The Arctic Council was established in 1996 as a high level intergovernmental forum to promote cooperation, coordination and interaction among the Arctic states with the involvement of Arctic indigenous peoples and other Arctic inhabitants. The Arctic Council Chairmanship rotates every two years amongst the eight Arctic States. The work of the Arctic Council is conducted between the Ministerial Meetings by the Senior Arctic Officials (SAO) in consultation with Permanent Participants, which represent the indigenous peoples of the Arctic.
In order to strengthen the capacity of the Arctic Council to respond to the challenges and opportunities facing the Arctic, it was decided at the 2011 Ministerial meeting in Nuuk to establish a standing Arctic Council Secretariat. The Secretariat enhances the work of the Arctic Council through the establishment of administrative capacity and by providing continuity, institutional memory and operational efficiency.
The Arctic Council Secretariat is located in Tromsø, Norway. It was formally established in January 2013, when the Norwegian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Espen Barth Eide, and the Director of the Secretariat, Mr. Magnus Johannesson, signed the Host Country Agreement. By signing the agreement, Norway formally agreed to host the Secretariat. The Secretariat became operational in the following February when its new director, Mr. Jóhannesson, started his work. It assumed its full responsibilities on 1 June when other members of staff started work and Canada had taken over the Chairmanship of the Arctic Council from Sweden.
The Secretariat provides administrative and organizational support, such as arranging and servicing meetings as required; transmitting reports to and from Arctic states, Permanent Participants and subsidiary bodies; assisting the Chair in drafting meeting documents including final reports; providing services to Permanent Participants and Working Groups without a secretariat; providing administrative services concerning general correspondence; and archiving of records.
Communication and outreach is also an important part of the Secretariat's duties. This means operating the Arctic Council website, including web pages of those Working Groups without a secretariat; facilitating and improving the quality and availability of information on the Arctic Council; recording, maintaining and posting, as appropriate, the records of the Arctic Council; facilitating the exchange of information among the Arctic states, Permanent Participants and Observers; and, at the request of Senior Arctic Officials and Permanent Participants, developing strategic communication and outreach plans and other documents under the direct supervision of the SAO Chair, in support of the Arctic Council.
The Secretariat has seven employees in its office in the Fram Centre in Tromsø.
Magnús Jóhannesson is the Director of the Arctic Council Secretariat.