The SDWG Chairmanship is currently held by the United States and the SDWG Secretariat is based in Ottawa, Canada. 

SDWG Terms of Reference

The Declaration Establishing the Arctic Council (1996) called for the adoption of terms of reference for a sustainable development program.  Terms of Reference were approved by the Arctic Council in September 1998 and the Sustainable Development Working Group (SDWG) was established:

• to propose and adopt steps to be taken by the Arctic States to advance sustainable development in the Arctic, including opportunities

• to protect and enhance the environment and the economies, culture and health of Indigenous Peoples and Arctic communities, as well as

• to improve the environmental, economic and social conditions of Arctic communities as a whole.

Description of SDWG Major Areas of Activity:

Since its inception, the SDWG has carried out approximately 65 projects and activities.  Consistent with the overall work and priorities of the Arctic Council, this work generally falls into six broad thematic areas:

Arctic Human Health issues and the well being of people living in the Arctic.  Prevention and control of disease and injuries, as well as the long term monitoring of the impact of pollution and climate change, are critical to human health and Sustainable Development.

Sustainable economic activities and increasing community prosperity, to better understand human influences on the Arctic environment and the socio-economic conditions of Indigenous Peoples and Arctic communities. Arctic communities must have an appropriate economic base to ensure their survival, including environmentally-friendly economic activity in the energy sector.

Education and cultural heritage, including Indigenous Languages.  These are a fundamental prerequisite for sustainable development, capacity building and the well-being of Indigenous Peoples and other Arctic residents.

Management of natural, including living, resources.  This must be based on sound science and traditional and local knowledge to maintain and develop health, culture and the sustainability of local communities in the Arctic.

Adaptation to Climate Change: To strengthen the work of the Council by reducing vulnerability and implementing adaptation initiatives related to climate change in the Arctic, including practical community-based actions.

Infrastructure development.  This enhances economic growth and can contribute to the quality of life of Arctic people.

Current SDWG Projects 2015-2017:

During the U.S. Chairmanship (2015-2017), the SDWG is conducting a range of activities to implement the SDWG 2015-17 Work Plan, to improve Observer engagement, to begin work planning for the upcoming Finnish Chairmanship (2017-2019) and to undertake strategic planning to strengthen the work of the SDWG into the future.  Major projects include:

Economy of the North (ECONOR III) [Leads: Norway, United States, Canada, Saami Council]

Reducing Suicide in Arctic Communities (RISING SUN) [Leads: United States, Canada, Kingdom of Denmark, Norway, ICC]

Operationalizing One Health in the Arctic [Leads: United States, Canada] 

Arctic Indigenous Youth, Climate Change and Food Culture (EALLU) [Leads: Canada, Kingdom of Denmark, Norway, Russia, United States, AIA, Saami Council]

Arctic Adaptation Exchange Portal [Leads: Canada, United States, AIA, GCI]

Arctic Energy Summit [Leads: Iceland, USA]

Arctic Remote Energy Networks Academy (ARENA) [Leads: Canada, United States, Finland, Iceland, GCI]

Assessing, Monitoring and Promoting Arctic Indigenous Languages [Leads: Canada, United States, Saami Council, ICC]

The Arctic as a Food Producing Region [Leads:  Norway, Canada]

Improving Health in Arctic Communities through Safe and Affordable Access to Household Running Water and Sewer: Water, Sanitation and Health (WASH) [Leads: United States, Kingdom of Denmark]

In accordance with directions from Arctic Council Ministers and Senior Arctic Officials, the SDWG continues to integrate traditional and local knowledge into all its projects and activities, where appropriate. 

Increasingly, the activities of the Arctic Council, across all working groups, have become cross-cutting. In this regard, in addition to its own projects and activities, the SDWG contributes to Arctic Council priority areas being carried out by other working groups and subsidiary bodies.

SDWG Website
Current Chairmanship

United States of America




Roberta Burns


U.S. Department of State



Executive Secretary

Bernard Funston