An Arctic Redesign
March 14, 2016
The Arctic Council was launched in 1996 as an informal, consensual, and cooperative mechanism without either legal personality or operational mandate. It was designed to enhance measures to collectively protect the Arctic’s environment and to explore sustainable development opportunities. The Arctic Council turns 20 years old in 2016, and it has grown larger and more complex—welcoming new observer states such as China and India, initiating two legally binding agreements on search and rescue and oil spill response, and creating a permanent Secretariat. As the increasingly dynamic Arctic environment undergoes vast physical and geopolitical transformations, is the 20-year old Arctic Council’s organizational structure adequate and fit for its purpose? Can the Council remain at the center of Arctic-related activities under its current mandate? Is a substantial rethink of the Council’s governance structure necessary to ensure its productivity and longevity for the next 20 years? This report considers these questions and outlines four possible scenarios and strategies for Arctic Council reform and repair, as well as the implications for the Arctic Council in the future.