

Since its establishment in 1996, the Arctic Council has provided a space and mechanism to address common concerns across Arctic States – with a special emphasis on the protection of the Arctic environment and sustainable development. Over the years, the Council has emerged as the pre-eminent high-level forum of the Arctic region to discuss these issues and has turned the region into an area of unique international cooperation.

This cooperation spans across the eight Arctic States, six Indigenous Peoples’ organizations with Permanent Participant status in the Council, six Working Groups, and close to 40 non-Arctic States and international organizations holding Observer status in the Council.

A vision for cooperation

At the heart of the Council’s cooperation efforts lies peace and stability in the region. In their Vision for the Arctic, a document developed after the first round of eight successive chairmanships of the Council in 2013, the Arctic States together with the Permanent Participants stated that “there is no problem that we cannot solve together through our cooperative relationships on the basis of existing international law and good will.”

This spirit of cooperation remains strong and transcends the Council’s working areas from safeguarding Indigenous peoples’ rights and cultures, to fostering sustainable economic development for self-sufficient, vibrant and healthy communities, and to acting on a changing Arctic climate and harmful environmental impacts.

Featured publications

thumb Reykjavik declaration (2021)
thumb Arctic Council Strategic Plan
thumb Circumpolar Local Environmental Observer Network: Full report and Summary for Policymakers
thumb RADSAR report: Sharing of competence within search and rescue ina maritime radiological/nuclear scenario
thumb Regional Action Plan on Marine Litter in the Arctic
thumb Meaningful Engagement of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities in Marine Activities

International cooperation news

Celebrating 25 years of Arctic cooperation

The world’s leading international forum for Arctic cooperation reflects on the unique collaboration among Arctic States and Arctic Indigenous Peoples, and looks forward t...
16 Sep 2021

An introduction to: The International Agreement to Prevent Unregulated Fishing in the High Seas of the Central Arctic Ocean

Today, the International Agreement to Prevent Unregulated Fishing in the High Seas of the Central Arctic Ocean enters into force. The Agreement will prevent commercial fi...
25 Jun 2021

The Arctic Migratory Birds Initiative

Building flyway cooperation to support Arctic-breeding birds across the world
10 May 2021
See all