An Explanation for the Growing Institutional Capacity of the Arctic Council




The Northern Review 48 (2018): 51–80

In 1996 the Arctic states—Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Russia and the United States—created the Arctic Council as an institutionally weak body. It lacked bureaucracy to provide direction for the institution or a stable budget. The council had weak institutional capacity. In 2011, the council announced the creation of a permanent secretariat. In 2014, it announced the creation of a “project support instrument,” which is similar to a budget. Why did states support increasing the institutional capacity of the Arctic Council? The Arctic Council’s institutional capacity is growing because all states perceive that this is in their interest as it helps the institution carry out its expanded mandate; however, states have increased capacity in such a way as to ensure the council will not become overly powerful. In addition, effective negotiation tactics by the Nordic governments made the expansion of the council’s institutional capacity more likely. Most current literature explains that the council has weak institutional capacity and its expansion has been a natural evolution. This work contributes that the council’s expansion has been a political process, resulting from tactful political manoeuvre and negotiation. The method utilized is historical process tracing, drawing on council documents and interviews with key council decision-makers. Scholars who seek a stronger and more activist Arctic Council should consider its continued weakness.

Author Biography

Andrew Chater, Brescia University College, London, Ontario

Assistant Professor (Limited Term), School of Humanities






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