Over the past few years, States and Indigenous People Organizations have outlined and defined their national priorities and policy objectives in the Arctic and on northern issues in response of a growing global strategic importance of the Arctic region. This process has involved not only the eight Arctic States and Arctic Indigenous Peoples, but also non-Arctic States both in Europe—such as France, Germany, and the United Kingdom—and in Asia—such as Japan and South Korea. In addition, it must be noticed that many other non-Arctic states have shown clear interests on Arctic issues (as for instance China and India, both accepted as observers at the Arctic Council), but they haven’t (yet) developed a clear and formal Arctic policy.
Under this section, Arctic policies, strategies and vision for the Arctic released by the 8 Arctic states, indigenous peoples and non-Arctic states have been shortly presented. Links to the original texts are also provided.
Arctic Policies/Strategies by Arctic States
Canada's North is a fundamental part of Canada – it is part of our heritage, our future and our identity as a country. The Government has a vision for a new North and is taking action to ensure that vision comes to life – for the benefit of all Canadians. To meet the challenges and opportunities of a changing North, the Government has established a comprehensive Northern Strategy and is taking concrete action in four priority areas:
- Exercising our Arctic sovereignty
- Protecting our environmental heritage
- Promoting social and economic development
- Improving and devolving Northern governance
World-leading Arctic science and technology underpin the Northern Strategy and help ensure sound decision-making. The Government is committed to helping the North realize its true potential as a healthy, prosperous and secure region within a strong and sovereign Canada. [Canada's Northern Strategy]
Canada recognises the importance of addressing these issues through the Arctic Council, other multilateral institutions and its bilateral partnerships. Established in Ottawa in 1996, the Arctic Council is a high-level forum created to advance circumpolar cooperation.[Government of Canada]
Canada was the first Chair to the Arctic Council, to 1998, and assumed chairship again in 2013 to 2015, and will assume chairship again in 2029.
The Government of Canada introduced Canada's Northern Strategy in 2007 and in 2009 published "Canada's Northern Strategy: Our North, Our Heritage, Our Future" (Government of Canada 2009), followed by “Statement on Canada’s Arctic Foreign Policy” (Government of Canada 2010) which was launched on August 2010.
Finland’s new Strategy for the Arctic Region defines a number of objectives for Finland’s Arctic policy and explores ways of promoting them. The strategy addresses local residents, education, research, the economy, infrastructure, the environment, stability and international cooperation in the Arctic. [...] Inherent in the perspectives created by the new strategy are the four pillars of policy outlined by the Government:
- an Arctic country
- Arctic expertise
- Sustainable development and environmental considerations
- International cooperation
Together, these elements define Finland’s role in the Arctic region. It is Finland’s objective to promote growth and actions to enhance competitiveness in the region with due regard to the local environment.
“Finland’s Strategy for the Arctic Region” was adopted by the Finnish Cabinet Committee on the European Union (of the Government) in June 2010. It was published at the same time in Finnish and in September 2010 in English. The document was later updated in 2013: "Finland’s Strategy for the Arctic Region 2013" (Government resolution on 23 August 2013).
"Althingi resolves to entrust the Government, after consultations with Althingi, with carrying out the following overarching policy on Arctic issues aimed at securing Icelandic interests with regard to the effects of climate change, environmental issues, natural resources, navigation and social development as well as strengthening relations and cooperation with other States and stakeholders on the issues facing the region" (A Parliamentary Resolution on Iceland’s Arctic Policy).
The Report “Ísland á norðurslóðum” (“Iceland in the High North”) was published by the Icelandic Ministry of Foreign Affairs in September 2009. This report was followed by “A Parliamentary Resolution on Iceland’s Arctic Policy” which was approved by the Icelandic Parliament and later published in March 2011.
A policy update was passed by the parliament in October 2021 - Iceland’s Policy on Matters Concerning the Arctic Region Parliamentary Resolution 25/151.
"The Kingdom of Denmark is centrally located in the Arctic. The three parts of the Realm – Denmark, Greenland and the Faroe Islands – share a number of values and interests and all have a responsibility in and for the Arctic region. The Arctic makes up an essential part of the common cultural heritage, and is home to part of the Kingdom’s population". [...] "In the Kingdom’s strategy for the Arctic 2011- 2020, the Government, the Government of the Faroes and the Government of Greenland have set out the most important opportunities and challenges as we see them today and in the near future. On that basis we have defined our common political objectives for the Arctic".
The Kingdom of Denmark’s Strategy for the Arctic 2011-2020” was adopted by the Government of Denmark, the Government of the Faroe Islands and the Government of Greenland, and launched by the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs in August 2011.
However the Faroes Islands released their own paper on strategy and vision for the Arctic "Challenges and Opportunities in the Circumpolar North," (Foreign Service: Fisheries, Trade and Regional Policy Prime Minister’s Office, Tórshavn, Faroe Islands, 2011) , updated in 2013 "The Faroe Islands: A Nation in the Arctic".
"We will build on the extensive efforts of previous governments. In the time ahead, the Government will give priority to the following five areas:
- International cooperation
- Business development
- Knowledge development
- Environmental protection and emergency preparedness
We intend to work hard to put our Arctic policy into practice. You can read more about what we are doing, as well as what we have already achieved, in this report."
The report "Norway's arctic policy: Creating value, managing resources, confronting climate change and fostering knowledge. Developments in the Arctic concern us all." was presented by Prime Minister Erna Solberg and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Børge Brende in the city of Hammerfest 10 November 2014 (Please note: This English version of the report is an extract and updated version of the Norwegian report «Nordkloden», that was launched in November 2014).
The current Norwegian Arctic Policy builds on these previous policies:
Development of the Arctic zone of the Russian Federation (AZRF) is determined primarily by creation and management of its infrastructure. Indeed, sustainable development of the Russian Arctic depends on full-fledged infrastructure expansion and improvements.
The Russian Arctic infrastructure includes transport, social development, technological development, engineering, production, innovation, defence & security infrastructure.
This is largely attributed to the Strategy of Spatial Development of the Russian Federation until 2025 which states the Russian Arctic as an important geostrategic territory.
The Russian Arctic strategic planning documents ensure the development of transport and logistics, mineral resource centers development, energy supply for production and settlements (distributed energy projects, microgrids), creation of infrastructure for municipal and industrial waste processing (in an environmentally friendly way), Arctic tourism development (using the capabilities of specially protected natural areas), reduction of food dependency on imports - i.e. further agricultural development in the Russian Arctic, digitalization of regions, creation of smart cities.
The basic documents related to the Russian Arctic that merit attention are as follows:
- The Fundamentals of the State Policy of the Russian Federation in the Arctic for the Period up to 2035
- Strategy of Development of the Arctic Zone of the Russian Federation and National Security up to 2035
- The state program Social and Economic Development of the Arctic zone of the Russian Federation
- The Federal Law on State Support of Entrepreneurial Activity in the Russian Arctic Zone
- A Government Decree On approval of the list of regions of the Far North and equivalent localities, to provide state guarantees and compensations for people working and living in these regions and localities.
These documents identify the main areas of Russian Arctic development:
- Development of the Northern Sea Route as a competitive transport corridor of global significance
- Creation of a favourable economic and investment environment in the Russian Arctic, including the continental shelf
- Development of the mineral raw materials complex in AZRF
- Development of transport infrastructure in AZRF
- Development of energy infrastructure in AZRF
- Providing of transport accessibility of AZRF
- Providing of accessibility of social services in AZRF
- Housing development in AZRF
- Food supply and other vital commodities at reasonable price
- Development of digital infrastructure and digital services in AZRF
- Development of small and medium enterprise
The aforementioned affirms that the pertinent interests of the Russian Federation include development of the Arctic zone as a strategic resource base and its rational use, including full-scale development of the Russian continental shelf beyond its exclusive economic zone (pursuant to article 76 of UNCLOS), and the NSR development as a national transport corridor with international involvement.
Since the Arctic has continued to receive priority attention in Russia’s strategic thought, the objectives related to the Arctic are also part of Comprehensive Plan for modernization and expansion of trunk infrastructure of Russia until 2024. Furthermore, Russian Arctic interests take a special place in 12 national projects set out by President of the Russian Federation. They cover demography, healthcare, education, housing and the urban environment, ecology, safe and high-quality roads, workforce productivity and supporting employment, science, the digital economy, culture, small and medium enterprise, and international cooperation and exports.
Given environmental factors, the geological specificity and physical remoteness of the Arctic territories, the Russian leadership realizes that the implementation of infrastructure projects in the Russian Arctic requires significant economic and administrative support. It can often be a difficult task for either party without support and good cooperation with all potential stakeholders.
That is exactly why today one of the promising mechanisms to fund Arctic infrastructure projects is Tax Increment Financing (TIF) within a public-private partnership. This allows to achieve the goals through joint efforts of the state, business and society. TIF often captures large-scale industrial construction projects, cultural projects (parks, libraries), transport (parking lots, traffic control), public services, healthcare, education and environmental projects.
In addition, the new Russian Maritime Doctrine adopted in 2022 contains a marked focus on the Arctic as one of regional priority areas of the National Maritime Policy alongside the Atlantic, Pacific, Caspian, Indian Ocean and Antarctic areas. It is obvious that Russia’s focus in the Arctic is on delimitation of maritime areas in the Arctic Ocean (including the Arctic Shelf), statutory recognition of the external borders of the Russian continental shelf in the Arctic Ocean, and compliance with the interests of the Russian Federation in the process of delimitation of the maritime areas and the seabed of the Arctic Ocean.
"The purpose of the Government’s Strategy for the Arctic Region is to present Sweden’s relationship with the Arctic, together with the current priorities and future outlook for Sweden’s Arctic policy, proceeding from an international perspective. The strategy begins with a summary, followed by an introduction of Sweden as an Arctic country. Further, it specifies how, and through which international cooperation bodies and bilateral channels, the Government should seek to achieve its objectives for the Arctic. Finally, it discusses the top priorities in the strategy’s three thematic areas: climate and the environment, economic development, and the human dimension. This is the first strategy the Government of Sweden has adopted on the Arctic as a whole, and should be seen as a starting-point for further development of cooperation in the region." [...]
- Climate and the environment
- Economic development
- The human dimension.
The “Sweden’s strategy for the Arctic region” was adopted by the Swedish Government in May 2011 (Ministry of Foreign Aff airs, Press release, 12 May 2011).
The government’s report “Strategy for the Arctic region” issued in November 2020 is an updated continuation of the country’s Arctic strategy from 2011. It presents the Government’s objectives and main priorities relating to the Arctic region, and sets out the political direction of further work on the Arctic in six thematic areas: international collaboration; security and stability; climate and the environment; polar research; sustainable economic development and business sector interests; and securing good living conditions.
"To meet the challenges and opportunities in the Arctic region, and in furtherance of established Arctic Region Policy , we will pursue the following lines of effort and supporting objectives in a mutually reinforcing manner that incorporates the broad rangeof U.S. current activities and interests in the Arctic region.
1. Advance United States Security Interests
2. Pursue Responsible Arctic Region Stewardship
3. Strengthen International Cooperation"
The "National Strategy For The Arctic Region" was released by the White House (Obama's Administration)in May 2013. It builds on the previous policy,“National Security Presidential Directive/ NSPD – 66” concerning an “Arctic Region Policy”, released on January 9, 2009 by President Bush’s Administration.
An updated NATIONAL STRATEGY FOR THE ARCTIC REGION was published in October 2022
Arctic Policies/Strategies by Indigenous Peoples
"Thirty years ago when the process of formulating a comprehensive Inuit Arctic Policy began, it was almost a novelty to speak of Inuit rights and some regarded the first document as unattainable. But people have underestimated our adaptability and resilience. “We were a rag-tag and young group of Inuit”, as Mary May Simon, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, recently said in a speech, “but we were determined”.
Goals and Objectives:
1. To establish a comprehensive Inuit Arctic Policy in Inuit circumpolar regions in regard to matters of economic, social, cultural, environmental as well as political concerns.2. To achieve a broad consensus on the priorities, policies, and principles to be advanced in Inuit circumpolar regions, taking into account the significance of the Arctic and its resources to both present and future generations of northern peoples. 3. To encourage co-ordination of policy-making and decision-making in the international community, particularly in and among those states with Arctic jurisdictions and interests. 4. To ensure the survival of Inuit as a distinct people, and to integrate Inuit cultural values and concerns in all aspects of Arctic Policy, as appropriate. 5. To emphasize the importance of an economic base in the North, and the continuing right of Inuit to participate in the management and development of the Arctic and its resources. 6. To give due priority to improving the quality of life in Inuit communities and the right of Inuit to exercise adequate control over actions and activities significantly affecting their northern regions. 7. To protect the delicate Arctic environment, including marine and other resources upon which Inuit depend. 8. To devise principles for an Inuit Arctic Policy which not only ensures recognition and respect for Inuit rights and interests, but also protects the human and other fundamental rights and freedoms of all northern peoples. 9. To favour those policies and principles which foster peaceful diplomacy and the use of appropriate and safe technologies in circumpolar regions. 10. To promote international understanding and co-operation in Arctic matters through collaborative, co-operative research; informational, cultural, and educational exchanges; and international agreements. 11. To proclaim November 7th, the birth day of the ICC visionary and founder, Eben Hopson Sr., as “Inuit Day”, and all Inuit governments, agencies and communities should also be urged to proclaim annually this day as “Inuit Day” with appropriate ceremonies and celebrations.
The "Inuit Arctic Policy" is the main document outling Inuit' vision and policies for the Arctic region. It was released in 2010 by the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC). Complementary to the Inuit Arctic Policy are "A Circumpolar Inuit Declaration on Sovereignty in the Arctic (2009)" and "A Circumpolar Inuit Declaration on Resource Development Principles in Inuit Nunaat 2011".
Arctic Policies/Strategies by non-Arctic States
The EU has started developing its Arctic Strategy in 2009, but the process hasn't been accomplished yet. A comprehensive overview about steps taken by the EU toward an Arctic Policy can be found here.
A Joint Communication to the European Parliament, The Council, The European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions - A stronger EU engagement for a peaceful, sustainable and prosperous Arctic was published on October 13. 2021
EU is not yet a formal observer at the Arctic Council.
France has outlined a Science plan 2015-2020 for the Arctic, not an actual policy paper:
"In this context, France declared in 2009, through the Minister of Higher Education and Research, its intention to establish a national Arctic research program. The CNRS, mandated to implement this initiative, launched reflection and consultation activities in 2012 that would lead to the creation, in partnership with several other research organizations, of the French Arctic Initiative. This document is a summary of this work. It describes the major scientific objectives that France is willing and able to tackle in the Arctic, in collaboration with its international partners".
The "Science plan 2015-2020 of the French Arctic Initiative" (2015)is grounded on the previous paper "Prospective Recherches Polaires" (2012), outlined by the "National Center for Scientific Research" (Government agency and not ministry).
France has been granted observer status at the Arctic Council.
"With a high profile in polar research, strong political engagement and active participation in discussions about the future and the sustainable development of the Arctic, Germany is an international actor in the High North. Germany has hosted three international Arctic conferences in Berlin: a first in cooperation with Norway and Denmark in 2009, a second with Finland in 2011, and a third with Norway in 2013. Germany is a signatory of the Spitsbergen Treaty and has permanent observer status on the Arctic Council. "
Germany’s Arctic policy guidelines. Assume responsibility, seize opportunities (2013), was released by the German Federal Foreign Office, in November 2013.
India’s Arctic Policy, Building a Partnership for Sustainable Development, aims to enhance the country’s cooperation with the resource-rich and rapidly transforming Arctic region. The policy also seeks to combat climate change and protect the environment in the region, which is warming three times faster than the rest of the world. It was released by the Ministry of Earth Sciences in December 2022.
There are Six Central Pillars of the arctic policy:
- Science and research.
- Environmental protection.
- Economic and human development.
- Transportation and connectivity.
- Governance and international cooperation.
- National capacity building.
Italy (Arctic Council Observer, 2013) is developing an Arctic Policy. For the time being, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has released a document called “Towards An Italian Strategy for the Arctic, National Guidelines”, which briefly describes Italy’s connections and interest in the region.
"It aims to set Japan as an important player that contributes to the international community through its action to Arctic issues. Against this background, Japan will:
- Make full use of Japan's strength in science and technology from a global viewpoint,
- Give full consideration to the Arctic environment and ecosystem, which is fragile, with a lower ability to recover,
- Ensure the rule of law, and promote international cooperation in a peaceful and orderly manner,
- Respect the right of indigenous peoples to continuity in their traditional economic and social foundations,
- Pay full attention to security developments in the Arctic,
- Aim for economic and social compatibility with climate and environmental changes, and
- Seek possible economic chances for the use of the Arctic Sea Route and for the development of resource"
Japan's first comprehensive Arctic policy (provisional English Translation) was presented both in Tokyo and at Arctic Circle Assembly in Reykjavik in October 2015.
"The goal of the Master Plan is to contribute to sustainable future of the Arctic by enhancing cooperation with the Arctic states and relevant international organizations in the areas of science, technology and economy. It aims for the ROK to:
- strengthen international cooperation;
- build a foundation for polar scientific research; and
- create new business areas (by participating in the Arctic Council and its Working Groups)"
The Arctic Policy of the Republic of Korea ("the Master Plan") was released in December 2013. The Plan was jointly developed by seven ministries and administrations (the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries (MOF), Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning (MSIP), Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy (MOTIE), Ministry of Environment (MOE), Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport (MOLIT), and Korea Meteorological Administration (KMA). National research institutes such as the Korea Maritime Institute (KMI), Korea Polar Research Institute (KOPRI) under KIOST, Korea Institute of Geoscience and Mineral Resources (KIGAM), etc. also took part).
"The UK will work towards an Arctic that is safe and secure; well governed in conjunction with indigenous peoples and in line with international law; where policies are developed on the basis of sound science with full regard to the environment; and where only responsible development takes place. All the UK’s policies towards the Arctic will contribute in some way towards the realisation of this vision. The vision will be supported by three principles:
"Adapting To Change: UK policy towards the Arctic (2013)", was released by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 2013.
Looking North: The UK and the Arctic The United Kingdom’s Arctic Policy Framework published the 9th of February 2023.