Passing the Gavel: United States Closes Two-Year Chairmanship of Arctic Council

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U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson addresses the 10th Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting in Fairbanks, Alaska.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson addresses the 10th Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting in Fairbanks, Alaska, on May 11, 2017.

Passing the Gavel: United States Closes Two-Year Chairmanship of Arctic Council

Today, U.S. Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson hosted the 10th Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting in Fairbanks, Alaska. As the outgoing chair of the Arctic Council, the United States convened the foreign ministers of the Arctic states --Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Russia, and the United States-- together with delegations from the Arctic Council’s indigenous Permanent Participant organizations and observer states and organizations.

At the meeting, Secretary Tillerson recognized the Arctic Council as an indispensable forum for cooperation. Secretary Tillerson said, “The Arctic Council, which recently celebrated its 20th anniversary, has proven to be an indispensable forum in which we can pursue cooperation. I want to affirm that the United States will continue to be an active member in this council. The opportunity to chair the council has only strengthened our commitment to continuing its work in the future.” Secretary Tillerson also affirmed that the United States will continue to be an active member as it transfers chairmanship of the Council to Finland.

In his remarks, Secretary Tillerson outlined several issues of great concern for the United States and its Arctic partners, including advancing the welfare and living conditions of Arctic communities, and recognizing each country’s strategic interests in the Arctic. According to Secretary Tillerson, the Arctic Council will continue to be an important platform for the United States as the Administration deliberates on important policies that impact the Arctic region.

Noting the numerous achievements over the past two years under U.S. chairmanship, Secretary Tillerson highlighted a few as examples of the Council’s collective efforts. Secretary Tillerson announced the signing of the Fairbanks Declaration in which the Council reaffirmed its commitment to maintain peace, stability, and constructive cooperation in the Arctic. The Fairbanks Declaration recognized the key accomplishments during the 2015-2017 U.S. Chairmanship of the Arctic Council to advance Arctic Ocean safety, security, and stewardship and improve economic and living conditions. 

 Secretary Tillerson also announced the signing of the Agreement on Enhancing International Arctic Scientific Cooperation by Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, and the United States. This is the third legally binding agreement negotiated under the auspices of the Arctic Council. The agreement facilitates access by scientists of the eight Arctic States to Arctic areas that each State has identified, including entry and exit of persons, equipment, and materials; access to research infrastructure and facilities; and access to research areas. The agreement also calls for the parties to promote education and training of scientists working on Arctic matters. 

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson poses for a photo with Principal Participants and Heads of Delegations at the 10th Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting in Fairbanks, Alaska, on May 11, 2017.

In closing his remarks, Secretary Tillerson thanked all of those involved in these initiatives, including government officials and Arctic expert as well as the Arctic Council’s Permanent Participants, Working Group and Task Force Chairs, the Secretariats, the Observers, and invited experts. The Secretary noted “the last two years have witnessed remarkable growth in the reach and productivity of the Arctic Council” and expressed his confidence that under the leadership of Finland the Council is poised for continued success.

Editor's Note: This entry is also published on Medium.com/StateDept.

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