Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy

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Arctic landscape

The Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy (AEPS) (sometimes referred to as the Finnish Initiative)[1] is a multilateral, non-binding agreement[2] among Arctic states on environmental protection in the Arctic. Discussions began in 1989, with the AEPS adopted in June 1991 by Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, the Soviet Union, and the United States. The AEPS deals with monitoring, assessment, protection, emergency preparedness/response, and conservation of the Arctic zone.[3] It has been called a major political accomplishment of the post–Cold War era.[4]


In January 1989, Finland sent a letter to the other Arctic states proposing a conference on protection of the Arctic environment.[5] The Rovaniemi Meeting of September 1989 established two working groups. This was followed by the second consultative meeting in Yellowknife, Canada in April 1990 where a third ad hoc group was established to develop the strategy. It also resulted in the preparation of a draft document. Kiruna, Sweden was the site of the third meeting, held in January 1991, where one group worked on the drafting the AEPS while another dealt with specific environmental issues.


Government officials from all the Arctic nations convened in Rovaniemi in June 1991 for the last consultative meeting. The first three days included meetings, followed by a ministerial-level meeting on 13–14 June observed by representatives from Germany, Poland, the United Kingdom, and the United Nations.

Three indigenous peoples' organizations observed, participated, and became Permanent Participants: the Saami Council, the Inuit Circumpolar Conference, and the Association of Indigenous Minorities of the North, Siberia and the Far East of the Russian Federation.[2] They considered the Rovaniemi ministerial meeting to be "historic" as it represented the first time that Arctic indigenous peoples participated in an international declaration's preparation process.[6]

On 14 June 1991, the AEPS and the Declaration on the Protection of the Arctic Environment ("Rovaniemi Declaration") were formally adopted.[7] The main objectives were listed as,

"Preserving environmental quality and natural resources, accommodating environmental protection principals with the needs and traditions of Arctic Native peoples, monitoring environmental conditions, and reducing and eventually eliminating pollution in the Arctic Environment."[1]


The AEPS outlined five objectives and six pollution issues.[8] Legal issues included its jurisdictional reach and extent of obligations for the member states.[9] Data-gathering, information compilation, and assessment tasks were organized around these issues.[10]

In their 1993 follow-up meeting in Nuuk, Greenland, ministers endorsed expanding the AEPS in order to deal with sustainable development,[3] and issued the Nuuk Declaration.[11] Another meeting occurred in 1996 in Inuvik, Canada, resulting in the Inuvik Declaration,[12] and the establishment of the Arctic Council.[13] The last meeting, held in 1997 in Alta, Norway[10] following the AEPS's 1996 absorption into the Arctic Council resulted in the Alta Declaration.[14]

The AEPS remains a strategy for the Council's working groups,[15] including:[2]


Critics of the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy argue that it:

  1. Lacks ongoing political attention and direction, along with financial commitment.[3]
  2. Lacks the legal authority of a treaty.[16]
  3. Involves studies and talks but lacks concrete action.[17]
  4. Doesn't address specific problems, for example, Arctic haze.[18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Office of Technology Assessment Washington DC (1995). Nuclear Wastes in the Arctic: An Analysis of Arctic and Other Regional Impacts from Soviet Nuclear Contamination. Ft. Belvoir: Defense Technical Information Center SEP. p. 196. ISBN 978-1-4289-2035-4. OCLC 227865174. 
  2. ^ a b c Russell, Bruce A. "The Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy & the New Arctic Council". Archived from the original on 11 October 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-23. 
  3. ^ a b c "The Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy". Retrieved 2008-09-23. 
  4. ^ Broadus, J.M.; Vartanov, R.V., eds. (1994). The Oceans and Environmental Security: Shared Us and Russian Perspectives. Washington, D.C.: Island Press. p. 176. ISBN 1-55963-235-6. 
  5. ^ Rothwell, p. 231
  6. ^ Tennberg, Monica (December 1996). "CONTRIBUTING TO THE AEPS: INDIGENOUS KNOWLEDGE". Northern Notes. IV: 21–32. Archived from the original on 11 October 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-23. 
  7. ^ Rothwell, Donald (1996). The Polar Regions and the Development of International Law. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 231–233. ISBN 0-521-56182-5. 
  8. ^ Rothwell, p. 234
  9. ^ Rothwell, p. 238
  10. ^ a b Vidas, Davor Vidas (2000). Protecting the Polar Marine Environment: Law and Policy for Pollution Prevention. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 84. ISBN 0-521-66311-3. 
  11. ^ Ministers of the Arctic Countries (1993-09-16). "The Nuuk Declaration". Archived from the original on 2012-07-07. Retrieved 2008-09-23. 
  12. ^ Ministers of the Arctic Countries (1996-03-21). "Inuvik Declaration". Archived from the original on June 18, 2013. Retrieved 2008-09-23. 
  13. ^ Global Environment Outlook-1 (1997). "Chapter 3: Policy Responses and Directions". United Nations Environment Programme, Global State of the Environment Report. Retrieved 2008-09-23. 
  14. ^ Ministers of the Arctic countries (1997-06-13). "The Alta Declaration". Archived from the original on 2012-07-08. Retrieved 2008-09-23. 
  15. ^ Nowlan, Linda (2001). Arctic Legal Regime for Environmental Protection. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN, The World Conservation Union. p. 5. ISBN 2-8317-0637-8. 
  16. ^ S.L., Pfirman; Hajost, S.A.; Crane, K. (1992-12-29). "We Have to Protect No-Longer-Pristine Arctic". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-09-23. 
  17. ^ Elferink, A.G.O.; Rothwell, D.; VanderZwagg, D.; Huebert, R.; Ferrara, S. (2001). The Law of the Sea and Polar Maritime Delimitation and Jurisdiction. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers. pp. Chapter 12, p. 226. ISBN 90-411-1648-6. 
  18. ^ Young, O.R.; Osherenko, G. (1993). Polar Politics: Creating International Environmental Regimes. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. p. 187. ISBN 0-8014-8069-8. 

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