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  • Author: Klaus Dodds
  • Publication Date: 11-2013
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Georgetown Journal of International Affairs
  • Institution: Georgetown Journal of International Affairs
  • Abstract: The Arctic Council (AC) is an inter-governmental organization that, since its creation in 1996, has been widely recognized as one of the most progressive regional bodies in the world. The membership includes the eight Arctic states (A8), six permanent participants, and observer states such as the UK and Germany. From May 2013 onwards, there are also new permanent observers including China, India, Japan, and South Korea. The European Union's candidature has been delayed and subject to further review and assessment. The Council is chaired by one of the eight Arctic states for a two year period. The current chair is Canada (2013- 2015) and it will be followed by the United States (2015- 2017). The permanent participants, including the Inuit Circumpolar Council, Saami Council, and Aleut International Association, enjoy full consultative status and may address the meetings of the Council. Administrative support is provided by the Indigenous Peoples Secretariat (IPS), which is based in Copenhagen. The AC lies at the heart of debates about Arctic futures. It faces two challenges – institutional evolution and membership. For its supporters, the AC occupies center position in promoting an orderly and cooperative vision for the Arctic, but there is no shortage of commentary and punditry analyzing and predicting a rather different vision for the Arctic. As Paul Berkman asserted in the New York Times, under the heading “Preventing an Arctic Cold War,” there is little room for complacency. Berkman's analysis warned of Arctic and non-Arctic states being increasingly forced to confront difficult issues relating to policing, resource management, accessibility and navigability, alongside environmental protection. His suggestion at the end of the piece appeared, seemed rather odd, “[a]s the head of an Arctic superpower and a Nobel laureate, Mr. Obama should convene an international meeting with President Putin and other leaders of Arctic nations to ensure that economic development at the top of the world is not only sustainable, but peaceful.” Bizarrely, there is little analysis of how, and to what extent, the AC and other bodies, including the United Nations Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), are actively providing “rules of the road” (Berkman's phrase) for the Arctic region and beyond. This piece focuses on some issues that require further attention (such as the protection of the Arctic marine environment) while acknowledging how the AC has changed in the last few years. As a regional body, it operates in a strategic environment where few specialist observers believe that military conflict or destabilizing resource speculation is likely to prevail. Nonetheless, it is a work in progress with pressing demands to address. I will discuss debates about membership status and the institutional evolution to respond to experts' concerns about disasters (which might involve a shipping or drilling accident) and ongoing climate change, including manifestations such as sea ice thinning in the Arctic Ocean
  • Topic: Cold War
  • Political Geography: Japan, China, United Kingdom, Canada, India, South Korea, Germany