On 20 May, Iceland will host the 12th Arctic Council Ministerial meeting in Reykjavik and online. The meeting marks the end of the two-year Icelandic Chairmanship of the Arctic Council and the beginning of the Russian Federation’s Chairmanship for the years 2021-2023.
The meeting will be held with Foreign Ministers from the eight Arctic States and representatives of the Indigenous Permanent Participants on site in Reykjavik and the majority of delegates joining the meeting through an online platform.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is one of the eight ministers set to visit Iceland on May 19-20. Blinken’s Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, will also attend the ministerial, where Iceland will pass the Chairmanship gavel to the Russian Federation, which will highlight sustainable development throughout its Chairmanship.
Focus on the people
The Russian Federation will maintain a strong focus on the people of the Arctic – including enhanced efforts towards promoting Indigenous cultures and languages, the Arctic environment and sustainable economic development.
The Arctic Ministers plan to sign a Reykjavik Declaration and to mark the Council’s 25th anniversary by adopting the first ever strategic plan of the Arctic Council.
The Arctic Council’s success lies in the Arctic Council family’s ability and willingness to work together.
The Council’s Ministerial meeting is held every two years, giving the Foreign Ministers of the eight Arctic States and the political leadership of the six Indigenous Permanent Participants the opportunity to strengthen international cooperation in the region, and review the quality work produced by the Council’s Working Groups.
A preview of select key reports and other deliverables that will be released at the Ministerial meeting will be presented in four thematic briefings on the topics of climate change, Arctic shipping, human health and innovation in Arctic communities.
For the past two years Iceland has chaired the Council under the heading “Together Towards a Sustainable Arctic”.
During its Chairmanship, Iceland highlighted four priority areas: the Arctic marine environment, climate and green energy solutions, people and communities of the Arctic, and a stronger Arctic Council.
“The Arctic Council’s success lies in the Arctic Council family’s ability and willingness to work together. This past year is a proof of that. I’m incredibly proud of the Working Groups. Their reports, assessments and action plans are crucial for informed decision making, and the fact that they are successfully delivering numerous quality products despite being hindered by the pandemic, shows their swift adaptability and dedication to their work,” said Ambassador Einar Gunnarsson, outgoing Chair of the Senior Arctic Officials in a press release.
“Iceland had an ambitious program for its Chairmanship at the outset. We have had to work around some unexpected challenges, and that makes me even more pleased that we are on track to conclude the Chairmanship with a strong Ministerial declaration and a strategic plan that reaffirm the Council’s commitment to a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable Arctic region”.
The 12th Ministerial meeting takes place in a historic year for the Arctic Council, which celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2021.
The meeting is also the first to be hosted in-person, under the auspices of the Arctic Council, since the Covid-19 pandemic put a halt to gatherings in early 2020.