Finnish foreign minister demands Arctic Council change

Growing chorus demands wider mandate for Arctic body


Finland’s foreign minister is the latest to call for changes to the eight-nation Arctic Council.

Alexander Stubb told a meeting of politicians from NATO countries in Helsinki June 17 that the Arctic Council needs to be strengthened and allowed to talk about a wider batch of circumpolar issues.

“It is well known that everything in the Arctic is interrelated,” Stubb said. “This requires an integrated approach. Who else could take this responsibility if not the Arctic Council?”

Stubb he wants to see the council given a wider mandate, a permanent secretariat to run the council, and he called for more equal sharing of the costs of running the organization.

“This would help us to avoid a situation where funding is shaping the policies of the council — and not the other way around,” he said.

Stubb said there needs to be a better flow of information on Arctic issues and pledged Finland’s support for initiatives such as the Arctic Council’s proposed outreach strategy and the European Union’s proposed Arctic information centre.

He also added he wants the council to engage non-Arctic states, such as China and the European Union, that have a “legitimate interest” in the Arctic.

“The future of the Arctic is of concern not only to some states but a legitimate concern for all,” he said.

Stubbs comments echo those of others calling for reform of the eight-nation group.

This past April, a group called the Arctic Governance Project proposed expanding the Arctic Council’s mandate to include security, health and education, and opening it up to more observers from Asia and Europe.

The Arctic Governance Project also proposes for the council:

• full participation of permanent indigenous participants;

• admittance of non-Arctic states as permanent observers;

• a mechanism to provide more input from environmental groups and industry;

• stable funding; and

• a permanent secretariat.

The well-connected group behind the Arctic Governance Project want to see their changes implemented in 2013 when Canada resumes the chairmanship of the Arctic Council.

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