Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks at a meeting dedicated to the 25th anniversary of the Arctic Council, May 19, 2021
The Arctic is becoming a fixture on the international agenda as a region of fruitful cooperation. It comprises a unique and extremely fragile ecosystem, the people who live and work there, and the huge potential for joint development. The polar region can only be managed responsibly based on a real partnership of the countries that bear special responsibility for its future. It is notable that interstate relations in the high latitudes continue to develop consistently despite a difficult international situation.
Tremendous credit goes to the Arctic Council for this. During the past 25 years, we have attained substantial results in the strengthening of this organisation. A quarter century of painstaking and scrupulous efforts to develop a system of cooperation is yielding fruit. Three legally binding intergovernmental agreements have been signed, and the Arctic Economic Council and the University of the Arctic (UArctic) have been established. We have also established close ties with the Arctic Coast Guard Forum and synergy with other regional organisations.
The Arctic Council is a unique forum where the member states are not divided into “us and them”; decisions are adopted by consensus, and the interests of the indigenous people of the North, who sit at the same table with representatives of the member states, are taken into account. The council’s creative activities are proof of its efficiency.
A network of auxiliary agencies contributes to attaining the goals set before the council. These include, first, the working and expert groups, which are focused on a broad range of sustainable development goals and thereby ensure a comprehensive expert analysis of the initiatives and recommendations that are translated into practice.
The solutions to the growing problems in the Arctic region often require international assistance from outside the region. That is, states and organisations that have observer status in the council; at present, there are 38. This is not a small number. The council will still have to evaluate the efficiency of this mechanism of cooperation and improve it. However, as I noted, the main point is not to interrupt the ongoing multi-level dialogue or push it to a confrontation-based approach with outside tensions.
Russia is starting its Arctic Council chairmanship in an anniversary year. Our country accounts for almost a third of the Arctic with a population of over 2.5 million people. We are carrying out a comprehensive programme for developing this territory. As council chair, we will promote balanced and sustainable development in the social, economic and environmental areas. In the process, we will focus on the need to improve the wellbeing and living standards of the local people.
Russia intends to increase the adaptation and sustainability of the Arctic Region, as well as its resilience to global climate change, and to minimise the anthropogenic impact on its environment. We will approach this work, among other things, as part of our national commitments under the Paris Agreement and the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development goals. We are focusing on preserving biodiversity, unique bio-systems, preventing pollution and developing practical cooperation among the Arctic states through joint response efforts.
We are planning a number of events and projects on preserving the cultural, historical and linguistic heritage of the North. These activities are particularly important in the context of the UN-declared International Decade of Indigenous Languages in 2022-2032.
We hope Russia’s Arctic Council chairmanship will help promote further regional cooperation. The challenges all of us meet in the high latitudes require truly collective approaches.
The Arctic is our common region, and we are directly responsible for preserving it for current and future generations.