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News, 3/13/2017

Arctic Council prepares for Finland’s Chairmanship

The Senior Arctic Officials (SAO) of the Arctic Council convened for their last meeting under the US Chairmanship in Juneau, Alaska, on 7–9 March. At the meeting, Finland presented the programme for its Chairmanship focusing on Arctic climate issues and sustainable development in the Arctic region. Finland will take over the two-year Chairmanship of the Arctic Council in May.

SAO_Finnish delegation.Kuva: Linnea Nordsrtöm
The Finnish delegation participating in the meeting of the Senior Arctic Officials consisted of Pekka Shemeikka, Tuuli Ojala, Aleksi Härkönen and René Söderman. Photo: Linnea Nordström

The Finnish Chairmanship of the Arctic Council will officially begin on 11 May, when the Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the eight Arctic States and the leaders of the six indigenous Permanent Participant organisations will convene in Fairbanks, Alaska.

For the past twenty years, the Arctic Council has promoted sustainable development, environmental protection and the wellbeing of the population in the Arctic region. The aim is to hold the meetings in the Arctic region, and this time the Senior Arctic Officials convened in Juneau, the capital of the State of Alaska. Juneau is located in southern Alaska at the base of Mount Juneau and on the shore of Gastineau Channel. The Arctic nature of the area is highlighted by the fact that it is only accessible by air and sea.

Action plans for Working Groups during Finland’s Chairmanship approved

At their last meeting under the US Chairmanship, the Senior Arctic Officials approved and welcomed a wide array of reports and recommendations of the Council’s Working Groups in preparation for the upcoming Ministerial meeting. At the same time, the action plans of the Working Groups for the Finnish Chairmanship 2017–2019 were approved.

The majority of the Arctic Council's work is carried out in the six Working Groups focusing on monitoring the status of the Arctic environment, identification of contamination risks, prevention of environmental disasters, promotion of sustainable development, preservation of natural diversity, and special issues concerning Arctic marine environments.

Arktinen neuvosto_Juneau
At the last meeting of the Senior Arctic Officials under the US Chairmanship, the Arctic Council dealt with the programme for Finland’s Chairmanship. Ambassador David Balton chaired the meeting. Photo: René Söderman

Finland will focus on climate change and sustainable development

Aleksi Härkönen, Finland’s Ambassador for Arctic Affairs, presented the programme for Finland’s Chairmanship. The programme focuses on the promotion of climate change work and sustainable development among the Arctic States. The programme has been prepared in cooperation between several administrative branches, and the Member States of the Arctic Council and the organisations representing Arctic indigenous peoples in the Council were consulted during the preparation.

Finland’s priorities include environmental protection, meteorological cooperation, connectivity, and education in the Arctic.

Polar Code is in force

Kitack Lim, Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organization IMO, provided an update on the Polar Code which contains safety and environmental protection regulations to reduce the risks for shipping in polar waters. The Polar Code entered into force in the beginning of this year and all the flag states are responsible for its implementation.

The cooperation between the Arctic Council and the IMO will be intensified during Finland’s Chairmanship.

René Söderman

Senior Adviser for Arctic Affairs

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