Canada, the United States, Norway, Iceland, Sweden, Denmark and Finland announced Thursday that they won’t participate in the work of the Arctic Council or attend any of its meetings until further notice. The only other member state is Russia, which currently leads the council.
“Our representatives will not travel to Russia for meetings of the Arctic Council,” said a joint statement from the seven countries. “Additionally, our states are temporarily pausing participation in all meetings of the council and its subsidiary bodies.”
The Arctic Council has been the main group fostering international co-operation in the Arctic since its founding in Ottawa in 1996. Although it doesn’t have treaty-making powers, its work has led to important agreements on search and rescue, oil spill preparedness and scientific co-operation.
It’s also an important international forum for northern Indigenous people, who are permanent participants at council meetings and take part in its debates.
The council’s six working groups provide important research on the Arctic environment, its people and the sustainable development of its resources.
A spokeswoman for the council’s secretariat in Tromso, Norway, said the council remains in operation, and it’s too early to know what the withdrawal means for the body’s scientific work.
The statement from the seven countries says the withdrawal is temporary, “pending consideration of the necessary modalities that can allow us to continue the Council’s important work in view of the current circumstances.”