Observer status in the Arctic Council is open to:

  • non-arctic states
  • inter-governmental and inter-parliamentary organizations, global and regional
  • non-governmental organizations.

Criteria for admitting observers:

As set out in the Declaration on the Establishment of the Arctic Council and governed by the Arctic Council Rules of Procedure, observer status in the Arctic Council is open to non-Arctic States; inter-governmental and inter-parliamentary organizations, global and regional; and non-governmental organizations that the Council determines can contribute to its work.

In the determination by the Council of the general suitability of an applicant for observer status the Council will, inter alia, take into account the extent to which observers:

  • Accept and support the objectives of the Arctic Council defined in the Ottawa declaration.
  • Recognize Arctic States' sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction in the Arctic.
  • Recognize that an extensive legal framework applies to the Arctic Ocean including, notably, the Law of the Sea, and that this framework provides a solid foundation for responsible management of this ocean.
  • Respect the values, interests, culture and traditions of Arctic indigenous peoples and other Arctic inhabitants.
  • Have demonstrated a political willingness as well as financial ability to contribute to the work of the Permanent Participants and other Arctic indigenous peoples.
  • Have demonstrated their Arctic interests and expertise relevant to the work of the Arctic Council.
  • Have demonstrated a concrete interest and ability to support the work of the Arctic Council, including through partnerships with member states and Permanent Participants bringing Arctic concerns to global decision making bodies.

Role of observers:

Decisions at all levels in the Arctic Council are the exclusive right and responsibility of the eight Arctic States with the involvement of the Permanent Participants.

  • Observers shall be invited to the meetings of the Arctic Council once observer status has been granted.
  • While the primary role of observers is to observe the work of the Arctic Council, observers should continue to make relevant contributions through their engagement in the Arctic Council primarily at the level of Working Groups.  
  • Observers may propose projects through an Arctic State or a Permanent Participant but financial contributions from observers to any given project may not exceed the financing from Arctic States, unless otherwise decided by the SAOs.
  • In meetings of the Council’s subsidiary bodies to which observers have been invited to participate, observers may, at the discretion of the Chair, make statements after Arctic states and Permanent Participants, present written statements, submit relevant documents and provide views on the issues under discussion. Observers may also submit written statements at Ministerial meetings.

Observer Manual

At the Kiruna Ministerial Meeting an Arctic Council Observer Manual was formally adopted.

Twelve non-arctic countries have been admitted as observers to the Arctic Council:

  1. France (Contact person)
  2. Germany (Contact person)
  3. The Netherlands (Contact person)
  4. Poland (Contact person)
  5. Spain (Contact person)
  6. United Kingdom (Contact person)
  7. People's Republic of China
  8. Italian Republic (Contact person)
  9. State of Japan
  10. Republic of Korea (Contact person)
  11. Republic of Singapore (Contact person)
  12. Republic of India (Contact person)

Nine Intergovernmental and Inter-Parliamentary Organizations have been given observer status:

  1. International Federation of Red Cross & Red Crescent Societies (IFRC)
  2. International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
  3. Nordic Council of Ministers (NCM)
  4. Nordic Environment Finance Corporation (NEFCO)
  5. North Atlantic Marine Mammal Commission (NAMMCO)
  6. Standing Committee of the Parliamentarians of the Arctic Region (SCPAR)
  7. United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UN-ECE)
  8. United Nations Development Program (UNDP)
  9. United Nations Environment Program (UNEP)

In addition, the The Arctic Council receives the application of the EU for observer status affirmatively, but defers a final decision on implementation until the Council ministers are agreed by consensus that the concerns of Council members, addressed by the President of the European Commission in his letter of 8 May are resolved, with the understanding that the EU may observe Council proceedings until such time as the Council acts on the letter’s proposal.

Eleven Non-governmental organizations are observers in the Arctic Council:


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Contact the Arctic Council Secretariat
Fram Centre, Postboks 6606 Langnes, 9296 Tromsø, Norway

  • Phone: + 47 77 75 01 40

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