The 1996 Ottawa Declaration formally established the Arctic Council as a high level intergovernmental forum to promote cooperation among Arctic States and indigenous communities. Membership of the Council comprises the eight littoral States and six representative groups of the Arctic Indigenous peoples. Non Arctic States and other bodies can apply to become Observers, of which there are currently thirty nine - thirteen States and twenty six other groups.
The Arctic Council carries out important work in a number of areas which are of interest to Ireland, including the environment, biodiversity, climate change and sustainable development.
I have asked my Department to carry out a scoping exercise on the value and feasibility of Ireland applying for Observer Status at the Arctic Council, together with a consideration of the commitments and engagement it would involve. The Department and relevant Embassies have been engaging with Members and Observer Members of the Arctic Council and with stakeholders in Ireland on interest in broader engagement in the Arctic region, including on the obligations and merits of a possible application for observer status in the future. Observer status at the Arctic Council would involve not just the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade but also other Government Departments, agencies and other stakeholders, so wide engagement is required before making a decision on a recommendation to Government.
We hope to conclude this work later this year and the decision on whether or not to apply for observer status will be made on a solid understanding of the engagement and commitment required, and how Ireland could contribute positively to the work of the Council.
Applications for Observership of the Council are submitted to the incumbent Council Chair three months before the bi-annual Ministerial meeting, next slated to take place in Iceland in May 2021. The application must be accompanied by a memorandum setting out the proposed Observer’s ability to contribute to the work of the Council. In considering the general suitability of an applicant, the Council will consider a range of factors, including the extent to which the applicant has demonstrated a political willingness as well as financial ability to contribute to the work of the Council and their relevant Arctic interests and expertise.