Arctic Council

Context: The Arctic is experiencing warming at a rate that is four times faster than the global average. This rapid warming has led to an unprecedented loss of sea ice and the thawing of permafrost. 

More information from the news: 

  • The warming Arctic has the potential to trigger numerous catastrophic and irreversible climate tipping points.
  • Climate change’s effects are disproportionately impacting the countries of the Global South and recent studies reveal a complex connection between the diminishing Arctic Sea ice and the occurrence of extreme rainfall events during the Indian summer monsoon.
  • The Arctic Council holds significant responsibility for safeguarding the crucial Arctic ecosystem.
  • The suspension of the Council following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has added complexity to the task of holding nations accountable and monitoring broader activities affecting Arctic circle. 
  • Notably, the Arctic Council lacks any members from the Global South, although some, like India, hold observer status.
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  • As India moves towards assuming a more prominent role in leading the Global South, its future path should involve advocating for reforms and ensuring that climate protection takes precedence in global Arctic policymaking.
    • In a world increasingly multi-polar world, India has successfully hosted the G20 Summit and fostering consensus.
    • It has demonstrated an ability to navigate the conflicting interests of the Global North and Global South.
    • This capability is crucial for the preservation of our global climate, which includes protecting immensely important ecosystems like the Arctic. 
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About Arctic Council: 

  • The establishment of the Arctic Council in 1996 through the Ottawa Declaration aimed to foster cooperation, coordination, and interaction among Arctic states, with active participation from indigenous communities and other inhabitants, focusing on issues like sustainable development and environmental protection.
  • The Arctic Council has undertaken research on various subjects, including climate change, and Arctic shipping.
  • In 2011, the Council member states concluded the Arctic Search and Rescue Agreement, marking the first binding treaty under the council’s auspices.
  • The Arctic Council consists of eight countries exercising sovereignty over Arctic Circle lands: Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the United States. 
  • Additionally, there are six permanent participants, including the Aleut International Association, Arctic Athabaskan Council (AAC), Gwich’in Council International (GCI), Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC), Russian Arctic Indigenous Peoples of the North (RAIPON), and Saami Council.
  • The Council’s chairmanship rotates among the eight member states, with each state holding the position for a two-year term.


  • The origins of this endeavour date back to 1989, when the first dedicated Arctic-focused meeting brought together the Arctic countries.
  • The meeting, held in Rovaniemi, Finland, centred on the delicate yet pressing issue of the fragile Arctic environment and the potential for joint efforts to address it.
  • Extensive cooperation led to the initiation of the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy (AEPS) in 1991.
    • The AEPS primarily focused on scientific research collaboration and data-sharing related to pollution’s impacts, as well as assessing potential environmental consequences of development activities in the Arctic.
    • It consisted of four specific measures: the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme, Protection of the Marine Environment in the Arctic, Emergency Prevention, Preparedness and Response in the Arctic, and Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna.

Indigenous Permanent Participants: 

  • Seven of the eight member states have significant indigenous communities residing in their Arctic regions, with Iceland being the exception without an indigenous community. 
  • Organizations representing Arctic Indigenous Peoples can attain Permanent Participant status within the Arctic Council, but this designation is granted only if they represent either a single indigenous group living in multiple Arctic States or two or more indigenous groups in a single Arctic state.
  • The category of Permanent Participants was established to ensure active engagement and comprehensive consultation with Arctic indigenous representatives throughout the Arctic Council’s meetings and activities.
  • However, decision-making within the Arctic Council remains the prerogative of the eight member states, relying on a consensus-based approach.

Observer States: 

  • This status is open to non-arctic states approved by the Council. 
  • Observer states have no voting rights in the council and as of 2021, thirteen states have this status. 
  • These states are: Germany, Netherlands, Poland, United Kingdom, France, Spain, China, India, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Switzerland.
  • In 2011, the Council refined its guidelines for accepting observers, which prominently introduced a prerequisite for applicants to acknowledge:
    • ‘The sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction of Arctic States in the Arctic’, and
    • ‘The existence of a comprehensive legal framework governing the Arctic Ocean, particularly the Law of the Sea, as a robust basis for the responsible management of this ocean.’ 

Prelims Previous Year Questions

Q. Consider the following countries: (2014)

1. Denmark

2. Japan

3. Russian Federation

4. United Kingdom

5. United States of America

Which of the above are the members of the ‘Arctic Council’?

(a) 1, 2 and 3

(b) 2, 3 and 4

(c) 1, 4 and 5

(d) 1, 3 and 5

Answer: (d)

Prelims Practice Question

Q. Consider the following statements:

1. Arctic Council was formally established by the Ottawa Declaration in the year 1996.

2. ‘Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy’, was adopted by the Arctic council as part of the Ottawa Declaration.

3. Poland and the United Kingdom are part of the Arctic Council, which comprises a total of eight member countries.

How many of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) Only one

(b) Only two

(c) All three

(d) None

Answer: (a)

Statement 1 is correct: The Arctic Council, formally established in 1996 through the Ottawa Declaration.

Statement 2 is not correct: The AEPS, also known as the Finnish Initiative, is a multilateral, non-binding agreement among Arctic states aimed at environmental protection in the Arctic. Deliberations commenced in 1989, and the AEPS was formally adopted in June 1991.

Statement 3 is not correct: As of 2021, the observer states included Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, the United Kingdom, France, Spain, China, India, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, and Switzerland.

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