Cooperation in the Arctic and Barents region

Arctic Council

The Arctic Council is an intergovernmental forum for promoting sustainable development and environmental protection. It has eight Member States: Finland, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Denmark, Russia, Canada and the United States. In addition, six organisations representing indigenous peoples have status as Permanent Participants. Permanent Participants can participate in the work of the Council at all levels. Decisions of the Arctic Council are taken by consensus among the eight Arctic Council States, with full consultation and involvement of the Permanent Participants representing indigenous peoples. The Arctic Council has just over 30 Observers, including 12 countries and a number of international organisations. The Arctic Council Observers have no right of decision in the Council and they primarily contribute through their engagement in the Working Groups. The standing Artic Council Secretariat is in Tromsø.

The Chairmanship of the Arctic Council rotates every two years among the eight Member States. Finland held the Chairmanship of the Arctic Council from 2017 to 2019.

The work of the Council is primarily carried out in six permanent Working Groups. The Council may also establish temporary Task Forces or Expert Groups to carry out specific work.

The Working Groups

Arctic Contaminants Action Program (ACAP) promotes projects aimed at reducing emissions and other releases of pollutants in the Arctic region.

Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP) monitors and assesses the state of the environment, including climate change, in the Arctic region and also the relationship between the health of people and the environment.

Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna Working Group (CAFF) group is responsible for monitoring and assessing the biodiversity of the Arctic region and promoting the conservation of the region’s species and areas.

Emergency Prevention, Preparedness and Response Working Group (EPPR) working group focuses on preventing environmentally harmful accidents and containing their effects.

Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment (PAME) Working Group programme is to protect Arctic sea areas and their ecosystems.

Sustainable Development Working Group (SDWG)  have to do with the health and well-being of people, socio-economic questions in the Arctic region, adaptation to climate change, the region's energy issues and the support of Arctic cultures and languages.

The Arctic Council Working Groups produce research and reports. The Council has also provided a forum for the negotiation of two important legally binding agreements among the eight Arctic States. The first, the Agreement on Cooperation on Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue in the Arctic, was signed in Nuuk, Greenland, at the 2011 Ministerial Meeting. The second, the Agreement on Marine Oil Pollution Preparedness and Response in the Arctic, was signed in Kiruna, Sweden, at the 2013 Ministerial Meeting.

Barents Euro-Arctic Council

The Barents Euro-Arctic Council promotes stability and sustainable development in the Barents region. The members of the Council are the Nordic countries, Russia and the European Commission. Finland will again hold the Council Chairmanship in 2021–2023. 
There is Barents cooperation between regions and provinces as well. Regional administrative bodies, in Finland those of Lapland, North Ostrobothnia, Kainuu and North Karelia, are members of the Barents Regional Council.

The Working Group on Environment (WGE) is one of the most active working groups in Barents cooperation. Its chairmanship rotates between the ministries responsible for environmental affairs of Finland, Russia, Sweden and Norway. The Working Group on Environment has close contacts with the working groups of the Arctic Council. Finland chairs the Working Group on Environment in 2020–2023. 

The main areas of cooperation of the Working Group on Environment are: 

  • Launch of environmental measures at hot spots in the Russian part of the Barents region
    A list of Hot Spots has been published on major environmental polluters in the Russian part of the Barents region. The list was initially compiled in 2003 by the Nordic Environment Finance Corporation NEFCO in collaboration with the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme AMAP. The Working Group on Environment is active in restoring hot spot sites and promoting the introduction of best available technologies, together with the regions and private sector of Russia.

  • Nature conservation and waters
    In nature conservation and water issues there is a lot of cooperation under various kinds of projects. Key themes include monitoring the state of the environment, development of the Barents Protected Area Network (BPAN project 2011-2017), restoration of water bodies, and impacts of tourism on ecosystems in the Barents region.

  • Climate change
    The Action Plan on Climate Change for the Barents Cooperation comprises measures to mitigate climate change and adapt to it and research and communication related to this. The Action Plan was last updated in 2017. Regional climate strategies and programmes play a key role in climate change mitigation and adaptation. Barents cooperation provides an excellent platform for cooperation on climate issues and exchange of good practices between regions.

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