© Rosa Merk / WWF Germany

Arctic governance

A new Arctic needs new rules.
As climate change causes the Arctic's ice to melt and new areas to open up, the region is facing unprecedented changes and serious threats from increased activities such as shipping and oil and gas.

The ecosystems of the Arctic, particularly in the Arctic Ocean, transcend political boundaries. Ecosystems and migration patterns cross international borders, making collaboration among Arctic states essential for management and governance. The need to work together is intensified by the sparse population and limited resources of the region.


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The 8 Arctic nations

Iceland, the Kingdom of Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, Canada and the United States form the core of the Arctic Council, an international governing body for the region.

Arctic peoples

Over 4 million people live in the Arctic, and their livelihoods are directly tied to its future.

Non-Arctic nations

Countries like Singapore, China and the UK have an interest in Arctic routes and resources, and Arctic warming may impact weather and sea levels around the world.


Shipping, oil and gas, and companies are drawn to the Arctic by the tremendous economic opportunities unveiled by melting ice. Meanwhile, the companies that insure such projects are taking stock of the risks of working in icy waters.

Civil society

WWF and other organizations are working to ensure that increased development is managed responsibly, for the benefit of people, wildlife and habitats.



	© Paul Nicklen/National Geographic Stock / WWF-Canada
An Inuit man watches an icebreaker, Nunavut, Canada.
© Paul Nicklen/National Geographic Stock / WWF-Canada
people climate march 
	© Rebecca Greenfield / WWF US
© Rebecca Greenfield / WWF US
The Arctic Council is the primary forum for Arctic issues that cannot be managed by any single country.
It is an international body that addresses issues that require circumarctic collaboration, like responding to oil spills, understanding the impacts of climate change, and developing common principles of responsible Arctic stewardship.

The Council also recognizes the critically important role of Arctic indigenous peoples, by creating a unique role for them as Permanent Participants.

WWF is the only circumpolar environmental non-governmental organization with observer status on the Arctic Council. This means WWF can attend Arctic Council meetings, propose projects, and present our views. We have an invaluable opportunity to collaborate with leaders and experts making critical decisions that will shape the future of the Arctic.

An oil spill in national waters can quickly become an international disaster as oil crosses borders and affects migratory wildlife.
As interest in offshore Arctic oil and gas development grows, the Arctic Council will be challenged to find a way to effectively manage the risks associated with this type of development. In the Arctic, a mishap in one state can quickly spread to other coastal states, making risk management a shared concern.

More about our work on oil and gas

Arctic shipping is on the rise, bringing new opportunities and risks to the region.
The International Maritime Organization (IMO) is finalizing an international code of safety for ships operating in polar waters, which would set standards for safety and sustainability for all ships in Arctic waters.

More about our work on shipping


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