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Cooperation in the Arctic and Barents region

The objective of environmental cooperation in the northern regions is to preserve the unique environments and biodiversity of the Arctic and promote sustainable development in the region. The central forums of this cooperation are

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 are:

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 goal of the Barents Euro-Arctic Council is to promote stability and sustainable development and increase security in the Barents region. The members of the council are the Nordic countries, Russia and the European Commission. Additionally, observer states take part in the council’s operations. Sweden holds the chairmanship of the Barents Euro-Arctic Council for the period 2017-2019.

Barents cooperation is also carried out on a regional and provincial level. The Barents Regional Council (BRC) consists of representatives from the administrations of the geographical Barents region.

The Council Working Group on the Environment

The environmental cooperation of the Barents Euro-Arctic Council is promoted by the Working Group on Environment. Sweden is chairing the Working Group on Environment until the beginning of 2020. After that, Finland will take over the chairmanship.

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

  • Initiation of environmental activities in so called “hot spots” in the Barents region in Russia. These “hot spots” are sites that do serious harm to the environment in the Barents region in Russia. The council focuses its efforts on sites included in a “hot spot” list compiled in 2003 by the Nordic Environment Finance Corporation NEFCO and the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme AMAP.
  • Nature protection. The main goal of the council’s nature protection efforts is to develop an effectively governed network of protected areas in the Barents Region that is representative of the biodiversity of the region. The council also helps in the development of other cross-border nature conservation networks, such as the Green Belt of Fennoscandia.
  • The environment and the economy. The council’s goal is to promote projects that aim for clean production and the spread of best environmental practices, and to strengthen the connections between international processes and regional activities.
  • Water bodies and resources. In water issues, the council promotes cooperation between local authorities that has to do with international water ways and the effects of climate change on the management of water resources.
  • Climate change. Regional climate strategies and programmes play a key role in the prevention of and adaption to climate change. In the Barents region, more information is needed about the effects of climate change on businesses and living conditions, and as a result, the discussion on matters related to climate change will be strengthened in the Barents Euro-Arctic Council’s working groups and on the regional level.

Further information

Barents Euro-Arctic Council
Saija Vuola, Ministerial Adviser, tel. +358 (0)295 250 029, firstname.lastname@ym.fi

Arctic Council
Henna Haapala, Ministerial Adviser,  tel. +358 (0)50 353 3894, firstname.lastname@ym.fi

Published 2019-02-04 at 14:28, updated 2020-04-17 at 11:24