- Category: Member states
- Published on 29 June 2011
The Arctic Council consists of the eight Arctic States: Canada, Denmark (including Greenland and the Faroe Islands), Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States. Six international organisations representing Arctic Indigenous Peoples have permanent participant status.
United States and the Arctic region
The United States of America became an Arctic nation upon the purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867. We have varied and compelling interests in the Arctic such as national and homeland security, environmental protection, sustainable development, promoting cooperation and collaboration with the other seven Arctic nations, involving indigenous Alaskans in decisions that affect them, and supporting and promoting scientific research across the region. The U.S. Department of State leads the development of U.S. Arctic policy and works with other U.S. government agencies in promoting and implementing our policy objectives. The United States Arctic policy was most recently updated in May of 2013 by President Barack Obama. This policy supports the National Security Presidential Directive-66 / Homeland Security Presidential Directive-25 signed by President George W. Bush in 2009.
The primary forum through which the United States engages in Arctic diplomacy is the Arctic Council, which it chaired from 1998 – 2000. The United States promoted human health as a major theme of its first chairmanship by, among other things, launching the International Circumpolar Surveillance, a multilateral disease surveillance project led by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. We also initiated the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA), the first ever comprehensive scientific assessment of the effects of climate change in the Arctic, which was completed in 2004. The next United States chairmanship will be 2015 – 2017.
The Working Groups/ Task Forces
The United States agency leads for the working groups of the Arctic Council are as follows:
- Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP) – Executive Office of the President/Global Change Research Program
- Arctic Contaminants Action Program (ACAP) – Environmental Protection Agency
- Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment (PAME) – Department of Commerce/National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration
- Emergency Prevention Preparedness and Response (EPPR) – Department of Energy/National Nuclear Security Administration
- Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF) – Department of Interior/Fish and Wildlife Service
- Sustainable Development Working Group (SDWG) – Department of State
U.S. Department of State OES/OPA Arctic - http://www.state.gov/e/oes/ocns/opa/arc/index.htm
State of Alaska - http://alaska.gov/
Study of Environmental Arctic Change (SEARCH) - http://www.arcus.org/search/index.php
US Arctic Research Commission - http://www.arctic.gov/
Arctic Science Portal - http://www.arctic.gov/portal/
The EPA black carbon website - http://www.epa.gov/international/io/arcticblackcarbon.html
Alaska Natural Gas Transportation Projects - www.arcticgas.gov
Sweden and the Arctic region
Sweden is an Arctic country with interests in the region and has an important role to play in both multilateral and bilateral discussions. In 2011 Sweden adopted a strategy on the Arctic region based on the process of far-reaching change in the Arctic region. Climate change is creating new challenges, but also new opportunities. Sweden promotes economically, socially and environmentally sustainable development throughout the Arctic region. Sweden also works to ensure that the Arctic remains a region where security policy tensions are low, and for these objectives sees a need of a strengthened Arctic Council.
Sweden is chair of the Arctic Council 2011 to 2013.
There are around 70.000 Sami, and around 20.000 of them live in Sweden. In the Arctic region Sweden strives to ensure that indigenous peoples have greater scope for preserving and developing their identity, culture and traditional industries and facilitate their traditional knowledge gathering and transfer. Active participation in decisions affecting them is required if indigenous peoples are to be able to meet future challenges. Sweden highlights the human dimension and the gender perspective in the Arctic Council.
Climate and environmental research
Swedish climate-related research in the Arctic has a long tradition and its findings are constantly helping to increase understanding of ongoing processes. As a result of long measurement series, in some cases up to one hundred years, Sweden has contributed to greater global understanding of climate change. It is important to continuously analyse levels of both known and new hazardous substances in the sensitive Arctic area. Adaptation to a changed climate requires good knowledge about the effects not only on biological and technical systems but also on communities and humans.
Access to modern logistics platforms is crucial for environmental research. Northern Sweden is home to research stations in Abisko and Tarfala as well as the EISCAT12 scatter radar facility in Kiruna. The Abisko Scientific Research Station administrates, coordinates and performs experiments and tests for researchers from all over the world. An extensive environmental monitoring programme on temperature, precipitation, ice-thaw, flora and fauna in the local area has been in progress here for nearly 100 years. The Tarfala Research Station, located in the Kebnekaise mountains, conducts basic research, glacier monitoring, meteorological and hydrological analyses, snow chemistry and permafrost studies.
The Swedish Polar Research Secretariat gives Sweden plenty of scope to perform marine research expeditions in both the Arctic and Antarctic Oceans with the ice-breaker Oden.
Efficient ice-breaking operations are required to promote maritime safety and improve accessibility in frozen waters. Sweden possesses leading expertise as regards shipping in Arctic conditions. Swedish ice-breakers are able to support increasing commercial shipping in the Arctic as well as help with both the monitoring of the vulnerable marine environment and Arctic research. The Swedish Maritime Administration’s ice-breaking resources are well suited to Arctic and sub-Arctic waters at times when the vessels are not needed in regular
- Swedish Government's website: http://sweden.gov.se
- Swedish Government's website about the Arctic Council: http://sweden.gov.se/sb/d/14766
- Swedish Parliament: http://www.riksdagen.se/en/
Indigenous/Aboriginal website/policy webpage
- Swedish Government’s website about Sami and Sami policy: http://www.sweden.gov.se/sb/d/2184/a/66267
- Sami Information Centre: http://www.eng.samer.se/1048
- Sami Parliament: http://www.sametinget.se/english
- The Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management (SwAM): http://www.havochvatten.se/en/start.html
- The Swedish Environmental Protection Agency: http://www.naturvardsverket.se/en/
Polar research institutions
- Swedish Polar Research Secretariat: http://www.polar.se/en
Tourism website (general country info)
- Sweden's official website for tourism and travel information: www.visitsweden.com
Sweden’s official website http://www.sweden.se/
- the Sami – an indigenous people in Sweden (pdf attached)
- Read Sweden's Chairmanship Programme for the Arctic Council 2011-2013 (pdf 2.4 MB)
- Download Sweden's strategy for the Arctic region (pdf 251 KB)
Norway and the Arctic region
Norway’s Arctic territory consists of the three counties Nordland, Troms and Finnmark on the mainland, and the Svalbard archipelago and the island of Jan Mayen. Together, these areas make up almost half the Norwegian land mass and they are home to around 470 000 people or a tenth of the Norwegian population. Norway’s maritime areas in the Arctic come to approximately 1 500 000 km2, which corresponds to the combined area of France, Germany and Spain.
Due to the warming effect of the Gulf Stream, North Norway is much more hospitable than other parts of the world at this latitude. Tromsø is the largest city in North Norway and is commonly referred to as the “Gateway to the Arctic”. It houses the world’s northernmost university, as well as the FRAM High North Research Centre for Climate and the Environment, where 500 scientists from 20 different institutions are engaged in research in the fields of natural science, technology and social sciences. Other important towns in North Norway are Bodø, Harstad, Narvik, Alta, Hammerfest and Kirkenes.
Traditionally, the inhabitants of North Norway subsisted on fishing and livestock husbandry. While these industries remain important, today’s economy is more diversified. Fish farming has a link to the past but also shows promising potential for providing food for a growing world population. In Hammerfest, Statoil operates a processing plant for liquefied natural gas from the Snøhvit field in the Barents Sea. Further south, Narvik is an important port for the export of iron ore from Swedish mines. The Arctic region also attracts a growing number of tourists who come to experience dramatic scenery and largely untouched wilderness.
The Arctic archipelago of Svalbard is located halfway between mainland Norway and the North Pole. About half the land is ice-covered. The largest island of the archipelago is called Spitsbergen, and until 1925 this name was used for the whole archipelago. The administrative centre of Longyearbyen and the other inhabited areas of the archipelago are located on this island. Svalbard’s main industries today are coal mining, tourism and research.
The Sami are an indigenous people who live in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. Because there is no overall registration of the Sami population, no one knows exactly how many there are today; estimates vary between 50 000 and 80 000. The Sami are scattered throughout Norway, but the most concentrated settlements are in North Norway. Since 1989, the Sami in Norway have had their own elected assembly – the Sámediggi – which acts as a consultative body for the Norwegian government authorities.
Norway in the Arctic Council
The changes taking place in the Arctic pose new challenges and give rise to new opportunities. As a responsible coastal state, Norway strives to address the challenges and make use of the opportunities in a safe and environmentally sound way. We will work to maintain the Arctic as a peaceful region of cooperation and sustainable resource management. Norway’s view is that existing international law provides a predictable framework for handling present and foreseeable challenges in the Arctic. The Law of the Sea forms the legal basis for all activities in the Arctic Ocean.
Climate and environmental research
The work of the Arctic Council is producing tangible results. Pollution was the main focus during the first decade of Arctic cooperation. It is still a key issue. We saw unacceptable levels of environmentally hazardous substances and heavy metals documented in the Arctic in spite of the distance from industrialised areas. In our second decade of Arctic cooperation, we turned to climate change. We became aware of the fact that we have front row seats for observing climate change. The comprehensive reports of climate change in the Arctic have been of major importance in highlighting the speed at which climate change is taking place and its implications.
Legal agreements and task forces
In the third decade of Arctic cooperation, we are – in addition to dealing with pollution and climate change – turning our attention to adaptation. In May 2011, the member states signed the first legally binding agreement negotiated under the auspices of the Arctic Council. The agreement establishes a binding framework for search and rescue cooperation between the member States of the Arctic Council.
The Arctic Council decision to establish a task force to develop an international instrument on Arctic marine pollution preparedness and response will further enhance the regional cooperation between the Arctic States. Norway, together with Russia and the United States, has taken a leading role in this work as co-chairs.
The Council has also undertaken comprehensive environmental and scientific studies on shipping in the Arctic, on oil and gas activities and on ocean management. Norway welcomes the establishment of a permanent secretariat of the Council, to be located in Tromsø.
Future challenges in the Arctic
Norway believes that in order to further adapt to new challenges in the region, the Arctic Council needs to make more decisions of a more binding nature, as appropriate. It also needs to further broaden its discussions by including relevant observers.
The Norwegian government: http://www.regjeringen.no/en.html?id=4
The Storting (Parliament): http://stortinget.no/en/In-English/
Norway in your country: http://norway.info/
Norwegian High North policy: http://www.regjeringen.no/en/dep/ud/selected-topics/high-north.html?id=1154
The Governor of Svalbard: http://www.sysselmannen.no/en/
Indigenous/Aboriginal website/policy webpage
The Sami parliament: http://www.samediggi.no/artikkel.aspx?MId1=270&AId=3675&back=1
Norwegian Environment Agency: http://www.miljødirektoratet.no/english/
Polar research institutions
The Fram Centre: http://www.framsenteret.no/english.150370.no.html
Fridtjof Nansen Institute: http://www.fni.no/themes/polar&russia.html
Intergovernmental cooperation in the Barents region
The Barents Euro-Arctic Council: http://www.beac.st
Visit Norway: http://www.visitnorway.com/en/