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 a status as Permanent Participants. Decisions of the Arctic Council are taken by consensus, with full consultation and involvement of the representatives of indigenous peoples. Certain other states and international organisations participate in the Arctic Council’s work as observer members. The Standing Arctic Council Secretariat that coordinates the work is in Tromsø.

The Chairmanship of the Arctic Council rotates every two years among the eight Member States. In 2023–2025 the Chairmanship is held by Norway. 

For the most part the work of the Council takes place in permanent Working Groups. The Council may also establish temporary Expert Groups to focus on specific topics.

Arctic Council 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 Ministry of the Environment participates in Arctic cooperation through the Arctic Council’s Working Groups. The Ministry of the Environment represents Finland in four out of the six Working Groups (ACAP, AMAP, CAFF and PAME). Besides this, the Ministry of the Environment participates in the Expert Group on Black Carbon and Methane (EGBCM).

Contact persons of Finland for the Working Groups at the Ministry of the Environment

Henna Haapala
Ministry of the Environment
+358 295 250 070

Outi Mähönen
Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment for Lapland
+358 295 037 443

Martin Forsius
Finnish Environment Institute
+358 295 251 118 

Lotta Manninen
Ministry of the Environment
+358 295 250 226

Jan Ekebom
Ministry of the Environment
+358 295 250 363

Besides the studied and analyses produced by the Working Groups, three legally binding agreementsLinkki toiselle sivustolle have been negotiated under the auspices of the Arctic Council and signed by its Member States . The first agreement of the Arctic Council, the Agreement on Cooperation on Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue, was signed at the foreign ministers’ meeting in Nuuk in 2011, the second is the Agreement on Cooperation on Marine Oil Pollution Preparedness and Response signed at the foreign ministers’ meeting in Kiruna in 2013, and the third is the Agreement on Enhancing International Arctic Scientific Cooperation signed at the foreign ministers’ meeting in Fairbanks in 2017.

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 and the European Commission. Finland held 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. In 2023–2025 the Regional Council is chaired by North Karelia.

The Working Group on Environment (WGE) is one of the most active working groups in Barents cooperation. 

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

  • Supporting the socio-economic sustainability of the green transition and protection of biodiversity in the Barents region and producing practical tools for sustainable investment operations concerning battery value chains. 

  • Nature conservation and waters
    There is a lot of cooperation in nature conservation and water issues under various kinds of projects. The key themes include monitoring the state of the environment, developing a network of protected areas, protecting species and preventing invasive alien species, restoring water bodies, and studying the 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. 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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