On three occasions, the Arctic States have negotiated legally binding agreements under the auspices of the Arctic Council. These aim at enhancing international cooperation on issues related to maritime search and rescue, marine oil pollution, and Arctic scientific cooperation respectively:
From time to time, the Arctic Council or its subsidary bodies develop relationships with external organizations to further Arctic cooperation. See the list of relationships here.
Since its establishment in 1996, the Arctic Council has provided a space and mechanism to address common concerns across Arctic States – with a special emphasis on the protection of the Arctic environment and sustainable development. Over the years, the Council has emerged as the pre-eminent high-level forum of the Arctic region to discuss these issues and has turned the region into an area of unique international cooperation.
This cooperation spans across the eight Arctic States, six Indigenous Peoples’ organizations with Permanent Participant status in the Council, six Working Groups, and close to 40 non-Arctic States and international organizations holding Observer status in the Council.
At the heart of the Council’s cooperation efforts lies peace and stability in the region. In their Vision for the Arctic, a document developed after the first round of eight successive chairmanships of the Council in 2013, the Arctic States together with the Permanent Participants stated that “there is no problem that we cannot solve together through our cooperative relationships on the basis of existing international law and good will.”
This spirit of cooperation remains strong and transcends the Council’s working areas from safeguarding Indigenous peoples’ rights and cultures, to fostering sustainable economic development for self-sufficient, vibrant and healthy communities, and to acting on a changing Arctic climate and harmful environmental impacts.