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Arctic Council media release

Arctic Council to convene for the final Senior Arctic Officials' meeting during the 2019-2021 Icelandic Chairmanship

As the Icelandic Chairmanship enters its final stretch, the Senior Arctic Officials' meeting will focus on progress made towards its Chairmanship priorities and finalizing deliverables for the May Ministerial meeting
A global pandemic and the shutdown of most travel in the circumpolar world has not stopped the work of the Arctic Council.

On 16-18 March 2021, the Arctic Council will gather virtually for the third Senior Arctic Officials’ (SAO) plenary meeting during the Chairmanship of Iceland (2019-2021). The upcoming Ministerial meeting in May will be high on the agenda, with Arctic Council Working Groups and other subsidiary bodies presenting a collection of reports, projects and initiatives completed during the Icelandic Chairmanship, despite the challenging conditions.

The virtual SAO meeting will bring together representatives from the eight Arctic States, six Indigenous Permanent Participant organizations, six Working Groups and over 30 Observer states and organizations.

Iceland’s two-year Chairmanship will conclude in May with a Ministerial meeting in Reykjavik. Over the last two years, Iceland has emphasized four priority areas under the umbrella theme of, “Together Towards a Sustainable Arctic”: the Arctic marine environment, climate and green energy solutions, people and communities of the Arctic, and a stronger Arctic Council.

“The Council’s Working Groups and subsidiary bodies have been hard at work over the last two years advancing our knowledge base within the Arctic and beyond,” said Ambassador Einar Gunnarsson, Chair of the Senior Arctic Officials. “It has of course been challenging to lead the Council during a worldwide pandemic. Despite the extraordinary circumstances, or rather because of them, I am extremely proud of the significant work the Council has accomplished since 2019. The Arctic Council continues to do excellent work on monitoring the drastic effects of climate change in our region and is leading the discussion on sustainable social and economic development for the benefit of all Arctic inhabitants.”

The upcoming meeting will include further discussion on priorities the Icelandic Chairmanship placed high on the Arctic Council agenda, including: steps to strengthen youth engagement in the Arctic Council; the continuation of a mechanism launched in fall 2019 to enhance Arctic marine stewardship; action against marine litter; reducing black carbon and methane emissions; promoting gender equality in the Arctic; and, the Council’s ongoing work related to Covid-19 and its impacts in the Arctic, to name but a few.

The incoming Russian Chairmanship team will provide the Arctic Council with an update on its priorities and plans for 2021-2023. The Russian Federation will begin its two-year Chairmanship at the conclusion of the Ministerial meeting in May, with sustainable development as its key Chairmanship focus.

All Working Group achievements during the Icelandic Chairmanship and their planned project priorities for the next two years will be published in the Senior Arctic Officials’ Report to Ministers 2021, which will be released at the May Ministerial meeting.
The Arctic Council Ministerial meeting will take place in Reykjavik on 20 May 2021.

Following the SAO meeting on 18 March, Ambassador Gunnarsson and the SAO for the Russian Federation, Nikolay Korchunov, will be available to virtually brief the press at 19:00 GMT. For media unable to attend at that time, a separate briefing may be organized with Ambassador Gunnarsson upon request. Journalists wishing to join the virtual press conference are invited to register via the press briefing registration form or respond directly to  

Background facts

Established in 1996, the Arctic Council is at the forefront of Arctic cooperation. In its first 24 years it has become the most important body for promoting a positive agenda and coordinating joint action on all vital issues in the region. The Arctic Council focuses on issues of sustainable development and environmental protection in the Arctic.

The Council holds Senior Arctic Officials’ meetings roughly every six months, and Ministerial meetings roughly every two years. The next Ministerial meeting will take place May 2021.

The Icelandic Chairmanship runs from 2019-2021, after which the Russian Federation will assume the Chairmanship of the Arctic Council.

Learn more

The Arctic Council website
The Arctic States
The Indigenous Permanent Participant Organizations
The Working Groups
The Observers


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