Document 3:3 (2014–2015) Office of the Auditor General’s investigation of the authorities’ work with the Arctic Council was submitted to the Storting (Norwegian Parliament) on 17 December 2014.
The investigation was part of the Norwegian contribution to a multilateral audit of the Arctic Council, in which the Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs) of Denmark, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States participated. Important findings by the SAIs have been summarised in a joint memorandum which has been submitted for approval by the respective countries.
The OAG has ascertained that the work of the Arctic Council contributes to cooperation and increased knowledge, particularly concerning the environment and climate change. - This is of great significance for a common understanding of challenges and the need for measures. The Arctic Council's recommendations are not binding under international law, but it is important for the Arctic states, through the Council, to demonstrate that they are taking responsibility in order to ensure sustainable development, says Auditor General Foss.
The investigation shows that the Arctic Council suffers from impractical organisation and management of the work is deficient as regards priorities, financing and reporting. For instance, the Council's working groups function differently as regards mandate, activities and performance.
- There is a need for stronger prioritisation, more predictable financing and for resources to be determined to a greater extent by long-term and specific goals. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs should prioritise contributions to this end, says Foss. The OAG points out that the establishment of a permanent secretariat for the Arctic Council in Tromsø from 2013 should provide an opportunity for better administrative management.
The OAG is of the opinion that the Norwegian authorities' work vis-à-vis the Arctic Council must be subject to better follow-up. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as the responsible authority, as well as the Ministry of Climate and Environment with underlying agencies, are active participants, whereas other ministries have been involved to a much lesser extent. - We recommend that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs facilitate better coordination and collaboration, and ensure that all affected ministries find it expedient to contribute and avail themselves of work in the Arctic Council, says Auditor General Foss.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs points out that there are certain constraints on what the Arctic Council can do and achieve. At the same time, it has been a priority to strengthen work in the Council, where the establishment of the Arctic Council Secretariat in Tromsø has been an important measure to streamline its work.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs agrees that expansion of the Arctic Council's work to additional fields of responsibility has made it increasingly important to ensure good involvement and coordination of the Norwegian efforts. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is considering how to improve coordination with affected ministries.