The Arctic Council is a high-level inter-governmental and consensus-based forum which provides a mechanism to address common challenges and opportunities faced by Arctic governments and the people of the Arctic. First established in 1996, it includes all eight Arctic states:
- Russian Federation
- United States of America.
The Arctic Council also includes six Permanent Participant organizations:
- Arctic Athabaskan Council (AAC)
- Aleut International Association (AIA)
- Gwich'in Council International (GCI)
- Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC)
- Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North, Siberia and Far East (RAIPON)
- Saami Council (SC)
There are also a number of non-Arctic states, inter-governmental and inter-parliamentary organizations, as well as non-governmental organizations that participate as observers.
There are six Working Groups under the Arctic Council which cover a spectrum of Arctic issues:
- Arctic Contaminants Action Program (ACAP)
- Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP)
- Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna(CAFF)
- Emergency Prevention, Preparedness and Response (EPPR)
- Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment (PAME)
- Sustainable Development Working Group (SDWG)
Canada held the first chairmanship of the Arctic Council in 1996 and pushed for the human dimension of Arctic issues, primarily through the work of the Sustainable Development Working Group, and will assume the chairmanship again in 2013.
While the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada (DFAIT) leads and provides the federal focus for the Arctic Council, AANDC, working closely with territorial governments and Aboriginal peoples to advance on mutual interests, provides policy and organizational support to Canada's Senior Arctic Official (SAO); co-ordination of Canada's official positions on political and substantive issues before the Arctic Council; and development of Canadian initiatives and project proposals to be tabled at the Arctic Council for approval and action.
Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada also coordinates Canada's activities and contributions to the Sustainable Development Working Group (SDWG). AANDC implements Canadian initiatives under the Council's Sustainable Development Program, including promoting a more strategic approach to Arctic sustainable development and integrating capacity building into the activities of the Arctic Council, and maintains fiscal responsibility for the Canada-hosted SDWG secretariat.
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