The United States has been an Arctic nation with important interests in the region since the purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867. Currently, 4 million people live above the Arctic Circle, spread across eight countries. These countries with territory above the Arctic Circle - Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, the Russian Federation, and the United States - form the members of the Arctic Council plus 6 Permanent Participants groups representing the indigenous people of the Arctic. Indigenous people currently make up roughly 10 percent of the total Arctic population, though in Canada, they represent about half the nation's Arctic population, and in Greenland they are the majority.
Established by the Ottawa Declaration in 1996, the Arctic Council is the preeminent intergovernmental forum for addressing issues related to the Arctic Region. The Council focuses on promoting cooperation, coordination and interaction among the Arctic States, Arctic indigenous communities and other Arctic inhabitants on common issues, in particular on issues of sustainable development and environmental protection in the Arctic.
On May 11, the United States will host the 10th Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting in Fairbanks, Alaska. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will meet with fellow Minister-level representatives from the Arctic States and delegations from the Council's indigenous Permanent Participant organizations and observers to review and approve work completed under the two-year U.S. Chairmanship.
Throughout its Chairmanship, the United States has demonstrated a strong and ongoing commitment to the Arctic region through high-level support of the Arctic Council in both private and public sectors. This year, the United States concludes a successful two-year Arctic Council Chairmanship with concrete achievements that have enhanced Arctic Ocean safety, security, and stewardship; increased economic development opportunities in the Arctic region; and strengthened the resilience and adaptation capabilities of Arctic communities.
The Chairmanship of the Arctic Council rotates every two years. The United States took over from Canada at the last Ministerial meeting, held in Iqaluit, Nunavut, in April 2015. At the meeting in Fairbanks this week, the Chairmanship of the Arctic Council will pass from the United States to Finland.
Editor's Note: This entry is also published on Medium.com/StateDept.
For more information:
- Press Release: Secretary of State Tillerson To Travel to Fairbanks
- Press Release: Briefing on the Arctic Council Ministerial