The Arctic Council: Past, Present, and Future Prospects with Canada in the Chair from 2013 to 2015


  • Terry Fenge


Established in 1996 as a “high level forum” to promote co-operation in the Circumpolar World, the eight-nation Arctic Council subsumed the programs and initiatives of the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy, initiated in 1991. Six Indigenous peoples’ organizations enjoy “permanent participant” status in the Council, which has successfully completed wide-ranging technical assessments on environmental, social, and economic issues. In 2004 the Council approved an Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, four years in the making. Projecting extensive ablation of Arctic sea ice resulting in significant environmental and social change, this assessment markedly influenced the subsequent research and policy agenda of the Council and the attitude to the region of many non-Arctic states and interests. The European Parliament and some academics and non-governmental organizations suggest that as a result of the “opening” of the Arctic to increased development of hydrocarbons and minerals, a legally-binding treaty be put in place to ensure development in the region is “orderly.” This concept has been firmly rejected by the Arctic states which have, instead, promoted the evolution of the Arctic Council to broaden and deepen co-operation in the region. The Council now has numerous observers: twelve non-Arctic states, nine international intergovernment and inter-parliamentary organizations, and eleven non-governmental organizations. The Council is now supported by a permanent secretariat based in Tromsø, Norway. Of considerable importance, ministers increasingly provide the Council with the mandate to negotiate legally-binding agreements to address specific issues. 

Author Biography

Terry Fenge

Terry Fenge is an Ottawa-based consultant specializing in Arctic, environmental, and Aboriginal issues; since 1992 he has at different times worked on the AEPS and Arctic Council on behalf of the Canadian Arctic Resources Committee, the Inuit Circumpolar Conference (now Council), and the Arctic Athabaskan Council.






Special Collection: The Arctic Council, the EU and Polar Politics