2012 has witnessed increasing Chinese involvement in Arctic affairs. In April, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visited Iceland and Sweden, and signed an agreement on collaborative Arctic scientific investigation with Iceland. In July, China launched its fifth Arctic scientific investigation and its research ice-breaker Xuelong took the Northern Sea Route as its transit route for the first time. Reasonably, questions concerning China's intention and interests in Arctic affairs are widely speculated. For China, Arctic affairs can be divided into those of a regional nature and those of global implications. It has been China's position that the former should be properly resolved through negotiation between countries of the region. China respects the sovereignty and sovereign rights of Arctic countries, and hopes that they can collaborate with each other and peacefully resolve their disputes over territory and sovereignty.
In contrast, China maintains that global Arctic affairs need to be handled through global governance and multi-party participation, because such trans-continental issues as climate change, ice melting, environmental pollution and ecological crisis all pose serious challenges to humankind as a whole and cannot be solved by any single country or region. Instead, solving them requires that all nations work together to provide the necessary public goods that Arctic governance entails. Certainly, countries of the region bear more responsibilities in Arctic affairs, yet non-Arctic countries also have their interests and responsibilities to assume. As an important international body leading the governance of Arctic issues, the Arctic Council should provide an inclusive and open platform that can bring in all the positive forces to facilitate good governance for the Arctic and for the planet. Such is the rationale behind China's bid for permanent observer status in the Arctic Council.
Steffen Weber, Cécile Pelaudeix, and Iulian Romanyshyn
On 26 June 2012 the European Commission and the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy issued a long-awaited Communication on the EU and the Arctic region, initially due in June 2011. The joint Communication represents a follow-up to the first Commission Communication published in 2008 and responds to the 2009 Council Conclusions on Arctic issues, and the 2011 European Parliament resolution on a Sustainable EU policy for the High North. The new Communication comes at an important point in time. Since 2008 all Arctic states adopted or upgraded their respective Arctic strategies. Simultaneously, the Arctic Council will face in May 2013 a decision on granting the EU and a number of other interested states an observer status.
"The North is our home and our destiny." "Our North, Our Heritage." These dictums are published in Canada's Arctic policy documents and conveyed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in the media. These statements have to bring comfort to Canada's Arctic people and guarantee their security. Gwich'in, Métis, and Inuvialuit have made their home North above the Arctic Circle for hundreds and thousands of years. Adaptation, progress, and development are not just words for the indigenous Arctic people; it has been their way of life. Canada's Arctic People remain a strong and resilient people.
Canada's Arctic - its three territories, to be specific - has a sparse population and a vast land mass. However, a huge portion of the land in these territories is 'settled' lands. Modern day treaties negotiated between Canada and the Aboriginal people addressed land ownership, management of resources, compensation, and self-government.
Lawson W. Brigham
A confluence of globalization, climate change, and geopolitics is heralding a new age of Arctic geography. Landscapes and seascapes at the top of the world today are highly dynamic. Most are rapidly changing under the influence of anthropogenic warming, resulting in new perspectives of the Arctic's physical geography that could not have been envisioned only a few decades ago. The extraordinary changes in sea ice coverage are perhaps the most iconic and compelling images of a new and transformed Arctic. New political boundaries are also evolving – witness the 2010 delimitation agreement between Norway and the Russian Federation in the Barents Sea. After four decades of diplomatic efforts, why has a settlement in this shared Arctic space been reached early in the 21st century? There is little doubt this new geographic boundary and strengthened, bi-lateral cooperation are pragmatic political responses to the economic realities at play in the Barents offshore. Furthermore, once remote, Arctic continental shelves (among the broadest on the planet) have seemingly 'overnight' become coveted real estate due to their potential for hydrocarbon wealth and increasing marine accessibility. Developing seabed maps to define the spatial extent of these shelves has become critically important to the national sovereignty of five Arctic Ocean coastal states (who hold the potential for extended seabed claims), as well to a host of investors, insurers, hydrocarbon explorers and offshore developers...many poised to become influential stakeholders in a future Arctic.
Hanna Lempinen & Joël Plouffe
This year's Calotte Academy (CA) programme focused on "Water – Globally and in the North Calotte," a broad but timely theme inspired by the multiple functions and meanings of water for human and non-human beings alike. Indeed, water in its various forms can serve as a transportation channel, a basis of cultures, identities and livelihoods, a living environment and a precondition for life, and health and well being, as well as a traded commodity in itself. Therefore understanding the geopolitical issues of water in the Arctic, and water in relation with the Arctic is imperative in the context of Arctic change.
This brief feature of the CA seeks to expose the main discussions undertaken in 2012 by the Academy participants, and to point out some of the key research outcomes resulting from this year's weeklong dialogue in the Arctic.