For the next two years, Finland will play a leading role in Arctic affairs. Finland assumed the Chairmanship of the Arctic Council from the United States on May 11 in the Arctic Foreign Ministers' meeting held in Fairbanks, Alaska. All Arctic Council Member States Foreign Ministers including Finland's Foreign Minister Timo Soini and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson were present at the meeting.
The Arctic Council was established in 1996 and it has a broad mandate to address issues of relevance to the Arctic Region and its peoples. During its first 20 years, the Arctic Council focused much of its work on issues of sustainable development and environmental protection in the Arctic. The Arctic Chairmanship rotates among the member states – Finland, Iceland, Russia, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Canada and the United States. Finland will be responsible for the lead position until May 2019.
During its chairmanship, Finland aims to contribute to the maintenance of stability and to further strengthen the Arctic cooperation. The four top priorities include environmental protection, meteorological cooperation, connectivity, and education. In order to prepare for its duties as the Chair, Finland has consulted the other Arctic States as well as Arctic Indigenous People's organizations.
In his remarks, Secretary Tillerson said that the Arctic Council has proven to be an indispensable forum in which the member states can pursue cooperation. Secretary Tillerson said that the U.S. is looking forward to working with Finland as they assume the leadership role of the council. He also highlighted the importance of the Council's work and the unprecedented challenges it is currently facing.
"I am grateful for the level of cooperation that the nations and the peoples of the Arctic have demonstrated as they continue to address these challenges," Tillerson said in his speech. "The last two years have witnessed remarkable growth in the reach and productivity of the Arctic Council, thanks to all of you. And I am confident that, under the leadership of Finland, the Council is poised to do even more."
Finland's Arctic Chairmanship is built on a strong foundation. Finland's Arctic Strategy, adopted in 2013 with priorities outlined in 2016, specifies the objectives of the country's Arctic policy. The aim is to promote actions that bring growth and enhance competitiveness in the region with due respect for the Arctic environment.
Another objective is to produce key solutions to problems relating to the development of the Arctic. Minister Timo Soini underlined the importance of cooperation to solve these problems.
"The challenges of melting sea ice, thawing permafrost and changes in eco-systems are complex. They cannot be solved one by one or in isolation," Mr. Soini said at the Fairbanks meeting. "It is my wish that we will continue to work together to foster prosperity and sustainability of Arctic people and environment."
Throughout the two-year term, Finland will organize several meetings at senior official and expert level, as well as Arctic conferences and seminars. Each meeting will be arranged in an environmentally sustainable way, following guidelines developed by the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs in cooperation with WWF Finland.
More information about Finland's chairmanship: http://formin.finland.fi/public/default.aspx?contentid=356546&nodeid=50020&contentlan=2&culture=en-US