The Arctic Council at 25: Incremental Building of a More Ambitious Inter-governmental Forum

Timo Koivurova, Małgorzata (Gosia) Śmieszek

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterScientificpeer-review


The 25th anniversary of the Arctic Council (AC) marks a suitable point for reflection on the Council’s performance thus far and the challenges that lay ahead. Established at a time when the world’s interest in the Arctic was historically low, the institution has managed to adapt to a rapidly changing biophysical and geopolitical environment over the past 25 years and has established itself as a primary inter-governmental body for co-operation on matters pertaining to the region. During the same period, the Arctic has transformed profoundly due to the combined pressure of climate change and globalization. Named ‘the bellwether of global climate change’, the Arctic has warmed at more than twice the rate as the rest of the planet, resulting in decreasing Arctic sea ice, accelerated melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet, thawing permafrost, and the acidification of the Arctic Ocean. Simultaneously, economic prospects related to opening the Arctic Ocean, including new transport routes and offshore energy resources, have piqued the interest of the international community and non-Arctic actors that have begun to articulate their stakes in the region. The worldwide media have speculated about a race to tap the melting Arctic’s riches and have constructed narratives of alleged geopolitical conflicts and a rising new Cold War. Put together, these developments have presented a challenge to the AC, both from the outside and from within. Additionally, all these developments have placed the AC in the spotlight, where it has stayed ever since. This global attention manifested dramatically in one of the most recent AC meetings of foreign ministers in Rovaniemi, Finland, in May 2019, where, because of the US administration’s rejection of language referring to climate change, it was, for the first time, impossible for Arctic states to agree on a ministerial declaration at the meeting (Koivurova, 2019).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGlobal Arctic
Subtitle of host publicationAn Introduction to the Multifaceted Dynamics of the Arctic
EditorsMatthias Finger, Gunnar Rekvig
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-030-81253-9
ISBN (Print)978-3-030-81252-2, 978-3-030-81255-3
Publication statusPublished - 2022
MoEC publication typeA3 Part of a book or another research book

Field of science

  • International political science


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