The 20th anniversary of the Arctic Council (AC) in 2016 provided an excellent opportunity for evaluating the council’s performance over its two decades in operation. Along the AC’s appraisals, various commentators – both from within and without the council’s circles – put forward proposals to reform the AC in order to, arguably, strengthen it and enhance its effectiveness vis-à-vis new challenges facing the Arctic. Interestingly, most of those accounts have only tenuous, if any, connection with the general literature on international environmental regimes and their effectiveness. As a result, they do not draw from the insights flowing from this literature and, in reverse, they miss an opportunity to contribute to the broader body of knowledge about international environmental institutions. The lack of systematic inquiry also hampers our ability to accumulate knowledge about the performance of the AC itself. To address that matter, this article draws up a basic framework through which future assessments of the AC’s effectiveness could be grounded in the general literature on international regimes. The study treats the AC as an institution or regime as these terms are used in the broader literature on international relations. It adopts the political definition of institutional effectiveness and is based on literature reviews related to international regimes and the AC as well as, whenever relevant, on the subject of Arctic governance at large. Overall, the article underlines the critical importance of systematic inquiry and transparency in producing insights regarding the AC’s effectiveness – as of any other institution – to allow for accumulation of our comprehension of what makes the AC work.