Malgorzata Smieszek and Paula Kankaanpää

In spite of its arguable relevance the question of the role of the chair in the Arctic Council (AC) has until now received relatively little academic attention. When in 2013 Canada assumed the AC chairmanship, which rotates on the biennial basis among the Council’s Members, the Arctic Council entered the second round of chairmanships, with the first one being over after sixteen years since the formation of the AC in 1996. In the meantime, in result of processes of climate change and globalization the Arctic region has gone through profound transformation and the United States, the AC Chair from 2015 to 2017, has evolved from one of the greatest opponents of the Council to its outspoken proponent. Yet most of the rules pertaining to chairmanship have remained intact since AC rules of procedure were adopted during the first AC Ministerial meeting in Iqaluit in 1998. What tasks do they assign to the Arctic Council chair? What is the actual role of AC the chairmanship? To address these questions, this article first looks into theoretical insights on the influence wielded by formal leaders in international cooperation and multilateral bargaining. It then turns its attention to origins of the institutional setup of circumpolar cooperation and continues with application of theory to rules and practice of the Arctic Council, complemented by inclusion of effects of the external developments on the course of the AC. In conclusion, it offers an initial assessment of the role exerted by the country chairing the Arctic Council.

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