The eight Arctic countries have finally agreed on new guidelines after close consultations with all the member states and the permanent participants throughout the summer. It allows the Arctic Council's working groups to resume their activities after a long break.
This is an important breakthrough, says Morten Høglund, the new Chair of the Senior Arctic Officials (SAOC) under the Norwegian Chairship.
The adoption of new guidelines is vital for the Arctic Council as the council's main work takes place within the working groups and the expert groups. The agreement was reached between the eight Arctic states. Norway, Canada, the US, Denmark, Iceland, Finland, Sweden, and Russia are permanent members of the Arctic Council.
In addition, Six Indigenous Peoples' organizations that hold Permanent Participant status in the council were also actively involved in reaching the agreement.
We are pleased that Russia and the other Arctic countries wish to resume the Arctic Council's work. This is the best basis for movement, Morten Høglund said to High North News.
According to Høglund, all the participants were eager to find a solution to the problem and to resume the fruitful work of the Arctic Council as soon as possible.
We have had good sessions on different issues in the active dialogue with Russia, as with the other countries. Because it took a few rounds before we jointly reached a consensus on the guidelines. Nonetheless, Russia and the other member countries are interested in resuming the council's work. When needed, we have contact and meetings with the Russian side, and the conversation is constructive and okay, Høglund stated.
On top of that, the Chair of the Senior Arctic Officials emphasized the importance of cooperation among all interested states, including non-Arctic states, and their joint work within the framework of the Arctic Council.
A functioning cooperation between all Arctic countries is important, and it is a shared goal from our experience on the Norwegian side. Furthermore, Arctic states cooperating in the region with other countries is not abnormal. The best answer to possible challenges with such cooperation is that we hold on to the Arctic Council as the most important forum for Arctic issues, he adds.
With the adoption of the new guidelines, the working groups can again initiate decision-making processes and resume existing projects, as well as suggest new ones.
This is an important first breakthrough which makes it possible to resume activities in the working groups that involve all the member states, including Russia, says Høglund.
It also suggests that the groups can finally begin their collaboration with observers and external parties who contribute to their project work.
The leaders of the working groups and the expert groups now have the initiative, and the leadership team will support them as best we can, Høglund continued.
Morten Høglund also emphasized the need for more effective collaboration within the working groups, possibly using digital platforms in the future.
For more activity – and especially for the development of new projects – we need to get to a stage where the working groups can meet, for example, on digital platforms. It will be a necessary step, but we recognize that it is not possible to take right now, Høglund said.
Based on High North News materials
The editorial board of The Arctic Century