SDWG Mandate


The Sustainable Development Working Group (SDWG)

The SDWG was established at the Arctic Council Ministerial meeting in Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada, in September, 1998. The current Chair of the Working Group is the United States of America.



The representatives of the Governments of Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, the Russian Federation, Sweden and the United States of America (hereinafter referred as the Arctic States) meeting in Ottawa;

Affirming our commitment to the well-being of the inhabitants of the Arctic, including special recognition of the special relationship and unique contributions to the arctic of indigenous people and their communities;

Affirming our commitment to sustainable development in the Arctic region, including economic and social development, improved health conditions and cultural well-being;

Affirming concurrently our commitment to the protection of the Arctic environment, including the health of Arctic ecosystems, maintenance of biodiversity in the Arctic region and conservation and sustainable use of natural resources;

Recognizing the contributions of the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy to these commitments;

Recognizing the traditional knowledge of the indigenous people of the Arctic and their communities and taking note of its importance and that of Arctic science and research to the collective understanding of the circumpolar Arctic;

Desiring further to provide a means for promoting cooperative activities to address Arctic issues requiring circumpolar cooperation, and to ensure full consultation with and the involvement of indigenous people and their communities and other inhabitants of the Arctic in such activities;

Recognizing the valuable contribution and support of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference, Saami Council, and the Association of Indigenous Minorities of the Far North, Siberia and the Far East of the Russian Federation in the development of the Arctic Council;

Desiring to provide for regular intergovernmental consideration of and consultation on Arctic issues.

Hereby declare:

1. The Arctic Council is established as a high level forum to:

(a) provide a means for promoting cooperation, coordination and interaction among the Arctic States, with the involvement of the Arctic indigenous communities and other Arctic inhabitants on common arctic issues*, in particular issues of sustainable development and environmental protection in the Arctic.

(b) oversee and coordinate the programs established under the AEPS on the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP); conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF); Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment (PAME); and Emergency Preparedness and Response (EPPR).

(c) adopt terms of reference for and oversee and coordinate a sustainable development program.

(d) disseminate information, encourage education and promote interest in Arctic-related issues.



Terms of Reference for the SDWG were formally adopted at the Arctic Council Ministers’ Meeting in Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada in September 1998. The goal of the Sustainable Development program of the Arctic Council is to propose and adopt steps to be taken by the Arctic States to advance sustainable development in the Arctic.  This includes pursuing opportunities to protect and enhance the environment and the economies, culture and health of indigenous peoples and Arctic communities. The guiding tenet running throughout the work of the SDWG is to pursue initiatives that provide practical knowledge and contribute to building the capacity of indigenous peoples and Arctic communities to respond to the challenges and benefits from the opportunities in the Arctic region.


Unlike other Arctic Council Working Groups, the SDWG carries out its mandate based on specific projects approved by Ministers, rather than in accordance with a broad program mandate. At the Salekhard Ministerial Meeting (2006), this structural difference was alleviated to some degree when Ministers adopted language in their declaration giving SAOs an ongoing mandate to approve, inter-sessionally, SDWG projects consistent with the overall work and priorities of the Arctic Council.


In addition, the SDWG is increasingly required to contribute to Arctic Council priority areas being carried out by other working groups and subsidiary bodies. The SDWG continues to seek more effective structures to bring together the requisite expertise on issues and activities within its mandate.


In addition, consistent with the overall work and priorities of the Arctic Council, the SDWG carries out projects and activities, as approved by SAOs, in the following thematic areas:

  • ARCTIC HUMAN HEALTH: To broaden the scope and strengthen the integration of human health activities within the Council by developing concrete initiatives to improve the health and well-being of Indigenous Peoples and other Arctic residents.
  • ARCTIC SOCIO-ECONOMIC ISSUES: To advance on a better understanding of the human influences on the Arctic environment and the socio-economic conditions of Indigenous Peoples and Arctic communities
  • ADAPTATION TO CLIMATE CHANGE: To strengthen the work of the Council by reducing vulnerability and implementing adaptation initiatives related to climate change in the Arctic, including practical community-based actions.
  • ENERGY & ARCTIC COMMUNITIES: To consider future projects and activities in relation to the Arctic region as energy consumer, and the importance of environmentally friendly economic activity in the energy sector to ongoing social and economic development in the Arctic region.
  • MANAGEMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES: To consider that Indigenous Peoples and Arctic communities rely on the sustainable use of natural resources for their health and economic well-being; increases in shipping, petroleum activities, fishing, mining as well as external influences such as climate change and variability, require that the management of resources is based on a holistic perspective.
  • ARCTIC CULTURES & LANGUAGES: To support Arctic cultures; to reduce the loss of Arctic Indigenous languages and to follow-up on the Arctic Indigenous Languages Symposium.
  • STRATEGIC PLANNING: To develop a more integrated and inclusive approach to managing and planning SDWG priority-based activities undertaken in collaboration with other Arctic Council Working Groups, Permanent Participants, Arctic community stakeholders and external partners.

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