Analysis & Opinions - High North News

It’s Greenland’s Turn to Lead the Arctic Council

| May 14, 2024

This publication was produced as part of IGA 671M: Policy and Social Innovation for the Changing Arctic. The views expressed are those of the author alone.


In 2011, Greenlandic politicians arrived at an Arctic Council meeting in Sweden to find they did not have a seat at the table. I mean this in the most literal sense: the chair where Greenland sat during previous Arctic Council meetings had been moved to the back bench. Instead, the Kingdom of Denmark, of which Greenland is a self-governing nation, held the sole central seat.

Denmark would not be in the Arctic Council without Greenland. If you look at a map of the world from the top, you’ll see a large island—the largest island in the world, in fact. That island, with 56,000 residents, is Greenland. And it is the only part of the Kingdom of Denmark that lies within the Arctic.

A Greater Say

Since that fateful day in 2011, Greenland has negotiated with Denmark to regain a greater say in Arctic Council affairs. In 2021, Denmark and Greenland agreed that Greenland would be the first to speak at Arctic Council meetings and the main signatory to declarations. However, there haven’t been many declarations as of late.

After Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine, the Arctic Council is severely weakened. In-person meetings have stalled, and collaboration with Russia—which makes up half of the Arctic coastline—is minimal.

In 2025, the Kingdom of Denmark will take over from Norway as part of the rotating Arctic Council chairship. A more prominent role for Greenland during the Kingdom’s chairship is the best possible way to preserve Arctic Council relevance and respond to the crisis moment we are in. And it’s something Greenlanders have advocated for years.

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Chenok, Hannah.“It’s Greenland’s Turn to Lead the Arctic Council.” High North News, May 14, 2024.

The Author