Marc-André Dubois, Bill Eichbaum, Alexander Shestakov, Martin Sommerkorn & Clive Tesar

As the Arctic Council (AC) celebrates its 20th anniversary, we acknowledge its many positive scientific and policy-shaping accomplishments and look to greater Arctic cooperation to govern this unique region of the planet for sustainability. The rapid and significant changes in the Arctic, from melting ice to economic development have drawn global attention to the region, and to the Arctic Council as the central mechanism for responding to these changes.

The Arctic Council has a history of making and shaping policy. The Ministers of Arctic countries who assemble every two years have approved and built on recommendations flowing from the Council’s working groups. The Council’s Achilles’ heel has been the lack of a coordinated approach to implementation at a national level and fragmented coordination at the Council level. For many Council recommendations, there has been no monitoring or reporting of results, and therefore no ability to assess the adequacy of policy or management approaches that should have flowed from the Ministerial direction. There have been some positive steps toward implementation over the past few years. Progress on following up recommendations from the Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment has been monitored, and an action plan developed for the Arctic Biodiversity Assessment. The Arctic Council established and developed a tracking tool to monitor progress on Council projects.

Douglas Nord

This year, the Arctic Council celebrates its twentieth year of existence. Such an anniversary is no small milestone for any international institution. It is especially notable as some early observers worried that this body might not survive its first decade of operation. The combination of its unique membership roster and its consensus style of operation was seen by many as making it too fragile of an organization for the realities of traditionally practiced international politics.

The sudden emergence of the Arctic as a prominent region in the economic, political and military calculus of many nation-states also raised a number of questions as to Arctic Council’s ability to function as an effective mechanism for forging circumpolar consensus. Yet, two decades out from the issuance of the Ottawa Declaration the body seems now to be well on its way to meeting the expectations of many of its original advocates (See Nord 2016a).

Peter Oppenheimer & Molly Ma

Creation of the Task Force

In early 2015, the United States proposed that the Arctic Council create a task force or expert group to assess the need for a new mechanism to enhance international cooperation and coordination in managing the Arctic Ocean (US Concept Paper, 2015: 1). Recognizing that the Arctic marine environment is rapidly changing and presents unforeseeable shared challenges and opportunities, the United States believed it was necessary to begin efforts to consider what type of mechanisms could improve how Arctic States work together to manage the uncertain future (US Concept Paper, 2015: 1). It envisioned that types of potential mechanisms for coordination fell along a spectrum, from treaty-based “hard” coordination with binding measures to “soft” coordination that facilitated convening relevant authorities and exchanging information (US Concept Paper, 2015: 1). The proposed task force would conduct an analysis to assess the need for a new mechanism and propose the basic elements of a cooperation mechanism, including its mandate, scope, legal form, and relationship to the Arctic Council (US Concept Paper, 2015).

On April 24, 2015, at the Ninth Ministerial Meeting of the Arctic Council in Iqaluit, Canada, the Ministers of the eight Arctic States and representatives of the six Permanent Participants1 adopted the Iqaluit Declaration. It established a Task Force on Arctic Marine Cooperation (TFAMC) with a mandate “to assess future needs for a regional seas program or other mechanism, as appropriate, for increased cooperation in Arctic marine areas” (5). The detailed mandate in the Report of the Senior Arctic Officials (SAOs) to Ministers presented a series of questions for the Task Force to answer in a 2017 report to Ministers.

Zane Šime

When talking about scientific research in the Arctic region, the three Baltic States are far from being the countries which first come into mind. In other words, it might be a hopeless endeavour to try to find Estonia or Latvia in the headlines announcing grand scale field research initiatives in the northernmost territories. Nevertheless, in the context of increased EU focus on enhancing its position and involvement in the polar region, 2016 is the best timing to stir a discussion regarding scientific activities of Estonia and Latvia in the Arctic.

The aim of this briefing note is twofold, covering both scientific and policy domains. On the one hand, it aims to map Estonian and Latvian research activities to provide a comprehensive overview for wider audiences, as well as explain whether there are any supportive planning or policy documents, as well as partnerships and coordination formats which would facilitate the Arctic research process. Therefore, existing national institutional frameworks allow identifying strengths, as well as challenges faced by relatively small countries in a broader landscape of international Arctic research. In, addition, it should be noted that the briefing note presents the first comprehensive and internationally accessible overview of Latvian research activities related to the Arctic.

*Ross A. Virginia, Michael Sfraga, Tom Arnbom, Linda Chamberlain, Susan Chatwood, Asli Tepecik Diş, Gunhild Hoogensen Gjørv, Tamara K. Harms, Anne Hansen, Gwen Holdmann, Noor Johnson, Trevor Lantz, Bjarni Magnússon, Itty S. Neuhaus, Gregory Poelzer, Laura Sokka, Maria Tysiachniouk, Øystein Varpe, and Niels Vestergaard


Arctic peoples are experiencing profound environmental, social, and economic change caused by climate change, resource development, and globalization. The Arctic is confronted with critical policy challenges on issues of community health and wellness, energy resources, environmental protection, sustainability of the Arctic Ocean, infrastructure, indigenous rights, and regional governance. The eight nations of the Arctic have an established history of peaceful cooperation, especially around scientific research, but this cooperation is constantly tested as the Arctic becomes more prominent in the global geopolitical landscape.

Dana L. Church, Julie E. Friddell & Ellsworth F. LeDrew

In 1996, eight countries came together to form The Arctic Council, which is:

“ . . . the leading intergovernmental forum promoting cooperation, coordination, and interaction among the Arctic States, Arctic Indigenous communities, and other Arctic inhabitants on common Arctic issues, in particular on issues of sustainable development and environmental protection in the Arctic” (

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