Polar Record

The Arctic Council and the Search and Rescue Agreement: the case of Norway

Svein Vigeland Rottem

Fridtjof Nansen Institute, Fridtjof Nansens vei 17, 1326 Lysaker, Norway (svr@fni.no)


On 12 May 2011 at the seventh ministerial meeting, the member states of the Arctic Council (AC) signed the Arctic SAR agreement, the first legally binding agreement negotiated under the auspices of the AC. Its objective is to strengthen search and rescue cooperation and coordination in the Arctic. The purpose of this article is to explore why an agreement on search and rescue under the auspices of the AC has been negotiated; what its key features are; and lastly, how it is and will be implemented. It is argued that the SAR agreement is more important for the AC than for Norway. It has had limited practical consequences in that country. The agreement may be politically and symbolically significant but it has neither financially nor organisationally changed Norwegian search and rescue policy.

(Received February 2013)

(Online publication May 13 2013)