/ ©: Arctic Council

International Stewardship

In the Arctic, nature’s interconnected characteristics transcend the political boundaries created by people. Ecosystems and migration patterns cross national and international borders, making collaboration among Arctic states essential for management and governance. The need to work together is intensified by the sparse population and limited resources of the region.

The Arctic Council

Recognizing the importance of working together, the Arctic nations formed the Arctic Council in 1996. The Arctic Council addresses issues that require circumarctic collaboration, such as responding to oil spills, understanding the impacts of climate change, and developing common principles of responsible Arctic stewardship. It is the primary forum for dealing with issues that cannot be managed by any single country. It also recognizes the critically important role of the Arctic indigenous peoples, by creating a unique role for them as Permanent Participants.

WWF is the only international environmental non-governmental organization with observer status on the Arctic Council. This permits WWF to attend Arctic Council meetings, propose projects, and present statements, documents and views. It provides an invaluable opportunity for WWF to collaborate with leaders and experts making critical decisions that will shape the future of the Arctic.

© WWF-Canada

Resource development: a shared concern

As interest in offshore Arctic oil and gas development grows, the Arctic Council will be challenged to find a way to effectively manage the risks associated with this type of development. In the Arctic, a mishap in one state can quickly spread to other coastal states, making risk management a shared concern.

One suggestion that WWF has brought to the Arctic Council is that consistent and standardized approaches to oil spill prevention be developed, to ensure that best practices are being applied across the board.

© Arctic Council

Responsible and Safe Arctic Shipping

Arctic shipping is on the rise, bringing new opportunities and risks to the region. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) is developing an international code of safety for ships operating in polar waters, which would set standards for safety and sustainability for all ships in Arctic waters. The adoption of this Polar Code by Arctic states would represent a critical example of collaboration on an increasingly relevant issue – one that cannot be resolved without international cooperation.

The Arctic Council has an opportunity to demonstrate leadership in identifying best practices for Arctic shipping, above and beyond the requirements of the Polar Code, and encouraging companies to implement these voluntarily.

 / ©: Zoe Caron / WWF-Canada
A view from a ship's porthole of waves on Ungava Bay, Nunavut, Canada.
© Zoe Caron / WWF-Canada

Sustainable Circumpolar Communities

The Arctic is changing rapidly – climatically, economically and demographically – and new tools to help communities adapt need to be developed and applied. The Arctic Council could continue and expand on its current work in this area by developing tools to assess the value of ecosystem services, to be incorporated into adaptation and sustainability strategies.

WWF Expert

 / ©: Paul Crowley
Paul Crowley
Director, Arctic Program
 / ©: DFATD-MAECD
Aglukkaq speaking
© DFATD-MAECD

Arctic Council Chair

In May 2013, the Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Canada’s Minister for the Arctic Council, became Chair of the Council, the start of Canada’s two-year term leading the council. Canada’s priority for this term is development for the people of the North, focusing on responsible Arctic resource development, safe Arctic shipping and sustainable circumpolar communities.