Arctic Research Across the Baltic States: Re-Integrated in the Northern Europe, Getting Closer to the Arctic Frostbites
Stirred Waters Under the Ice Cap: An Analysis on A5’s Stewardship in the Central Arctic Ocean Fisheries Management
The Polar Data Catalogue: A Vehicle for Collaboration, Northern Community Partnerships, and Policy-Making
Marc-André Dubois, Bill Eichbaum, Alexander Shestakov, Martin Sommerkorn & Clive Tesar
As the Arctic Council (AC) celebrates its 20th anniversary, we acknowledge its many positive scientific and policy-shaping accomplishments and look to greater Arctic cooperation to govern this unique region of the planet for sustainability. The rapid and significant changes in the Arctic, from melting ice to economic development have drawn global attention to the region, and to the Arctic Council as the central mechanism for responding to these changes.
The Arctic Council has a history of making and shaping policy. The Ministers of Arctic countries who assemble every two years have approved and built on recommendations flowing from the Council’s working groups. The Council’s Achilles’ heel has been the lack of a coordinated approach to implementation at a national level and fragmented coordination at the Council level. For many Council recommendations, there has been no monitoring or reporting of results, and therefore no ability to assess the adequacy of policy or management approaches that should have flowed from the Ministerial direction. There have been some positive steps toward implementation over the past few years. Progress on following up recommendations from the Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment has been monitored, and an action plan developed for the Arctic Biodiversity Assessment. The Arctic Council established and developed a tracking tool to monitor progress on Council projects.
The central question facing the Council now is whether it is capable of meeting the policy and management challenges of rapid change over its next twenty years. The current Arctic Council structure and rules of procedure provide insufficient institutional ground for the coordination and integration of assessments and recommendations flowing from individual working and expert groups to ensure the Arctic states implement comprehensive and complementary action through their national processes. The Arctic states have recognized the need for better communication of Arctic issues, and have claimed they are capable of stewarding the region. To meet these aspirations, they must also recognize that new architecture is required to shape an Arctic Council that will allow them to deliver in a more effective way. Better coordination and stronger specificity of decisions must be put in place to address major barriers to proper implementation and full accountability. Monitoring and reporting on implementation through the AC need to be strengthened in order to bring full legitimacy to the Council as the central entity accountable for assuring effective governance of the region.
To enable the Council to better meet the challenges of the next twenty years WWF proposes that three new subsidiary bodies should be created within the Arctic Council: a knowledge body; a policy body; and an implementation body.
These three bodies would enhance the existing Arctic Council functions and structure by integrating working groups, expert groups, task forces and Senior Arctic Officials (SAOs) into a more interactive system that allows for better coordination and execution of decisions on the basis of best available knowledge, and sharper policy guidance combined with a focus on implementation at a national level. Below, we outline the functions of the new subsidiary bodies within an evolving Arctic Council institutional architecture. We advance proposals for membership and rights, and conclude with identification of implications of the new design for Arctic Council structure, cost and administration. WWF also suggests actions needed at a national level to bolster Arctic Council decision implementation.
New Bodies: Design, Functions and Operation
We propose that three subsidiary bodies should be created within the AC with specific but complementary responsibilities and close interaction. The proposed new structure would operate within the Arctic Council mandate and Rules of Procedure. AC member States and Permanent Participants (PPs) would nominate their representatives to each body. Observers could participate in the work of these groups as per Rules of Procedure and the Observer Manual, with appropriate amendments.
These bodies would enhance the productivity of the existing structure by assuring that the flow of work from scientific analysis through consideration of policy implications and recommendations for implementation actions is integrated across all Working Groups (WGs), Task Forces (TFs) and Senior Arctic Officials (SAOs). This would result in a more integrated system, where gaps and duplication would be clearly visible, and there would be more uniform monitoring of progress and implementation of ministerial decisions. We have not suggested specific names for these bodies, but we outline the functions.
This body would house the existing Working Groups (WGs) and Expert Groups (EGs), and/or other science and technical focus bodies as they may be created by the Arctic Council. It would be responsible for conducting all assessments, coordinating early warning work (identifying new and emerging issues), producing technical reports, coordinating science and research agendas, and ensuring use of traditional knowledge for co-production of new knowledge coming through the Arctic Council. The work and agenda of this body should be built upon: 1) Ministerial requests (through ministerial decisions in Ministerial Declarations and in approved SAO reports), 2) requests from policy and implementation bodies and 3) following up on established and agreed indicators that require urgent direction of scientific resources.
The knowledge body should provide scientific and technical recommendations that are forwarded to the policy body. The knowledge body should have regular meetings (two between each Ministerial). All products of working groups (WGs) and expert groups (EGs) will be considered by the body as one knowledge package with no division into silos. This should strengthen the integration of science and the technical agenda through the entire Council. As results will go to the policy body this architecture will reduce the burden on Senior Arctic Officials (SAOs) who currently need to follow the progress of every WG or EG. The knowledge body would be chaired on a rotational basis by a senior scientist from a member state. The body would establish a Committee Executive Team, potentially the chair plus working group leads, to represent the knowledge body at meetings/work of other coordinating bodies and the SAOs. The chair would be supported by dedicated capacity (with science and traditional knowledge expertise) from the Arctic Council Secretariat who would also be responsible for coordinating interactions between WGs and EGs.
The policy coordination body would develop and recommend policy options and actions based on the scientific assessments/reports and scientific recommendations submitted by the knowledge body and would be responsible for bringing the resulting policy recommendations to SAOs for the Arctic Ministers’ decision. The policy body would be composed of representatives from relevant governmental authorities responsible for policy development in all relevant sectors. This would allow for a cross-sectoral approach to formulation of Arctic policies, improve dialogue at the national level between departments with Arctic portfolios and ensure policy recommendations are made by relevant professionals. Strong participation by Permanent Participants (PPs) in this process would be a priority given the importance of their role in decision shaping and making. We propose a similar governance structure to the knowledge body: rotating chair and Committee Executive Team. The policy body would report to SAOs who then make recommendations for consideration and approval by ministers. The policy body could create ad hoc Task Forces which would play a role in helping the policy body to negotiate specific policy recommendations and instruments. In addition to developing policies based on information and recommendations provided by the knowledge body, the policy body could also request further research/information to be conducted/gathered by the knowledge body. Before passing any policy recommendations on to SAOs and ministers, the policy body would pass its recommendations back to the knowledge body to ensure draft policies are appropriately supported by scientific advice. The policy body would meet twice between Ministerials, 60 days after the meeting of the knowledge body to allow for timely consideration of scientific findings and recommendations.
The implementation body would consider decisions and recommendations as provided by Ministers and operationalise them through developing general implementation plans. These plans would guide joint implementation through the Council and include clear timelines and measures to guide and support Arctic States in developing national implementation plans. The standards for implementation established by this body would constitute the benchmarks against which the effectiveness of national or other actions regarding implementation would be measured and reported on. This body would also identify other international frameworks relevant to implementation and enable synergies between those bodies and the Arctic Council, where appropriate. Similar to the other bodies, the implementation body would have a rotational chair and an executive team. Member states would nominate their representatives to the Committee from among high-ranking public servants with implementation power. This Committee may consider recommending meetings of Ministers responsible for a certain area of implementation to foster national and regional follow through on Ministerial Declarations. The implementation body could request additional research to be conducted by the knowledge body to support the development of its implementation plans, and could request from the policy body the development of further policy options or recommendations to support implementation needs. The implementation body would work closely with the Arctic Council Secretariat on progress monitoring, evaluation and reporting (dedicated staff capacity within the Secretariat), and provide reports and proposals to SAOs. The implementation body would meet twice between Ministerials (the first meeting two months after a Ministerial Meeting and the second 4-5 months prior to the next Ministerial).
National Action Process to Bolster Arctic Council Decision Implementation
Under the system proposed above, SAOs would continue to manage day-to-day Council matters, and advise Foreign Ministers. Members of the implementation body would lead national implementation of the policies agreed upon at the Arctic Council given their respective national coordination mandate and in line with national legislation. Their prominent executive status and mandate should be officially recognized in order for different Ministries to respond adequately.
National integrative bodies involved in the science-policy interface such as the U.S. Arctic Executive Steering Committee or Russian State Commission for Arctic Development should be at the core of Arctic cooperation and integration. To make this successful, each Arctic government would need to create a national implementation committee led by high level officials, though Foreign Ministers would remain the ultimate decision makers within the Arctic Council structure. These national committees would be mandated to coordinate national efforts in the Arctic as well as prioritize and effectively integrate the work of individual departments and agencies with activities that are already underway at the subnational and at the international levels. This renewed and empowered Arctic Council system could better serve a two-way path across all governance levels.
For the Arctic Council structure
- Establishes new bodies within the AC and requires appropriate changes in Rules of Procedure.
- Changes the relationships between WG, EG, TF, AC Secretariat and SAO and requires appropriate modifications in the Rules of Procedure.
- Requires changes in the role of the AC Secretariat and its staffing to provide for the expert facilitation/coordination for each body and by working with WGs, EGs and TFs as well as among those bodies.
- SAOs will meet twice between Ministerials to consider 1) policy recommendations from the policy body and 2) implementation progress as reported by the implementation body. SAOs may send direct requests to any of the three bodies in case they need additional knowledge or support in preparing recommendations for Ministers.
- WGs and EGs would continue their work as at present but within the context of the knowledge body and supported in their coordination and interactions by dedicated staff members from the Arctic Council secretariat.
- Requires meetings of new bodies while probably limiting the number of meetings of SAOs to only two during an inter-Ministerial period.
- Requires new positions: at least 3 professional positions (one for each body), 1 position dedicated to monitoring and reporting on Arctic Council progress (at national level and Council as a collective body) and 1 administrative (to support bodies) in the AC Secretariat.
- Provides for more professional, solid, coordinated “single” approach to developing scientific and policy advice including on cross-cutting issues (issues common to several WGs).
- Allows for developing solid scientific and technical advice while leaving policy decisions to people with appropriate expertise.
- Directly connects individuals in Arctic State governments who are responsible for national implementation.
- Shifts the attention to implementation and collaboration with national counterparts to create national plans which, as a collective, would increase the likelihood of a coherent implementation of AC decisions/recommendations.
The time has come to focus on implementation of Arctic Council decisions by all Arctic States, and by governments and organizations beyond the Arctic. The steps we propose pave the way for greater implementation while simultaneously increasing the overall efficiency, accountability and visibility of the Arctic Council both within the Arctic countries and internationally. The new architecture proposed is built on the strong foundations of the Council, but recognizes the new challenges and conditions to which the Council must respond. The proposal strengthens the Council’s role in asserting regional stewardship by responding to the challenges of a rapidly changing Arctic and the increasingly more integrated policy frameworks from local to global scales. In combination, the proposed changes stand to make a strong impact on the future of implementation in the Arctic space at a time of critical juncture. As the changes we propose are purely structural and do not purport to create new binding obligations on countries, we believe that they can be implemented on the basis of an informal agreement among the Arctic States.
The Arctic states are right to celebrate the achievements of the past twenty years. They would also be prudent to take steps to ensure that there is something worth celebrating twenty years from now.
As the most proactive international body in the region, the Arctic Council aims to help provide safe, secure, environmentally sound, and sustainable shipping in the Arctic Ocean. The Arctic Council, as a soft law institution does not have authority to adopt legally binding resolutions for shipping – this capacity primarily rests with the International Maritime Organization (hereinafter IMO) –, however, the Council has an extraordinary decision shaping function, which it uses through strong cooperation. The Arctic Council’s cooperation with the IMO has already proved itself to be fruitful, however, there is a long list of issues that require attention. The Arctic Council’s cooperative approach therefore warrants an investigation and further analysis in order to understand the future direction of the Arctic Council’s impact on Arctic shipping.
The IMO’s unique role
It is widely accepted that the IMO is a “competent international organization” in connection with the adoption of international shipping rules and standards in matters concerning maritime safety, efficiency of navigation, and prevention and control of marine pollution from vessels and by dumping (U.N. Division for Ocean Affair and Law of the Sea, 1996).
The IMO’s new mission statement declared in 2011 states that:
“The mission of the IMO, as a United Nations specialized agency, is to promote safe, secure, environmentally sound, efficient and sustainable shipping through cooperation. This will be accomplished by adopting the highest practicable standards of maritime safety and security, efficiency of navigation and prevention and control of pollution from ships, as well as through consideration of the related legal matters and effective implementation of IMO’s instruments with a view to their universal and uniform application.”(IMO Mission Statement, 2011)
As we see from the article, the cooperation is the key for the IMO to achieve its mandate of establishing common international ground rules for the safety and protection of the marine environment.
The Arctic Council
The Arctic Council’s constitutive instrument defines its mandate as:
“.. to promoting cooperation, coordination and interaction among the Arctic States, with the involvement of the Arctic indigenous peoples and other Arctic inhabitants on common Arctic issues, in particular issues of sustainable development and environmental protection in the Arctic” (The Arctic Council, 1996)
As indicated above, the Council also highlights “cooperation” as its priority. And it mainly focuses on environmental protection and sustainable development within the confines of issues common to the Arctic region.
Traditionally, the Arctic Council fulfills its role through scientific research, in particular monitoring and assessment. The Arctic Council working groups produce reports that use impact assessment, trend analysis and modeling to take measure of the Arctic region (Axworthy, Koivurova & Hasanat 2012). They create tables, charts, maps and graphs to help both in articulating and calculating the present and also tracing the possible futures (Axworthy, Koivurova & Hasanat 2012).
The AMSA Report
There are two working groups most relevant to our discussion here. These are the Protection of Arctic Marine Environment (hereinafter PAME) and, to a lesser extent, Emergency, Prevention, Preparedness and Response (hereinafter EPPR).
The PAME, as a follow-on effort to the Arctic Council’s 2004 Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA) and Arctic Marine Strategic Plan (AMSP), released its Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment (AMSA) report in 2009.
More than 200 experts, led by Canada, Finland, and the United States, involved in creation of this report. With the 96 findings, divided under three main themes – Enhancing Arctic Marine Safety, Protecting Arctic People and the Environment, and Building Arctic Marine Infrastructure - and 17 recommendations, the AMSA report is considered as the Arctic Council's biggest contribution to the cooperative solution efforts. It is also safe to say that the AMSA report constitutes the foundation of the cooperation between the IMO and the Arctic Council.
Through the AMSA report, the Arctic Council highlights the importance of the IMO and calls for the Arctic states to:
“…to cooperatively support of the effort at the International Maritime Organization to strengthen, harmonize and regularly update international standards for vessels operating in the Arctic.” (Arctic Council 2009)
This is a clear message that the matters related to the Arctic maritime safety, security and environmental protection should be resolved through cooperating with the IMO.
Cooperative Work Completed
The IMO Polar Code
Under the Arctic Shipping Rules and Standards sub-theme, the AMSA report listed a key finding that:
“there is a general lack of uniform, mandatory, and non-discriminatory Arctic shipping regulations and mariner (ice navigator) standards for the Arctic Ocean, and the IMO has not developed or adopted specially tailored (and mandatory) standards for vessels operating in the Arctic. Further, it elaborated that none of the current IMO conventions such as MARPOL have yet been adjusted and adopted for Arctic marine operations, especially those operations in ice covered waters”.
Based on this finding, the AMSA recommended to start working towards the implementation phase.
Two implementation efforts, highlighted in the report, are:
Support the updating and the mandatory application of relevant parts of the Guidelines for Ships Operating in Arctic Ice-covered Waters (Arctic Guidelines); and,
Drawing from IMO instruments, in particular the Arctic Guidelines, augment global IMO ship safety and pollution prevention conventions with specific mandatory requirements or other provisions for ship construction, design, equipment, crewing, training and operations, aimed at safety and protection of the Arctic environment (Arctic Council, 2015)
Subsequently, a collective understanding about the necessity of a mandatory instrument has gained the much-needed momentum. Thereafter, Arctic states, being more active at the IMO meetings, started to work toward the creation of this mandatory instrument, namely the International Code of Ships Operating in Polar Waters (hereinafter the Polar Code).
In this process, the PAME working group also monitored the IMO’s development of the Mandatory Polar Code, and, through its Records of Decision, encouraged member governments to intensify their collaboration with respect to finalization of the Polar Code (Arctic Council, 2015). It also supported and encouraged the Arctic states to meet in advance of IMO committee and sub-committee meetings of relevance to the Polar Code. As a result, the Polar Code is created.
The Polar Code is due to enter-into-force on January 1, 2017.
The SAR Agreement
Under the Search and Rescue (SAR) sub-theme, the AMSA report recommended that:
“the Arctic states decides to support developing and implementing a comprehensive, multi-national Arctic Search and Rescue (SAR) instrument, including aeronautical and maritime SAR among the eight Arctic nations and, if appropriate, with other interested parties in recognition of the remoteness and limited resources in the region” (Arctic Council, 2015).
The Arctic Council, pursuant to the International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue, 1979, and the Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation, 1944, adopted the Agreement on Cooperation on Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue in the Arctic in 2011. This was the first ever legally binding agreement negotiated under the auspices of the Arctic Council.
It is important to note that the 1979 SAR convention developed under the IMO during a time when the United Nations Conventions on the Law of the Seas (hereinafter UNCLOS) was still under negotiation (Molenaar, 2012). IMO’s Marine Science Committee divided the world into 13 maritime SAR areas in the early 1980s with the Arctic Ocean designated as area number 13 (Molenaar, 2012).
The objective of this agreement is “to strengthen aeronautical and maritime search and rescue cooperation and coordination in the Arctic.” Each of the Arctic states undertook to “promote the establishment, operation and maintenance of an adequate and effective search and rescue capability within its area.”
The agreement in detail fosters the conduct of joint Arctic SAR exercises and training, lists information on the Arctic states’ rescue coordination centers, and addresses the issue of requests to enter the territory of a Party for SAR operations. The Arctic SAR agreement entered into force on 19 January 2013 following ratification by each of the eight Arctic signatory states.
Oil Pollution Preparedness and Response Agreement
In its key Marine Environmental Protection sub-theme, the AMSA report stated that:
“the release of oil in the Arctic marine environment, either through accidental release or illegal discharge, is the most significant threat from shipping activities.”
And again, in its recommendation section under the theme of Oil Spill Prevention, the AMSA report indicated that:
“the Arctic states decide to enhance the mutual cooperation in the field of oil spill prevention and, in collaboration with industry, support research and technology transfer to prevent release of oil into Arctic waters, since prevention of oil spills is the highest priority in the Arctic for environmental protection.”
Accordingly, as a response to this call, the Marine Oil Pollution Preparedness and Response Cooperation Agreement is adopted under the EPPR working group at the Kiruna Ministerial meeting in May 2013. And the ratification process of this agreement was completed in March 2016.
This instrument is inspired by various conventions and principles, including the UNCLOS, the 1990 International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Cooperation (OPPRC), the 1969 International Convention Relating to Intervention on the High Seas in Cases of Oil Pollution Casualties (INTERVENTION 1969), and “polluter pays” principle.
This agreement mainly focuses on Arctic oil spills and addresses a range of practical issues, including requirement of a national 24-hour system for response, facilitation of cross-border transfer of resources, notification of the parties, monitor spills, conduct of exercises and training, joint reviews of responses to Arctic spills, and a set of operational guidelines in an appendix (Brigham, 2013).
Cooperative Work Ahead
The Arctic Council and IMO are expected to work cooperatively on a number of additional key Arctic issues in the coming years.
Some of the immediate issues might be listed as:
- Designation of MARPOL Special Areas. The Arctic Council and its working groups, especially PAME, is expected to conduct assessments and develop plans for future special area designations in order to help IMO take concrete measures.
- Protection of the Marine Mammals. Ship strikes, noise, and disturbance are some of the threat that the marine mammals will face in future Arctic. Close cooperation in this issue will also yield effective solutions. Arctic states are expected to propose routing alternatives for this matter.
- Ballast Water. Protection from invasive (exotic) species is another subject matter. AMSA report urges an assessment of the risks posed by ballast water carried invasive species and the taking of measures within national jurisdiction.
- Monitoring and Arctic Traffic Domain Awareness. Use of data from IMO mandatory Automatic Identification System Transponders and the application of IMO’s requirement for the Long Range Identification and Tracking of Ships.
- Heavy Fuel Oil. The Polar Code is heavily criticized for not including a provision that would ban the heavy fuel oil use in the Arctic ocean. Due to Russian dissent, the needed consensus on this topic haven’t been reached, however, further development is expected.
- Non SOLAS Vessels. Polar Code is applicable to tankers, bulk carriers and cruise ships, vessels 500 gross tons, therefore, fishing boats, yachts and smaller adventure vessels are out of its coverage. IMO has plans on expanding coverage and Arctic Council would take further role on this issue as facilitator.
- Additional issues, such as, sewage, grey water, ice navigator training, and passenger ship safety measures are also in the agenda for solution through cooperative work.
The Council’s Future Role
As we see from the above list, most of the navigational problems in the Arctic Ocean are still on the table waiting to be discussed and resolved. In this process however the Council’s position has a vital importance. The Council simply can not effort to act as a private club and isolate itself from the other traditionally maritime nations, who also indicated its interest in the region. It needs to be stronger, therefore, it needs to be more inclusive in its effort to have a unified stand for common navigational problems in the Arctic Ocean. Currently, the Arctic Council’s non-Arctic observer states, members of the IMO, are only given very limited, symbolic or diplomatic, role to play, but in reality, especially when we consider about the activities involving both Arctic Natural Resources and Central Arctic Ocean Shipping, these states should also be regarded as stakeholders. Therefore, their timely inclusion seems to be inevitable if we claim to have a uniform, non-discriminatory set of rules and regulations in a global level. Lastly, inclusive approach would also foster regional stability and security by facilitating united global approach in tackling future Arctic problems.
As I indicated in this article, we have all witnessed the Arctic Council’s impact on decision making process. This is an ideal approach to find solutions to regional navigational problems because the IMO has very little in its power to offer unless coastal states -and interested parties- are willing to make an effort to come up with solutions. Considering the long list of problems and difficulty in resolving them, I think the Arctic Council has to go through a transformation. Only stronger and more inclusive Council can overcome the current and upcoming navigational problems in the region. The IMO might have power to have legally binding resolutions for shipping, but it is the Arctic Council’s duty to be more effective and proactive.
Arctic Research Across the Baltic States: Re-Integrated in the Northern Europe, Getting Closer to the Arctic Frostbites
When talking about scientific research in the Arctic region, the three Baltic States are far from being the countries which first come into mind. In other words, it might be a hopeless endeavour to try to find Estonia or Latvia in the headlines announcing grand scale field research initiatives in the northernmost territories. Nevertheless, in the context of increased EU focus on enhancing its position and involvement in the polar region, 2016 is the best timing to stir a discussion regarding scientific activities of Estonia and Latvia in the Arctic.
The aim of this briefing note is twofold, covering both scientific and policy domains. On the one hand, it aims to map Estonian and Latvian research activities to provide a comprehensive overview for wider audiences, as well as explain whether there are any supportive planning or policy documents, as well as partnerships and coordination formats which would facilitate the Arctic research process. Therefore, existing national institutional frameworks allow identifying strengths, as well as challenges faced by relatively small countries in a broader landscape of international Arctic research. In, addition, it should be noted that the briefing note presents the first comprehensive and internationally accessible overview of Latvian research activities related to the Arctic.
On the other hand, article’s purpose is to illustrate how Estonia and Latvia channel their interests among domestic stakeholders, as well as in broader foras related to EU-led initiatives. Consequently, the public consultation on Arctic facilitated by Directorate General of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (hereafter – DG MARE), serves as a good example which explains, why lack of national advocacy on specific policy initiative should not be interpreted as a country having no interest in the issue as such. In addition, this briefing note reveals the EU multilayered dynamics which are taking place outside the Arctic Council but in a near vicinity of the northernmost region.
The briefing note is structured in four sections. First two sections lay out the scientific activities of both Baltic States. Third section is dedicated to explain motivations and interests of Estonia and Latvia behind their seemingly passive stance when it comes to EU-led dialogue on Arctic matters. Fourth or the last section provides an outlook on the future of Arctic research in both countries, as well as Lithuania, with a set of recommendations on how to support the sustainability of Arctic research. It should be mentioned in advance that the briefing note aims at covering mainly Latvia and Estonia. It does not offer a section dedicated solely to Lithuania, since there is scarce and very fragmented evidence of its research activity and no particular political interest related the Arctic domain.
In brief, Estonia can be singled out as the most active Baltic country. It prides itself with a rich history of polar research, which is documented in a considerable body of academic publications.1 For example, several pioneers of polar research exploration originated from Estonian Baltic Germans (Vaikmäe, 2015).2 Moreover, in comparison to other Baltic States, Estonia very early demonstrated an active stance on international level by joining the Svalbard Treaty already in 1930 (Bryza, Mõru, Stoicescu, & Jegorova, 2014: 45). In 1930s Estonian geologists worked in East Greenland in a Danish-led expedition (E.Kaup, personal communication, 4 June 2016). During the Soviet period Estonian scientists, as well as supporting personnel, participated in Arctic and Antarctic expeditions delivering internationally acclaimed results in such domains as glacier and polar icecap research (Vaikmäe, 2015)
Over the last 15 years Estonia has developed solid research basis in areas of polar atmosphere, permafrost-related, sea-ice and limnological research. Estonian scientists are collaborating with their Russian, Polish and, most closely, Norwegian counterparts (Bryza and others, 2014: 51). Namely, the Norwegian Polar Institute can be singled out as a partnering institution with joint investigations in Svalbard of the present and past 800 years of climate by means of shallow ice core records (Vaikmäe, 2015). This collaboration takes place in the framework of the project Sensitivity of Svalbard glaciers to climate change (SvalGlac) 2010-2014 (R.Vaikmäe, personal communication, 11 May 2016).
Fieldwork in Ny-Ålesund area glaciers,
project "Community Coordinated Snow Study in Svalbard (C2S3)", April 2016. Photo by Tonu Martma.
Despite its vibrant work, currently the Estonian polar research community faces several challenges. Firstly, it aims at restructuring its research to a more continuous and long-term orientation. A solution has been found in drafting a comprehensive polar research programme 2014 – 2020, known as ESTPOLAR 2014-2020. Currently, the draft programme is a subject of ministerial evaluation before it is handed to the government for an adoption (R.Vaikmäe, personal communication, 6 April 2016). Therefore, in comparison to other Baltic States, Estonia has taken one step closer towards sustainability and planning of its polar research. However, the ministerial evaluation process has been taking place for one year and there are no definite dates known, when the estimated adoption might take place.
To put ESTPOLAR 2014-2020 in a wider context, it should be noted than in parallel a working group is analysing the options of observer status for Estonia in the Arctic Council (Estonian Academy of Sciences, 2015: 22). Its work entails defining the scope and strengths of Estonian engagement in the Arctic. The report produced by the working group might provide further details on Estonian considerations as regards to the application for an observer status at the Arctic Council (T.Maiberg, personal communication, 20 May 2016). Consequently, due to these on-going policy paper drafting processes and consultations, at the moment it is hard to make any judgements what could be the potential impact of ESTPOLAR 2014-2020 on advancing Estonian polar research during the upcoming years.
Secondly, Estonian Arctic research has to overcome several traditional silos. On the one hand, it aims at tackling the science–policy gap. Estonian research community is looking for a clearer concept on how to use research findings in order to better inform policy makers, thus helping to raise the overall quality of national policies (Vaikmäe, 2015). Surely, judging from the vast array of academic literature on this matter, it is a challenge of a considerable magnitude with no quick solutions.
On the other hand, the scientific community has been advised to look for cooperation options with the business community (Bryza and others, 2014: 48). This suggestion has been incorporated in the priorities of Estonian polar research. Namely, one of such promising areas is polar shipping. Estonia is planning to build a multipurpose icebreaker which could navigate beyond the Baltic Sea. Likewise, the sea ice data produced by the Estonian scientists, especially in the wake of Northern Sea Route opening, has the potential to attract the interest of the growing Estonian logistics sector. The third area of mutual science-industry interest could be bioprospecting for bioactive compounds and organisms. The Estonian scientific community argues that findings on biological diversity with adaptation to the evolving climate change could be used in pharmacology, medicine, material technology, industrial processing and food industry. (Vaikmäe, 2015)
Thirdly, Estonia faces a human resources’ challenge. In order to provide the overall picture, it should be noted that up to 100 people are currently engaged in polar studies in Estonian higher education and research institutions (Bryza and others, 2014: 48). Forty-to-fifty researchers of this community are working on Arctic matters, having demonstrated expertise in ice core studies and paleoclimatology. While many leading scientists are close to their retirement age, there is a lack of young researchers who could swiftly fill this expertise and research capacity gap (Vaikmäe, 2015).
However, not to paint too gloomy a picture, it should be also noted that there are already timely steps made in order to fill this gap. Some of the early career scientists are planning to undertake internships in internationally acclaimed research institutes. For example, the Centre for Ice and Climate (Niels Bohr Institute) at the University of Copenhagen during the fall 2016 semester will host an Estonian Master student, who will complete his project on modelling of the North East Greenland Ice Stream (also known by the abbreviation NEGIS) (R.Vaikmäe, personal communication, 3 June 2016). This one of the examples how Estonian Arctic research community is promoting and investing in its next generation scientists with early acquisition of research experience in an international environment.
Fourthly, Estonia has taken a shift from focusing on national research infrastructure development to advancing its international outreach and strengthening bilateral and multilateral partnerships. Consequently, the Arctic research in Estonia has been evolving due to national as well as EU funding. An example of multilateral cooperation is Estonia’s participation in the Polar View initiative led by the European Space Agency and the European Commission (European Arctic Initiatives Compendium, 2013: 38). Likewise, the previously mentioned SvalGlac project is another example of Estonian successful participation in EU-wide initiatives, supported by national funding (R.Vaikmäe, personal communication, 16 May 2016). SvalGlac project is performed under the European Polar Consortium: Strategic Coordination and Networking of European Polar RTD Programmes (EUROPOLAR) ERA-NET consortium’s programme EuroClimate. The Estonian Research Council is a member of this consortium (Community for Research and Development Information Service, n.d.). As one of the most recent examples, it should be mentioned that Estonia takes part in a Horizon 2020 project called EU-PolarNet. It is a five year project (2015-2020) aimed at developing the European Polar Research Strategy (R.Vaikmäe, personal communication, 6 April 2016).
In terms of funding, the Estonian Research Council does not have a specified classification for Arctic-related research in the Estonian Research System. Therefore, mapping funding sources allocated to the northernmost-related scientific activities would require another in-depth study including a drafting of a tailored methodology.
All in all, in comparison to other Baltic States, Estonia can be singled out as an actively engaged nation in bilateral and multilateral research as well as policy shaping initiatives. Its presence in such foras at the European Polar Board, EUROPOLAR and EU PolarNet ensures its awareness of the latest developments in terms of international Arctic research governance. Its participation in international projects ensures regular exchange of expertise with counterparts from other countries, enduring hands-on/applied research opportunities, as well as awareness of internationally promoted best practices and latest scientific findings. Estonia’s potential to advance its Arctic research largely depends on adoption of ESTPOLAR 2014-2020, and further on, on its ability to strengthen partnerships with its international cooperation partners and develop systematic collaboration with the industry.
The visibility on a national level of Estonian scientific activities in the northernmost territories could also benefit from the publication of the expert report on Estonia’s engagement in the Arctic with potential references to Estonia’s future stance as regards to the national-level relationship with the Arctic Council. The goal to acquire observer status was defined already in April 2014. As one of the arguments supporting the Estonian interest in acquiring more insight in the work of the Arctic Council was its interest to “engage in applied cooperation concerning nautical and optical (light) navigation equipment with states having similar conditions, and to find partners among companies and maritime agencies” (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Estonia, 2014). Thus far Estonia has also been a supporter of EU’s application for observer status in the Arctic Council, in order to strengthen regional cooperation and use the full potential of EUs environmental protection capacities, and other capacities related to the maritime domain (T.Maiberg, personal communication, 20 May 2016). To conclude, it should be added that Estonia’s interest in acquiring an observer status is also one of the milestones of the current Estonian government (R.Vaikmäe, personal communication, 11 May 2016). Therefore, in Estonia Arctic research benefits not only from overall awareness of the governmental institutions regarding acquired expertise and necessities for further research development and expansion, but also enjoys an enduring commitment from the political leadership.
However, at least in the current nascent phase of both documents, ESTPOLAR 2014-2020 can be judged as more relevant, since it outlines in more detailed terms the Arctic science agenda and necessary steps to bring these activities forward. All in all, these efforts to draw short- to mid-term plans might help not only to enhance Estonia’s niche expertise but also to ensure sufficient resources and applied research opportunities for early career scientists in future years.
Although Latvia has not acquired a rich Arctic research and exploration experience, its name appears in the connection of famous Arctic expeditions. For example, Alexander Ivanovitch Trontheim, a Norwegian descent German-speaking Latvian from Riga is known for his knowledge of the River Ob basin and mastery of Arctic travel, which supported successful completion of Nansen’s Fram voyage (Huntford, 2001: 209). At the beginning of 20th century geophysicist Leonīds Slaucītājs can be singled out as one of the most vocal proponents of polar research in Latvia. He authored several publications regarding the Arctic exploration. For example, he informed wider academic audiences about Latvian membership in the international association Aeroarctic led by Fridtjof Nansen(Slaucītājs, 1929: 155). He also did research on Antarctic, as well as promoted Latvian awareness of famous polar explorations by co-authoring a book with Latvian diplomat Alfrēds Bīlmanis on the life of Fridtjof Nansen (Slaucītājs & Bīlmanis, 1934).
Latvian scientists were also involved in other multilateral science-related foras with ambitious research agendas. Latvia together with other Baltic States, as well as Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Poland, Germany and Russia formed the Baltic Geodetic Commission. The organisation was involved in Arctic matters by its plans to extend the 52nd parallel into Asia as far as Bering Strait, further across the strait into Alaska, where it would connect with Alaskan triangulation, which in turn would be connected to the geodetic triangulation on Canada. It was a plan which would form the longest geodetic triangulation in the world (L. W. D., 1931). The Latvian participation in this fora ceased after the Soviet occupation of Latvia. Consequently, due to these geopolitical shifts in the Baltic Sea Region, the Geodetic Commission transformed itself into a smaller forum. In 1953 the Nordic Geodetic Commission was formed, with Norway and Iceland becoming its fully fledged members (Nordic Geodetic Commission, n.d.)
In the contemporary setting, in comparison to Estonia, Latvia has acquired a more limited expertise on the Arctic region. As regards to the microflora, both Augusts Kirhenšteins Institute of Microbiology and Virology at Rīga Stradiņš University and Latvian Institute of Aquatic Ecology have never participated in scientific research mid- or long-term projects or field research in the Arctic region (Vargulis, 2014: 201) So far research has been organised on ad hoc basis. For example, the Latvian Institute of Aquatic Ecology once received an order from the Technical University of Denmark to analyse the content and amount of phytoplankton species (I.Jurgensone, personal communication, 29 March 2016).
However, the Latvian Institute of Aquatic Ecology is not the only Latvian cooperation partner to the Technical University of Denmark. In comparison to the previously discussed example, the Faculty of Building and Civil Engineering at the Riga Technical University has acquired a broader insight in the Arctic research in the field of gravimetric analysis. It has established cooperation with the Division of Geodynamics of the National Space Institute at the Technical University of Denmark (J.Kaminskis, personal communication, 12 May 2016). As a cooperation partner of the Technical University of Denmark, the Latvian staff has acquired not only expertise in processing of Arctic data but also is well aware of developments regarding the Nordic agenda of geodetic research. However, Latvian participation in field research in Greenland is hampered by the scarce resources (J.Kaminskis, personal communication, 24 May 2016). Such engagement with Danish partners would require additional funding from university’s budget, national or other funding sources.
Faculty of Building and Civil Engineering at the Riga Technical University has also to a certain degree re-established the historic ties to the Geodetic Commission. Consequently, Latvian researchers (among other representatives from the Baltic States) regularly attend meetings of the Nordic Geodetic Commission (J.Kaminskis, personal communication, 12 May 2016).3
Consequently, this enduring cooperation has contributed to other foras dedicated to the Global Navigation Satellite Systems. For example, both parties shared their experience during United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs’ Workshop of the Applications of Global Navigation Satellite Systems which took place in Riga, in 2012 and was attended by 30 nations ( J.Kaminskis, personal communication, 21 May 2016; “Noslēgusies GNSS veltīta ANO konference Rīgā,” 2012; United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, 2012). Such gatherings serve as occasions for Latvian representatives to inform about their activities as well as seek options of future engagement in multilateral cooperation.
In addition, the Faculty of Building and Civil Engineering at the Riga Technical University, participates in research, preservation and public awareness initiatives related to the 200 years old station points of Struve Geodetic Arc, which were included in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (hereafter – UNESCO) List of World Heritage in 2005. The Struve Geodetic Arc is a triangulation chain that was measured during the first half of the 19th century. It covers a line connecting Fuglenæs, near Hammerfest at the Arctic Ocean, with Staro-Nekrassowka, near Ismail, on the Black Sea shores, along more than 2,800 km (J.Kaminskis, personal communication, 21 May 2016; Latvian National Commission for UNESCO, n.d.; UNESCO World Heritage Centre, n.d.). This arc crosses all three Baltic States.
Faculty’s engagement in research of 16 station points located in Latvia serves as one of the examples how Latvia contributes to the preservation of Arctic-related research and promotion of historical heritage related to the Arctic research. It also shows faculty’s enduring engagement in multilateral cooperation, since the research performed in Latvia is in sync with the project partners from other Arc’s countries. For example, one of the latest developments are the recent discussions in September 2016 in Estonia regarding options for upgraded research involving global positioning system in order to acquire more precise data on Arc’s parameters. In addition, faculty’s involvement in research of Struve Geodetic Arc is an example of engagement with the local-level authorities. Namely, Jēkabpils municipality tapped the potential of this scientific heritage and invested its resources. It hosted the Conference of the Coordinating Committee in 2008, as well as developed the triangulation point as one of its tourism attractions (Land Board of the Republic of Estonia, n.d.; J.Kaminskis, personal communication, 24 May 2016).
The mere fact that a limited number of Latvian scientists have gained an opportunity to perform their research in the northernmost territories is the reason why recently conducted and in the near future planned expeditions of geology researchers from the University of Latvia to Iceland and Greenland are framed in the national media as the re-birth of Latvian polar research (Čunka, 2016). By far the researchers from the Faculty of Geography and Earth Sciences are the only scientists who, as representatives of Latvian academic institutions, have done several field works in the Arctic environment. The 2016 expedition to Russell Glacier will be the third expedition of the team which consists of four or five people. Similarly to previous expeditions, this one will be also aimed at mapping subglacial topography, englacial and subglacial channels of outlet glaciers with ground penetrating radar, as well performing other fieldwork concerning sedimentological, geomorphological and geochemical research.
The initiative of faculty’s academic staff to plan several expeditions in the northernmost territories is a good example how Latvian higher education workforce is advancing towards organising field research in relatively distant regions. It helps to identify potential strengths and challenges to the academic advancement.
Ground-penetrating radar measurements on Múlajökull outlet glacier. Photo by Kristaps Lamsters.
First and foremost, Latvian pioneers are well aware of the need to deepen their niche expertise on specific polar issues. Through international foras Latvian scientists have acquired understanding of the major trends in Arctic and polar research, which generally focuses on macro-level assessments such as ice cap modelling from data acquired via satellite or an aircraft. Therefore, Latvian scientists have chosen to advance micro-level data acquisition in a specific limited area in order to look for water canal patterns in glaciers and assess their development in the context of climate change (Karušs, Bērziņš, & Lamsters, 2015; Karušs, Lamsters, & Bērziņš, 2015; Lamsters, Karušs, Bērziņš, & Rečs, 2015; J.Karušs, personalcommunication, 8 April 2016). In short term, the findings of the research team have been useful in informing wider audiences in Latvia on the developments linked to climate change (Buševica & Gulbinska, 2015). In longer term, these area-specific findings could become instrumental to explain irregularities of macro-level assessments or feed into gaps identified in the large scale models.
Secondly, Iceland and Greenland expeditions also serve as good examples of close partnership between researchers and Latvian companies. The field work is conducted using ground-penetrating radar software and equipment developed and manufactured by a Latvian company Radar Systems Inc. Moreover, the support of private sector is not limited only to technological matters. The team’s expeditions were sponsored by several companies based in Latvia (e.g. road construction company Igate). The exception was one student who was part of the research team and his participation was covered by a grant awarded by the Student Council of the University of Latvia.
Thirdly, the availability of financial support plays an important role in the advancement of field research. In general, there are no particular funding schemes designated to Arctic-specific research in Latvia. For example, the programming period of 2007-2013 of EU funds did not consist of any thematic priorities or their subsections which would explicitly refer to research in northernmost territories (I.Paune, personal communication, 11 April 2016).
In earlier publications (Vargulis, 2014: 202) it has been argued that one of the reasons for limited Arctic research activity Latvian institutions name the lack of resources. Also in the case of Iceland and Greenland expeditions, one could argue that all rests on the enthusiasm of researchers involved. Usually the acquired funding can cover the basic expedition needs and does not include any remuneration for the work done by the research team (J.Karušs, personal communication, 8 April 2016). In the current form it could be judged as an extra-curricular workload performed by the university’s academic staff out of their mere interest in advancing geological and earth sciences in Latvia.
So far Latvian research institutions have not participated in research projects supported by the EU funding. Since EU project preparation, management and reporting would have to be done by the same academic staff, who conducts the field research, it might turn out to be too much of an administrative burden in the context of their duties at the faculty. The experience acquired during Iceland and Greenland expeditions prove that in the current form on non-existing support structures, it is a considerable multi-tasking challenge for the academic team. Currently, besides the field work itself, team members cover the full spectrum of tasks related to their field research. They search for options on how to attract private and university funds, they file administrative papers, they plan expeditions, as well as ensure the publicity of their activities both in academic circles and wider public. Also in terms of other future polar expeditions, all tasks, such as application for funding, writing of project proposal, liaison with potential cooperation partners, are done by the team members themselves. (J.Karušs, personal communication, 8 April 2016)
While in an early phase of acquiring experience in planning and implementation of distant field expeditions it might be a more or less agreeable organisational set-up, it is clear that without substantial administrative and more sustainable financial backing these activities might not result in sustainable advancement of academic expertise.
Also in terms of financial support, it should be mentioned that previous estimates of expedition costs might be judged as bloated, either due to consisting relatively high remuneration rates or use of expensive research station facilities. Namely, it was estimated that the average funding per institute in 2013 was 321,000 EUR which could cover at best two scientific expeditions to the Arctic(Vargulis, 2014: 202). That means that earlier estimates were based on the assumption that one expedition might cost around 160,000 EUR. However, the expedition planning of researchers from the Faculty of Geography and Earth Sciences at the University of Latvia shows that a short field work visit for five people team lasting up to ten days can be implemented on a 7000-10,000 EUR budget, which does not include remuneration for the research staff involved. Whereas a one month long expedition of four people to the Antarctic station of one of the East European partnering nations would cost 30,000-35,000 EUR (J.Karušs, personal communication, 8 April 2016). It is important to note these differences in financial estimates. Otherwise, so far polar expeditions have been undeservedly portrayed as impossible or unattainable due to the extremely high costs, which could hardly fit with any source of Latvian academic funding.
All in all, the scarcity of Arctic related research examples and lack of prioritisation of polar research in policy and planning documents of ministries or universities are factors, which explain, why Latvia does not have an overarching coordination framework for northernmost matters. Researchers, who are interested in advancing their expertise on northernmost regions, search calls for project proposals of a broader thematic nature, e.g., climate change or support for bilateral, multilateral academic or research cooperation.
There are no signs that in the upcoming years Latvia could experience a major shift, since Arctic does not top the political agenda. Over the last years there have been very brief remarks expressed on the role of the northernmost region during the annual reviews of Latvian foreign policy in 2014 and 2016 (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Latvia, 2014: 3; Zvirbulis, 2016), but a more prominent role of the Arctic region cannot be completely ruled out.
The Faculty of Geography and Earth Sciences of the University of Latvia can be singled out as the sole hub for future Arctic expertise in Latvia in terms of polar field research. Riga Technical University has established cooperation with a Nordic partner and it has acquired understanding, institutional memory and overall awareness regarding the gravimetric analysis performed by research institutions in the Nordic and Baltic countries. However, there are no signs of Riga Technical University’s ambition to pursue its own field research in Greenland or other polar areas.
The potential success of furthering polar expertise at the Faculty of Geography and Earth Sciences of the University of Latvia lies in the fact that in a very early stage the research team has identified its niche and how their specialisation would fit in a broader international polar research agenda. However, it is too early to say whether the first successful expeditions will result in a sustainable and regular engagement in the international polar research, due to the fact that at the moment the University of Latvia does not provide any administrative support and there are no regular funding schemes in place which could ensure a long-term planning of expeditions.
EU Arctic Strategy
In September 2014, the DG MARE launched a public consultation on streamlining EU funding in the Arctic. The public consultation lasted until 1 December 2014 (DG MARE, n.d.). On 27 April 2016 EU published its Joint Communication “An integrated European Union policy for the Arctic”.
None of the Baltic States or research institutions based in the Baltic States contributed to the public consultation (“Replies to the consultation,” n.d.). One of explanations behind the absence of written contribution from the Baltic States is that national institutions tend to be weary regarding policy initiatives which do not fall in the category of their top priorities (I.Paune, personal communication, 11 April 2016). For example, both Latvian and Lithuanian Ministries of Education focus on their engagement in the Joint Baltic Sea System Research Programme (BONUS). Lithuania is looking forward to extend the BONUS programme (R. Rudokienė, personal communication 7 April 2016).
However, the Estonian case should be treated with specific attention. At first glance it seems surprising that Estonia did not take part in the public consultation, since there was such a great initiative shown among EU member states engaged in the Arctic. Namely, from all inputs assembled during the consultation 60% of the respondents were based in an Arctic state (Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Iceland) and 25% of contributors were based in a country with an observer status in the Arctic Council (France, Germany, Poland, the United Kingdom and Italy) (DG MARE, 2014: 2). Following the logic of Estonian sustained focus on Arctic research and governance foras, it seems that this Baltic country should have followed the Arctic enthusiast trend.
However, as one of the explanations for the Estonian inactivity serves its vibrant domestic work in relation to Arctic policy. Estonia differs in this matter with its on-going consultation on the ESTPOLAR 2014-2020 and current work on the expert report on Estonia’s stance in Arctic Council matters. Since neither of these documents has reached the final adoption phase, it serves as an explanation, why Estonia, an active maritime nation with an interest in northernmost matters, did not contribute to DG MARE’s consultation.
Despite its lack of engagement Estonia supports the newly published communication (T.Maiberg, personal communication, 20 May 2016). All in all, Estonian interests as such are mirrored in the new EU Arctic policy because it highlights, EU PolarNet as one of the most important EU funded initiatives oriented towards the Arctic. As previously stated, EU PolarNet is one of the latest initiatives, where Estonian research community is taking part.
In addition, it should be mentioned that this section of the briefing note does not treat the EU Arctic policy in a siloed manner. Therefore, it should be also mentioned that during the last stages of the drafting process of the Joint Communication “An integrated European Union policy for the Arctic”, EU’s stance in Arctic matters was put in the spotlight also in the context of EU’s foreign affairs and the on-going public debates regarding the EU Global Strategy on Foreign and Security Policy (hereafter – EUGSFSP). Namely, European External Action Service (hereafter – EEAS) showed signs of its readiness to devote special attention to the Arctic as one of the four geographic directions to be defined in the EUGSFSP, which is to be launched in June 2016. Such statements might give an impression that the ground has been laid for the establishment of close interconnections between these two policy documents. However, it remains yet to be seen in June 2016, whether it is the case.4
In broad lines, it should be pointed out that Heather Exner-Pirot quite bluntly states that the new document does not provide a substantially new approach towards the Arctic. Her position on the document is that “The EU keeps telling us it cares about the Arctic. I’m not sure the Arctic cares about it” (Exner-Pirot, 2016). However, when taking a more nuanced look at the communication, I would argue that EU is not simply telling us that it cares about the Arctic. The document allows us to familiarize in what particular matters and through which specific initiatives EU is committed to care about the Arctic and contribute to the Arctic affairs during the upcoming years. Namely, several initiatives have been stated, such as the EU PolarNet, where Estonia is taking an active part, the document also features Copernicus programme and the European Global Navigation System (Galileo), as well as special attention is allocated to the seabed exploration and the European Marine Observation and Data Network (hereafter – EMODnet).
By highlighting these specific initiatives, the EU also allows to understand how national contributions are positioned in the broader European picture a propos the Arctic. Nevertheless, the EU has not elaborated in more detail how these specific projects fit the global Arctic research agenda or which particular features of these projects are relevant to the northernmost region. For example, such facts as Tallinn Technological University participation in EMODnet Physics and EMODnet Chemistry, Estonian engagement in EMODnet Baltic Sea Checkpoint (E.Kadastik, personal communication, 16 May 2017), Lithuanian former participation in the EMODnet (I.Kiškis, personal communication, 16 May 2016), and participation of Latvian Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre in EMODnet Geology (A.Jansone, personal communication, 17 May 2016) does not per se allow calling the Baltic States as actively engaged in the Arctic. They have joined these projects for various reasons; among them is their interest in summarising and harmonising maritime geological data and its accessibility to users (A.Jansone, personal communication, 17 May 2016). In many cases the participation is more tied to the Baltic Sea geographical setting, rather than polar areas.
Another major flaw of the document is that it is merely silent on its interconnections with other European strategic documents, such as the EU Maritime Security Strategy (hereafter – EUMSS), also facilitated by DG MARE, and the EU Global Strategy on Foreign and Security Policy (hereafter – EUGSFSP). In my previous comments on the EUGSFSP (Šime, 2016), I have already pointed out that it would be advisable for EU not only to increase the quantity of its strategic documents but also raise their overall standard of quality, by including in these documents a more detailed context on institutional and domain specific overlaps and interconnections. Therefore, the quality of these documents could be judged in terms of, how well does a new strategy fits in a broader landscape of existing pool of EU strategies and other overarching policy documents. The drafting process should be in line with the following question. Does the new document contribute by bringing some specific, or even measurable added value to the strategic steering of existing multilateral initiatives, or simply borrows some elements from its notional predecessors for an enrichment of its content?
As it was said before, the new EU Arctic policy brings to the fore several relevant initiatives but it does not state a clear agenda on how to mobilise member state engagement. Therefore, the vagueness of EU’s new Arctic policy as such might lead to wrongful conclusions. Consequently, EU is advised to draft a progress report in the implementation of its new Arctic policy which would include more explicit information regarding areas where steady progress is most needed or where previous joint member states’ commitment has been falling short.
Further paragraphs of this section are dedicated to evaluate EU Arctic policy in the context of other relevant EU strategic initiatives. Here are just some examples of overlaps between documents, which, in order to avoid the paper tiger critique, could benefit from clearer guidelines in future on the specific goals and expected results in the Arctic, foreign or neighbourhood relations, as well as maritime security-specific context. This analysis is complemented by remarks on their relevance in the Latvian and Estonian Arctic research context, as well as recommendations for further action.
First, in a brief and general manner regional smart specialisation strategies are highlighted in both the EU Arctic policy as well as the EUMSS, but stressing different use of these policy documents and their envisaged outcomes. The EUMSS aims at integrating industrial and research assets related to maritime security into regional smart specialization strategies (EUMSS Action Plan, 2014: 12, 3.1.10.§). Whereas EU Arctic policy sees regional smart specialisation strategies as enablers of sustainable growth and job creation in the European Arctic (Joint Communication to the European Parliament and the Council. An integrated European Union policy for the Arctic, 2016: 3). Taking into consideration the fact that generally drafting and implementation of smart specialisation strategies are not high on Latvian and Estonian local agendas, and Estonian and Latvian local communities have not established close ties with Arctic regions in terms of scientific cooperation, none of these references seem relevant in the Baltic context.
Next, in the case of maritime surveillance, both policy documents show a varied and more nuanced picture. EUMSS in a more general manner acknowledges the importance of coordinated implementation of existing and planned maritime surveillance initiatives, naming the Earth Observation Programme (Copernicus) and Galileo among others (EUMSS Action Plan, 2014: 9, 2.3.1.§). The new EU Arctic policy explains that the Copernicus already provides surveillance and monitoring services with satellites in polar orbits and Galileo’s future coverage of the Arctic will ensure safe and reliable navigation capabilities for air, maritime and ground applications. In general terms none of the EU documents states any level ambition towards which EU should advance in order to enhance its maritime sector related or Arctic-specific interests. For example, it does not reflect on the potential role of mid-term review of Copernicus and Galileo (European Commission, n.d.).
However, on a more promising note the EU Arctic policy informs on its potential future interconnections with the Space Strategy and European Defence Action Plan (Joint Communication to the European Parliament and the Council. An integrated European Union policy for the Arctic, 2016: 12). Therefore it is yet to be seen, whether these new intersections will result in more engagement of the European Defence Agency (European Defence Agency, 2016), as one of facilitating bodies of both EU defence initiatives, in the EU Arctic matters. Since both the Space Strategy and European Defence Action Plan are in the drafting process, then at the moment it is hard to judge how these two documents fit in the context of the Baltic scientific research interests in the Arctic. However, it should be already noted that in terms of the Space Strategy, Estonia and Latvia could highlight the expertise acquired by its academics and further their activities. In the Estonian case it is participation in the PolarView initiative. In the Latvian case relevant national authorities would be advised to consult with the Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs (also known by the abbreviation DG GROW) and evaluate how EU or national funding could be allocated to enhance the expertise of Riga Technical University experts, by pursuing broader cooperation options with their long-standing partners from the Technical University of Denmark. Since none of the Arctic related research results have thus far been applied in the military industrial sectors of Estonia and Latvia, the synergies of the EU Arctic policy and the European Defence Action Plan seem irrelevant to the scientific communities discussed in this briefing note.
Last, both EU documents dwell on the importance of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (hereafter – UNCLOS). EUMSS commits EU to promoting the dispute settlement in line with the UNCLOS, while also stressing the importance of confidence building measures and regional codes of conduct (EUMSS Action Plan, 2014: 7, 1.6.§). The EU Arctic policy, on its part, briefly reinstates the commitment to the UNCLOS (Joint Communication to the European Parliament and the Council. An integrated European Union policy for the Arctic, 2016: 14). In future the EU Arctic policy could be complemented by details on, whether EU sees value of establishing new confidence building measures and the Arctic code of conduct, or the Arctic Council is the central forum, which successfully covers both of these areas. However, as far as the immediate interests of Estonian and Latvian Arctic research community interests are considered, UNCLOS-related sea-bed exploration matters do not fall in their range of expertise, thus does not bear relevance to the national scientific advancement agenda.
The discussion of Arctic research in Latvia and Estonia in particular, and Lithuania in rather general terms, allows to conclude that in each country the acquired scientific expertise, forms of engagement in the Arctic research, as well as ties between specific Arctic research projects and national scientific, as well as EU priorities, vary significantly from country to country.
In terms of field research and Arctic research tradition in general, in comparison to Latvia, Estonia has acquired more experience and expertise, and is in the process of consolidating its short- and mid-term priorities in two policy documents. Estonia’s potential to advance its Arctic research largely depends on the adoption of ESTPOLAR 2014-2020, and further on, on its ability to strengthen partnerships with its international cooperation partners and develop systematic collaboration with the industry.
Latvian capacity to engage more actively in international scientific cooperation currently is hampered by the absence of administrative support structures as well as the lack of sustainable funding sources. The only viable future prospects for development of the Latvian Arctic research is to acquire ad hoc funding for field research under various thematic funding schemes or bilateral, cross-border, national and university support programmes.
In each state researchers have acquired different niche expertise. Apart from research heritage preservation initiatives such as Struve Geodetic Arc, they have not been involved in joint research projects or joint field research in the northernmost region. Rather Arctic researchers in each of the Baltic States seek out partnerships with well-established polar research nations. In most cases those are partners from Nordic (and to a lesser extent Eastern European) countries. The situation, that thus far there have not been any joint (notionally) Baltic research projects in the northernmost region, can be explained by two factors. First, due to cost effectiveness and lack of existing national research facilities in the Arctic, scientists from all three nations are interested in acquiring access to the research facilities operated by other European nations.
Second, on the national level there have not been political incentives to promote joint Baltic research projects in the Arctic. In Latvia Arctic related research has not benefited from any attention among the policy makers and political leadership. On the contrary, in Estonia, its Arctic-related expertise is well known and discussed in two policy documents (ESTPOLAR 2014-2020 and report on the potential national application for the observer status at the Arctic Council) currently being prepared for adoption.
Coming back to the idea of joint Baltic initiatives related to the Arctic, one way, how the young generation of Arctic researchers in the Baltic States could enhance an exchange of information and overall awareness of their activities, is to pursue a bottom-up initiative by establishing national committees in the framework of the Association of Polar Early Career Scientists (hereafter – APECS). On the one hand, it would help to promote their work among peers from other countries. On the other hand, such committees could serve as a springboard for annual joint meetings of all three Baltic committees with an aim to engage in a mutual exchange of information regarding their latest activities, as well as explore opportunities for joint projects or cooperation in broader multilateral initiatives. The viability of this recommendation largely depends on two factors. First, whether the Arctic researchers in the Baltics want to establish new structures as discussion foras with an aim to increase regional ties, or they prefer to stick to the existing international gatherings and follow the established patterns of international cooperation. Second, an impetus towards Baltic dialogue could be drawn from similar research interests. Currently, Estonian and Latvian scientists do not share the same research interests in the Arctic, thus there are less points of intersection in terms of their expertise. However, in the long run it cannot be ruled out that both Estonian and Latvian Arctic research agendas might reach some commonalities by integrating new areas of expertise acquisition.
It should also be pointed out that in the Latvian setting, where there are no coordinating structures of Arctic related research, the APECS national committee might fill the notional vacuum. Since there are no coordinating formats, where Arctic-related research interests could be summarized and channeled further to policy makers, this committee could implement this function. Moreover, it cannot be ruled out that Arctic could be brought to the spotlight in future political discussions. In case the Arctic would top the political agenda and policy makers would start seeking for some expert advice, this committee might turn out the sole hub or nodal point which could deliver an overview on Latvian engagement in the northernmost research. Otherwise, right now the information on Arctic related research engagement remains scattered among various governmental and research institutions with no joint fora, where an overarching view on the on-going processes could be obtained.
The two national case studies also illustrate that being a passive observer of EU public consultation process does not necessarily mean that a country is a laggard in the specific policy domain or does not have any interest in the region. While there are no signs of Latvian policy makers’ intentions to promote or enhance specifically Arctic-related research, a completely opposite situation can be traced in Estonia. Estonia did not contribute to the public consultation process of the EU Arctic policy, but it is an active participant of various Arctic-related EU-supported research projects. Moreover, the EU Arctic policy’s interconnections with other upcoming EU-level strategic documents, such as the European Space Strategy, provide potential to further Baltic scientific activities, if backed by the respective national governing bodies, and thus, contribute to the implementation of the EU goals.
Moreover, since EU governance as well as EU’s approach in managing its external relations is characterized by multi-level and multi-nodal environment, the Estonian case shows that representatives of the same nation might choose different venues to articulate the same interests and ensure practical engagement in a specific region. On the one hand, it is mirrored by the Estonian multi-faceted support to reinforced engagement in the Arctic. Estonia supports EU’s bid for the observer status at the Arctic Council, and meanwhile prepares also its own stance regarding the potential national bid for the observer status in this regional format. In addition, Estonia actively engages in EU Arctic-related initiatives, while not scrutinising and expressing its views on every EU strategic policy document which holds relevance to the Estonian conducted research in relation to the Arctic.
On the other hand, the analysis provided regarding thematic intersections and overlaps between different EU strategic policy documents clearly indicate that, in terms of issue management, an EU member state is in a privileged position to decide which specific policy document and its discussion fora fits best to its interests. It can decide to express its support for one particular cause on several occasions, since the vagueness of EU strategic policy documents and a limited scope of their orderly interconnectedness allows dwelling on the same topic on multiple occasions. Therefore, a further analysis of Latvian and Estonian engagement in EUMSS management and EUGSFSP drafting could shed more light on how national Arctic-related research contributes to or does not play a role in the shaping of national position as regards to these strategic documents.
The information obtained for this briefing note also reveals that the EU is far from the only international organisation which holds relevance in terms of national Arctic research agenda. One example is the relevance of the UN in the context of the preservation of research heritage. All three Baltic States, among other countries of Struve Geodetic Arc, collaborate by exchanging information on the progress of mapping and analysing the station points in their respective territories. Thus it serves as an example that Arctic-related research is being performed within the Baltic States in close cooperation with UN’s specialized agency UNESCO.
The three Baltic States have also regained awareness of their colleagues’ work in the Nordic countries during the meetings of the Nordic Geodetic Commission. Although the Baltic States have not regained their pre-World War II status within the Commission, their presence rather than formal status ensures regular exchange of information regarding domain-specific developments. Nevertheless, it would be wrong to assume that the Commission plays an equal role in the national Arctic research agenda of both examined countries. For Latvia this Commission serves as an important forum in the Arctic context. On the contrary, it has no relevance in the Estonian case, since Estonia is involved in a non-Arctic related research under the auspices of the Commission.
All in all, it can be concluded that with or without the support of a national policy framework, thus at differing speed, both Latvia and Estonia are advancing towards acquiring their niche expertise in the Arctic research. Therefore, their efforts cannot be necessarily characterised by grand titles as “pivoting to the North Pole”, but steadily in a step-by-step approach Latvian and Estonian researchers are amassing expertise, which if backed by more steady national support towards internationalisation and cooperative networks, in time might increase in relevance in a broader scientific community.
Gerald Zojer & Laura Olsén
The Calotte Academy is an annual traveling symposium which was first organized in the early 1990s. The Academy inherited its name from the North Calotte region (Cap of the North), which comprises the northern parts of Finland, Norway, Sweden, as well as the very northwest of the Russian Federation. This region has left its footprint not only in the name of this academic happening, but traveling within this region is one of the core characteristics of the Calotte Academy. The aim of this multidisciplinary event is to bring together senior researchers, PhD candidates, as well as various local stakeholders, in order to have a broad and open dialogue on an annually changing theme.
This year’s Calotte Academy ran under the overarching topic: “Resilience related to Sustainable Development in Globalization”. In order to achieve a meaningful and thorough dialogue between all the participants, the Calotte Academy is designed in a way to provide more time for joint discussions than for the presentation of each individuals’ work. Spending time together while traveling through the North Calotte region furthermore provides space for additional and informal debates, and also offers a possibility to experience this region and to visit some of the interesting locations and sights along the way. Moreover, traveling within the region also allows to get in touch with the local inhabitants and some of the various stakeholders that are involved in the development of this area. Altogether, this traveling symposium is not just a place for young and experienced researchers to present their work and results, but much more it offers a venue for active and lively discussions, for getting to know the region, and for meeting and brainstorming with people that share overlapping interests.
In the past years the different sessions of the Calotte Academy have been organized in various places within three of the North Calotte countries, and like in the past two years, also the 2016 edition of the Academy was planned to take place in Finland, Norway, and the Russian Federation. While the original intention was to make a round trip crossing the Finnish-Norwegian border in Neiden, the Norwegian-Russian border at Storskog, and eventually the Russian-Finnish border in Salla, due to a bilateral Finnish-Russian agreement on closing the two northernmost border stations between these two countries for the duration of six month for third country citizen, the original route turned out to be impossible to follow this year. Due to the international background of the Calotte Academy’s attendees, the bilateral agreement disallowed many of the participants to cross the last border along the originally planned route, which essentially also shows how this agreement makes it more difficult to carry out scientific cross-border cooperation in the European North. As a consequence the organizers of the 2016 Calotte Academy had to put their plan C into action, which was shortening the route of the Academy and taking the same way back instead of making a round trip.
The Academy began in Rovaniemi like in the past few years, and the first stop along the way was in Inari, both in Finland. The sessions in Norway were held in Kirkenes, before continuing to Murmansk, in the Russian Federation, where the final sessions where held. While the original plan was to continue the travel to Apatitiy to have the final sessions at the Kola Science Centre, the group instead had to turn around already in Murmansk. Recent migratory activities apparently not only affected the border regime between Finland and the Russian Federation: To our surprise – also for the frequent travelers – even on the usually open Finnish-Norwegian border the participants had to present their passports for a thorough border check. Consequently, border crossing issues and international migration remained a reoccurring side-theme for the whole duration of this year’s Academy.
Theoretical Discussions on Resilience & Sustainable Development
The official start of the 2016 Calotte Academy took place in the evening of Sunday, 29th of May, when the mayor of Rovaniemi, Esko Lotvonen, invited the participants for a reception at the town hall, and where the group got the first chance to get to know one another. During the reception the participants also learned more about the first host city, as well as about some recent developments in Finnish Lapland.
The first sessions then were held at the University of Lapland on Monday 30th of May, starting with a theoretical discussion connected to the main theme “About Resilience and Sustainable Development”. The first speakers reminded us about the reasons why we need to discuss these concepts, namely that global and local developments of the past decades led to severe environmental degradation and were insufficient to reduce hunger in parts of the world, or more generally speaking, they led to numerous global and local inequalities. The group discussed how and when the concepts of sustainable development and resilience have been introduced, how they have been used, and how suitable they are for analyzing or tackling the source problems. Some argued that a common challenge for many political concepts is that they may get hijacked by groups which use them for different intentions than for which such concepts have been introduced. For example, the group discussion suggested that the concept of resilience only got introduced after the sustainable development discourse has been rendered meaningless by not understanding that it calls for a fundamental change, but instead by utilizing it in order to promote business as usual policies. However, simply replacing concepts that got hijacked may not be fruitful, as this process could be repeated with any newly introduced concept. Thus it was discussed if it is necessary to establish new discourses, or if rather established concepts should be continued to be used in an attempt to keep their original intention alive or to revitalize them if necessary.
The second session, in which also a member of the Finnish parliament, Katri Kulmuni, joined our group, focused on the implementation and adaptation of the concepts of sustainable development and resilience on regional and sub-national governmental levels. The discussions centered on interplays between economic and demographic developments and how they are related to environmental challenges. Based on the discussion on how to introduce more “resource fairness” regarding the local population, one of the conclusions was that the implementation of sustainable development in an Arctic context is still driven by mass scale development of the region’s natural resources in order to satisfy international markets.
Visiting Northern Communities
After the Monday sessions at the University of Lapland the group members entered the bus which would be the main means of transportation for the upcoming week, and started to head towards the North. Inari, which became a constant in the Calotte Academy’s tradition, is a municipality where three different Sámi languages are actively spoken. Also the Sámi parliament of Finland is located in Inari, and became the host venue for our next sessions. In the Sájos building we got introduced to some local perspectives, also thanks to the presentations by the director of the Sámi education institute as well as the mayor of the Inari municipality.
Furthermore, the theoretical discussions from the first day continued, but also got deepened by more intensively discussing aspects from the social sphere of the sustainable development and resilience concepts. The debates focused on issues such as language preservation; on the impacts of national and international developments on local communities; how tourism and mining affect northern communities, and how local residents can take part in such developments in a way to be able to maintain and preserve their traditions; or how local inhabitants – and in particular indigenous people(s) – can or may participate in decision making processes.
From Theory to Practice
The warm temperatures and the midnight sun invited the participants to continue their discussions on the lake shore long after the official sessions where over, while enjoying some local food jointly prepared over an open fire. After some socializing in the evening, the travel continued early next morning, by soon crossing the Norwegian border where the participants got the chance to stretch their legs during a short visit to the Skoltefossen waterfalls near Neiden.
The next actual session took place in Kirkenes, where our partners from the Barents Institute and the International Barents Secretariat enriched the group discussions. Kirkenes’ unique location next to the border of the Russian Federation in a relatively remote area which is rich in minerals, provoked a lot of questions concerning for example the economics and industries of the city and its co-operation with different Russian stakeholders. Our first day in Kirkenes, on Wednesday 1st of June, centered on best practices of resilience and sustainable development implementations. Among the topics discussed were renewable energy production in both North-American and Russian Arctics. The presentations addressed the great challenges which the governments face when promoting sustainable development and renewable energy production in Arctic regions, due to remoteness, national legislations, and economic and political developments.
The morning session on Thursday 2nd of June, in Kirkenes was dedicated to “Freedom of Expression and Media”, where journalists from the Kingdom of Denmark, Norway, and the Russian Federation analyzed the northern media landscape. Main topics were the representation of climate change as well as the Arctic and its regions in international media, but also pressure on investigative journalists both in Norway and in the Russian Federation. Presentations introduced fresh and valuable perspectives to the critical issues mentioned above, while the discussions raised up the need for a continuation of this kind of open dialogue between academia and different stakeholders in the Arctic region. After the thought-provoking sessions in Kirkenes it was time to exit Norway and continue eastwards towards Russia via the Storskog border crossing station.
We next drove to the city of Murmansk, traveling through the northernmost parts of the Kola Peninsula. On the way the bus passed the towns of Nikel, Zapolyarna and Pechenga. Heavily polluted landscape near Nikel triggered strong reactions, and visualized the devastating consequences that industrial pollution can cause for the environment. Also passing by military bases and memorials of the Second World War set the frames for the conversations that dominated those few hours spent in the bus on the way to Murmansk.
Varying Discourses of Security in the Arctic
On Friday 3rd of June, the sessions took place on the premises of a new host, the Murmansk Arctic State University. In the morning session under the theme “Urbanization and regional development of the Arctic” the presentations covered topics such as economic and technological development on the regional level in the Russian Arctic, and the change of the Arctic Council’s agenda from an environmental to an economy-centered focus. Moreover the theoretical and practical approaches to energy security in the Arctic were touched upon in several presentations, and also the usage of the Internet as a space to make politics was discussed. Despite the rainy weather in Murmansk, after the session the participants visited the Alyosha Monument in Cape Green and had a chance to admire the view over the city, which spreads along the coastline of the Kola Bay. In the evening participants enjoyed a varietal dinner in a Georgian restaurant in the heart of the city, which was accompanied by several speeches from the Academy’s participants.
The last session was held on Saturday 4th of June, under the theme “Resilience and sustainable development, and oil and gas drilling in the Arctic”. The presentations concentrated on changing discourses among the stakeholders in the oil and gas sector in the Arctic, and on Norwegian-Russian cooperation in this sector. Additionally the discussions touched on the changing geopolitical situation in the Arctic and a shift of the security discourse from traditional military security to environmental security.
The last presentation dealing with tourism development in the Barents region well demonstrated the multidisciplinarity and versatility of the discussions and topics dealt within the sessions of the Calotte Academy. After having had 35 presentations during 8 sessions it was time to turn the bus around towards the Norwegian border and straight forward towards the Finnish border, to our last overnight stop in Neiden. Early on Sunday morning the group continued its way back to Rovaniemi, via Sevettijärvi and Inari.
The Calotte Academy 2016 once again brought together senior and early-career researchers from different parts of Europe, Russia and North-America, and from different fields of sciences. Additionally there were also journalists and professionals from numerous other fields among the speakers. This year’s Calotte Academy demonstrated very well how it is possible with a strong will and innovative thinking to cross boundaries and borders and to bring together people despite of a changing geopolitical situation and other challenges faced. It also gave an excellent example of the importance and benefits gained from the open dialogue between academia and other stakeholders from different fields of profession. The need for this kind of open communication between academia, politics, and journalism – also for the future – got highlighted, and the Calotte Academy once again proved that it offers a very suitable and well established forum for such an exercise.
*Ross A. Virginia, Michael Sfraga, Tom Arnbom, Linda Chamberlain, Susan Chatwood, Asli Tepecik Diş, Gunhild Hoogensen Gjørv, Tamara K. Harms, Anne Hansen, Gwen Holdmann, Noor Johnson, Trevor Lantz, Bjarni Magnússon, Itty S. Neuhaus, Gregory Poelzer, Laura Sokka, Maria Tysiachniouk, Øystein Varpe, and Niels Vestergaard
Arctic peoples are experiencing profound environmental, social, and economic change caused by climate change, resource development, and globalization. The Arctic is confronted with critical policy challenges on issues of community health and wellness, energy resources, environmental protection, sustainability of the Arctic Ocean, infrastructure, indigenous rights, and regional governance. The eight nations of the Arctic have an established history of peaceful cooperation, especially around scientific research, but this cooperation is constantly tested as the Arctic becomes more prominent in the global geopolitical landscape.
The Arctic nations are joined together in dialog through the Arctic Council. Founded in 1996 as a high level international forum, the Arctic Council serves to promote cooperation and coordination among the Arctic states. Its working groups provide important assessments on issues such as environment and climate, biodiversity, Arctic peoples, oceans, and shipping. In a relatively short time, the Arctic Council has achieved a measure of success in setting an agenda focused on the key policy issues facing the region. But the Arctic Council is dependent on access to policy relevant research for setting priorities and allocating resources to assessments and outreach.
The Chairmanship of the Arctic Council rotates among the member states every two years, providing an opportunity for the Chair to focus its agenda on issues of special importance at the national level and for the entire region. In May 2015, the United States assumed the Chairmanship from Canada at the Ministerial Meeting in Iqaluit, Canada. The U.S. Chairmanship program under the Department of State identified three focus areas: improving economic and living conditions for Arctic communities; Arctic Ocean safety, security and stewardship; and addressing the impacts of climate change.
In support of the ongoing need for policy relevant research to aid the Arctic Council’s mission, the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs announced the Fulbright Arctic Initiative (FAI) in Fall 2014. Operating outside the Arctic Council, the FAI was designed to support and complement the needs of the Arctic Council for innovative multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary research in thematic areas of interest to the Arctic Council and the U.S. Chairmanship program. This Briefing Note describes the events leading to the FAI, its mission and structure, and reports on activities and accomplishments to date. The FAI seeks to address the policy challenges confronting the Council and Arctic nations, as captured in the following comments:
“The Arctic region is the last global frontier and a region with enormous and growing geostrategic, economic, climate, environment, and national security implications for the United States and the world.”
- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, February 14, 2014
“Many of the social and economic challenges faced by Inuit today are therefore influenced by global factors. This is why ICC supports the proposed themes and projects for the USA Arctic Council Chairmanship. The themes are crucial to the Inuit, and indeed, they are indivisible from our identity, way of life, and our future.”
- Inuit Circumpolar Council Chair, Okalik Eeegesiak, April 24, 2015
The Fulbright Program
The Fulbright Program was established in 1946. It has become the U.S. flagship international educational exchange program administered by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) within the Department of State. The broad goal of Fulbright is “to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.” This has been accomplished largely by supporting individual scholar and student exchanges bridging more than 160 countries across the world. The collective action of Fulbright participants leads to an increase in global capacity to address major challenges such as climate change, sustainable energy, health, and food security.
The Fulbright Arctic Initiative (FAI)
The Arctic Initiative emerged during a Fulbright Workshop (“Shaping Arctic Change through Conscious Choices”) held in Abisko, Sweden, in October 2013, sponsored by the U.S. Embassy in Stockholm and the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in cooperation with the Stockholm Environmental Institute and the World Wildlife Fund for Nature/Sweden. Conceived by U.S. Ambassador to Sweden Mark Brzezinski and the Chairman of the Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, Tom Healy, the Workshop brought together approximately 40 Fulbright scholars and alumni and regional Fulbright program officers, who recommended a new type of Fulbright effort, one that featured coordinated team research on critical policy challenges facing Arctic nations.
An ongoing dialog between Fulbright and Arctic experts identified key research areas where multinational and multidisciplinary teams could work in thematic areas broadly supportive of the U.S. Arctic Council Chairmanship program and other key Arctic stakeholders, i.e., water, energy, health and infrastructure.
The FAI was announced by Ambassador Brzezinski in a U.S. network television interview. A call for applications was made in October 2014 at the Arctic Circle Assembly in Reykjavik, Iceland, by Steve Money (U.S. State Department, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs). Scholar applications were solicited from October 2015 into February 2016 and a peer-review selection committee recommended 17 scholars from the eight Arctic nations to the Fulbright Board to form the inaugural cohort of FAI scholars, directed by Co-Lead Scholars Michael Sfraga and Ross Virginia.
The Scholar Support System
Structure and Expectations
The FAI has key features that distinguish it from most other Fulbright programs. FAI scholars participate for 18 months, including an individual exchange of 1.5-3 months to pursue their proposed independent research projects. Each scholar also conducts collaborative work within a thematic research team. The team produces policy relevant research and engages with the public through outreach activities and broad dissemination of their work. The scholars were organized into thematic research teams by the co-lead scholars with the goal of creating interdisciplinary dialog and diversifying international perspectives on solutions to pan-Arctic problems. The thematic working groups were formed around a set of questions:
- Energy: How will oil, gas, and other natural resources be developed in the Arctic? What can be done to promote clean renewable energy, reduce pollutants, guarantee the inclusion and rights of indigenous people, and protect the environment?
- Water: How can we understand, mitigate, and adapt to the dramatic changes occurring and projected for the Arctic Ocean environment and fresh water regimes, such as changes to fisheries, oil spills, the emergence of invasive species, and shifts in the food supply for local communities?
- Health: What specific issues do coastal communities face, such as erosion and storm surge, subsistence activities and food supply, availability of medical care, transportation, telecommunications, protection and continuity of their identities as indigenous peoples? What opportunities and vulnerabilities can be addressed for the sustainability of affected communities?
- Infrastructure: How can we rethink ports, pipelines, freshwater storage and treatment, and other infrastructure and security issues? What measures and policies should be developed to promote multi-national cooperation on search and rescue, emergency environmental response, and safe shipping?
The Co-lead Scholar Model
The FAI functions with a co-lead scholar model. The co-leads share responsibility for the academic focus of the program and for assisting the scholars in their individual and group research. They serve as mentors and are the scholar interface with the administrative staff and leadership at the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and the Institute of International Education (IIE). The co-leads organize monthly plenary seminars using a web-based platform (Basecamp) to sustain group identity and promote project integration. Guest speakers provide examples of innovative research and outreach and serve to connect the research to policy issues. In addition, the co-lead scholars have major responsibility for three multi-day group seminars during which the scholars work on research and present results to the public and the policy communities. The co-lead scholars actively publicize the work of the FAI scholars and present at national and international seminars, conferences, and symposia.
The Fulbright Arctic Plenary Seminars
The face-to-face plenary seminars are an essential investment in the FAI program. The success of the FAI is contingent on the group’s identity as scholars working on shared problems. They each bring a research network and experiences shaped by their national identity, discipline, and career path.
In May 2015, the founding plenary seminar hosted by Fulbright Canada was held in Iqaluit, Nunavut, where just a month earlier the U.S. assumed the Arctic Council chairmanship from Canada. Holding the inaugural FAI plenary meeting in the Arctic allowed the group to define its goals within the context of the sustainability challenges facing Iqaluit and Arctic communities in general. A set of guiding principles emerged that helped group projects develop with a common purpose and shared methodology. The group affirmed that community research needs should be prioritized, partnerships with northern peoples and stakeholders were important to all FAI work, and sharing results with the public was expected. The working groups developed public outreach strategies and began the process of building model frameworks for their collaborative research.
In Iqaluit, community leaders Peter Taptuna, premier of Nunavut, Ekho Wilman, mayor of Iqaluit, and Okalik Eegeesiak, chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Council challenged the FAI scholars to design research relevant to peoples of the North. David Balton, U.S. Ambassador for Oceans and Fisheries and Chair of the Senior Arctic Officials, Julie Gourley, U.S. Senior Arctic Official, and CanNor President Janet King provided an international perspective by discussing U.S. and Canadian government priorities for the region. Arctic researchers, including Gwen Healy, director of the Qaujigiartiit Heath Research Center, and Mary Ellen Thomas, senior research officer at the Nunavut Research Institute, spoke to the particular challenges of conducting research in the Arctic and the importance of adopting a community scale lens for viewing Arctic issues.
The midterm plenary meeting, in February 2016, was co-hosted by Fulbright Finland and the University of Oulu. In a public and web-streamed event, the FAI scholars had the first opportunity to present their ongoing research as part of a broader public symposium (“Towards a Sustainable Arctic Future”) that gathered together Arctic scientists, students, policymakers, industry, and NGO representatives and other key stakeholders as well as the general public. During working sessions over the 5-day plenary, FAI scholars presented their ongoing work for critique by Arctic experts and formed new research network connections. FAI research was featured in the session “Informing Policy Through Collaborative Research.” The symposium included welcoming video comments by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who highlighted the need for interdisciplinary team research to address climate change.
Fulbright Arctic Week, October 24-28, 2016, in Washington D.C., will focus on sharing the policy relevance of individual and group research projects and offer public outreach that highlights the importance of the Arctic to our global environment and international relations. Events will be held at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the U.S. Department of State, and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The FAI scholars will meet as individuals or in small groups with influential public and private stakeholders to share key policy recommendations stemming from their research.
Thematic Research Progress and Impact
The scholars are organized into three thematic working groups, each creating new collaborative research that is beyond the scope of their individual research projects. The general approach, key findings and anticipated policy relevance of the three working groups is described below.
Energy Working Group
The Energy Working Group draws on diverse disciplinary backgrounds including international law, engineering, sociology, anthropology, political science, and environmental studies to understand the impacts of extractive industries and the transition to renewable energy in the Arctic. In their individual research projects, scholars tackle issues related to the legal framework for energy development, the social, environmental, and economic impacts of both renewable and non-renewable energy, and the business and investment opportunities emerging from renewable energy sector development.
As a core driver of economic and social development, energy is central to discussions of geopolitics and national and human security. The U.S.-Nordic Leaders’ Summit in May 2016 noted the “foundational role energy plays in our economies and that energy security is key for overall security.” As evidenced by the COP21 (Paris) and the GLACIER (Anchorage, Alaska) conferences in 2015, there has been a significant uptick in political will to support a transition from non-renewable to renewable energy sources. The energy sector alone accounts for more than two-thirds of global greenhouse gas emissions; renewable energy can deliver half of all emission reductions needed to meet global targets. While the Arctic region bears much of the brunt of the impacts of climate change, the region is also poised to play a global leadership role in the deployment of renewable energy. The Arctic Energy Summit (Fairbanks, Alaska) in 2015 demonstrated this through multiple success stories, from the development of microgrids to the deployment of renewable wind, hydro, solar, and geothermal technologies. However, renewable energy development across the Circumpolar North is highly variable, suggesting the need for further research and investment and the importance of strong and supportive policy.
Group process to develop policy recommendations
The Energy Group is developing policy recommendations in support of the development and deployment of renewable energy in the Arctic region. From June 27–July 1, 2016, the International Centre for Northern Governance and Development at the University of Saskatchewan hosted a group workshop and retreat and identified a set of significant policy challenges and opportunities for the wide-scale development and adoption of renewable energy. Governments, communities, and the private sector will need to address:
- Human capacity challenges to manage renewable energy deployment at the community level;
- Financial capital to invest in renewables at the local level;
- Technical challenges associated with deployment of renewables in islanded, micro-grid communities, as well as variable renewable energy sources (wind, solar, run-of-river hydro);
- Challenges associated with integrating renewable energy with the transportation and heating sectors.
If the full social and economic benefits of a future clean energy sector are to be realized, governments, communities, and industry should seek opportunities to build:
- Alignments between complementary industries, such as forestry and biomass energy, to create expanded and sustainable economic development strategies;
- A global export energy industry for rural and remote regions through the capturing economies of scope through circumpolar cooperation in the renewable energy sector.
The Energy Working Group drew upon its national perspectives, comparative research exchange experiences, as well as diverse disciplinary strengths to identify principles and best practices that could help overcome the challenges of creating a sustainable energy future for the Arctic. Best practices include the importance of early stage consultation and the impact assessment process and the need for strong investment in early stage renewable energy funds to promote public-private partnerships.
In particular, our assessment of the global policy environment suggests that Arctic nations would be well served to develop Arctic Council renewable energy guidelines on policies and practices for use during planning, assessment, development, and production. Energy Group recommendations are intended to inform the development of such guidelines and to encourage the creation of standards appropriate to local, environmental, and cultural contexts in Northern regions.
Health and Infrastructure Working Group
Building on the intersection of biology, ecology, engineering, and epidemiology, the Health and Infrastructure Working Group has focused on issues of sustainability, resiliency, and health policy in the Arctic region. This investigation is developing an integrated model of socioecological interactions, relationships and outcomes that impact health and wellness in circumpolar countries. The overarching goal of the group is to explore how multidisciplinary approaches could enhance the understanding of community wellness in the Arctic.
There is a recognition that community wellness in Arctic regions is influenced by a multitude of factors also known as determinants of health. In Arctic regions these determinants include education, material resources, housing and associated infrastructure, mental wellness, early childhood development, social exclusion, personal security, culture and language, food security, climate change, environmental contaminant exposures, and governance and self-determination. The convergence and interactions of multiple stressors impact the health and wellbeing of Arctic communities and fuel social and economic inequities in the Arctic region.
A comprehensive scoping review revealed that multidisciplinary approaches to research around community wellness were generally lacking. There is a need for governments and the private sector to support research initiatives that bring together multiple disciplines and local and traditional knowledge to consider how Arctic communities define wellness and to develop research partnerships that answer questions that meet the priorities of Arctic peoples.
A workshop at Dartmouth College, in January 2016, brought together additional experts and community perspectives on health care and delivery, infrastructure challenges, youth engagement, and traditional knowledge. The Dartmouth workshop was a consensus seminar featuring facilitated panel discussions by experts, break out sessions, and non-traditional and holistic approaches, including a traditional talking circle to ground the academic discussion in the shared, first-hand experiences of community members and health providers. The key determinants of community wellness that were described include human capacity building and local training, cultural connection, trauma, access to health care services and self-determination. Critical infrastructure challenges could not be separated from issues of wellness, and included safe housing and access to affordable and sustainable energy.
Ongoing research and development of an innovative multidisciplinary model focused on the determinants of Arctic health and wellness will build on the findings of the scoping review and the community workshop.
This model will provide guidance for stakeholder collaborations so that they meet key objectives of Arctic residents, including:
- Exploring more holistic definitions and connotations of wellness in Arctic communities by drawing from the perspectives of multidisciplinary teams and traditional and academic knowledge bases;
- Providing new avenues for collaborative research between academic sectors, indigenous knowledge holders and non-governmental and governmental entities to link infrastructure challenges with wellness;
- Expanding an evidence base for public and health policy within circumpolar nations.
Findings from this collaboration are being shared through publications, conference presentations, and a collection of digital stories from the North that feature lived experiences and emphasize the impacts of the determinants of health in Arctic communities.
Water Working Group
Changing climate and increased freshwater delivery to the Arctic Ocean will have significant ecological, economic, and social impacts on marine life and the sustainability of Arctic communities. The Arctic Ocean is the earth’s most land-influenced ocean, and as a result, inputs of freshwater and associated sediment and solute loads from land may have disproportionate influence on ecological processes in the Arctic Ocean, relative to other oceans. The governance structure for the management of Arctic Ocean natural resources will determine how the Arctic region can adapt to environmental change and build a resilient Arctic Ocean management system. The Water Working Group is investigating:
- Consequences of increased precipitation and altered flow in major Arctic rivers and changes in the delivery of nutrients and sediments to the Arctic Ocean ecosystem;
- Influences of a changing Arctic Ocean environment on the abundance of wildlife important for commercial and subsistence harvest and ecosystem sustainability;
- Impacts of sea-level rise on the Arctic Ocean ecosystem and its coastal margins caused by the thawing of permafrost and the melting of glaciers and the Greenland Ice Sheet.
The Water Working Group is addressing an array of issues facing people and ecosystems dependent on marine and freshwater resources. The group includes scholars with individual research projects and interests in hydrology, biology, glaciers, food webs, fisheries, marine mammals, visual arts, and governance and policy.
A changing Arctic Ocean
Changing climate and increased freshwater delivery to the Arctic Ocean are expected to have significant ecological, economic, and social impacts on marine life and the food security of Arctic communities. Climate change is profoundly influencing the distribution, physical state, and quality of water in Arctic lakes and rivers as well as in the Arctic Ocean. For example, the Arctic Ocean is increasingly free of sea ice, and Arctic lakes and rivers are ice-covered for shorter periods. Increased duration and spatial extent of open water present new opportunities for accessing shipping corridors and fishing grounds in the Arctic Ocean, but impede winter travel over ice required by industry and subsistence hunters. Many Arctic lakes are disappearing due to drainage following permafrost thaw, which reduces habitat for freshwater species, but may curtail methane emissions from saturated sediments.
The distribution of resources that support productivity in aquatic ecosystems is also changing. For example, permafrost thaw may cause increased availability of growth-limiting nutrients, including nitrogen and phosphorus, in freshwater and subsequent delivery of these nutrients to the ocean. Melting of ice sheets not only releases freshwater of sufficient volume to potentially contribute to sea-level rise, but also delivers limiting nutrients to the ocean. Climate change is also causing increased precipitation at high latitudes, both due to northward movement of warmer, wetter air and to increased evaporation from the increasingly ice-free surface of the Arctic Ocean. Increased precipitation results in greater runoff of freshwater from land to the ocean, and enhances delivery of resources essential to biota by rivers, which may in turn alter patterns of marine productivity.
Strengthened terrestrial-marine coupling as mediated by river discharge has myriad potential consequences in marine environments including altered abundance and species composition of biota, altered seasonality of resource availability, and changes in the spatial distribution of productivity hot spots. However, the realization of altered marine productivity and potential human responses to changing resource availability are the result of processes interacting across spatial and temporal scales, each of which is accompanied by significant uncertainty. For example, thawing permafrost may cause increased yields of limiting resources delivered by rivers, but the magnitude and timing of permafrost thaw remains uncertain. The effect of new inputs of carbon and nutrients to the Arctic Ocean depends upon the physical attributes of coastlines and shelves shaping currents and development of land-fast sea ice. Spatial and temporal redistribution of biota is occurring, but the many interacting drivers of species distributions, including migration of temperate species, warming and acidifying waters, and nutrient-driven increases in primary productivity, remain difficult to predict. Human responses to altered productivity of the Arctic Ocean are similarly uncertain, and will be dependent on local economies and fishing pressures driven by the pace of economic development at a global scale.
Predicting and responding to a changing Arctic Ocean therefore requires approaches that can accommodate significant uncertainty. The Water Working Group is implementing a scenario analysis approach to consider multiple potential future states of the Arctic Ocean. These scenarios can be built upon information from many sources including traditional knowledge, and models and data derived from western science. Importantly, scenarios can facilitate thinking about events with low probability but catastrophic outcomes that are difficult to accommodate in quantitative models, but are essential to developing policy options for Arctic decision makers.
Individual Research and the Exchange Experience
Each FAI scholar has completed a Fulbright exchange visit of 1.5 to 3 months (Table 1). The non-U.S. scholars visited institutions within the United States and U.S. scholars conducted their exchange visits at institutions within Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, or Sweden. The disciplinary diversity represented by the scholars is high and includes a wide range of career stages and professional affiliations. The group research projects are informed and strengthened by the individual research programs.
The exchange visits expand the Fulbright network across the Arctic region and add to the richness of the Fulbright inspired collaboration.
Lessons to date and looking forward
This Briefing Note presents a history of the nascent Fulbright Arctic Initiative and summarizes its progress to date, roughly 75% into the 18-month program. The Initiative includes a formal evaluation process and much has been learned to date.
The esprit generated by a diverse team of scholars and practitioners spurred a high level of research productivity and public engagement, including wide dissemination of results to the academy, policymakers, and the public at large. FAI scholars organized workshops and conferences to diversify knowledge input to their collaborative work, and presented their research at, or have helped organize, many of the major international Arctic meetings. Their research is being published in peer-reviewed journals, and also as opinion-editorials in newspapers and blogs.
Scholars are undertaking video storytelling to share the Arctic perspective on pressing issues with the public. They also are involved with Arctic Council working groups and policy organizations in their home countries. As the scholars connect their individual networks, the FAI network is expanding rapidly. The collaborative, multidisciplinary team research model has emerged as a powerful and vibrant component of the program.
How can the FAI be improved and sustained? The co-lead scholars and the greater Fulbright team are aware of the tensions placed on scholars trying to complete their individual research projects while meeting the demands of working at a high level of performance with a new group of people across 12 time zones. Face-to-face meetings are essential for addressing time allocation issues and for helping thematic groups meet their schedules and goals. Early clarity on the multifaceted nature of the FAI and the expectations for scholarship and outreach can help scholars work with their institutions or organizations to gain time and support in order to reap the most from the FAI experience. The FAI scholars also recognize the limits of what can be accomplished within the timeframe of an 18-month program. One of the anticipated outcomes of the Initiative is a self-sustaining network of scholars and experts with a pan-Arctic perspective who will continue to collaborate once the formal program has ended.
The Arctic Initiative can serve as a model for other applied research programs addressing complex, rapidly changing social and environmental issues. As a result of the skills gained from collaborative research and the policy and communication experiences provided by the Fulbright team, a new kind of Fulbright scholar is emerging.
The Arctic is an area receiving a large amount of global attention due to the increasing evidence of climate change all across the region, acting as a harbinger for action to be taken on this global issue. Scotland is inseparably linked to the dynamics of the region, but is concomitant with the politics of the UK, which has been found not to offer of yet, a comprehensive policy approach to the Arctic. Ultimately issues of governance and security are likely to increase in the High North, as will economic opportunities. As a result, there is imminent demand for more comprehensive governance and security in the region, especially as resource extraction continues.
Scotland as part of the UK is a near-Arctic country and will undoubtedly be drawn into future discussions on the concerns facing the region. Many subnational and regional governments have their own Arctic policies. The possibility for Scotland to develop its own Arctic policy is fairly limited, however, in large part due to the constitutional context it currently finds itself in. Although the vote for Britain to leave the European Union, increasing powers through devolution, demand from Arctic states and international institutions for more comprehensive governance, and increasing economic opportunities suggest that a Scottish Arctic policy stating its intent and outlining its specific areas of concern and abilities from the UK is a strong possibility.
Scottish British Divergences
There is an interesting divide in the UK towards action in the Arctic, which became especially apparent in the build up to the 2014 Scottish independence referendum. Convolution of effective approaches in policy building has been manifested due to clashing interests of politicians in Westminster and in Holyrood. The firm position of the SNP is for increased consideration of challenges facing the High North, with a particular focus on improved cooperation with northern partners and multilateral organisations (Robertson, 2015). This includes the EU, which became a major battleground in discussions ahead of the Scottish independence vote. The pro-independence movement rallied for continued membership, as uncertainties towards Brussels grew in Westminster, fuelled by the Atlanticist wing of the Conservative Party. This unremitting desire by many UK Conservatives to break away from the EU comes with the aim of also increasing cooperation with northern states through bilateral and multilateral partnerships. As Hille stated, “Northernness and Euroscepticism are obviously correlated”, meaning that as well as Scottish nationalists seeing Norway as a model, Atlanticists also do in its staunchly anti-EU stance (2003: 166). Interestingly, the Northern Isles at the northernmost peripheries of the British Isles have expressed unionist desires with the UK, often also citing anti-EU sentiments over the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) (for example, Shetland Times, 2014).
The SNP has sought alignment with Scandinavian politics and is reflected in policy such as the International Framework published in 2008 – harking to economic policies of the countries in the “Arc of Prosperity” (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Ireland, and Norway) (Johnstone, 2012: 115). The Scottish Government also notes its focus “on the Nordic and Baltic region and the High North” (Scottish Government, 2014), showing an affinity to regions closer to its northern sphere of influence.
UK Arctic Policy Framework
This complexity in domestic issues can explain why there has been slow progress in the political arguments around the High North, as well as explaining how Scotland stands out in the desire for increased cooperation through bilateral and multilateral partnerships with organisations interested in the Arctic. Due to a lack of strong or standardised policy towards the Arctic by Westminster, it is apparent that pro-independence actors in Scotland have capitalised on this issue in forwarding arguments for separation and increased devolution (Powell, 2014: 88).
For Scotland within the UK as an observer state, a political dilemma is presented in formulating policy aimed at the Arctic: how and to what extent is the UK able to develop policy which engages with the issues presented, without infringing on the Nuuk criteria? Or, put another way – “how to express a neighbour-like concern and secure national interests…without inciting the irritation of…governments” (Depledge & Dodds, 2014: 27).
In publishing the Arctic Policy Framework 2013 (APF), the UK officially stated its interest in the Arctic and showed a willingness to cooperate with the A8, offering its expertise, experience and equipment (Depledge and Dodds, 2014: 30). It also accentuates the UK’s “unique role among non-Arctic states in supporting development, governance and stewardship of the region” (Mazo, 2015: 248-250). However, as has been extensively noted, the APF was found to be weak and has been criticised for being incomprehensive and failing to address any future UK military or business roles. It has also been criticised for not including the Scottish Parliament in discussions on the policy proposal (Bailes, 2014). Having distinct interests and competence, this signifies there is clearly scope for Scotland to address issues in the High North on its own accord.
What is important to note aside from the content of the APF, is the term ‘framework’ used to describe the publication. This implies a different policy approach than a ‘strategy’ would suggest. As discussed by Depledge, frameworks tend to be more flexible, changing in reaction to varying circumstances, whereas a strategy is a more rigid “sustained commitment” to a plan of action (2013: 371). A lack of strategy shows the UK is not as engaged with the developments of the region as it could (or should) be, based on its both vulnerable and commanding position in the European North-West, placing much more political, business and diplomatic focus elsewhere in the world (see for example Rogers, 2012: 47, Grímsson, 2013, Cole, 1954). Fear of encroaching on other states’ sovereignty is certainly a factor, as is a fear of motives being misinterpreted by further engagement in the region. Smaller, Northern European states may feel intimidated by a full-blown, militarily powerful UK strategy aimed at the Arctic, as has been argued by Depledge and Dodds, such a document may be found to be too provocative. The reality is, however, that the UK’s commitment is austere, with no targets or efficient review of the approach, showing the overall weakness of the APF (Depledge & Dodds, 2014: 30). Scotland, being a much smaller nation than the collective UK, can generally be expected to place greater political emphasis on more immediate geographical surroundings than a large state would do (Fleming & Gebhard: 2014: 12). This is apparent when considering the cooperation already in place between Scandinavian countries and Scotland. This includes the Northern Periphery Programme and cooperation with Norway on aquaculture and energy such as the Hywind project and the North Sea Network Link (NPA, 2014).
Scotland’s geostrategic location at the north-western tip of Europe offers a lot in terms of security in the High North, giving the UK a unique commanding position overlooking the vast expanses of the north-east Atlantic and North Sea. Its extensive coastline includes many natural ports and the land has large areas of sparsely populated terrain suitable for military planning (Bailes et al., 2013: 12; Spaven: 1983: 9). Depledge and Dodds (2014) also recognize that the UK’s geographical proximity to the North Sea and the Greenland-Iceland-UK Gap (GIUK) would demand that the UK be involvement in any security crisis in the Arctic, as it once was during the Cold War era. Since that time, UK military interests in the High North have somewhat been “displaced by the interests of scientists” in Arctic matters, as a peaceful period in the region has prevailed (Depledge, 2013: 166). Recently however, the period of calm has been questioned as, “the interest shown by the Ministry of Defence [MoD] … in the Arctic has perhaps not been greater since the end of the Cold War” (Depledge & Dodds, 2012: 74). The military based in Scotland offers many of Britain’s frontline defence capabilities such as the Trident nuclear submarines and three of the Royal Air Force’s five Typhoon combat squadrons (another two Typhoon jet squadrons have been confirmed (Allison, 2015)) (Critchlow, 2014). Until recently, ocean search and rescue (SAR) had been carried out by the military in Scotland, however, these capabilities have been brought to an end following a decision to privatise the service in 2013 (BBC, 2016). As a result, the Sea Kings used by the RAF have been retired in place of new helicopters with reduced passenger capacity, meaning fewer people can be transported from perilous situations at a time. The range of the helicopters is also set to decrease from the current capabilities of the RAF, effectively meaning the distance from the coastline in which SAR operations conducted by the UK will be significantly reduced. This forms part of the budget cuts implemented in Scotland over the last number of years, making it more complicated for the UK to support northern partners with operations like SAR in the High North (MCA, 2008; Johnson, 2011; Robertson, 2012; Chalmers, 2015). As a result, concerns have been raised about the ability to effectively help if a large ship were to sink off the coast of the UK (Idowu, 2009). With traffic in the Arctic potentially increasing and likely to consist principally of large ships with large crews, reducing the capability of SAR operations appears to be a move in the wrong direction if the UK is to engage with potential problems in the High North.
The UK’s prominent status in international relations means that it is more heavily implicated in operations with a wider global reach and is often amongst the first nations to be involved in humanitarian and peace keeping operations (Ritchie, 2011: 357). This can partly explain why there is a lack of active forces based on UK soil, as well as the apparent reliance on Trident as the chief deterrence against attack. However, deterrence is not the sole responsibility of the military which has an important role in providing active support such as SAR in the High North.
The areas of devolved powers to Holyrood listed in the Scotland Act 1998, includes sectors such as fisheries policy, environment policy and economic development. These are all crucial in noting to understand the extent to which Scotland can capitalise on economic opportunities which may arise due to the changing dynamics of the High North. In discussions on Scotland’s independence pre-referendum, there were suggestions that “turning attention to the Arctic could provide the opportunity to pursue radical economic policies that might boost performance” (Sinclair, 1999: 12). Through the devolved areas mentioned this could still be a possibility to consider for Scotland.
As some states do pursue oil and gas resources in the Arctic, other projects such as ones initiated by Norway have recently been put on hold (Holter, 2015; Seglem, 2014), suggesting that a ‘race’ for Arctic hydrocarbon resources is not as immediate an issue as perhaps may have been anticipated. This is despite large amounts of oil still being discovered in the Arctic (Gunnarsson, 2013: 38), showing the importance of effects such as global energy market trends on hydrocarbon exploration. Another reason why the idea of a race for resources may not be a reality is that most of the undiscovered oil and gas in the Arctic lies within the jurisdiction of bordering states, meaning disputes over who will grant exploration licenses is unlikely, if at all (EIA, 2012). Coupled with the fact that the hydrocarbon sector is not a devolved matter, the natural progression for Scotland seems to be towards the growing renewable energy sector.
There are examples of Scotland already cooperating with Arctic states in the renewable sector, such as through the groundbreaking floating windfarm project which started construction this summer in a joint venture with Norway (Statoil, 2014).
Iceland has recognized one of the most pressing issues facing increased navigation in the High North, in that there is a lack of deep ocean ports and repair facilities for shipping containers passing through the area (Østreng et al., 2013). The Finnafjörður project in alliance with Germany provides infrastructural support and is a good example of non-Arctic/Arctic cooperation to benefit from the increasing sea traffic in the High North (Barents Observer, 2015). This suggests that there are clear possibilities and also that increased cooperation with Arctic countries is an important aspect of capitalising on the economic opportunities presented in the High North.
Along the North-West Passage route, there is only one deep-water port at Nanisivik available, capable of supporting and refuelling large vessels (Kendrick, 2014: 67). The Northern Sea Route is much better equipped with seven ports along Russia’s coast able to service, refuel and dock large vessels, which contributes to making it the route with the “highest potential to enable economic activity in the Arctic” (Buixadé Farré et al., 2014: 301). Norway has a number of container ports with one in Narvik in the Arctic Circle able to accommodate some of the largest vessels in the world of Panamax class. Scotland however, only has one container port in Aberdeen and none which can accommodate very large vessels (SeaRates, 2015). This shortage of ports through which to support increased commercial activity in the High North shows there is clear scope for development of services in Scotland as the “UK’s gateway to the Arctic” and the closest EU region to the European end of the NSR (Bailes et al., 2013: 9).
Scotland does not have a major freight shipping fleet of its own, but provision of transit shipping hubs to support Arctic industry is a strong possibility (Johnstone, 2012). Ports in Scotland along the eastern coast could become viable hubs for trade with the Far East through the NSR, accommodating a moderately significant northward demand shift (Souter et al., 2012: 68). Investment on a massive scale would be necessary on mainland Scotland if it were to consider becoming a destination for cargo shipping. Huge road or rail restructuring would need to be extended to the Highlands, which has always been economically underdeveloped and has seen a decline in industry (Danson, 1991; Carter, 1974).
Through investment and cooperation, Scotland and Arctic neighbours could provide many areas of infrastructure needed to be put in place to provide safety, emergency assistance, route reliability, and environmental protection in the High North to support increased Arctic shipping (Gunnarsson, 2013: 93).
As the graph shows, Scotland is by far the largest contributor to the total UK fishing yield and in 2014, Scottish ships brought in 60% of the entire UK catch worth £861 million. This is greatly significant when considering that Scotland constitutes just 8.3% of the UK population, showing the scale and importance of the industry to Scotland (BBC, 2013; UK Government, 2015). Scotland’s ports are important hubs for other fishing countries in the North Sea (Johnstone, 2012: 122). So, as well as maintaining an active fleet of its own, increasing the handling potential of ports such as Peterhead and Scrabster, could offer new economic potentials for Scotland. This would require building of major infrastructure and could only become a reality if major investment happens to link these northern Scottish ports to the wider European markets (Johnstone, 2012: 122). Graph 1: Total UK Catch, 2014.
The Scottish fishing industry appears to have an assured future, as it has been noted that the international demand for seafood is increasing (Moskowitz, 2014), in line with steady increases in Scottish production (Scottish Government, 2015a). This suggests there is a strong case for Scotland actively to overcome the challenges faced by climate change and continue to be an important exporter of seafood and seafood products produced in Scotland.
This industry is greatly helped by Norwegian investment which constitutes a large part of the industry, especially in the more sustainable fish farming industry largely operated in Scotland by the Norwegian company Marine Harvest. This relationship also extends to the exporting of fish, which contributes a large part to the 251% increase in food and drink exports from Scotland to Norway since 2007 (Scottish Government, 2015b).
Scotland has distinct interests from the UK and with increasing political autonomy, has been found to have the capacity for stating its intentions abroad – despite limitations due to the constitutional position it is in with the UK. Remaining a sub-national state does not exempt it from the possibility of developing an Arctic policy of its own, as other semi-autonomous regions have already done so. The limitations faced largely extend to issues of hard security, leaving multiple areas such as business, renewable energy and politics open for consideration by the Scottish government. Scotland’s location and history brings the UK into the wider European High North – making Scotland in essence a bridge between the UK and the Arctic. Despite not having full state powers and more importantly not being an Arctic state, Scotland nevertheless has potential to exert a certain amount of influence on the economic developments in the Arctic.
As militaristic issues are under Westminster’s mandate, Scotland has no ability to make decisions on this matter. Therefore, Scottish policy makers may decide that the best course of action to secure powers would be to readdress the question of independence. Aside from this, the only possibility open to Scotland would be to continue to broach security concerns to the UK government.
Commercial shipping has great potential to increase in the Arctic and High North as climate change continues. Several obstacles remain, but the logistical benefits appear to be significant enough that routes such as the NSR will become increasingly utilised. The only uncertainty remaining to be determined is the potential extent and size of the commercial shipping industry in the Arctic.
Scotland’s fishing and fish production is a major asset and to secure a stable future and sustain increasing growth of the industry, support in the northern peripheries should be considered. It can be ascertained through the discussion that Scotland’s ports could play a crucial role in supporting an increase in transport and changes to the fishing industries. This would create great economic and social benefit to Scotland – if necessary development in mainland transport is firstly carried out.
The consequences of the climactic changes in the Arctic were principally found to bring possible economic opportunities for Scotland. Although challenges will undoubtedly also be presented, if correct planning and investment is made, economic activities can be supported and undertaken by Scotland in concurrence and in alliance with other Arctic actors.
Indeed it was principally found that it will be crucial for Scotland to act in accordance with Arctic states if it is to capitalise on opportunities and to tackle issues which may present themselves in the High North. To do so, Scotland would do well to develop a comprehensive Arctic policy strategy, stating its aims and interests and showing its commitment to the Arctic region.
The original version of this article was written prior to the ‘Brexit’ vote. Some amendments have been attempted but it is noted that a comprehensive discussion is lacking.
This year, the Arctic Council celebrates its twentieth year of existence. Such an anniversary is no small milestone for any international institution. It is especially notable as some early observers worried that this body might not survive its first decade of operation. The combination of its unique membership roster and its consensus style of operation was seen by many as making it too fragile of an organization for the realities of traditionally practiced international politics.
The sudden emergence of the Arctic as a prominent region in the economic, political and military calculus of many nation-states also raised a number of questions as to Arctic Council’s ability to function as an effective mechanism for forging circumpolar consensus. Yet, two decades out from the issuance of the Ottawa Declaration the body seems now to be well on its way to meeting the expectations of many of its original advocates (See Nord 2016a).
It can argued that some of the forward progress—as well as the occasional setbacks—of the Arctic Council over the past two decades is a direct consequence of the character of leadership provided by the successive chairs of the organization. It has been observed that not all of the body’s chairs have possessed equal amounts of interest, resources, focus and political will as they have operated at the helm of the body. Similarly it has been noted that not all Arctic Council chairmanships have been undertaken with the same intent nor have been conducted in the same manner. Some have been organized around rather narrow national priorities or concerns while others have been more broadly inclusive. Some have been conducted in a directive manner while others have been more consensus-oriented. It is suggested here that both the willingness and the ability of the rotating national chairs of the Arctic Council to promote common concerns and to instill an attitude of collective problem-solving among its diverse membership has been critical to the success and effectiveness of the body.
A quick review of the conduct of the past three Chairmanships—those of Sweden, Canada and the United States—seems to confirm this assessment. Before undertaking to do so, it is important to first consider the influence that chairs can exercise within most international organizations.
The Influence of Chairs within International Organizations
Many observers often share a particular vision of the nature of the chair within any international organization. It tends to be a somewhat limited and constrained view. According to this perspective, the chair of any international body is simply as the presiding officer who attends to the smooth operation of the organization. The chair sits at the head of the table and makes sure that the particular debate or negotiation is conducted according to the established agenda and rules. As an entity, itself, the chair has minimal power and has limited influence over the outcome of events. As a consequence, the role played by chairs in the development of such bodies is rarely investigated. A review of the extensive literature on international diplomacy and negotiation provides limited insights. Until very recently, most chairs from nearly all international organizations were portrayed as performing basically the same functions and conducting themselves in the same manner (See Barnett and Finnemore 2004).
Traditionally, the efforts of the chair were seen to be allocated around four undertakings. The first was to insure the smooth unfolding of organizational meetings or negotiations. In this “convening” or “presiding” role the chair had the responsibility for initiating discussion and for recognizing subsequent speakers. The chair was also tasked with the assignment of seeing that any agreed agenda was followed and that the time schedule and rules of procedure were observed. As a particular organization grew and developed the chair, might also take on a second role related to longer-term operational responsibilities. Within this “management” role the chair would endeavor to oversee its external activities and internal operations. Often in concert with a support staff or a secretariat, the chair would issue reports to the membership and supervise funding allocations. A third role that a chair might acquire was seen to be “representational” in character. The chair could take on the task of presenting the views and program of the organization at other international meetings or forums. The chair might also assume the responsibility of providing a “face and voice” for the organization. In so doing, the chair would serve to offer an audible and visible reference point for a variety of external audiences. Finally, the last of the key functions of the chair could perform was seen to be that of facilitator of agreement between members of the body. In this “go-between” or “brokerage” role the chair would seek to build consensus and maintain harmony within the organization. Often utilizing informal means of information sharing and extended discussion, the chair would endeavor to perform the important tasks of reconciling opposing viewpoints and bridging differences between contending groups within the membership (See Bengtsson et. al, 2004).
While most analysts agree that these four roles continue as the modal patterns of behavior for most chairs within contemporary international organizations, increasingly it is pointed out that the manner in which they perform these functions can vary significantly. These observed variances in chair behavior may be reflective of differences in personality or cultural background, the nature of the organization of which they are a part or the particular style of leadership that a chair adopts. Each of these factors may contribute to the creation of individualized chair profiles.
Finally, chairs may adopt a distinctive style of leadership which may arise from a combination of the factors listed above. Some may see themselves as committed to promoting a very specific agenda that embodies either their own national or personal objectives or the internal organizational priorities of the bodies they head. This “entrepreneurial” style of leadership tends to emerge when a chair believes it enjoys a significant degree of autonomy in performing its various roles and where it can exercise a substantial degree of influence over desired outcomes (Young 1998). Alternatively, some chairs adopt a leadership style that has at its core a preference for advancing a more inclusive agenda that reflects collective membership needs. This “honest broker” style of leadership tends to emerge when the chair often does not possess a burning ambition to promote their own individual projects and recognizes it may not have complete control over ultimate decision outcomes of the organization. A third leadership style, that of “the professional”, may be utilized in response to an existing internal norm within the body that favors neutral or limited efforts by the chair and demands a minimal leadership profile (Tallberg 2003).
Regardless of the leadership style that is adopted, the chairs of most international organizations can—and do—exercise significant influence in performing their several roles. This fact, however, has not always been adequately acknowledged or discussed in many studies of international relations and global diplomacy. Prime attention tends to be allocated to the power dimensions and relationship behavior among the individual state-nation state participants. Their actions and interactions when exercising their clout and influence tend to be focused on and discussed in great detail. The impact of effective organizational leadership tends to be overlooked (Nye 2004).
When the “powers of the chair” has been considered, it has been usually limited to the context of its role as the convening or presiding officer of the body. Some acknowledgement is usually made of the inherent power of the chair that is secured by determining who shall speak, for how long and in what order. Also, on occasion, the chair’s influence is sometimes considered when note is made of its contributions in setting the agenda of the body and in insuring that its rules and procedures are observed. Most often, however, other forms of its power tend to be overlooked. It is often forgotten that the chair can also exercise considerable influence through its managerial role within an organization. This can be seen in its ability to help shape operational budgets and to allocate staff and other support services. It can also be discerned in its involvement the supervision of the release of information, data and reports coming from the organization. The chair can also exercise its power through its “representational” role. In becoming the “voice and face” of the body it can help determine which of the organization’s programs and objectives are prioritized in the minds of both internal and external audiences. In performing this role, a chair can also contribute to the development of an identity and mandate for itself and for its organization that may be independent of that of its nation-state members. Similarly in performing its “go-between” or “brokerage” role, the chair can exercise a form of transactional influence that may not be available to other participants within the organization. Taken together these separate avenues of influence contribute to a considerable base of potential power within the organization and with regard to the membership (See Tallberg 2010).
The Leadership Styles of Three Recent Arctic Council Chairmanships—Sweden, Canada, the United States
Each of the last three Chairmanships of the Arctic Council has provided a distinctive model of leadership for the organization. These alternative approaches can be seen to reflect both differences in their assessment of the needs of the body as well as their own national priorities and goals within the Arctic. In providing both direction and focus for the efforts of the Arctic Council each of the three chairs has performed several of the different formal and informal roles associated with their institutional position. Each, at times, has also made use of some of the “powers of the chair” that have been described above.
Sweden, for its part, provided one of the clearest examples of an Arctic Council Chairmanship whose efforts and energies were directed primarily toward the needs of the body as a whole. With a limited national Arctic profile and an established tradition of working for the collective interest within international organizations, Sweden announced from the start of its Chairmanship its desire to play the role of an “honest broker.” In this capacity, it would seek to reconcile discordant views within the body and strive for the development of a common Arctic vision among the membership. Its Chairmanship Program was organized around this theme of a “common vision” and directed toward three themes—the needs of the Arctic environment, the needs of the peoples who inhabit the region, and the need to strengthen the operation and effectiveness of the Arctic Council as a whole (Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2011).
In noting its intention to focus the Council’s work on both environmental protection and sustainable development concerns, the Swedish Chairmanship signaled its desire that the body should make headway in both areas. It would seek to reconcile divisions within the organization between proponents of each cause. By taking such a conciliatory position the Swedish Chairmanship was able to advance research efforts in both areas during its leadership term.
It was, however, in the third thematic area—“building a stronger Arctic Council”—that the Swedes excelled in their role as an “honest broker.” By listening to differing views around the table and seeking to build consensus among a variety of contending participants, the Swedish Chairmanship was able to establish common ground that allowed the body to move forward on a variety of fronts that had earlier plagued the body. This included formalizing new rules of procedure, implementing an effective communication strategy, establishing a permanent Secretariat and, perhaps most critical, breaking the logjam that had prevented the addition of new national observers to the Arctic Council (Economist 2013).
In achieving these objectives, the Swedish Chairmanship performed adroitly each of the previously discussed roles of an organizational chair and made use of the formal and informal powers associated with its position. It effectively moved its objectives forward by carefully crafting the agenda as the presiding officer of the body and by the skillful use of its gavel. In performing its “managerial” role it oversaw the specific steps by which undertakings as the creation of a common communication strategy and the establishment of the Secretariat in Tromsø moved forward from plan to full implementation. It undertook to perform its “representational” role by actively becoming the “voice and face’ of the body as it attended a variety of international meetings dealing with global climate change and actively participated in social media around the circumpolar North. It performed its “brokerage” role repeatedly throughout its leadership term utilizing its “good offices” to promote compromise and consensus on difficult and complex matters—perhaps most notably in the case of the lingering observer question. The end result of such endeavors was a truly reinvigorated international organization with a sense of common purpose and expectations (Nord 2016b).
Canada, for its part, offered a very different leadership approach. It could be best described as being “entrepreneurial” in nature. As the originator of the Council and as a country with a strong Arctic profile, Sweden’s successor at the helm of the organization was less interested in forging consensus and more interested seeing a specific agenda and program endorsed and acted upon by the body. Under the thematic heading of “Development for the Peoples of the North” the Canadian Chairmanship announced that it had three specific programmatic objectives to advance within the Arctic Council during its leadership term. These included: 1) Providing for Responsible Arctic Resource Development; 2) Fostering Safe Arctic Shipping; and 3) Securing Sustainable Circumpolar Communities. In addition, it would seek to enhance the participation of indigenous peoples within the organization (Arctic Council Secretariat 2013).
Contrary to the Swedish approach of seeking to balance and redress contending views within the body, the Canadians were primarily interested in pushing forward their own understanding as to what action should be taken in support of specific initiatives under each rubric. This was most evident in their almost single-handed insistence that an Arctic Economic Council be established in order to build circumpolar trade and foster business and natural resource development opportunities in the Far North. Encountering significant resistance from representatives favoring a more environmentally conscious approach to such economic development efforts, the Canadian Chairmanship insisted ever more strongly that the initiative should go forward as originally framed. In its mind, the Council needed to get on board with the proposed plan and not engage in unnecessary debate and delay (McGwin 2014).
In undertaking their Chairmanship, the Canadians were not seen as performing their requisite chair functions as effectively as their predecessors. Nor did they seem as skillful as the Swedes in utilizing the formal and informal tools and powers of the position. In their “convening” role they often seemed confused and at cross-purposes with themselves. Agendas were regularly delayed and reworked. Discussions at scheduled meetings seemed to wander. The Canadians appeared to fare little better in undertaking their “management” role. Oversight of the formal working groups of the Council lagged as did liaison with the newly established Secretariat. Progress toward creating concrete deliverables for presentation and discussion at the Ministerial Meeting was, at best, measured. The “representational” role of the Canadian Chairmanship was also somewhat diminished during this time. Although frequent press releases and photo sessions were offered by the Chair of the Council, Leona Aglukkaq, the frequent change of personnel and assignments within the Canadian Chairmanship failed to provide a consistent “voice and face” for the organization (Axworthy and Simon 2015). This was most in evidence with the sudden replacement of the Canadian Chair of the Senior Arctic Officials, Patrick Borbey, not even half-way through his term. Finally, the Canadians did not really seek to undertake much of a “brokerage” role in their capacity of Chair of the body. As indicated above, they did not really see the need to foster agreement or consensus within the organization. As they understood it, their primary role was to lead and to have the others follow. Unfortunately for the Canadian Chairmanship this proved not to be an automatic relationship. An insightful observer was to note that: “The Canadian Chairmanship featured lots of leadership—but saw few followers” (Exner-Pirot 2014).
Although the United States Chairmanship of the Arctic Council is only half-way completed, one can discern elements of a distinctive leadership style that seems to borrow from both the approaches of the Swedes and the Canadians. Under the thematic heading of “One Arctic: Shared Opportunities, Challenges and Opportunities” the Americans have launched a series of initiatives within the Arctic Council that are reflective of their own national priorities for the region. These include efforts to 1) address the impact of climate change in the region; 2) enhance Arctic Ocean safety security and stewardship and 3) improve the economic and living conditions of Arctic communities (Arctic Council Secretariat 2015). This list of objectives emerged from a prolonged discussion within the bureaucracy of the U.S. federal government and from sometimes heated discussions with other national policy players such as the state of Alaska. They have now become the central touchstones for their Chairmanship Program. As such, like their Canadian predecessors, the Americans have seemed to favor more of an entrepreneurial style of leadership than either a “professional” or “honest-broker” approach. They have definite objectives they wish to advance and as a major global player inclined to make use of their established influence and power to secure their endorsement by the Council.
Unlike the Canadian Chairmanship, however, the United States has been far more willing to seek the assent and cooperation of its fellow Council members when promoting its priorities. This can be seen in the manner in which it has sought to build support for action on topics as diverse as circumpolar health and Arctic Ocean acidification. It can also be observed in the way it has endeavored to accommodate the views and perspectives of the Russian Federation within the work of the Council. Whereas during the Canadian leadership term there existed a somewhat tense standoff between the Canadian and the Russian representatives, the Americans have sought to bridge differences with the Russians when they have arisen (Bergh and Klimenko 2016). In this manner, the United States approach at the helm of the body has adopted features of a brokerage leadership style that was seen earlier during the Swedish Chairmanship
Also like the Swedes, the Americans have been far more willing to perform the other necessary roles associated with being an effective organizational chair. They have received generally good reviews in their “convening” capacity. The Americans have also been seen to be effective managers of the behind-the-scenes operation of the body providing necessary oversight and accountability. Furthermore, they have done a credible job in offering a visible “voice and face” for the organization within the circumpolar region and in the broader international community. The United States Chairmanship has also been quite skilled—like its earlier Swedish predecessor—in utilizing both the formal and informal “powers of the chair” in advancing its overall objectives.
Lessons to be Learned from the Experiences of Recent Chairs of the Arctic Council
Looking back over these recent leadership experiences at the helm of the Arctic Council there seem to be several “lessons to be learned.” First and foremost of these is the need for the chair of the organization to properly prepare for this responsibility. This preparation may not require a significant expenditure of time in detailed planning exercises, but it does require a commitment to careful study and analysis. Future chairs should make sure that they have clearly identified the key issues and concerns where they are likely to encounter during their leadership term and have done the necessary investigation of the history and source of those matters which are likely to figure prominently on the agenda of the organization during their watch. This careful study and analysis was central to the ultimate success of the Swedish Chairmanship even though it was conducted initially on a “just-in-time” basis. In comparison, both the Canadian and U.S. Chairmanships wasted considerable effort in “arranging and re-arranging seats on the deck” of the organizational ship when a more careful review of its log and of the future issue forecast was required.
Secondly, once having identified and assessed the primary concerns of the body, the Chair needs to maintain a clear focus on the process of providing solutions to them. This the Swedes did with almost laser-like precision. They noted which issues were likely to prove the most difficult to advance within the organization and engaged in an ongoing calculus regarding what initiatives were required to facilitate their passage. They carefully reviewed what could be done from their position as chair of the body and what would require ongoing discussion and negotiation with the other participants in the organization. As noted above, the Canadian Chairmanship failed to recognize this distinction and wasted considerable time and effort pushing for the adoption of the AEC even when it was clear they had limited support among the other members.
Thirdly, it is important as chair not to overpromise. The Swedish Chairmanship was careful in not committing itself to an overly broad and extensive agenda. It identified from the outset what “deliverables” it might likely secure during its leadership term and what issues would have to remain as future undertakings for the Council. The Swedes did not raise expectations among either the external or internal audiences of the Arctic Council to a point that they could not meet. The Canadian Chairmanship, unfortunately, was full of promises and short on concrete deliverables. As a consequence, there was a notable degree of dissatisfaction within and without the organization at the conclusion of its leadership term. The Americans have seemed to have learned from this experience and have offered a more modest set of proposals for action by the Council.
Fourthly, the success of Swedish Chairmanship was rooted in having an intelligent and capable staff. Their experience proved that it was not necessary to have a large number of individuals involved in the operation. Nor is it necessary to have participants from several different ministries of the host government. Having a dozen or so focused and dedicated individuals from only two major ministries was sufficient. The quality of the staff involved, not the quantity of individuals mattered the most. This “lesson” was clearly not learned by the Canadians. Their chairmanship was regularly hobbled by the coming and going of often ill-prepared staff from countless arms of the Canadian government. The same “lesson” has also only partially been taken to heart by the U.S. Chairmanship. Note has been made that the latter has at times stumbled over a plethora of plans and priorities that have emerged from its vast national bureaucracy.
Fifth and finally, the Swedish Chairmanship pointed to the utility of making use of the full menu of the formal and informal “powers of the chair.” Rather than limiting itself to simply a presiding role, Sweden adopted a series of other leadership roles to advance its identified agenda. This adept use of the managerial, representational and brokerage capabilities of the chair in addition to the traditional presiding role of the head of the organization enabled it to secure results that a less experienced state might have failed to accomplish. Without utilizing such a multifunctional approach, complex matters like the final establishment of the Secretariat and the resolution of the “observer problem” could have eluded the Swedes. As noted above, the Canadians proved to be far less aware and adept in their use of the “powers of the chair” and failed to provide organizational leadership from the chair. The Americans, in contrast, have seemed to have learned this “lesson” during their stewardship of the body and have performed with positive effect the multiple roles inherent in their leadership position.
The comparative analysis undertaken here has noted that like the heads of other international bodies, the Chair of the Arctic Council can and often does exercise influence over the path and direction that the organization has taken. Successive chairs have elected to pursue alternative leadership styles and strategies that have been reflective of their assessment of the needs of the organization and their own national objectives and capacities. The three most recent Chairmanships—those of Sweden, Canada, and the United States—have each chosen to pursue distinctive leadership paths. They have performed the necessary formal and informal roles of the chair with differing degrees of enthusiasm and success. They have also exercised the “powers of the chair” in their leadership position with varying degrees of effectiveness.
It is important to recognize the fact that while alternative leadership styles might appeal to different chairs, the nature of the Arctic Council itself sets some parameters on the effectiveness of each approach. Most significantly, the number and variety of its participants, as well as the requirement for consensus, suggests that any chair of the body must work to address and accommodate differing perspectives and priorities within the body. If a chair too quickly narrows the agenda for discussion or limits the alternatives for action there is the danger that one might have “decisive leadership” but in the end achieve little in the way of results. The dual challenge for any future chair of the organization is to present both innovative ideas and approaches for the Arctic Council and to help build the consensus within the body that will enable their adoption.
At the 2015 General Assembly of the Northern Forum (NF or Forum) in Yakutia, Craig Fleener, on behalf of Governor Bill Walker, declared Alaska’s intention to rejoin the Forum. Four years before at the Gangwon General Assembly, Alaska withdrew from the NF, despite having been one of the principal architects of the organization in 1991. What were the motivations behind Alaska’s initial commitment, withdrawal, and now move to rejoin?
As the Northern Forum celebrates its 25th anniversary this year and is undertaking a renewal of its activities, understanding why one of its key members has had a fickle relationship with the organization sheds light on why the NF has not risen in prominence in comparison with other Arctic governing bodies, such as for example, the Arctic Council. Over the years, the NF has seen its membership rise to a height of 25 subnational governments from 10 countries between 2001 and 2003, and fall to a low of 7 governments across 5 countries between 2013 and 2014.1 This decline is especially problematic given recent findings by the 2015 Gordon Foundation public opinion survey, which found that the plurality of Northern respondents in Canada and the United States indicated they feel that governments closer to them best represents them, whether at the territorial/state level or municipal/local level (EKOS, 2015: 20). Since the NF’s goal is to facilitate relations between subnational governments, what does its decline in membership say about the need for inter-subnational co-operation in the Arctic region?
This briefing note presents an overview of Alaska’s involvement with the Forum and assesses the broader implications of this for inter-subnational co-operation in the Arctic. It suggests that inherent structural deficiencies of the Forum harmed its ability to attract sustained interest from Northern regions, including and especially Alaska. While Alaska’s move to rejoin suggests that there is still a role for the Forum to play in promoting inter-subnational co-operation as it exists globally throughout the entire Arctic, reforms to the organization should be made to promote greater membership and to increase its effectiveness.
1991-2011: Alaskan involvement in the Forum
The creation of the NF was in recognition of the fact that grand challenges facing the Arctic and its inhabitants, growing starker with every year, require more than any one government to properly develop solutions to address it. The founders believed that sustained meetings between its membership (defined simply as Northern regions self-identifying as sharing the majority of similar traits of “climatic conditions, demographic attributes, resource-based economies, environmental vulnerability, subsistence-reliant populations, political vulnerability, and infrastructure, transportation, communications limitations”) (Northern Forum, 1991) would “offer opportunities to exchange ideas, solve common problems, and plan cooperative initiatives regarding issues that are unique to the North or take on special significance for the northern regions” (Third Northern Regions Conference Staff, 1990: 10).
Building off three international conferences on Northern Regions (1974, 1979, and 1990), the Northern Forum Agreement was signed in 1991 that laid out in greater detail the basic principles of the Forum’s mission and how it might operate.2 It is significant to note that its charter and bylaws were written in accordance to American corporate law for non-profits since the secretariat was to be incorporated in Alaska. In doing so, the NF gained access to American grants from organizations such as United States Agency for International Development (USAID), but this also meant that some of these groups like USAID stipulated that funding could only be administered by Americans.3 Governor Steve Cowper, chair of the Third Conference, offered the resources of the Office of the Governor of the State of Alaska to begin work on this new “permanent organization.” As such from the beginning, there was a strong connection between the Forum and the State of Alaska, specifically in the Governor’s office (Third Northern Regions Conference Staff, 1990).
Following Governor Cowper’s leadership, Governor Walter Hickel (1991-1994) was similarly, or perhaps even more, an enthusiastic supporter of the Forum. Both strongly believed in the importance of Alaska’s engagement in international relations, further demonstrated by Governor Hickel’s establishment of the Institute of the North, which he hoped would serve as the educational arm of the NF.4 He also personally attended meetings of the Forum, and worked with former executive director John Doyle (1998-2001) to secure a 500,000 USD grant from Senator Ted Stevens for the Forum’s operations.5 After leaving office, Governor Hickel continued his participation by serving as “Secretary-General for life” of the NF, thereby continuing to influence the organization’s activities until his death in 2010.
Contrary to Governor Hickel’s hands-on involvement, Governor Tony Knowles (1994-2002) was not as engaged with the NF and the origins of Alaskan disinterest in the Forum can be seen here. For example, instead of directly attending meetings of the Forum, Knowles sent his assistant David Ramseur to participate in its meetings. Despite some being held in Alaska, he only stopped by one of the meetings for a few hours.6 Knowles belonged to an opposing political party (Democrat) and was not particularly interested in fostering Governor Hickel’s legacy vis-à-vis the NF. Instead, he was more closely tied with the Democratic President Bill Clinton and was supportive of the creation of the Arctic Council in 1996. The Northern Forum, instead of receiving a status similar to Permanent Participants as was designed in one of the early proposals of the AC, was relegated to observer status instead of accepted as a full member following disputes between the indigenous groups and the Forum (Tsui & Deagle, 2015: 10).
Governor Frank Murkowski (2002-2006) expressed greater interest in state involvement in international relations than his predecessor, but this attention was directed mostly towards Pacific Rim economic activities and not necessarily the NF. The NF’s projects at the time were mostly cultural and therefore did not necessarily align with his priorities. Furthermore, a crash in oil prices during his tenure removed some of the discretionary spending available in the Governor’s office. This reduced the amount of subsidies that the government provided to the Forum.7 At the same time, there was a significant exodus of members from the Forum, especially from the Nordic members, who sought more cohesion in activities through the Barents-Euro Arctic Council and were not impressed by the minimal leadership that Alaska was displaying.
The greatest decline in support to the Forum occurred under Governor Sarah Palin (2006-2009). Displaying only the faintest of interest in international relations and using the 2008 economic crash as justification, Governor Palin cut funding to the Forum without consultation with its staff from 75,000 USD to 15,000 USD (Hertzberg, 2008). This caused the secretariat’s office to go without pay for two months, and relations between the Forum and the Governor’s office was substantially impacted. At the same time, the recession reduced the amount of private funding and federal grants available that the NF could apply to, and financial uncertainty lingered over the NF’s operating activities for the next few years.
Governor Sean Parnell (2009-2014) was Palin’s Lieutenant Governor and a year after Hickel passed away, he instructed his chief of staff, Michael Nizich, to send a letter to the NF secretariat informing them of Alaska’s withdrawal.9 The 2011 General Assembly was the last one that Alaska would attend for the next few years.
2011: Alaska Withdraws
In Sarah Pralle’s work on “venue selection,” or why organizations choose membership in one forum over another, she suggests that actors select venues that would best fit their “larger strategic plan for achieving substantive policy change” (Pralle, 2003: 233). The perception by successive governors that the NF was not a worthwhile return on investment contributed to the decision to withdraw in 2011. This belief largely had to do not only with varying interpretations by the governors of Alaska’s role in international relations, but also of the role of the Northern Forum.
However, what are the other factors that encouraged Governor Parnell to officially sever relations with the Forum? Interviews with key individuals involved in Alaska’s withdrawal suggests that flaws in organizational design, including a lack of clearly defined objectives, lack of cohesive identity generated from the vague membership criteria of “Northern,” lack of consistent funding, and an inability to separate personal and professional relationships, contributed to a perception of the Forum’s ineffectiveness. In particular, the dependence on the Governor’s office for Alaskan participation also meant that a lack of interest from the governor significantly impacted the ability of the NF secretariat to dedicate resources into fixing these organizational issues.
The lack of clearly defined objectives caused confusion between the demands of what members wanted the NF’s outputs to be and the actual projects that the NF undertook. In particular, the 1999 Lapland Declaration stated the NF’s mandate as: “To improve the quality of life of Northern peoples by providing Northern regional leaders a means to share their knowledge and experience in addressing common challenges; and To support sustainable development and the implementation of cooperative socioeconomic initiatives among Northern regions and through international fora” (Northern Forum Board of Directors, 1999). Combined with the broadly defined criteria for membership, it is unclear what exactly the terms “Northern peoples” and “common challenges” that the NF are referring to. Projects were therefore undertaken in an ad-hoc basis, with members bringing projects to the table on issues that concern them specifically, not necessarily of the entire Forum as a whole.
Additionally, a lack of cohesive identity that emerged from such as broad definition of “Northern” meant that there was less of an incentive for members to stay in the organization. Differences in time zones, languages and geography across the regions meant that there would be “special and unique challenges” in co-ordinating projects, which called into question just how simply how “common” challenges facing regions across the circumpolar world are (Dubreuil, 2011: 923-924). It was hard to identify project areas that would be relevant to every member that would be worth the investment and feasibly co-ordinated by all members, especially during the peak of the Forum’s membership of 25. The introduction of associate secretariats aimed to alleviate these issues, but also increased the likelihood of fragmentation in developing a cohesive identity.
Problems in developing a sustainable financial model meant that projects were conducted sporadically, based on the interest of members who were willing to invest the money. Funding for the Forum comes from membership fees of regional governments, subsidies provided by the state of Alaska and Hokkaido, grants from normally U.S. government or corporations, and after 1999, fees paid by business partners. However, during when some members experienced financial hardship, membership fees were waived. Subsidies from the state of Alaska were continuously cut as successive governors showed less interest in the Forum. The 2008 recession meant that less funding was available to be applied for. Uncertainty as to what role business partners should play in the Forum led to a high turnover rate among this membership category. As a result, the funding model for the Forum was highly unstable, making it difficult to devise long term strategies for projects and other plans.11
However, it was perhaps the inability of personal politics to be separated from the Forum’s activities that made progress to overcoming structural deficiencies difficult. As Drue Pearce reflected, Alaska is small enough so that things get very personal, very quickly, and this held true for the NF.12 Secretariat personnel, especially in the case of Priscilla Wohl, the former executive director of the Forum for about ten years leading up to Alaska’s withdrawal, had previous relations with the executive office of the governor. In her case, she worked alongside Mead Treadwell, then Deputy Commissioner of Alaska’s Department of Environmental Conservation, who would become the state’s Lieutenant Governor under Sean Parnell.13 Differences between how Wohl saw she should steer the organization and Governor Hickel’s vision, the secretary-general for life who still held considerable informal influence in Alaskan politics, created tensions between the NF and the Governor’s office. Poor relations were especially deepened once Governor Palin unexpectedly cut the subsidies to the Forum. Without good relations, it became difficult for the secretariat to work together with the Governor’s office to set the agenda, solicit further funding and to gain access to the network of the Governor’s office.
These four principle issues point to fundamental problems in the Forum’s institutional design. However, while interviewees questioned the Forum’s effectiveness, all except one believed in the importance of having a Northern Forum to facilitate relations between subnational governments. This suggests that there is still value in a NF.
2015: Alaska Declares Intention to Rejoin
Despite these grievances that led to Alaska’s withdrawal, Governor Walker has expressed a renewed interest in the NF. This was spurred on by diverging perspectives between Juneau and Washington on Arctic policy, the creation of the Alaska Arctic Policy Commission (AAPC), current restructuring efforts of the NF, and personal motivations in the Governor’s office.
Public opinion surveys conducted by the Gordon Foundation in Canada and the Institute of the North reveal that Alaskans see the world differently, and this has perhaps emphasized the need for subnational governments in the Arctic to organize under a collective organization to advocate on their behalf. Geographically so far removed from the lower 48, only 15% of Alaskans believe that the federal government best represents them (EKOS, 2015: 20). Alaskans are more likely to prioritize disaster response, improving education, healthcare and infrastructure, and preservation of traditional culture as opposed to the federal government’s heavy emphasis on environmental protection and conservation as seen in its AC Chairmanship. The NF, in focusing on acting upon the voices of the locals, is directly in line with the sentiments of the majority of Alaskans.
The establishment of the AAPC in April 2012 led by the efforts of state senator Lesil McGuire paved the way for Alaska’s re-entry. Created in anticipation of diverging viewpoints between Juneau and Washington as noted above in advance of the U.S. Chairmanship of the AC in 2015, the AAPC helped Alaska to assert its own Arctic priorities and including the perspectives of the local people. In the Implementation Plan for the AAPC released in January 2015, Recommendation 2H asked for consideration for Alaska to join the NF to expand the state’s role in international relations. However, the extent to which this support for the NF will be serious is still yet to be seen, since 2H considers “potentially some additional travel funding” to be the only expense, emphasizing that “basic communications are fairly cost-neutral” (Alaska Arctic Policy Commission, 2015: 27). Alaska has since officially re-joined the Forum in July 2016, paying the 20,000 USD membership fee required. Further investment into the organization as seen before with greater investment from the Governor’s office has not been committed.
Additionally, since the Sakha Republic has assumed the responsibilities of hosting the secretariat, there has been a significant move under the new and younger executive director, Mikhail Pogodaev, to correct for the previous mishaps of the NF. Efforts to restructure the organization have been underway since he assumed his position in November 2015, and Alaska has taken a significant role in identifying areas for reform. These changes include changing the fee structure and better defining the role of the NF. By working with Alaska, the NF poises to have greater success in retaining the state’s membership.14
Since the capacity of the state to conduct international relations is indeed heavily based within the competences of the executive office, Governor Walker’s personal interest has been influential in bringing Alaska back to the table. His appointment of Craig Fleener as his Arctic Policy Advisor can be seen as a rapprochement, as his internationalist outlook can be seen from the early days of him serving as the chair of Gwich’in Council International. Fleener’s dedication in promoting a “unified voice on Arctic issues” is telling for how Alaska may engage with the NF.15
Broader Implications for Inter-Subnational Co-operation
The history of Alaskan involvement in the NF reveals that there is still a fundamental need to work with other Northern regions to advocate for its priorities on the Arctic agenda. Results from interviews suggest that the current structure of the NF in terms of its ambiguous priorities, poorly designed funding structure, and tense personal relations is more of a cause to blame for the NF’s declining membership instead of a lack of a need of inter-subnational co-operation in the Arctic. This can be seen through the rise of other more “regionalized” organizations, such as the Barents Regional Council (BRC), and the Pacific Northwest Economic Region’s (PNWER) Arctic Caucus. Both organizations represent a smaller geographic area and have a more clearly defined mandate. The NF could learn from its historical relations with Alaska and these other regional organizations in its restructuring efforts, such as bringing back the regional secretariats to create more specific goals and to collaborate with existing Washington-led efforts to reduce costs.
At the same time, the NF should capitalize on its niche policy space that it currently occupies. As seen in its history, finding common ground on projects for members across the circumpolar world is difficult. Focusing on localized projects as conducted through the regional secretariats or through existing organizations such as the BRC or PNWER should be instead the priority of subnational governments. However, the NF is unique from BRC or PNWER in that it has observer status on the AC, and can work to advocate for more integration of Northerner perspective when crafting federal Arctic strategies. Much like the AAPC is designed to lobby the US government to work with Alaskans on its policies, the NF could lobby the federal governments of the AC to actively include Northerners when designing international agreements.
The Arctic is changing rapidly, and a robust NF that could advocate for the needs of its circumpolar inhabitants is becoming increasingly important. While it would be prudent for the NF to correct its structural deficiencies as identified in this note when moving forward, it is also necessary for Alaska to assess the degree to which it is serious about its re-engagement. A quick examination of its previous relations with the Forum suggest that formalizing some of the state’s commitment with the NF would benefit both the Forum and the state by stabilizing funding, building expertise in international relations, and improving relations among Northern residents. These would all contribute to better policy solutions by harmonizing existing activities and better addressing the needs of the Northerners, which facilitate an improvement of life in the North.
Stirred Waters Under the Ice Cap: An Analysis on A5’s Stewardship in the Central Arctic Ocean Fisheries Management
The Arctic is receiving world-wide attention for its unique and strategic geopolitical position, distinct climate change impact, and abundant natural resources. Most Arctic waters fall under the jurisdiction of Arctic states, as do most Arctic fisheries management. There are uneven fisheries developments across Arctic waters, with productive fishing grounds in the adjacent seas of the Arctic Ocean, but no fishing yet at the Central Arctic Ocean (hereinafter referred to as “CAO”) due to its multi-year ice cap. However, recent years have witnessed a persistence in the Arctic ice loss, and the CAO reached its lowest level of sea ice extent, at 60%, in the summer of 2012, raising the prospect of being a productive fish habitat as a result of climate changes (Balton, 2010; Rayfuse, 2009; Loeng et al., 2005).
With similar geographical advantages and political and economic interests, the five Arctic Ocean Coastal States (Canada, the United States, Russia, Norway, and Denmark in respect of Greenland, hereinafter referred to as “A5”) have developed into a kind of Arctic alliance, asserting their stewardship in Arctic Ocean management via the Illulissat Declaration, a statement released at their meeting in 2008 where they provided their first formal declaration to the international community on joint Arctic Ocean stewardship. With more and more significant impact of climate change in the Arctic, the prospect of CAO fisheries is attracting international attention. Fisheries have been the most important theme for A5 meetings since 2010, and impressively, in February 2014 the A5 made a proposal for the implementation of interim measures to prevent unregulated fishing and released it as a statement to the international community, a further move to demonstrate their stewardship in CAO fisheries management, which caused a worldwide stir. In July 2015, the A5 finalized a declaration for the internal agreement on interim measures amongst themselves. Although there is no inclusion of the more obvious words “moratorium” or “ban”, the chosen “interim measures to deter unregulated fishing”1, as the A5 have described it, have been widely interpreted as a “fishing moratorium or ban” by the media (Levgim, 2015; Myers, 2015; The New York Times, 2015). Five other important distant water fishing states and entities (hereinafter referred to as “the other 5”), namely China, the European Union, Iceland, Japan, and Korea, were invited to attend a “5+5” (the expanded delegation with A5 and the other 5 newly comers) meeting on high seas fisheries in CAO in December 2015 in Washington D.C. Up until now, the “5+5” has had two meetings whereby the A5 have tried to promote their proposal for interim measures amongst the other 5 as well.
A5: Stewards for CAO Fisheries Management
The Arctic used to garner little international attention due to its inaccessibility and isolation. Climate change has brought the Arctic to the broader public’s eyes as a promising resource trove. However, the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (hereinafter referred to as “UNCLOS”) assures the eight Arctic states (A5, together with Sweden, Finland, Iceland, hereinafter referred to as “A8”) of a key and unique role in Arctic waters management because most Arctic waters fall under A8’s sovereignty, sovereignty rights and jurisdiction. Besides, as Member states of the Arctic Council, the most important intergovernmental forum in the Arctic established in 1996, the A8 possess the exclusive right to decide, by consensus, on issues and actions discussed within the forum. In addition, the A8 are developed countries, occupy leading roles in world politics and economics, and are accumulating experience in Arctic management. As such, with advantages in geographical position as well as political and economic advancement, the A8’s assertion of unique stewardship in Arctic management has been significantly enhanced.
As the Arctic Ocean coastal states, the A5 have much in common with their social, political and economic concerns in the Arctic, and have developed an Arctic alliance, making efforts to act as joint stewards in Arctic Ocean management. In 2008, the A5 launched their first alliance meeting in Illulissat, Greenland (although they had also negotiated the Agreement on the Conservation of Polar Bears in 1973), where they recognized themselves as having “a stewardship role in protecting (the Arctic Ocean’s unique ecosystem)” and being in a unique position to address Arctic opportunities and challenges “by virtue of their sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction in large areas of the Arctic Ocean”.2
Significant ecological changes are taking place in the Arctic because of the climate change. The most impressive is that global warming is melting Arctic sea-ice. In recent years the sea ice extent has witnessed its lowest record, leaving almost 40% of the CAO open water for some time in the year. The decline in sea-ice extent and volume makes physical fish migration a reality between the sub-Arctic and the CAO. Thus, the promising prospect of CAO fisheries is attracting attention worldwide.
CAO fisheries issues have been the dominant A5 meeting theme since 2010, making attempts and efforts to act as the designer for the CAO fisheries management regime. In 2010, the A5 Foreign Ministers met in Chelsea, Canada to discuss “important stewardship in the region”3 since “Arctic Ocean coastal states have a unique interest and role to play in current and future efforts for the conservation and management of fish stocks in this region”.4At an A5 meeting held in Washington DC in 2013, this concept was further enhanced by stating that “It is appropriate for the States whose exclusive economic zones (hereinafter referred to as “EEZs”) border this high seas area to take the initiative on this matter”.5
However, the A5’s CAO management and stewardship is challenged because those state efforts are often viewed as unilateral attempts to control a global seas area. UNCLOS defines the CAO as the high seas where all states enjoy the freedom of fishing with the condition that they are involved in conservation of high seas living resources and cooperation with other states in conservation. States whose interests are potentially affected by A5’s interim measures agreement ought to be the most likely protesters against A5’s assertion as an Arctic steward. Those against the A5’s attempts to act in this way are most possibly the world’s leading distant-water fishing nations as well as those states/actors having easy access to the Arctic Ocean and interest in fishing there. Worth mentioning is that Iceland and Finland and Sweden, also A8 states, have been excluded from the A5 meetings and further denied a presence at interim measures discussions. It should also be noted that the other 5 states and entities are only invited by the A5 to discuss the existing interim measures, which the A5 is trying to impose on them.
A5’s Exclusivism in the CAO Fisheries Management
While trying to establish their identity as stewards for the CAO and designers of its governance, the A5 is reluctant to get non-Arctic states involved in Arctic fisheries issues. Chairman’s statement for the 2013 A5 meeting in Washington, U.S. asserted that “Those States (A5) also acknowledge that other States may have an interest in this topic and that they should be included in talks at some point in the future as appropriate.”6, which can be interpreted such that A5 is the steward for CAO fisheries management and it is the A5’s privilege of deciding who can be offered the opportunity to participate in constructing the governance regime and when they can be offered that opportunity, in some way depriving other stakeholders of their right and duty in Arctic high seas fisheries management.
The A5’s exclusivism in CAO fisheries issues, combined with their unilateral attempts, contributes to the contradiction between their words and deeds. Firstly, since 2010, they’ve asserted that commercial fishing in the high seas of CAO is unlikely to occur in the near future;7,8,9 however, they think it is high time that interim measure were implemented in the spirit of the precautionary approach. Given the absence of urgency to regulate now, a more scientific and considerate measure, other than the internally agreed interim measures, can be negotiated when enough scientific data are available regarding the Arctic marine ecology and its transformation because of the climate change.
Secondly, despite repeating that because of UNCLOS there is no need for a new Arctic Ocean legal regime,10 the A5 as an alliance continue to push a new interim-measures fisheries agreement and has released their ambitions in a statement to the international community regardless of the fact that defining “precautionary approach” by conducting something like a fishing moratorium is not mandated at large in the law of the sea.
Thirdly, the A5 have made clear at A5 meetings that priority should be given to scientific research and international cooperation;11,12,13 however, they are only scheduled to include other states “in talks at some point in the future as appropriate.”14 Seemingly, A5’s actual philosophy is to get other stakeholders involved in CAO fisheries management only after their preferred regime has taken shape. The international cooperation advocated for at A5 meetings remains in words only, while monopolization is the hidden philosophy.
Fourthly, A5’s attitude toward the establishment of Arctic Regional Fisheries Management Organization (hereinafter referred to as “RFMO”) also reveals their philosophy. When the CAO warms up enough to be an ideal fish habitat, straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks, those occurring both within the EEZs or both within the EEZ and in an area beyond and adjacent to the zone, will be of the most concern for fisheries management (Hollowed, 2013; Weidemann, 2014). As for the management of those fish stocks, UNCLOS recommends that the coastal states and fishing states should “seek, either directly or through appropriate subregional or regional organizations, to agree upon the measures necessary for the conservation of these stocks in the adjacent area”,15 and the United Nations Fish Stock Agreement (hereinafter referred to as “FSA”) reaffirms the importance of RFMO in high seas fisheries management. It is evident that both the international law of the sea and fisheries management regulations attach great importance to RFMO’s role as a coordinator. A5 meetings also echo the significant function of RFMO, while they see no need at present to establish a competent RFMO for CAO.16,17 The A5’s contradiction between admittance of the RFMO’s importance and denial of its timely establishment for the CAO reveals the intention to fulfill their claim by designing the fisheries regime before a RFMO is established, to take the initiative in CAO fisheries management.
A5’s Stewardship and International Law
At the global level, the most important fisheries laws and regulations are UNCLOS, FSA, CCRF (FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries), and PSM (FAO Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing). Since this Briefing Note tries to explore the legitimacy of coastal states in the Central Arctic high seas where commercial fisheries have not yet occurred, UNCLOS and FSA, two key international fisheries-related and fisheries laws concerning rights and duties of coastal states and fishing states, will be the major reference for my analysis. However, the CCRF and PSA, which more concern rights and duties of flag states and port states as well as harvesting and post harvesting issues, will not be addressed here. Besides, although future CAO fisheries are also likely to involve anadromous fish stocks and sedentary species inhabiting continental shelf, this Note only targets straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks, not only because they are the most important for commercial fisheries but also because it simplifies the analysisto focus on UNCLOS and FSA.
“Freedom of Fishing” in “Freedom of the High Seas”
Both UNCLOS and FSA apply to waters all over the world, and the Arctic Ocean despite its unique geographical position and ecological system is no exception. Under the provisions of UNCLOS, the A5 enjoy undisputed sovereign rights for fisheries management inside their Arctic EEZs, while all states enjoy the “freedom of fishing”18 at high seas subject to such conditions as international cooperation and involvement of conservation and management. Articles 116-119 of UNCLOS further confirm and clarify states’ fishing rights as well as duties in conservation and international cooperation.19,20,21,22 A close examination into the UNCLOS provisions reveals the conditional “freedom of fishing” for all states at the high seas, with key conditions like involvement in conservation and participation in international cooperation, especially the cooperation between coastal states and fishing states. UNCLOS does entitle coastal states to key and unique roles in high seas fisheries management, but does it mean that coastal states enjoy a monopoly on stewardship in management? It is not necessarily the case. A detailed analysis follows.
Coastal States’ Role in High Seas Fisheries Management
As for the straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks occurring both within the EEZs and in the area beyond and adjacent to the zones, there have been long-standing conflicts between coastal states and fishing states (Zhao, 1997; Zhao, 2009; Li, 2012; Bailey, 1997). The conflicts originate from the increasing demands and over-exploited status of many fisheries resources. The conflicts focus on coastal states’ efforts to extend their fisheries management jurisdiction to high seas and fishing states’ defense for high seas fishing freedom. With a close study into the UNCLOS and FSA, this paper will analyze the legitimacy of A5’s stewardship in CAO fisheries management.
Coastal States’ Role in High Seas Fisheries Management Defined by UNCLOS
The conditional freedom of fishing in the high seas doesn’t mean that the freedom is to be restricted by coastal states’ fisheries management jurisdiction extension to high seas, in that UNCLOS provides no provision concerning the entitlement of coastal states to this jurisdiction. However, UNCLOS does provide vague and ambiguous wording concerning high seas fisheries management, the consequence of which is that different stakeholders will have different interpretations of UNCLOS provisions to their favor. UNCLOS is a compromise agreement among different stakeholders at a particular time, and designed to mitigate sea conflicts, thus suffering the defect of lacking in implementing details and leaving room for different interpretations. With an analysis of UNCLOS-defined roles of coastal states, fishing states and RFMOs in high seas fisheries management, I explore whether UNCLOS entitles the A5 to stewardship in the CAO.
Article 63(2) states that “where the same stock or stocks of associated species occur both within the EEZ and in an area beyond and adjacent to the zone, the coastal State and the States fishing for such stocks in the adjacent area shall seek, either directly or through appropriate subregional or regional organizations, to agree upon the measures necessary for the conservation of these stocks in the adjacent area.”
Article 64(1) states that “the coastal State and other States whose nationals fish in the region for the highly migratory species…shall cooperate directly or through appropriate international organizations… In regions for which no appropriate international organization exists, the coastal State and other States…shall cooperate to establish such an organization and participate in its work.”
The above provisions contribute to the conclusion that coastal states should actively seek the cooperation with fishing states in the management and conservation of straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks at the high seas, RFMOs is the platform where cooperation should be coordinated, and coastal states and fishing states should cooperate to establish the competent RFMOs if there has been no one yet.
Articles 116-119 clarify the rights and duties of coastal states, fishing states and RFMOs. Article 116 confirms the fishing freedom of all States in the high seas on condition of fulfilling their duties. Article 117 clarifies the conservation duties of coastal states and fishing states for high seas fisheries resources. Article 118 further emphasizes the role of RFMOs in conducting high seas fisheries management cooperation between coastal states and fishing states. What needs further consideration is Article 119(2) which states that “…statistics, and other data…should be contributed and exchanged…, through competent international organizations…, with participation by all States concerned.” Thus the involvement of all stakeholders in high seas fisheries research is highly encouraged in UNCLOS. Article 119(3) states that “States concerned shall ensure that conservation measures and their implementation do not discriminate in form or in fact against the fishermen of any State”, implying that coastal states don’t enjoy privilege in high seas fisheries management. Coastal states have undisputable sovereign rights in their EEZs for the management of straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks, but their sovereign rights don’t extend to high seas as these fish stocks migrate to high seas. It is understandable that coastal states find themselves in a unique role in conserving and managing those fish stocks occurring both within their EEZ and in an areas beyond and adjacent to the zone, while it is more feasible that coastal states seek cooperation with fishing states to facilitate the efficient and effective conservation and management for a win-win result.
To sum up, with a view to conserving high seas fisheries resources to a sustainable development level, UNCLOS entitles coastal states and fishing states to equal rights and duties in fisheries management, and encourages international cooperation coordinated by RFMOs. Coastal states are not defined by UNCLOS to adopt a stewardship role in high seas fisheries management.
Coastal States’ Role in High Seas Fisheries Management Defined by FSA
Failing to provide concrete instruments for implementation of conservation and management for straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks, UNCLOS is later supplemented by FSA, the fisheries regulations that give feasible and constructive instructions on conducting conservation and management measures as well as facilitating international cooperation. Four key features of FSA are looked into further bellow.
Firstly, there is no denying that FSA entitles the coastal states to a unique role in conservation and management of straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks. As Article 7(1) defines the precondition for the “compatibility of conservation and management measures” as “without prejudice to the sovereign rights of coastal States for the purpose of exploring and exploiting, conserving and managing the living marine resources within areas under national jurisdiction as provided for in the Convention, and the right of all States for their nationals to engage in fishing on the high seas in accordance with the Convention”, FSA tries to strike a balance between coastal states and fishing states and refrain them away from the potential fisheries conflicts. However, Article 7(2) follows by stating that “Conservation and management measures established for the high seas and those adopted for areas under national jurisdiction shall be compatible in order to ensure conservation and management of the straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks in their entirety. To this end, coastal States and States fishing on the high seas have a duty to cooperate for the purpose of achieving compatible measures in respect of such fish stocks.” The compatibility between EEZ and high seas conservation and management measures provides coastal states with the possibility of interfering with high seas fisheries in the name of maintaining an entirety for conservation and management between EEZs and high seas. The precondition for their interfering with high seas fisheries is that measures established for EEZs and high seas should be compatible, which means, in the case of CAO, that A5 should adopt the compatible measures at EEZs with those in the Arctic high seas. A study into A5’s respective Arctic fisheries management reveals that the fisheries moratorium, like that which the A5 are trying to achieve in the CAO, is not a universally acknowledged policy conducted within their own Arctic EEZs.
Among A5 states, the U.S. is the most active Arctic fisheries moratorium advocator. Its Arctic fisheries management plan was approved in 2009 to prohibit any expansion of commercial fisheries in its Arctic EEZ. In addition, the U.S.is trying to initiate an A5 discussion on a consistent Arctic fisheries moratorium policy, but is seemingly receiving little recognition from other Arctic counterparts except Canada, which developed a similar policy for Beaufort Sea. 23 Most Arctic states adopt a more balanced approach between conservation and exploitation for their Arctic fisheries opportunities, a practical approach which attaches equal importance to long-term sustainability and fisheries economic prosperity. Russia and Norway are the most likely beneficiaries because their Arctic EEZs will receive most fishes migrating northward when the Arctic sea ice melts away (Hollowed, Planque&Loeng, 2013), thus they may be reluctant to identify themselves with Arctic fisheries moratorium advocators. The mismatch between most A5 states’ Arctic EEZs and high seas fisheries policies arouses other stakeholder’s questioning of the A5’s motivation for their proposed fisheries moratorium in the CAO.
As the FSA advocates, high seas and EEZs should adopt compatible measures, which calls for cooperation between coastal states and fishing states. A case in point of conflict between two stakeholders was the conservation of pollock resources in the Central Bering Sea in the 1990s. For the sake of fisheries sustainability in their EEZs, the U.S.and Russia, the two Bering Sea coastal states, proposed a fisheries moratorium policy in the high seas of the Central Bering Sea; however, neither of them adopted the “compatible” measure in their own EEZs, discouraging the fishing states from recognizing their moratorium proposal and giving up fishing there, and thus contributing to the final corruption of pollock resources in the Central Bering Sea. A fishing moratorium policy is currently still in effect to recover the pollock resources there. Incompatibility between EEZs and high seas policies, together with the delayed conservative measure, leads to a lose-lose situation at the Central Bering Sea. Thus the precondition for coastal states’ unique role in high seas fisheries management is their willingness to adopt a compatible measure between their EEZs and high seas as well as their willingness to cooperate internationally.
Secondly, FSA attaches great importance to the precautionary approach in managing and conserving straddling and highly migratory fish stocks, which is highlighted in its Article 6 “Application of the Precautionary Approach”.24 The precautionary approach gives priority to the adoption of timely measures to conserve fisheries resources before damage is caused. Does it mean that the precautionary approach provides grounds for the A5’s proposal for a fishing moratorium as the interim measures at CAO? The third feature of FSA seems capable of removing this ground.
The third feature of FSA is the importance of “the best scientific information” for decision-making.25 It is true that FSA recommends a more cautious measure in absence of adequate scientific information; however, for new and exploratory fisheries, the conserving and managing measures are dynamic by nature, which means measures need constant updating on the basis of the accumulated scientific information. Scientific information can be enhanced by collecting and sharing among an extensive body of stakeholders, including coastal states, fishing states and relevant regional or international organizations.26 Currently the prospects for CAO fisheries remain unclear (Koivurova, 2009; Hollowed, 2013), and both the A5 and Arctic Council unanimously recognize the information gap, advocate coordinated scientific research which will throw light on the fisheries dynamics at CAO, and see the need for inclusion of non-A5 states in the coordinated research. Without either sufficient scientific data or the involvement of other stakeholders in the decision-making, the interim measures proposal put forward by the A5 seems a hasty decision, if not improper.
Fourthly, the FSA highly prioritizes the positive role of RFMOs in coordinating high seas fisheries management. Acting as an implementation agreement for UNCLOS concerning the conservation and management of straddling and highly migratory fish stocks, the FSA provides detailed and constructive instructions on how to facilitate international cooperation via RFMOs. Articles 8-14 are concerned about the functions and operations of RFMOs. More impressive, as FSA defines, RFMOs are so accessible that not only coastal states and fishing states but also states having a real interest in the fisheries concerned may become members of such organization,27 and “Compatibility of Conservation and Management Measures” calls for balanced duties from both coastal states and fishing states in conserving and managing straddling and highly migratory fish stocks in the high seas.28 It has so far been established as the convention that worldwide high seas fisheries are managed by various competent RFMOs. It is true that coastal states are the members for those RFMOs, and more than often they are also the key decision-makers within RFMOs; however, it is more universally acknowledged that both coastal states and fishing states should undertake the common and same duties and rights in high seas fisheries conservation and management coordinated by RFMOs. There is no reason for the Arctic Ocean to be an exception, and neither is there any reason that its fisheries management will be an exception to the universally-accepted “code”.
With four features analyzed above, the FSA is well established to advocate for high seas fisheries management enlightened with scientific information, facilitated by international cooperation, and coordinated by RFMOs. In spite of the fact that the extension of jurisdiction from coastal states over high seas fisheries is not safeguarded, or even mentioned by the FSA, it is not a novelty. There have been two rushes for jurisdictional extension from coastal states in the history of fisheries management. Most coastal states extended their sovereignty rights over fisheries to EEZs right after the UNCLOS was concluded in 1982 and then came into force in 1994. The extension is authorized by UNCLOS with a view to a better marine fisheries management. However, now confronted with the serious situation of an exhaustion of fisheries resources, to better maintain the sustainability of fisheries developments the coastal states have been making efforts to extend their jurisdiction to high seas fisheries, a unilateralim position into the grey belt aiming for better management, but not legally protected. Thus A5’s agreement on interim measures at CAO is an effort for their jurisdictional extension to the high seas, which is advocated for by neither UNCLOS nor by the FSA.
The prospect of commercial fisheries in the Central Arctic Ocean is desirable. However, CAO fisheries management is confronted with challenges. International agreements such as UNCLOS and FSA are applicable to the Arctic, but not tailored to the Arctic, and what’s more, so far no existing competent RFMO can take up management duties (Zou, 2014; Jefferson, 2010; Molenaar, 2009). It is of great urgency that a robust fisheries management regime should be established for the CAO before commercial fisheries are expanded and fights for fisheries interests are on the way. The interim measures proposal, A5’s unilateral efforts to take up the stewardship for Arctic fisheries management, lacks legal support and rationality.
A5 is trying to impose its interim measures agreement on the international community. Worries also arise over A5’s subtle and far-reaching attempts to extend its stewardship to other areas by taking up stewardship for CAO fisheries management as a niche. Considering that commercial fisheries haven’t yet occurred at CAO, it is the best timing now for all the stakeholders to sit around the table and come to a rational and lawful agreement on fisheries management. Lessons have been learnt that high seas fisheries management should be coordinated among all the stakeholders and the fisheries management regime should be ready before the damage is done.
International cooperation coordinated by RFMOs and allowing for international involvement in policy-making process is not only mandated in international law but also a valuable experience from high seas fisheries management worldwide (Byers, 2013; Rayfuse, 2009). It is agreed without any dispute that coastal states are playing a key role in coordinating the establishment and operation of RFMOs due to their geographical advantage, convenience in conducting monitoring, surveillance and control of fisheries activities in the high seas, and more direct and instant impact of high seas measures on EEZ fisheries conservation and management. However, the key to recognition from the international community for coastal states’ uniqueness in high seas fisheries management lies in coastal states’ willingness to cooperate internationally, and their capability of coordinating cooperation. Besides, the role of distant-water fishing states in high seas fisheries management is also increasingly recognized. Most of them have accumulated much fisheries management experience. More than likely, they are well-equipped for distant-water fisheries scientific research. The involvement of distant-water fishing states in the construction of high seas fisheries management regime will provide a mechanism where the potential conflict between them and coastal states will be attended to, and provisions of international laws will be more likely to be observed by distant-water fishing states as insiders.
The dynamics between coastal states and other stakeholders in CAO fisheries management is in no case a zero-sum game where two players are in a conflicting situation, instead, it should be a positive-sum game where two players are in a win-win situation.
Peter Oppenheimer & Molly Ma
Creation of the Task Force
In early 2015, the United States proposed that the Arctic Council create a task force or expert group to assess the need for a new mechanism to enhance international cooperation and coordination in managing the Arctic Ocean (US Concept Paper, 2015: 1). Recognizing that the Arctic marine environment is rapidly changing and presents unforeseeable shared challenges and opportunities, the United States believed it was necessary to begin efforts to consider what type of mechanisms could improve how Arctic States work together to manage the uncertain future (US Concept Paper, 2015: 1). It envisioned that types of potential mechanisms for coordination fell along a spectrum, from treaty-based “hard” coordination with binding measures to “soft” coordination that facilitated convening relevant authorities and exchanging information (US Concept Paper, 2015: 1). The proposed task force would conduct an analysis to assess the need for a new mechanism and propose the basic elements of a cooperation mechanism, including its mandate, scope, legal form, and relationship to the Arctic Council (US Concept Paper, 2015).
On April 24, 2015, at the Ninth Ministerial Meeting of the Arctic Council in Iqaluit, Canada, the Ministers of the eight Arctic States and representatives of the six Permanent Participants1 adopted the Iqaluit Declaration. It established a Task Force on Arctic Marine Cooperation (TFAMC) with a mandate “to assess future needs for a regional seas program or other mechanism, as appropriate, for increased cooperation in Arctic marine areas” (5). The detailed mandate in the Report of the Senior Arctic Officials (SAOs) to Ministers presented a series of questions for the Task Force to answer in a 2017 report to Ministers.
International Legal Context
The TFAMC was created within an active international legal space. Human activities in the Arctic marine environment are governed by several binding legal instruments and guided by numerous legally non-binding declarations, strategic plans, and recommendations. The 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea is the overarching legal framework for the sustainable use of the oceans and their resources, including the Arctic marine environment. Article 197 of the Law of the Sea Convention (LOSC) provides that “States shall cooperate…directly or through competent international organizations, in formulating and elaborating international rules, standards, and recommended practices… for the protection and preservation of the marine environment.”
The Arctic Council, established in 1996 by the Ottawa Declaration, is a high-level intergovernmental forum that promotes cooperation and coordination among the eight Arctic States: Canada, Kingdom of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russian Federation, Sweden, and the United States (“20 years of the Arctic Council,” 2016). The Arctic Council’s mandate is to address issues of relevance to the Arctic region, in particular environmental protection and sustainable development. The chairmanship of the Council rotates every two years among the Arctic States. From 2015 to 2017, the Arctic Council is under U.S. Chairmanship led by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. Under the theme “One Arctic,” the U.S Chairmanship has defined three pillars of focus: 1) the economic and living conditions of Arctic communities, 2) Arctic Ocean safety and security, and 3) the impacts of climate change (One Arctic: Shared Opportunities, Challenges, and Responsibilities, 2015).2
The Arctic Marine Strategic Plan 2015-2025 (AMSP), approved by the Arctic Ministers in 2015, provides a framework for the Arctic Council to protect marine ecosystems, promote sustainable use of the marine environment, and enhance the well-being of Arctic inhabitants. It outlines four goals: 1) improve knowledge of the Arctic marine environment; 2) conserve and protect ecosystem function and marine biodiversity; 3) promote safe and sustainable use of the marine environment; and 4) enhance the economic, social and cultural well-being of Arctic inhabitants, and strengthen their capacity to adapt to the changing Arctic environment (AMSP, 2015).
Other Views on Arctic Marine Cooperation
Arctic marine cooperation is a topic of increasing interest, and a number of academics and NGOs have considered the future of Arctic cooperation, and the function and design of a potential cooperative mechanism. In 2010, the Arctic Governance Project called for strengthening Arctic governance by broadening the mandate of the Arctic Council and enhancing existing treaties and arrangements (17). Some scholars have emphasized the importance of cross-scale integration of stewardship through a polycentric governance model that coordinates processes and decisions across multiple levels (Chapin, Sommerkorn, Robards, & Hillmer-Pegram, 2016: 214). The World Wildlife Federation recommends that a cooperative mechanism draft Programmatic Action Agendas on key strategic issues to be implemented by national governments or regional and international bodies (Eichbaum, 2016: 3). A regional seas arrangement has been proposed as the most politically acceptable platform for cooperation (Baker, 2016).3
Mandate and Objectives
The TFAMC is charged with delivering a report to the Ministers in 2017 identifying future needs for strengthened cooperation in Arctic marine areas (SAO Report, 2015: 77). The objectives of this report are to propose recommendations on the nature and scope of such a mechanism, its relationship to the Arctic Council, and its potential legal form (SAO Report, 2015: 77). However, the decision to form the Task Force did not constitute a decision to establish the cooperative mechanism (SAO Report, 2015: 77).
The TFAMC is co-chaired by the United States, Iceland and Norway. Each of the eight Arctic States, as well as Permanent Participants, are represented on the TFAMC. Accredited Arctic Council Observers such as the European Union and the World Wildlife Federation have also attended TFAMC meetings.4
Progress to Date
The first meeting of the TFAMC took place in Oslo, Norway, on September 21-22, 2015 (1st Meeting Summary Report, 2015: 1). All eight Arctic States, three Permanent Participants (the Saami Council, the Inuit Circumpolar Council, and the Aleut International Association), and nine Observers attended. The purpose was to establish a common baseline understanding of the Arctic Council’s work to date relevant to the Task Force, and of regional marine cooperation mechanisms around the world. Various organizations such as the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), North Pacific Marine Sciences Organization (PICES), International Arctic Science Committee (IASC), and the Sargasso Sea Commission gave presentations providing context on relevant existing cooperative mechanisms (1st Meeting Summary Report, 2015: 1).
In discussions at the first meeting, several delegations indicated that they looked forward to identifying opportunities for future cooperation, in addition to identifying existing gaps, though also cautioning that any new budgetary proposals would be closely scrutinized (1st Meeting Summary Report, 2015: 1-2). Several delegations identified desirable values for Arctic marine cooperation, such as the importance of involving local communities, coordinating on a regional basis, and being flexible and adaptable to change. Delegations generally agreed that the AMSP would be a good point of departure for their work. Additionally, delegates identified certain preliminary needs in international cooperation, such as utilizing an ecosystem approach, coordinating across Arctic Council subsidiary bodies on cross-cutting issues, and ensuring stable funding for monitoring of the environment.
On November 18, 2015, the Co-Chairs proposed an approach for intersessional work in their first non-paper. The proposed approach started with the strategic objective established at the Ministerial level, identified gaps and opportunities in achieving the strategic objective, and proposed which of these gaps or opportunities the coordinating mechanism could address (Intersessional Non-Paper, 2015: 2). The Arctic Council had identified as a strategic objective the implementation of an ecosystem-based approach to management through the 2013 Kiruna Declaration and Kiruna Vision Statement as well as the 2015 Iqaluit Declaration (Intersessional Non-Paper, 2015: 3). The Co-Chairs stressed that the Task Force’s mandate encompassed not only gaps (what is missing), but also opportunities (things that could be done better or more efficiently) (Intersessional Non-Paper, 2015: 2). Using the four goals outlined in the AMSP as a framework, the Co-Chairs identified as potential gaps or opportunities the coordination and funding for monitoring, cooperation in the formulation and measurement of ecological quality indicators and objectives, the management of Arctic marine areas beyond national jurisdiction, a framework for multiple States to coordinate management of marine ecosystems transcending their national jurisdictions, and a regional mechanism for coordinating area-based management (Intersessional Non-Paper, 2015). The task at this stage was for delegations to decide whether they wanted to address these identified gaps and opportunities, and to determine the priorities of the TFAMC.
In January of 2016, the Co-Chairs produced a second non-paper that synthesized the delegations’ feedback on the first non-paper and developed a proposed work plan through the 2017 Ministerial Meeting. This non-paper also organized clusters of questions for the next meeting to help solidify abstract discussions (Co-Chair’s Non-Paper, 2016).
The second meeting of the TFAMC was held in Stockholm, Sweden, on February 4-5, 2016 (Co-chairs’ Summary Meeting II, 2016). Over two days, delegations proposed principles and values to guide future Arctic marine cooperation. There was broad agreement that future cooperation should take place within the framework of the Arctic Council, and that there should be involvement of Arctic indigenous peoples. Delegations also proposed four types of cooperative mechanisms: 1) a ministerial process that allows for ministers to regularly convene for coordinated action; 2) a marine commission within the Arctic Council comprised of senior officials with marine expertise and Permanent Participants; 3) deputy SAOs to serve a coordinating function, and 4) dedicated SAO meetings on marine cooperation issues (Co-Chairs’ Non-Paper, April 2016: 1). Delegations additionally noted that answering the specific questions of the second non-paper would require further intersessional work involving domestic constituencies.
In April 2016, the Co-Chairs produced a third non-paper to facilitate discussions at the third meeting of the TFAMC (Co-Chairs’ Non-Paper, April 2016). The non-paper synthesized values and principles to guide Arctic marine cooperation, summarized deliberations to date, and posed questions to facilitate discussion at the third meeting. (Co-Chairs’ Non-Paper, April 2016: 5).
The third meeting of the TFAMC took place in June 1-2, 2016, in Reykjavik, Iceland. At this meeting, a consensus began to emerge regarding the functions that a cooperation mechanism might possess. Several delegations agreed that the mechanism should be located within the Arctic Council and strengthen existing Arctic Council structures; preserve all rights to which the Permanent Participants are entitled; be on-going rather than provisional or ad hoc; convene marine experts and managers; have sufficient stature and credibility to enable an integrated approach to marine stewardship; facilitate scientific coordination; formulate ecological quality objectives and indicators; serve as a forum for information exchange; have area-based stewardship functions; and facilitate follow-through on the Arctic Council’s policy recommendations. No consensus emerged on the form of the mechanism, though many delegations expressed the view that it should not be legally binding.
As this article was going to press, the TFMAC was scheduled to hold its fourth meeting in Portland, Maine, on 22-23 September 2016, during which delegations will continue to revise their discussions and take up an initial draft report prepared by the Co-Chairs. Intersessional work will take place in preparation for the final meeting of the current biennial cycle in February 2017, during which outstanding issues will be resolved and the report finalized.
The final report and recommendations of the TFMAC are expected to be delivered to Ministers in 2017. Thus far, the work of the TFMAC itself has been an excellent example of how the Arctic States and Permanent Participants can cooperate to address shared challenges, which demonstrates the potential of a future cooperative mechanism in protecting and enhancing the Arctic marine environment.
As climate change opens the Arctic to human activity and the region steadily captures more international attention, a rich tapestry of Arctic international governance mechanisms has formed and propagated. From the sub-regional to the pan-Arctic, numerous forums now exist where Arctic and non-Arctic states and other entities interact to address the issues facing the roof of the world, but “[t]he Arctic Council has emerged as perhaps the most important of these” (Nord, 2016: 4).
In recent years, however, another regional body has appeared on the scene: the Arctic Five. Many opine that this loose union of the five Arctic littoral states, that excludes other Arctic states and native organizations, is usurping the Arctic Council’s central position in northern governance. The Arctic Five, through its compression of regional decision making, is also charged with undermining the spirit of cooperation that the Council has helped unfurl across Arctic international relations.
The aforementioned view is widespread, and certainly possesses a degree of truth. But the relationship that has developed and that could develop between the Arctic Five and Arctic Council is more nuanced than popularly put forth. As such, this Briefing Note aims to elaborate on how these two regional associations actually and potentially interact, both negatively and positively. While actions by the Arctic Five can detract from the work and regional position of the Arctic Council, the former is not the harbinger of the latter’s demise. Furthermore, these two groups can even complement one another to positively address Arctic issues.
What are the Arctic Five and Arctic Council?
To accurately analyze how the Arctic Five and Arctic Council interact, one must understand what they are.
The Arctic Five
The Arctic Five is the grouping of the five Arctic littoral states (Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia, and the United States of America) in addressing Arctic affairs. It must be emphasized that this association has no independent power or existence apart from the states that comprise it. That is, the Arctic littoral states meet and negotiate among themselves in an ad hoc manner. There is no formal or permanent administrative structure undergirding the grouping, it is simply a moniker for interactions involving the five Arctic littoral states, used to reference the manner in which these countries choose to interact and organize themselves in specific instances. This, however, does not deprive the association of importance. Gatherings of and concerted action on the part of the Arctic littoral states have significant implications for the region.
Although interactions between the Arctic Five states involve steady low-key bilateral and multilateral communication through traditional diplomatic channels, the union manifests itself most prominently when the countries gather at summits to discuss Arctic matters. When Arctic issues emerge that these countries believe must be addressed in unison, the Arctic Five assembles. So far, the three most notable formal gatherings of the group were in: Ilulissat, Greenland (2008); Chelsea, Canada (2010); and Oslo, Norway (2015). The Ilulissat and Oslo gatherings produced non-binding declarations from the littoral states with regard to the international legal regime applicable to the Arctic and the prevention of unregulated fishing in the region, respectively.
The Arctic Council
In contrast to the ad hoc nature of the Arctic Five, and despite it being the product of a non-binding declaration – the 1996 Ottawa Declaration – rather than a treaty, the Arctic Council is a relatively fixed and ordered body that has been referred to as a “quasi-international organization” (Nord, 2016: 34). It labels itself, however, a “high level intergovernmental forum” given that it is not an international organization with independent legal character, but rather a space and framework for state action (Rottem, 2016: 169).
The Council is certainly a forum, as it brings together numerous actors in a hierarchical organization to consider Arctic matters. The apex actors are the eight Member States (the Arctic Five in addition to Iceland, Sweden, and Finland), who make all decisions for the Arctic Council by consensus. Next in line are the Permanent Participants: six indigenous peoples’ organizations representing Arctic natives that have full consultation rights in all Council negotiations and decisions. Below the Permanent Participants are the Observers: non-Arctic states, international organizations, and non-governmental organizations that are approved by the Member States to observe Council operations, and that may participate to limited degrees at the discretion of the Members. These actors meet and interact through the various permanent units and regularly scheduled gatherings of the Arctic Council.
But on top of being a forum, the Council is, perhaps foremost, a research shop. Its core and most consistent activities are conducted through six working groups that research Arctic environmental and development matters. In addition, task forces are also regularly established to investigate specific issues over set time periods. The research, findings, and reports that these organs produce are what the Member States and others principally rely on to inform their discussions of Arctic issues and formulate policy.
Unlike the Arctic Five, meetings of the Arctic Council have produced binding international agreements acceded to by its members: Agreement on Cooperation and Rescue in the Arctic (2009) and Agreement on Cooperation in Marine Oil Pollution Preparedness and Response in the Arctic (2011). In addition, the text of a third treaty, Agreement on Enhancing Arctic Scientific Cooperation, was agreed to by the Member States this year, and will likely be acceded to in 2017. Council research and negotiations also spurred the adoption of the binding International Code for Ships Operating in Polar Waters (2015) by the International Maritime Organization, which enters into force in 2017.
Finally, mention must be made that the mandate of the Arctic Council is circumscribed: under the auspices of the Ottawa Declaration, it is ostensibly limited to “issues of sustainable development and environmental protection in the Arctic,” and “should not deal with matters related to military security” (Declaration on the Establishment of the Arctic Council, 1996) – although the use of the more permissive “should not” rather than the more restrictive “shall not” perhaps leaves this area open to future Council treatment. This is in contrast to the Arctic Five, which can theoretically address any topic that its constituent states desire.
Friend or Foe?
Given that both the Arctic Five and Arctic Council are, at their core, associations with overlapping membership congregated for the purpose of addressing Arctic issues, it is not hard to see how the work of one may influence that of the other, negatively or positively.
Arctic Five-Arctic Council Antagonism
The states of the Arctic Five engaged in their first meaningful action in Ilulissat – although some have argued that the group’s true first action was in Oslo in 1973 when the states signed the Agreement on the Conservation of Polar Bears. Since then, it has been widely argued that this assemblage detracts from the work of the Arctic Council and the broader Arctic cooperation that the Council is meant to engender.
Many see undertakings of the Arctic Five as problematic given that this body does not include all of the Member States, Permanent Participants, and Observers of the Arctic Council. Work in the Arctic Five therefore leaves out numerous actors with legitimate Arctic interests, and thwarts the purposeful inclusion of native organizations within Arctic Council decision making. The Arctic Five can therefore function as a workaround to the Arctic Council, allowing its constituent states to avoid having to engage the opinions of the Council’s additional parties. The Ilulissat and Oslo Declarations were both decried by excluded Arctic Council actors and commentators for these reasons (Steinberg et al., 2015: 10) (Nielsson & Magnussen, 2015).
The Arctic Five can also function to narrow issues prior to their emergence in Arctic Council discussions, assert littoral state predominance in an area, and thereby also limit Council actor engagement in Arctic affairs. This can be accomplished by the Arctic littoral states expressing their views and even resolutions of matters through the Arctic Five prior to them meaningfully emerging in formal Arctic Council discourse. Thus, issues can arrive at the Council in conceptually altered forms, and actors can be influenced by the positions already taken by the Arctic Five.
Arguably, since fisheries management certainly falls within the Arctic Council’s mandate to address sustainable development and environmental protection in the region, the Oslo Declaration on unregulated fishing in the Arctic will function in exactly this manner. Now, for better or worse, every discussion of Arctic commercial fishing that might arise in the Council, or anywhere else for that matter, will have the Arctic Five’s Oslo Declaration as a starting point.
Arctic Five-Arctic Council Synergy
There is, however, another side to the Arctic Five-Arctic Council relationship, one that largely goes unmentioned: their potential complementarity. Aside from their being in competition as overlapping forums for the addressing of Arctic issues, the two bodies and their unique characteristics can work together to positively contribute to international Arctic governance, more so than they could on their own. In this regard, the relative advantages of the Arctic Five and Arctic Council are paramount.
In terms of the Arctic Five, the limited participation in the association – just the five Arctic littoral states – offers efficiencies in comparison to the Arctic Council because of the exclusion of many Arctic stakeholders. Matters can be addressed in a more streamlined fashion not only because of the limited number of actors involved, but also because of the limited types of actors involved. Only states participate in the Arctic Five, and the interests of states are more congruous with one another than with those of native or other types of intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations. This efficiency is one of the reasons that the Arctic Five was selected by the littoral states as the forum through which to undertake the work culminating in the Oslo Declaration, despite multilateral discussion of Arctic fishery management beginning in the Arctic Council (Molenaar, 2015: 427-28).
Adding to its efficiencies is the fact that the Arctic Five does not have the Ottawa Declaration ostensibly limiting its ambit; it may address any and all issues that the Arctic littoral states wish.
The Arctic Five’s efficiencies of broadness of competence and limited participation were both on display through the Ilulissat Declaration. First, the legal regime applicable to the Arctic generally is not a matter of sustainable development or environmental protection, but rather one of jurisdiction, sovereignty, and dispute resolution. So it is highly debatable whether this matter could have even been brought up through the Arctic Council. Second, the issue arguably only concerns the Arctic littoral states since it principally addresses their overlapping continental shelf claims in the region, claims that only littoral states have. As such, the involvement of other actors would have needlessly bogged down discussion and delayed action.
Finally, the Arctic Five is plausibly more able to equably engage and include non-Arctic states in discussions when need be (Rottem, 2016: 171). Unlike the Arctic Council, the Arctic Five grouping is entirely a matter of discretion, with no formal rules detailing the extent to which various states may be involved or establishing a hierarchical relationship between them. While the Council boasts the broader consistent presence and participation of Arctic and non-Arctic states in its proceedings, non-Member State involvement is completely subjugated to the inclinations of Members, making it a less effective or attractive forum for asserting non-Member State interests. The fact that Arctic indigenous organizations are privileged in Arctic Council discourse compared to non-Arctic states is also potentially problematic for the latter’s involvement: states are the paramount actors and sole deposits of sovereignty in the international system, and they jealously guard their status as sovereign equals above all other types of actors in international relations (Biersteker, 2013).
This relative advantage of the Arctic Five can be seen in action with regard to unregulated fishing in the central Arctic Ocean. While the littoral states delivered the Oslo Declaration on their own, the document specifically recognizes the interests of other states and declares the Arctic Five’s intention to work with others “in a broader process” on this issue (Declaration Concerning the Prevention of Unregulated High Seas Fishing in the Central Arctic Ocean, 2015). And this broader process has already begun: other Arctic and non-Arctic states have been brought in for talks that will hopefully lead to a binding regional fisheries management regime (Hoag, 2016) (Zerehi, 2016).
Turning to the Arctic Council, its primary advantage is that it is a stable body that allows for constant dialogue between its participants. Its established structure and administrative scheme, predominantly its research-focused working groups, also allow for ongoing and targeted work that produces a steady stream of Arctic data. These qualities are in contrast to the Arctic Five, which has to organize ad hoc meetings every time it wishes to address an issue, and ad hoc science meetings or other types of collaborations if it wants to render original research.
As noted above, decisions made through the Council also carry more credibility than those arrived at through the Arctic Five because of its broader participation and meaningful inclusion of Arctic native organizations. This point, however, must be caveated: Arctic Council resolutions carry more credibility among Arctic states not part of the Arctic Five and Arctic indigenous organizations, but not necessarily more broadly. This is because there is growing disquiet among non-Arctic states regarding the Council because of their distinctly disadvantaged position within the forum (Nord, 2016: 87) (Young, 2012: 282).
The relative advantages of the Arctic Five and Arctic Council potentially mesh in positive ways. While the Council is the more competent and productive producer of Arctic research, the Arctic Five is, as a result of its comparative lack of organizational rules and participants, a potentially more efficient avenue for turning out declarations framing Arctic issues and binding agreements involving non-Arctic states. As such, in certain circumstances, the Arctic Council can produce the actionable data and the Arctic Five can act. In this way, even though the Arctic Council may not be the forum through which determinations on issues are or can be reached, research and discussions from the Council can heavily inform Arctic Five resolutions.
Conversely, actions by the Arctic Five can frame issues prior to their meaningful introduction within the Arctic Council. Although this interaction can adversely narrow concerns as discussed above, it can also serve a positive function by making Arctic littoral state positions clear, thereby streamlining discussions and conclusions through the Council.
The Arctic Five-Arctic Council Relationship
The antagonisms and synergies between the Arctic Five and Arctic Council aside, the two bodies have developed a rather clear relationship primarily determined by the actions of the Arctic Five given its ad hoc and uninhibited nature.
To date, the only declarations to emanate from the Arctic Five are non-binding ones on issues that are either outside of or better handled outside of the Arctic Council’s purview, and the positions of which are generally in line with the views of Council participants. The main, and some might argue sole, cause of antipathy from Council participants towards the Arctic Five is the fact that they have been excluded from its decision making processes. But, given the factors noted above, this is currently a more theoretical problem should the Arctic Five states begin producing binding agreements that they seek to impose on others rather than one of practical consequence. The Arctic Five has yet to act in such a manner, and it is unlikely to.
As currently employed by the Arctic littoral states, the Arctic Five has two primary purposes. First, it is a tool to assert its constituents’ claim of preeminence, even above other Arctic states, in Arctic affairs and governance. Second, the association is a means to outline and address potentially disruptive issues before they upset the spirit of cooperation that pervades Arctic international relations. This was particularly the case with the Ilulissat Declaration, which was meant, in the face of a “viral and possibly destabilizing conception” of the Arctic as a theater of coming conflict (Kuersten, 2015), to clearly express the littoral states’ intention to amicably settle their territorial disagreements through the legal mechanisms established by the United Nations Convention on the Law of Sea.
It is doubtful that the Arctic littoral states will begin producing binding international agreements among themselves through the Arctic Five because the Arctic contains substantial swathes of High Seas and Area (seabed beyond national jurisdiction) where every state has certain rights of travel and exploitation. Given the limited membership of the Arctic Five, the five Arctic littoral states do not want to legally restrict themselves while others remain uninhibited.
The Arctic Five will more than likely continue as a means to frame pressing Arctic issues in non-binding Arctic littoral state terms for their future binding treatment through other avenues, a role that occasionally places certain states above others in addressing Arctic affairs but that is not inherently antithetical to the work of the Arctic Council. Where appropriate, Arctic matters will still find themselves before the Council for their final resolution.
The relationship between the Arctic Five and Arctic Council is not one dimensional. Given the Arctic Council’s inherent limitations as a forum for the conduct of international Arctic governance, other associations are needed in this endeavor. Rather than being a completely negative influence on northern international relations, as popularly put forth, the Arctic Five currently plays a unique and at times constructive role in the region. Moreover, it has the potential to contribute further in concert with the Arctic Council. Going forward, the relative strengths and weaknesses of the Arctic Five and Arctic Council will hopefully figure more prominently in assessing these bodies and their potential composite contributions to international Arctic governance.
Adam Stepien & Andreas Raspotnik
In April 2016, the European Commission and the European Union’s (EU) High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy published their new Joint Communication on “An integrated European Union Policy for the Arctic”.1 In the following June, the Foreign Affairs Council (the Council of the European Union’s configuration that brings together the member states’ foreign ministers), in turn, issued its Conclusions on the Arctic policy,2 endorsing the Commission’s priorities and reiterating the EU’s strong regional interest.
The authors of this briefing note published analyses of both documents.3 For the Arctic Yearbook 2016, we try to take a step further and consider possible future pathways for the Union’s Arctic affairs, including the likely implications of the United Kingdom’s (UK) withdrawal from the EU (so-called Brexit).
2016 and a Spring of Statements
While only proposing a strategic outlook, the 2016 Communication built on earlier EU actions and recommended a more focused view of the EU’s role in the Arctic. First, emphasis was laid on climate change and related efforts with regard to Arctic research, global climate mitigation and regional adaptation strategies. Second, the European Arctic took centre stage with the EU stressing the need of multidimensional regional economic development, which goes beyond large-scale extractive and transport projects and rather emphasizes support for northern innovation and entrepreneurship. Third, enhanced EUropean engagement in Arctic international cooperation was highlighted. Accordingly, the Union aims to be regionally visible via its research funding capabilities – its key soft power tool in the Circumpolar North, increased collaboration with local stakeholders and active participation in related forums, especially the Arctic Council.
These are certainly not new or surprising Arctic philosophies. The “EU Arctic Policy” – not unlike Arctic policies of Arctic and non-Arctic states – remains a very diverse set of ideas, trying to reconcile contradictory values and interests.
Perhaps most importantly, the EU’s “integrated policy for the Arctic” continues to encompass exclusively actions of the Union itself, merely taking note of Arctic policies and activities of the EU member states. By summer/autumn 2016, quite a few EU states published Arctic policy statements or pronounced objectives or interests in the Arctic related to their various scientific, economic and diplomatic activities in the region.4
The new policy update aims to integrate EU internal and external policies and does not link up the EU policy with member states’ Arctic policies, a deficiency criticized by some actors.5 Ideally, while not designed to coordinate member states’ activities, the policy could serve as a blue print that inspires Arctic-related actions within the Union’s member states and beyond.6
So far, the Commission positioned the EU as an actor filling the gaps in the existing patchwork of member states’ Arctic-relevant actions and identifying Arctic dimension to various initiatives the Union had already been carrying out. Such an approach is likely to continue in the future.
The Future Policy
In addition to the new Joint Communication and the related Conclusions, the European Parliament (EP) is expected to publish its fourth Resolution on the EU’s Arctic policy in November/December 2016. Although resolutions by the EP have no binding character as such, the expressed opinions do give certain political impulses and – in the Arctic setting – have had an impact on both the Union’s Arctic policy process and its regional credibility. Freer to openly pronounce problematic issues or give expression to concerns of interest groups or civil society actors, the EP’s voice is often more courageous and/or controversial than that of its EU institutional counterparts. Yet, little is currently known about the forthcoming EP Resolution.
Apart from the Parliament’s statement, the EU’s Arctic affairs should enter a quieter phase for the coming three-four years with the latest Joint Communication serving as an authoritative guide for the Commission services for the foreseeable future. Moreover, several ongoing or soon to be launched processes will unfold. First, from 2016, the EU-Polarnet project will hold stakeholder consultations contributing to its work on the European Polar Research Program. The latter is to be completed by 2019/2020. Second, the Commission plans on carrying out outreach and dialogue activities over the coming three years with conferences to be organized in Brussels and the (European) Arctic. At the same time, dialogue meetings with Arctic indigenous peoples should take place, as before, on an annual basis. The idea of establishing a Brussels-based representation for the Sámi people living in the EU and in the European Economic Area (i.e. Norway) will continue to be considered, although failed attempts in the past years are not particularly encouraging. Third, processes ideally leading to defining overarching investment and research priorities for the European Arctic will be implemented throughout 2017. These include primarily the European Arctic Stakeholder Forum, bringing together national and regional authorities, and EU decision-makers and involving in some – so far unclear – way a broader spectrum of Arctic stakeholders. As EU regional and development funding is slowly shifting towards investment loans, the European Investment Bank is likely to be involved in this format. In addition, a network of managing authorities of EU programmes operating in the European Arctic will be set up, with the aim to contribute to the work of the aforementioned forum. At this point it is unclear how the envisaged priorities will be framed and how they are to influence the post-2020 EU multiannual financial framework. As a follow up to the forum’s work, annual stakeholder conferences are to be organized starting from the end of 2017.
However, regardless a silent EU-Arctic policy phase, several EU and international developments – while not Arctic-specific – can be of relevance for the Circumpolar North in the years to come. For instance, the UN General Assembly has started the negotiation process on the new implementing agreement for the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea regarding protecting biodiversity in the areas beyond national jurisdiction (i.e. in high seas), which is potentially of crucial importance for the Central Arctic Ocean. The EU is likely to take a strong stance on establishing marine protected areas and regulating the utilization of marine genetic resources. Moreover, the Union is currently preparing to ratify the highly Arctic-relevant Minamata Convention on Mercury. Already in February 2016, the Commission adopted a related ratification package with proposals for amending EU legislation. Similarly, the Commission has also proposed a Clean Air Policy Package with legislative changes potentially limiting the EU’s air pollution footprint in the long term.
Furthermore, the 2016 Communication showed that the EU has no clear approach towards resource extraction in the Arctic, as the document is largely silent about the issue. The EU policymakers either avoid the topic or try to satisfy – with the language of “responsible” and “sustainable” development – all sides of the debate: regional actors favouring extractives including resource companies, as well as environmentalists or indigenous reindeer herders concerned by impacts. Consequently, no clear EU actions as regards Arctic non-renewable resources should be expected. Moreover, it remains to be seen what economic development trends take hold in the Arctic in general and in Europe’s northernmost regions in particular.
Based on the Union’s previous Arctic experiences, one can observe a rather cautious approach taken by the Commission and the European External Action Service that nowadays builds on a “soft footprint” strategy. Reading between the lines of the 2016 Communication, this soft approach suggests that Arctic actors should propose and request areas where the EU can support their legitimate efforts, rather than the EU taking the initiative itself.
However, the Arctic – while perhaps not yet a “negative priority”7 – is unlikely to be anywhere close to the top of the agenda for the Union in the coming years. Europe continues to struggle with multiple crises, including the influx of migrants and a sluggish economic recovery, currently threatened by the vows of, inter alia, the Italian and German banking systems. Politics around the continent are facing challenges from populist, anti-EU parties, and the ‘experiment’ of the UK commencing a process of withdrawal from the EU only adds to these problems.
Brexit: Does it Matter for EU Arctic Affairs?
It is highly unlikely that the Union’s priorities in the Arctic would change without the UK. The 2013 UK’s Arctic policy document indicated that the EU was not a particularly important element in the country’s Arctic deliberations, in contrast to the Finnish, French or German statements. However, lengthy and tedious negotiations leading to the actual withdrawal will consume much of the EU institutions’ energy and leave even less space for marginal issues such as the Arctic. More importantly, Brexit will have concrete implications for the EU’s Arctic actorness. British polar research (with flagship institutions such as the British Antarctic Survey), economic activities in the region or London’s maritime insurance sector have so far constituted a very important part of the EU’s northern credentials.
Furthermore, without British financial contribution, significant cuts in the EU budget can be expected, including financing dedicated to regional funding. That may negatively affect the amount of EU money flowing up north. Even without Brexit, the next two years will be a time of struggles by Europe’s northernmost regions to retain present levels of EU (and EEA) financing.
However, research funding should be affected to a lesser degree especially as the UK is likely to financially participate in the successor of the Horizon 2020 programme. British institutions have always been crucial partners in EU-funded research projects. A lack of British involvement in EU projects would be against the interests of both UK’s and EU’s science actors as well as detrimental for the scientific outputs. Although at the moment a certain degree of uncertainty may lead to a more cautious approach towards including Britons in research funding applications,8 it would be rather surprising if withdrawal negotiations resulted in limiting British participation in pan-European projects and research infrastructure cooperation in a longer perspective.9
In our Briefing Note last year, we asked if the Union would be able to devise organising ideas for its “Northern Neighbourhood”, eventually encompassed in one “integrated policy”. We also wondered if the Arctic could have a real and defined significance for the EU beyond declaratory and formal statements only. Much (sea) ice has melted since then, the Union’s institutions have published updated versions of its Arctic perspective and the Brexit (debate) has seemingly shaken the EU to its very foundations. European Arctic states – both EU member states and non-member states – and the broader (Arctic) public need to be aware that the Circumpolar North will only remain of peripheral concern for policymakers in Brussels. Yet, periphery does not necessarily need to have only a negative connotation. A peripheral region – within the current governance system set up by the Arctic states – that fosters active cross-border cooperation, i.e. in terms of infrastructure or telecommunication developments, could attract EUropean attention. Eventually, the EU Arctic policy could facilitate a win-win situation for both the periphery (the European Arctic) and the centre (Brussels) that goes beyond the previous, tedious debates on Arctic Council Observer status or the banning of seal products.
The Polar Data Catalogue: A Vehicle for Collaboration, Northern Community Partnerships, and Policy-Making
Dana L. Church, Julie E. Friddell & Ellsworth F. LeDrew
In 1996, eight countries came together to form The Arctic Council, which is:
“ . . . the leading intergovernmental forum promoting cooperation, coordination, and interaction among the Arctic States, Arctic Indigenous communities, and other Arctic inhabitants on common Arctic issues, in particular on issues of sustainable development and environmental protection in the Arctic” (http://www.arctic-council.org/index.php/en/about-us).
The eight member countries of the Arctic Council are: Canada, the Kingdom of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, the Russian Federation, Sweden, and the United States. The Arctic Council also includes Permanent Participants, which are organizations representing Arctic Indigenous peoples, as well as Observers, which are non-Arctic states and other organizations wishing to participate. The work of the Arctic Council is mainly carried out by its six Working Groups, in the form of regular, scientific, comprehensive, cutting-edge assessments. These assessments cover diverse issues within the domains of environmental, ecological, and social sciences, and have strong influence on policy development. Due to the impact of these scientific assessments, the Arctic Council has been referred to as a “cognitive forerunner” (Nilsson, 2012). Indeed, a 2012 survey found that the Arctic Council’s scientific assessments by its Working Groups were considered its most effective “products” (Kankaanpää & Young, 2012). Thus, although the Arctic Council may not have legal prowess, it has been influential through its “soft” power (Nilsson, 2012), which is “the ability to get what you want through attraction rather than through coercion” (Nye, 2004).
Around the same time that the Arctic Council was established, a number of researchers in Canada recognized the importance of storing and archiving Arctic data in accessible formats, rather than leaving the data to rest forever in the depths of personal filing cabinets or in outdated software programs. As a result, the Canadian Cryospheric Information Network (CCIN) was born. Spearheaded by Professor Ellsworth LeDrew at the University of Waterloo, Ontario, and in partnership with the Canadian Space Agency, Environment Canada (now Environment and Climate Change Canada), Natural Resources Canada, and Noetix Research Inc., the CCIN archived and publicly provided metadata and datasets contributed by cryospheric scientists associated with the CRYSYS (CRYosphere SYStem in Canada) program and other research programs in Canada. In addition to data archiving services, the CCIN has maintained an educational website for the public, scientists, and policy makers (www.ccin.ca) that includes snow water equivalent (SWE) maps for the Canadian Prairies and northern Canada, children’s games, photographs and videos, an “Ask an Expert” service, links to newsletters and publications, and interactive visualizations of SWE and lake ice data that have been developed in partnership with the Global Cryosphere Watch of the World Meteorological Organization. Content for the website is guided by a Scientific Advisory Council composed of experts in cryospheric research and data management (CCIN, 2015a). As will be discussed, over the years, the increased need for safe storage and accessibility of Arctic data led the CCIN to develop the Polar Data Catalogue (PDC).
The overlap between the Arctic Council—a forum for cooperation, coordination, and interaction among Arctic States, Arctic Indigenous communities, and other Arctic inhabitants—and the PDC—a “forum” for data availability, accessibility, and preservation—is the focus of this paper. We will show how the PDC can be a vehicle for collaboration, Northern community partnerships, and policy-making, which aligns with the objectives of the Arctic Council. The PDC has been, and continues to be, a valuable resource for the Arctic Council. There is opportunity to strengthen the relationship between the PDC and the Arctic Council, so that the PDC can support and further solidify the Arctic Council’s reputation as a “cognitive forerunner” in Arctic policy development.
History and Background of the PDC
When the CCIN was established in the mid-1990s, there was growing interest in Canada’s Arctic regions and, as a result, a wealth of Arctic data was beginning to accumulate. There was also growing acceptance of the concept of open access to data (Science International, 2015). Open access allows data to be explored and used in ways beyond that for which it was originally intended, and, in regards to Arctic data in particular, open data provides the opportunity to make new predictions, new discoveries, and hopefully new solutions to climate change and other challenges. The CCIN was a response to these two needs: the need to archive the increasing wealth of Arctic research data, and the need to make this data available to researchers, policy-makers, and the public—especially northern communities where the research was taking place.
The CCIN website and repository services had been in existence for almost a decade when the ArcticNet Network of Centres of Excellence of Canada was established in 2004. ArcticNet is a symbol of the gaining momentum of interest in the Arctic regions: it includes over 150 researchers, 1000 graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, research associates, technicians, and other specialists from 34 Canadian universities, 20 federal and provincial agencies and departments, and more than 150 partner organizations across 14 countries, all working toward the common goal of understanding the impacts of climate change and modernization in the coastal Canadian Arctic (www.arcticnet.ulaval.ca).
ArcticNet researchers recognized the necessity to provide an online data management system for scientists to archive information about their datasets, and to give the public a means to access them, especially northern residents where the research was occurring in their backyards. Up to this point the CCIN had been archiving data for cryospheric scientists associated with CRYSYS and other research programs in Canada. When ArcticNet identified the CCIN as a data repository for its multitudes of research projects, the CCIN needed to significantly upgrade its data management capabilities and infrastructure. This was eventually made possible by partnerships between the Government of Canada Program for International Polar Year, Noetix, and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada. The resulting product was the Polar Data Catalogue (PDC;www.polardata.ca). Launched in 2007, the PDC was initially developed as a metadata-only “discovery portal” to allow for the exchange of information about datasets between researchers, Northern communities, international programs, decision makers, and the interested public (CCIN, 2015b). In 2011, functionality was added to archive and share data files to accompany the rapidly growing metadata collection. As of June 15, 2016, the number of metadata records in the PDC has reached 2,443. We also hold over 2.6 million data files, including almost 28,000 RADARSAT images of northern Canada and Antarctica. Partnering with ArcticNet also led to the addition of social science research into the catalogue, which is a collection that continues to grow today.
The PDC as a Vehicle for Collaboration
Collaboration between the Arctic States is one of the main objectives of the Arctic Council. The Arctic Council addresses this objective by providing a forum for collaboration. When Arctic Council members convene to discuss issues such as sustainable development and environmental protection in the Arctic, information is key. Where and how they get their information is of utmost importance, for policy is only as good as the data upon which it is based.
The PDC promotes collaboration by being a publicly accessible metadata “discovery portal” upon which informed discussions and decisions about the Arctic can be based. Metadata records provide the description of research: the who, what, where, and when of the data. The records also include the funding program and the formal citation of the dataset for use by others (CCIN, 2015b). Figure 1 is a screenshot from the PDC of an example of a metadata record.
Metadata records are found by using the PDC Geospatial Search (www.polardata.ca/pdcsearch/), one of the PDC’s three online applications. The PDC Geospatial Search, featured in Figure 2, is a full-featured search engine and download portal for metadata and data belonging to a variety of collections. It includes research and monitoring datasets, Canadian Ice Service Sea Ice Charts, and RADARSAT satellite imagery from the Arctic and Antarctic. Users can search using latitude and longitude, start date and/or end date of the research, or word or phrase.
Another PDC application, the PDC Lite Search, was developed in 2012 as a result of user feedback. A survey of northern Canadians, commissioned by ArcticNet, revealed that users with low-speed Internet connections—which are very common in northern Canada—often experienced long waiting times when using the full-featured PDC Search application. In response, PDC Lite is up to 90% faster than the full-featured PDC Search and has a different search interface focused on community-specific project investigation (see Figure 3). In the future we will continue to work with our northern partners and with northern community members to improve the PDC Lite to serve their specific needs for data and information (Friddell, LeDrew, & Vincent, 2014a; Friddell, LeDrew, & Vincent, 2014b).
The third PDC online application is PDC Input: a metadata and data entry application that scientists and research groups use to submit the metadata and data they have collected into the PDC. Figure 4 shows a screenshot of the new PDC Input front page that was launched in August 2016. Compared to the former PDC Input, the new PDC Input has been completely rebuilt using the latest web technologies and tools, features enhanced security for users, is fully mobile enabled, and the second version to be released later this year will be bilingual in English and French.
Thus, the PDC Geospatial Search, PDC Lite, and PDC Input foster collaboration between researchers, the interested public, policy-makers and other decision-makers, by making polar research and monitoring information easily and freely available. Users can access information about what projects are occurring or have occurred in the Arctic, the findings of the research (if available), and who to contact for more details.
In addition to metadata, the PDC also archives hundreds of datasets. We have made a selection of these datasets more accessible through familiar-looking map-based interfaces that are easy to use and make the data more understandable, more quickly. What follows are descriptions of the various data visualizations found in the PDC. These visualizations have been produced in collaboration with Environment and Climate Change Canada and the Global Cryosphere Watch (GCW), to contribute to the GCW mandate of providing improved access to snow and ice data for the benefit of the public and the cryospheric research community.
A new data visualization tool in the PDC (https://ccin.ca/home/ccw/seaice/current/thickness) shows the Canadian Ice Service’s (CIS) Ice Thickness Program Collection (ITCN) data (2002-present). The visualization of ITCN data displays sea and lake ice thickness graphically, via both an animation (where the stations on the map change color as ice thickness changes over the winter) and graphs (which provide a snapshot of thicknesses for all stations over a winter or over the full range of years). The animation (Figure 5) shows evolution of ice thickness over the winter, and the graphs provide a visual comparison of sea ice trends of different stations.
A new Map Viewer data visualization graphically displays oceanic and sea ice data from the Arctic: https://www.polardata.ca/pdcsearch/PDC_ViewMapApp.ccin?ccin_datasets. This Map Viewer (Figure 6) is integrated into the PDC Search application and has recently been expanded to incorporate datasets of long-term oceanic observatories. Other data visualizations are easily accessible through the CCIN homepage, such as for snow water equivalent (SWE) and lake ice cover. We plan to continue developing visualizations of pertinent cryospheric data so that information about Canada’s North can be more readily available to those who seek it.
It should be noted that the scientific assessments by the Arctic Council’s Working Groups, such as the 2011 Snow, Water, Ice, and Permafrost (“SWIPA”) report (AMAP, 2012), have the similar goal of making Arctic research and research findings more accessible to scientists, policy makers, and the public. These plain-language, illustrated reports are available online to whomever wishes to access them. Our online visualizations aligns with the work of the Arctic Council and can be used as supplementary information to that which is found in a number of their reports.
Another major focus of the PDC toward collaboration is through its linkages and interoperability with other data repositories around the world. One of the lessons learned from the International Polar Year (IPY), was that given the diversity of data needed to understand a system as complex as the Arctic, a “one-stop shop” data repository can become unwieldy and perhaps be impossible to implement. Instead, a “data bazaar” is preferable, in which a federation of specialized data systems and portals uses open web services to communicate and provide data to users (Mokrane & Parsons, 2014; Parsons et al., 2011). The PDC is one of these “vendors” in the online bazaar of polar data.
Interoperability is required for this online “bazaar” of polar data to be successful. Interoperability means that all the different “vendors” (i.e., data repositories or catalogues) must be able to network and work together: to communicate with each other, execute programs in common, and transfer metadata. If two data repositories are interoperable, this means that users can search for metadata in either repository and find the same result; each repository accesses the same metadata entry instead of each having to enter its own copy into its collection. Thus, standardization of metadata is important: users can expect the same type of information, labeling, and formatting of metadata entries regardless of the repository in which they are searching (Neiswender & Montgomery, 2009). The PDC conforms to international metadata standards and we require metadata and data contributors to abide by our Best Practices guidelines (Michaud & Friddell, 2011). Readers interested in more details about the standards and Best Practices are directed to Friddell, LeDrew, and Vincent (2014b).
The PDC’s metadata sharing efforts have focused on extending and solidifying linkages with polar data portals in Canada and abroad. At this time, PDC metadata are provided for harvesting by other repositories in three different internationally standardized web services protocols: OAI-PMH (Open Archives Initiative - Protocol for Metadata Harvesting), CSW (Catalog Service for the Web), and WMS (Web Map Service of the Open Geospatial Consortium). We have established one-way or two-way sharing links with the portals listed below:
- Northwest Territories Discovery Portal, Cumulative Impacts Monitoring Program
- Environment and Climate Change Canada
- Scholars Portal/Ontario Council of University Libraries
- Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program (CBMP), Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF)
- Arctic Data Centre, Norwegian Meteorological Institute
- National Institute of Polar Research, Japan
- British Antarctic Survey
- National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), United States
- Arctic Data Explorer, NSIDC
- Alaska Ocean Observing System
- Global Cryosphere Watch portal
- Australian Antarctic Data Centre
The PDC metadata collection has also been registered with the Canadian federal government Open Data website and the GEO/GEOSS Component and Service Registry (a metadata brokering system). Finally, metadata from the PDC can be accessed through the Alaska Ocean Observing System (AOOS - www.aoos.org).
To summarize, the PDC aligns with the Arctic Council’s goal of collaboration through its online applications (PDC Geospatial Search, PDC Lite, and PDC Input), its online data visualizations, and its interoperability with an increasing number of Canadian and international data portals. The PDC’s resources support informed discussions not only between members of the Arctic Council, but also between members of northern communities, the interested public, scientists, policy-makers, and other decision makers.
The PDC as a Vehicle for Northern Community Partnerships
The Arctic Council promotes cooperation, coordination, and interaction among the Arctic states and Arctic Indigenous communities. A primary target audience for the PDC is northern and Indigenous Canadians. Many of our partners in northern communities have expressed the desire to know more about the research being conducted in the north, usually by southern Canadians. Although the data and information that these researchers collect in the natural, social, and health sciences are extremely useful to Indigenous peoples, it is often difficult to find or access. It is the goal of the PDC to better serve the people in Canada’s northern communities by making data and information more accessible and available. This is particularly important as northern communities experience environmental and social change. One example in which the PDC serves Indigenous and northern communities is production of the PDC Lite application, described earlier, which is designed for areas with slower Internet speed. The PDC Lite also allows the user to search according to specific northern communities.
Academic and institutional research is not the only source of Arctic data. Indigenous peoples have vast data and information resources in the form of Traditional or Local Knowledge (TLK). In order for Arctic data management systems to be complete, they must be capable of preserving and sharing TLK. However, TLK may not fit comfortably within Western research regimes (Scassa, unpublished) or metadata standards. TLK is a cumulative body of knowledge and beliefs, handed down through generations by cultural transmission, about the relationship of living beings (including humans) with one another and with their environment. Defined in this way, TLK is not just a collection of discrete pieces of knowledge; it is a knowledge system. TLK may be acquired and used in ways that are very different from Western systems of knowledge. We cannot expect that what is archived as TLK is complete, does not need additional context or interpretation, and can be analyzed and quantified (Scassa, unpublished). Thus, the archiving and access requirements of all research involving TLK may be considered on a case-by-case basis.
A primary knowledge gap in the polar data management community is an understanding of the capacity, interest, and concerns of Indigenous people in preserving TLK. This information can be sensitive and may require additional protections. What appropriate protections are needed? Do Indigenous people want to preserve the TLK in local repositories? And is there capacity to do so? For data management systems to meet the needs of Indigenous peoples, and to preserve TLK for future generations, the concerns, requirements, and capabilities of all partners must be understood (Pulsifer, Laidler, Taylor & Hayes, 2011).
To facilitate dialogue and collaboration with Northern and Indigenous people and partners, in 2015, CCIN/PDC, in collaboration with numerous partners, co-led two major data management meetings in Canada: the Canadian Polar Data Workshop and the international Polar Data Forum II. Representatives from the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC), an organization with Permanent Participant status in the Arctic Council, participated in both of these events, and the CBMP data management team attended the Polar Data Forum II (CBMP, 2015).
The aim of the Canadian Polar Data Workshop was to coordinate the growing polar data community in Canada and to develop and implement best practices and sustainability in data stewardship, including the ability of Indigenous people to steward their own data resources, particularly TLK. The Workshop was held in Ottawa in May 2015 and was attended by 50 participants. Relevant outcomes of the Workshop included:
- Explicit acknowledgement that TLK and some other northern and Indigenous data and information will need to be exempted from expectations of open data sharing, due to confidentiality or other concerns of sensitivity.
- Stated interest by Indigenous and northern participants in the Workshop, as well as participants in the national online pre-Workshop consultation, to participate fully in the coordination exercise.
- Acknowledgement of the need to improve “human interoperability”: that relationships should be strengthened through more extensive collaboration with northern and Indigenous people and communities. This can be facilitated by attendance at meetings through provision of funding support for travel, as well as holding meetings in northern Canadian communities.
The second meeting held in 2015 was the Polar Data Forum II: International Collaboration for Advancing Polar Data Access and Preservation (www.polar-data-forum.org). This major international conference was held in October in Waterloo, Canada, and was attended by over 110 participants from 18 countries. This meeting aimed to build collaborations and systems for long-term preservation and access to data and information from the Arctic and Antarctic. Funding was secured to bring six people from Indigenous and northern communities and organizations to the Forum, to ensure in-person participation and input on northern and Indigenous perspectives. The University of Waterloo Aboriginal Student Association opened the Forum with songs and drums, and an Aboriginal Evening event included a local women’s drum circle, a smudging ceremony, and locally sourced Indigenous foods. Key outcomes of the Forum included:
- Recommendation that incorporation of Arctic Indigenous perspectives is critical to the success of international polar data management.
- This may be accomplished through support for Indigenous participation in polar data activities, including increasing capacity for self-management of Inuit data and TLK.
We plan to continue discussions on data management with Indigenous and northern peoples by hosting a second Canadian Polar Data Workshop in early 2017. Additional plans for enhancing future collaborations include:
- Seeking partnerships and funding to build systems for managing project tracking and research licensing in northern communities;
- Adding language support for Inuktitut to the online PDC tools;
- Writing articles and news items about the PDC, our services, and the motivations and benefits of proper data management;
- Increasing use of the CCIN/PDC websites and social media accounts to enhance outreach and education about northern Canada to students and the public and to reach northern Canadians who seek data and information related to their communities;
- Expansion of metadata sharing with northern organizations;
- Listening to our northern and Indigenous partners to understand their needs related to data management and access to information;
- Providing expertise and infrastructure, as needed and as feasible, to our northern and Indigenous partners; and
- Using surveys and other methods to receive feedback on our websites and services, including our Facebook and Twitter sites.
We value the input of our northern and Indigenous partners and look forward to further feedback to ensure we are addressing northern needs through the PDC.
The PDC as a Vehicle for Policy-Making
Given the influence of the Arctic Council on policy, we seek to show here how the PDC directly contributes to the Arctic Council. The direct relationship between the PDC and the Arctic Council begins with the ABDS, the Arctic Biodiversity Data Service (ABDS - www.abds.is), which is a publicly searchable database. Included in this database is research conducted by CAFF, one of the Arctic Council’s six Working Groups. CCIN has an ongoing, long-standing partnership with CAFF. The PDC stores metadata for the Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Programme (CBMP), which is one of CAFF’s programs (CBMP, 2015). As of May 2016, the PDC holds 189 metadata for the CBMP’s Marine Group project inventory and 305 metadata for the CBMP Terrestrial Group. The ABDS actively harvests CBMP metadata from the PDC. In order to be housed at the PDC, this metadata must pass the specific standards outlined previously; thus, the PDC acts not only as a repository of metadata for CAFF but also as metadata quality control.
CAFF has produced a number of comprehensive, cutting-edge reports based on data housed in the ABDS, and thus harvested from the PDC. We are currently working to strengthen the PDC’s existing relationship with CAFF as well as foster new relationships with the other Working Groups of the Arctic Council.
The PDC can be regarded as a vehicle for developing consistent policy between northern countries. Currently we are writing guidelines on data management requirements for a set of northern research and monitoring programs in Canada, and we are learning much from this exercise regarding unifying data management practice and expectations across programs. It will simplify work for researchers and data managers in all countries by making metadata and data requirements consistent. This same approach of consistent data policy could be applied across Arctic Council Working Groups and member states.
Summary, Recommendations, and Opportunities
The mid-1990s saw the birth of two “forums”: The Arctic Council, as a forum to promote cooperation, coordination, and interaction among the Arctic States, Indigenous communities and other northern inhabitants; and the CCIN—along with its later product, the PDC—as a “forum” for polar data stewardship, management, and access. The PDC has become a vehicle for collaboration, developing and strengthening northern community partnerships, and for policy-making, all in alignment with the objectives of the Arctic Council. The PDC is a vehicle for collaboration by providing open access to Arctic research metadata and data, data visualizations, and through interoperability with other data portals around the world. The PDC’s network of interoperability and partnerships continues to grow, and opportunities exist for the PDC to serve other Arctic Council Working Groups, Task Forces, and Expert Groups. The PDC is a vehicle for policy-making, as evidenced by the archival of data used by CAFF, one of the Arctic Council Working Groups. Finally, the PDC strives to cooperate, coordinate, and interact with northern and Indigenous communities to discuss, discover, and address their data and information needs. Face-to-face dialogue was fostered through the Canadian Polar Data Workshop and the Polar Data Forum II, and work continues to develop a more “Indigenist” data management system (Pulsifer et al., 2011) that can adequately accommodate and preserve TLK and Indigenous science.
The Arctic Council has been described as a “cognitive forerunner,” in reference to its comprehensive, cutting-edge scientific assessments of Arctic issues that have been used for policy development and decision-making (Nilsson, 2012). In order for the Arctic Council to maintain this status, data management must be a priority. Indeed, a report released by CAFF (2015) entitled “Actions for Arctic Biodiversity” highlights the following future goals:
- Develop tools for data sharing in order that data collected can be used by a wide range of people engaged in Arctic biodiversity science, policy, and management” (7).
- Advance and sustain the Arctic Biodiversity Data Service (ABDS)” (11).
- Establish the Arctic Biodiversity Data Service (ABDS) as the supporting framework to facilitate long-term data sharing and as a source of data for modeling and ecosystem-based management” (12).
Based on the PDC’s successful archiving of metadata and data from CAFF and numerous other partners, there is opportunity for the PDC to assist the Arctic Council in fulfilling these goals, as well as opportunity to host data from other Arctic Council Working Groups, Task Forces, and Expert Groups. Given that Canada is a Member State of the Arctic Council, and that the PDC is Canada's primary repository for polar data, the PDC is a viable option for providing future and enhanced access to relevant data for the Arctic Council’s scientific assessment work. Further, given the maturing expectations of open access to data and the development of data stewardship requirements and policies around the world (Science International, 2015), the PDC is positioned to support the Arctic Council to ensure implementation of effective and consistent data policy across the Member States. Finally, as described earlier, efforts of the PDC, including providing access to information about research in northern communities and/or providing face-to-face meetings on polar data issues, provide a forum in which to increase the role of northern and Indigenous peoples in data management and decision-making. Of course, there are other organizations which are similarly positioned to provide service to the Arctic Council, and may already be doing so, with whom the PDC could form a coordinated network.
Recently there have been suggestions in the literature that the Arctic Council undergo various degrees of structural organization (Conley & Melino, 2016; Wilson, 2016). To our knowledge, the potential effects of reorganization on data availability and accessibility for the Working Groups, should it occur, have not been addressed. If the data management services of the PDC continue to be used by the Arctic Council, the intention of the PDC is to hold polar data in perpetuity, providing a safe and secure archive for data, regardless of the organizational structure or existence of the data contributor(s).
This paper has discussed how the PDC embodies the same goals as the Arctic Council. However, from the opposite angle, the Arctic Council can also be a vehicle for data stewardship, by providing a transformative opportunity for the views, needs, and information of its northern and Indigenous partners to be served by the technical advances in modern data management.
Science International (2015) has stated that, “Openness and transparency have formed the bedrock on which the progress of science in the modern era has been based” (4). Yet it is not enough to simply make data “open,” or accessible. Data should be “intelligently open,” which requires that data are discoverable, accessible, intelligible, assessable, and usable (Science International, 2015). This paper demonstrates that the PDC satisfies these requirements for intelligently open data. With its experience, capacity, and expertise, the PDC can support the Arctic Council in remaining a “cognitive forerunner” on issues of sustainable development and environmental protection in the Arctic.
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