eruption at Fagradalsfjall in Iceland

An extra-ordinary Chairmanship

Together towards a sustainable Arctic

Iceland's four priorities

The theme of the Arctic Council Chairmanship program for 2019-2021 "Together Towards a Sustainable Arctic" reflects Iceland’s commitment to the principle of sustainable development and refers to the need to cooperate closely between the states and peoples of the region and beyond. With sustainable development as the guiding tenet, Iceland highlighted four priorities: the Arctic Marine Environment, Climate and Green Energy Solutions, People and Communities of the Arctic, and a Stronger Arctic Council.
Bridge between continental plates in Iceland

A Chairmanship in pandemic times

The coronavirus pandemic hit the world, as Iceland headed into the second half of its two-year Chairmanship term. While meetings were first postponed, "the show must go on" and  the Council’s work quickly adapted to a new virtual working mode. With a long menu of tasks, and an appetite for innovation, Iceland decided to host the Arctic Council’s first ever virtual Senior Arctic Officials’ meeting, launching new initiatives such as the Senior Arctic Officials’ Marine Mechanism online, and moving the symposium on plastic pollution in the Arctic marine environment, into the virtual realm. Under Iceland's leadership, the Council also released a briefing document on Covid-19 in the Arctic.

The Arctic Marine Environment

Iceland's focus on the ocean

Surrounded by the ocean, the Arctic marine environment was a natural priority for Iceland. During its Chairmanship, Iceland highlighted the issue of plastic pollution in the Arctic marine environment, promoted innovative methods to improve the utilization of living marine resources, fostered marine cooperation and continued to promote safe and sustainable shipping in the Arctic.
Plastic bags in the ocean

Regional Action Plan on Marine Litter in the Arctic

During the Icelandic Chairmanship, the Arctic Council developed a Regional Action Plan to reduce marine litter, including micro-plastics, along with other efforts to monitor and limit its impacts. The plan outlines opportunities to reduce marine litter in sectors such as fisheries, shipping, aquaculture and waste-water management. Get a sneak peek. 
Zodiaks in Arctic waters

New marine cooperation initiative

The Senior Arctic Officials’ Marine Mechanism (SMM) was launched during Iceland’s Chairmanship term. The SMM offers a venue for the Senior Arctic Officials and marine experts to discuss issues regarding the Arctic marine ecosystem and coastal communities in the circumpolar North. Learn more.
Fishing net

Blue Bioeconomy

Iceland initiated a project on blue bioeconomy with the objective to explore opportunities and challenges for the development of the blue bioeconomy in the Arctic. The blue bioeconomy is based on intelligent and sustainable use of bioresources, focusing on improving utilization, innovation and creating higher-value products. Learn more about the project.

Climate and green energy solutions

Climate knowledge and practical solutions

During the Icelandic Chairmanship, the Arctic Council continued observing and assessing climate impacts on Arctic marine, freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems. Over the past two years, the Council has further encouraged the development and application of practical green energy solutions in the Arctic region, to enable communities to reduce emissions and improve air quality.
Small power station in Finland

Tackling pollutants

Under Iceland’s lead, the Council’s Expert Group on Black Carbon and Methane (EGBCM) will release its third Summary of Progress and Recommendations Report, based on the national reports and other relevant information, in May 2021. Pollutants were also addressed by the Arctic Contaminants Action Program (ACAP), which amongst other topics worked on the mitigation of short-lived climate pollutants from associated petroleum gas (APG) flaring.
Arctic tundra

Understanding climate change

During the Icelandic Chairmanship, the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP) worked on advancing knowledge of climate change in the Arctic and will release an Arctic Climate Change Update 2021. The Working Group on Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF) in turn analyzed the effects of climate change on terrestrial biodiversity and will release the State of Arctic Terrestrial Biodiversity report in May 2021.
Learning from traditional knowledge

Green energy know-how

Under Iceland’s leadership of the Council’s Sustainable Development Working Group (SDWG), the “Zero Arctic” project developed concepts for carbon neutral constructions in the Arctic. SDWG also continued its work on other green energy related projects, such as the Arctic Renewable Energy Atlas and the Arctic Renewable Energy Networks Academy.

People and communities of the Arctic

For a prosperous future in the Arctic

Iceland placed an emphasis on initiatives that aim to promote the wellbeing of Arctic inhabitants. As northern communities already face challenges resulting from the impacts of climate change, the Icelandic Chairmanship promoted actions to strengthen resilience and facilitate adaptation. It also looked at new economic opportunities and further strengthened the Council’s work on gender equality.
Kids playing in Greenland
Svalbard poppy

Gender equality

Iceland continued to lead the Gender Equality in the Arctic (GEA) project that aims to promote dialogue on gender equality in the Arctic and to strengthen a network of experts and stakeholders in the field. A major component of Phase III of GEA was to develop a report on gender. Learn more about GEA.
Traditional boots on ice

Arctic Resilience

Iceland hosted the second Arctic Resilience Forum online. The virtual conference laid a strong foundation for continued collaboration and conversation on Arctic resilience. With communities as the launch point, the Council can build a network that engages diverse experts and knowledge holders to continue discussions and integrate perspectives that strengthen and advance Arctic resilience.
Indigenous youth

Youth engagement

Youth engagement has been gaining momentum in the Arctic Council and Iceland endeavored to further enhance youth engagement within the Council. During the Icelandic Chairmanship, the Permanent Participants’ Youth Network was established and Working Groups such as SDWG and CAFF continued to engage youth participants in their projects and to foster their career development through fellowship programs.

12th Ministerial meeting

Information for media representatives

The 12th Ministerial meeting of the Arctic Council will mark the end of Iceland's two-year Chairmanship term. It will take place on 20th May 2021 in Reykjavik, Iceland. The Icelandic Chairmanship welcomes media representatives to Iceland – following the national regulations. Media interested in covering the meeting from Iceland are invited to submit their details for accreditation in the registration form. More information is available here.

Observer event

A discussion on Arctic governance

The Icelandic Chairmanship hosted an online event for our Observers on 21 April with focus on Arctic Governance. Many challenges the region faces are global in nature and addressing them calls for collaboration with the Council's Observers. The opening address was given by the Chair of the Arctic Council, Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson, Iceland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Development Cooperation.  Watch the recorded messages of the panelists here.

From the Arctic Council Secretariat

New director appointed

As the term of the current Arctic Council Secretariat (ACS) director, Nina Buvang Vaaja, comes to an end, the Senior Arctic Officials have appointed her successor: Mathieu Parker, currently Director General, Pan-territorial Operations at Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency. Mr Parker will assume his new position later this year. 

In memoriam

AMAP Vice-Chair Yuri Tsaturov passed away

We are saddened to learn about the passing of AMAP's Vice-Chair Yuri Tsaturov. He was a dedicated contributor to AMAP's scientific work and the Council is grateful for his important contributions to Arctic science. Our condolences to his family, friends and colleagues.

The Arctic Council's social corner


We did it! We reached our #ArcticCouncilActive goal of moving the distance around the #Arctic Circle. All 16,000 km in under 2 months, well before our Ministerial meeting in May. Thanks to all our participants around the circumpolar Arctic & beyond. What should our next goal be?
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