Arctic Council resumes work on limited scale, without Russia
The Russian Federation holds the presidency for the council from 2021-23.
The Arctic Council is resuming work on a limited scale — but Russia won’t be allowed to participate.
Seven of the eight member states, including Canada, announced earlier this month in a joint statement that Russia will not be a part of future meetings and projects due to its war against Ukraine that started in February.
The Russian Federation holds the presidency for the council from 2021 to 2023.
The move to start work again follows a March 3 statement from the council that noted the “grave impediments to international co-operation, including in the Arctic, that Russia’s actions have caused.”
Global Affairs Canada spokesman Jason Kung said each member state sticks to that position.
“The core principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity, based on international law, have long underpinned the work of the Arctic Council, a forum which Russia currently chairs,” Kung said in an email.
The seven Arctic Council nations other than Russia made the decision without consulting the council’s other permanent participants, the six Indigenous groups in the forum, according to James Stotts, head of the Inuit Circumpolar Council delegation to the Arctic Council.
“We were notified after they made their decisions,” he said.
“We don’t like it that we weren’t consulted.”
Stotts added that within his organization, “not everybody is in agreement, I think, on reopening the Arctic Council right now — or even in a limited way.”
And, he said, it’s not clear how activities can resume without Russia: “There are more questions than answers with what’s going on now for us.”
Established in 1996, the Arctic Council is an intergovernmental forum that aims to strengthen co-operation, co-ordination and interaction between Arctic nations, Arctic Indigenous peoples and other Arctic inhabitants on common issues in the region.
The council currently has more than 100 projects underway to address the most pressing issues, including climate change, biodiversity and economic development.
According to Kung, projects included in the work plan approved by all eight Arctic states in 2021 “are a vital component of our responsibility to the people of the Arctic, including Indigenous Peoples.”
He did not provide further information about how specific working groups within the council — including the sustainable development working group, chaired by Russia, as well as the Arctic contaminants action program and the protection of Arctic marine environment working group — will be impacted by the decision.
— With files from Arctic Today