The Arctic Region

Key Arctic Actors

The Arctic region plays a crucial role within the global international system. Different Arctic actors form the Arctic system of international relations. Indigenous Peoples of the Arctic are are a central part within that system.

The Arctic States

Kingdom of Denmark
Russian Federation
The United States
Map courtesy of Arctic Portal

Their territories, or part of their territory fall within the Arctic Circle and these states are the member countries of the Arctic Council (the Council). The Council is the primary high-level intergovernmental forum whose purpose it is to provide the means for promoting cooperation, coordination, and interaction among the Arctic States, with the involvement of Indigenous Peoples´ Associations, referred to as the Permanent Participants of the Arctic Council.

The eight Arctic states play a key role in the management of the Arctic region and this role can be understood on two levels: through each country´s Arctic policies regarding the region in which national priorities and policy objectives in the Arctic are defined, and through the states´ cooperation with other countries and entities, such as through the Arctic Council.

Arctic Indigenous Peoples

Arctic Indigenous Peoples inhabit territories in 7 out of the 8 Arctic Countries (Iceland does not have Indigenous Peoples). Out of a total of 4 million inhabitants in the Arctic, approximately 500,000 are Indigenous Peoples.

Based on linguistic groups, the United Nations estimate about 40 different groups, including:

· Saami in circumpolar areas of Finland, Sweden, Norway and Northwest Russia

· Nenets, Khanty, Evenk and Chukchi in Russia

· Aleut, Yupik and Inuit (Iñupiat) in Alaska

· Inuit (Inuvialuit) in Canada

· Inuit (Kalaallit) in Greenland

While there is no one universal definition for Indigenous Peoples, both the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and the International Labour Organisation’s Convention concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples (ILO No. 169) provide useful points of reference.

There are six Arctic Indigenous People’s Organizations which are an important part of the Arctic Council, where they are referred to as Permanent Participants. These are as follows.

· Aleut International Association (AIA)

· Arctic Athabaskan Council (AAC)

· Gwich’in International Council (GIC)

· Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC)

· Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North (RAIPON)

· Saami Council