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Ministerial Direction

BACKGROUND

The Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy (AEPS), founded at the first ministerial conference in Rovaneimi, Finland in June 1991, was a non-binding environmental protection agreement among the eight Arctic nations (Canada, Greenland/Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States). Some, not all, elements of the indigenous peoples of the Arctic are represented through the Indigenous Peoples Secretariat representing three AEPS Permanent Participants: the SAAMI Council (Nordic and Western Russia), the Inuit Circumpolar Conference (U.S., Canada, Greenland and Russia) and the Association of Indigenous Minorities of the North, Siberia and the Far East of the Russian Federation.

The impetus for the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy was primarily three-fold: 1) reports coming out of the Former Soviet Union of past Arctic Ocean dumping of radioactive and other hazardous materials called international attention to potential threats to human health and the environment; 2) the openness of the Russian Federation to discuss these problems in their search for bilateral and multi-lateral assistance to clean-up and manage present and future problems; and 3) scientific findings of abnormally high levels of persistent organic pollutants and heavy metals in Arctic indigenous people and their food sources which likely come from air, water circulation and possibly ice transport mechanisms from industrial nations in the northern hemisphere. To address these concerns, five programs were established:

There is limited record of the initial meetings of the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy (AEPS).  Please find below select excerpts of meetings held prior to the founding of the Arctic Council.

On September 19, 1996 the eight Arctic nations signed a declaration creating the Arctic Council. The Arctic Council is a consensus forum to provide a means for cooperation, coordination and interaction among the eight Arctic states and Arctic peoples (native and others) on common environmental and sustainable development issues. The Council subsumed the five AEPS programs.

The Arctic Council Secretariat maintains a web page at:

http://www.arctic-council.org

Ministerial Reports

  • First Ministerial Meeting of the Arctic Council, September 17-18, 1998, Iqaluit, Canada
  • Second Ministerial Meeting of the Arctic Council, October 12, 2000, Barrow, Alaska
  • Third Ministerial Meeting of the Arctic Council, October 7-10 2002, Inari, Finland
  • Fourth Ministerial Meeting of the Arctic Council, November 22-24 2004, Reykjavik, Iceland
  • Fifth Ministerial Meeting of the Arctic Council, October 24-26 2006, Salekhard, Russia
  • Sixth Ministerial Meeting of the Arctic Council, April 28-29 2009, Tromsø, Norway

The full reports and declarations can be found at http://arctic-council.org

(Also see Working Group Reports.)

 

Chapter 8 of the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy, June 14, 1991, defines the framework for the EPPR program of work:

“…the Arctic is exhibiting signs of serious contamination from pollutants carried via long-range transport from mid-latitudes, there has been an increase in development activities and shipping within the Arctic. These activities have serious environmental consequences in the Arctic as a result of accidents leading, inter alia, to spills and discharges of oil and other harmful substances. The vulnerability of the Arctic ecosystems to these sudden intrusions will be variable. Some limited mapping of sensitive areas to oil spills has been conducted but more remains to be done. The relative hazard/risk associated with different activities is also not well documented, nor is the geographic distribution of high risk activities.”

“There are a number of bi-lateral, regional and global arrangements which presently exist to deal with accidental pollution, such as the 1983 Canada-Denmark Agreement for Cooperating relating to the marine environment, the 1971 Agreement between Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden on Cooperation on Oil pollution, and the 1990 International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Cooperation. There are other multi-lateral conventions related to nuclear accidents or radiological emergencies supplemented by bi-lateral agreements on the exchange of information and reporting relative to nuclear powerplants and events.

The UN ECE has started work on an international convention on the prevention and control of the trans-boundary effects of industrial accidents. A part of the work is the establishment or reinforcement of regional and sub-regional mechanisms for response, assistance, and exchange of information on environmental emergencies.

“8.1 Actions”

“The Arctic countries agree to the following framework for taking early cooperative action on emergency prevention, preparedness and response in the Arctic. They will take steps to review existing bi-lateral and multi-lateral arrangements in order to evaluate the adequacy of the geographical coverage of the Arctic regions by cooperative agreements. They will also take steps to convene a meeting of experts to consider and recommend the necessary system of cooperation, which could include, inter alia, the following elements:

  • Actions to respond to significant accidental pollution from any source;
  • Coordination and harmonization of preventive policies, strategies and measures;
  • Establishment of a system for early notification in the event of significant accidental pollution or an imminent threat of pollution;
  • Assessment of the risks for significant accidental pollution and of the adverse effects in such cases so as to enable the parties to take necessary preventive, preparedness and response measures;
  • Inclusion of studies on effects of accidental pollution in conjunction with the monitoring activities of AMAP;
  • Cooperation in the conduct of research into and development of methods and technologies for prevention of, preparedness for and response to significant accidental pollution in the Arctic;
  • Cooperation in developing a system for exchange of information on research and new developments regarding methods and technologies on response in the Arctic;
  • Exchange of information on legislative and administrative measures as well as policies;
  • Measures for providing information to the public and public participation; and
  • Further enhance regional bi-lateral and multi-lateral cooperation the Arctic regarding prevention, preparedness and response by developing, as appropriate, contingency plans, training programs, as well as other measures to facilitate assistance to the parties, in particular mutual assistance for efficient emergency response in the event of significant accidental pollution, or the imminent threat of such pollution.

Page last updated July 16 2012