International cooperation in the Arctic

The establishment of the Arctic Council was considered an important milestone enhancing cooperation in the circumpolar North. In the Ottawa Declaration, the eight Arctic States established the Council as a high-level forum to provide means for promoting cooperation, coordination and interaction among the Arctic States – including the full consultation and full involvement of Arctic Indigenous communities and other Arctic inhabitants.

A catalyst for international agreements

On three occasions, the Arctic States have negotiated legally binding agreements under the auspices of the Arctic Council. These aim at enhancing international cooperation on issues related to maritime search and rescue, marine oil pollution, and Arctic scientific cooperation respectively:

The Arctic – An area of unique international cooperation

Since its establishment in 1996, the Arctic Council has provided a space and mechanism to address common concerns across Arctic States – with a special emphasis on the protection of the Arctic environment and sustainable development. Over the years, the Council has emerged as the pre-eminent high-level forum of the Arctic region to discuss these issues and has turned the region into an area of unique international cooperation.

This cooperation spans across the eight Arctic States, six Indigenous peoples’ organizations with Permanent Participant status in the Council, six Working Groups, and close to 40 non-Arctic States and international organizations holding Observer status in the Council.

A vision for cooperation

At the heart of the Council’s cooperation efforts lies peace and stability in the region. In their Vision for the Arctic, a document developed after the first round of eight successive chairmanships of the Council in 2013, the Arctic States together with the Permanent Participants stated that “there is no problem that we cannot solve together through our cooperative relationships on the basis of existing international law and good will.”

This spirit of cooperation remains strong and transcends the Council’s working areas from safeguarding Indigenous peoples’ rights and cultures, to fostering sustainable economic development for self-sufficient, vibrant and healthy communities, and to acting on a changing Arctic climate and harmful environmental impacts.

CAFF has developed several Resolutions of Cooperation to guide the development of partnerships with international organizations.

Related projects

Circumpolar Oil Spill Response Viability Analysis (COSRVA)
The COSRVA project investigates the potential of different oil spill response systems for the Arctic marine environment.
Sustaining Arctic Observing Networks (SAON)
SAON's vision is a connected, collaborative, and comprehensive long-term pan-Arctic Observing System that serves societal needs. SAON's mission is to facilitate, coordinate, and advocate for...
Arctic Ship Traffic Data - ASTD
PAME's Arctic Ship Traffic Data (ASTD) project has been developed in response to a growing need to collect and distribute accurate, reliable, and up-to-date information on shipping activities in ...
Arctic Shipping Best Practice Information Forum
The Arctic Shipping Best Practice Information Forum facilitates an exchange of information and best practices on shipping topics like hydrography, search and rescue logistics, industry guidelines and ...
Boat in ice. Photo: iStock
Risk Assessment methods and metadata
A common approach to marine risk assessment in the Arctic region.
Local 2 Global: Circumpolar collaboration for suicide prevention and mental wellness
Local 2 Global aims to facilitate international collaboration and connections between circumpolar communities working to prevent suicide and support the mental wellbeing of all Arctic youth and commun...

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