Accessible Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter July 27, 2013

From International Governance to Region Building in the Arctic?

Anne Toft Sørensen
From the journal New Global Studies

Abstract

The aim of this article is to assess whether circumpolar governance structures have been strengthened so substantially within the last few years that one may rightfully speak of a new level of international cooperation in the High North. Building on a framework of regional integration, the analysis focuses on two recent international agreements: one pertaining to the resolution of a maritime dispute in the Barents Sea; the other to coordination of search and rescue activities under the auspices of the Arctic Council. The article seeks to answer how these agreements are interconnected; why they have strengthened the existing international legal regimes for circumpolar governance; and finally considers whether the two cases represent a shift from intergovernmental cooperation toward regional integration if one considers these opposite ends of a continuum of circumpolar cooperation.

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  1. 1

    Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States.

  2. 2

    For a comparative study of the Arctic and northern strategies, state policies, priorities and objectives of Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the US, as well as the emerging Arctic policy of the EU, see Heininen (2011).

  3. 3

    For instance, the 1996 Ottawa Declaration; the Arctic Five’s 2008 Ilulissat Declaration; the 2009 Tromsø Declaration and the 2011 Nuuk Declaration of the Arctic Council.

  4. 4

    For example, the Arctic Ocean meetings held in Ilulissat, Greenland, in 2008 and in Chelsea, Canada, in 2010. The Arctic states’ interactions in the northern hemisphere have also materialized into various collaborative initiatives and organizations like the Arctic Council, the Barents Euro-Arctic Council, the International Arctic Science Committee and the Arctic Military Environmental Cooperation.

  5. 5

    For more information on these topics, see e.g. Åtland (2010) and Borgerson (2008, 2009).

  6. 6

    See note 15 for an explanation of the concept of Exclusive Economic Zones.

  7. 7

    For example, Norway and Finland have established Sami parliaments as advisory bodies to their respective national parliaments. In 1999, the Canadian territory of Nunavut was created in order that the Inuit might constitute a majority in a regional government within Canada (Brantenberg and Minde 1995). A further example comes from Greenland, where the introduction of Greenlandic Home Rule in 1979 eventually led to the formation of the Government of Greenland in June 2009. Based on oil and gas extraction, mining, hydroelectric power, shipping and tourism, Greenland’s economy might over time become strong enough to be able to support itself. Established in 1991, the Indigenous Peoples’ Secretariat of the Arctic Council also facilitates communications among all Indigenous Arctic peoples (Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies 2004).

  8. 8

    Treaty Concerning Maritime Delimitation and Cooperation in the Barents Sea and the Arctic Ocean, Articles 1 and 2.

  9. 9

    Ibid., Articles 4 and 5.

  10. 10

    The Arctic Council operates at three levels. These are the ministerial, Senior Officials’ and programing level. The Arctic states’ ministers meet every 2 years to evaluate achievements and set broad priorities. The Senior Arctic Officials meet every 6 months to ensure that the Arctic Council’s programs are moving ahead according to direction provided by ministers. Officials implementing the Arctic Council’s programs meet on an as-needed basis.

  11. 11

    The first circumpolar international agreement was the Polar Bear Agreement, which was signed in 1973 and commits signatory parties to manage bear populations by following sound conservation practices (Des Bois 2011, 1).

  12. 12

    Such as setting up a pattern for which countries to include in other areas of cooperation, as the participating states will need to form intergovernmental institutions to monitor and enforce the norms of the original agreement (Heinonen 2006, 92). A trade agreement can, for instance, increase the interest of international investors even if that agreement never leads to concrete actions.

  13. 13

    In addition to these criteria, several common characteristics have been suggested in the vast literature of regional integration. These include (1) a certain degree of social and cultural homogeneity; (2) common political institutions, as an expression of political interdependence; (3) a certain degree of economic interdependence; (4) a commonly shared and collective regional identity; and (5) common behavioral criteria, such as the identification of norms pertaining to conflict management and resolution (Behr and Jokale 2011; Börzel 2011).

  14. 14

    The UNCLOS’ most relevant provisions in this context are those giving the coastal states sovereign jurisdiction over their exclusive economic zones within 200 nautical miles from the coastal line and of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles, including the right to exploit any resources such as oil and gas that might be within those zones (Bjarnason 2008; Arnadottir 2010). In order for a littoral state to establish the delimitation of its continental shelf, it is necessary to submit scientific and technical data to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (“CLCS”). The submission must be within 10 years of the ratification of UNCLOS for each littoral state (UN 1982, 146). The CLCS then makes recommendations to the littoral states in order to establish the delimitation of the outer limits, but final decisions on the limits in a binding manner are established by a littoral state itself (UN 1982, 54).

  15. 15

    In 1973, Canada and Denmark agreed on a 1,450 nautical mile boundary between Canada and Greenland using an equidistance line. In 1990 the Soviet Union and the United States negotiated the 1990 Bering Sea Treaty. The treaty is adhered in practice although it has never been ratified by the Russian Duma. In 2006, Denmark and Norway concluded the Denmark–Norway Boundary Treaty specifying the boundary between Greenland and the Norwegian Arctic archipelago of Svalbard (Byers 2011).

  16. 16

    The 2008 US Geological Survey estimated the undiscovered petroleum resources in the Barents Sea Shelf at approximately 11 billion barrels of crude oil, 380 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and two billion barrels of natural gas liquids (USGS 2008). At the same time, the Barents Sea is also the only corridor to Russia’s last all-year ice-free port in Murmansk as well as the Northern Sea Route (Moe et al. 2011, 145).

  17. 17

    The Norwegian High North strategy states that Norway must be aware of the increased importance of energy security when implementing its foreign and security policy, whereas Russia’s “National Security Strategy of the Russian Federation until 2020” states that the polar region must become Russia’s “top strategic resource base” (Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs 2006; Security Council of the Russian Federation 2008; Offerdal 2009, 156ff).

  18. 18

    Examples include the London Dumping Convention (1972); the Enmod Convention (1977); the Convention and the Protocols on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution (1979); the Montreal Protocol of 1987 on ozone depletion; and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Tennberg 2000).

  19. 19

    Six indigenous peoples’ organizations are the “Aleut International Association,” “Arctic Athabascan Council,” “Gwich‘in Council International,” “Inuit Circumpolar Conference,” “Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North, Siberia and Far East” and the “Saami Council.”

  20. 20

    See Meeting of Senior Arctic Officials, 2011. Available at http://www.arctic-council.org/.

  21. 21

    In September 2007 the Canadian government estimated that a total of $69 million over 10 years would be invested for the Canadian UNCLOS Research Program (Côté and Dufresne 2007). The expeditions LORITA in 2006, LOMBAG and LOMGRAV in 2009 were based on Canadian logistics, whereas LOMROG I and II in 2007 and 2009 were carried out with the Swedish icebreaker Oden. In 2007, an expedition was for a period supported by a Russian nuclear icebreaker (Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs 2011).

Published Online: 2013-07-27

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