The Visibility of the Arctic Council 
Contact: Dr Minna Turunen                                                 Start of the project: 2002
              Professor Paula Kankaanpää                                 End of the project:  2002


The aim of this study was to clarify the knowledge and views of the local inhabitants, indigenous peoples, decision-makers, and scientists living in the arctic region concerning the activities of the Arctic Council and to find the means to improve the flow of information from and the visibility of the Arctic Council. The study was conducted using a questionnaire distributed to the inhabitants of the Arctic countries. Three hundred and fifty-four answers were received from the eight Arctic countries. In addition, 51 answers were received from non-Arctic countries.

The study showed that the Arctic Council is rather poorly known among the inhabitants of the Arctic countries. One-third of the respondents did not know what the Arctic Council is. Those who had heard of the Arctic Council mentioned that their contact was mostly through newspapers and magazines. The most well-known working groups of the Arctic Council were the AMAP (Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme), the SDWG (Sustainable Development Working Group), and CAFF (Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna); the least known were EPPR (Emergency Prevention, Preparedness and Response) and PAME (Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment). In addition, Arctic Council reports were rather unknown among the people who do not deal with the Arctic Council in their work. In general, many of the reports were found to be of high quality, interesting and informative, but sometimes too theoretic and insufficiently distributed to give general audience:  people did not know where and how to find them.

Almost 70 % of the respondents thought that Arctic Council conducts important intergovernmental co-operation in the Arctic region and that its working groups perform important environmental assessments. Many respondents had high expectations for the Arctic Council in the future. The main expectation was to achieve a better standard of living for the arctic communities and to conserve the arctic environment. Respondents wrote that more attention should be paid to the people of the Arctic countries and not only to the environment. The Arctic Council could benefit by creating new opportunities for economic, cultural, and political life in the Arctic regions. People hoped for concrete projects that would employ local people, e.g. in the field of new technology and the sustainable use of natural resources.

63 % of the respondents of the all eight arctic countries, and 81  % of Russian respondents had not received sufficient information about the activity of the Arctic Council. The study showed the most important groups that should be informed are local people in general, indigenous people, reporters, local and provincial officials and students. It became evident that TV and/or radio are the most important means for disseminating information about the Arctic Council. TV and radio can easily reach extensive masses of people, including those who do not have access to the Internet. The usefulness of TV and radio as a source of information was particularly emphasized by the Russian respondents (92 %). Besides the mass media, popular reports, public events, homepages, and the Arctic Council bulletin are also or would be important means for increasing the information flow from the Arctic Council.

Because the Arctic Council is funded by its member states on a voluntary basis, no special resources so far have been separately allocated to create a communications strategy or to hire an information manager for media relations.    We recommend that the Arctic Council starts to publish an Arctic Council Bulletin, to organize public events in connection with Arctic Council meetings to start discussions with the local people, and to create an electronic network for fast dissemination of information. Concerning the dissemination of information, more attention should be paid to the use of TV, radio, and reporters. We look forward to maintaining the Arctic Council’s homepages, to publishing high-quality popular reports with some improvements (with, for example, a more effective distribution), and to disseminating information in conjunction with arctic exhibitions. To summarize, it is  important that   both fast and effective, but also longer-term and in-depth means are used simultaniously in  dissemination of the information. 

Finally, when information about the activity of the Arctic Council is disseminated, the fragmented audience should be better taken into consideration. This means that information should be more effective reconciled firstly for the needs of different language groups, particularly Russian and indigenous people and secondly, for the needs of people of different age and education. 


TURUNEN, M. Kankaanpää, P. 2002. Visibility of the Arctic Council – Results of a Background Study. Arctic Centre Reports 37. 26 p. Arctic Centre, University of Lapland. Rovaniemi, Finland.

More information

The Visibility of the Arctic Council – Results of a Background Study

Dr Minna Turunen
Arctic Centre, University of Lapland

Professor Paula Kankaanpää
Arctic Centre, University of Lapland