Britain's interest in the Arctic stretches back over half a millennia. British explorers, companies, ships and scientists have at various times been at the forefront of bringing the Arctic into wider global, economic, political, scientific and cultural networks. This paper offers a glimpse into how the Arctic is seen by UK civil servants in the contemporary British government, as well as the challenges they face in reconciling the Arctic with broader global interests. No formal Arctic Strategy has been published although there has been a tentative declaration of intent. Lastly, the paper suggests how the UK can make a constructive contribution to the region through the development of a formal strategy.
Duncan Depledge is Postgraduate Research Student at Royal Holloway, University of London, United Kingdom.
Poland has noticeably increased its activity in Arctic affairs in recent years. Although the first Polish research facilities on Svalbard were established back in the 1950s (by virtue of being a party to the Treaty concerning Spitsbergen) and the country has been involved in the Arctic environmental cooperation since its inception in the early 1990s, it was not until 2006/2007 when a policy shift towards assumption of a more ambitious role could be observed. The current Polish activity in the Arctic is motivated primarily by scientific interests, but nonetheless the region has been given a renewed attention in the Poland's foreign policy. Taking advantage of its status as a "permanent" observer to the Arctic Council (AC), Poland has keenly engaged in advancements at different international levels by introducing and supporting various initiatives within the AC and bilateral relations with Arctic and non-Arctic states as well as the European Union. This article attempts to explain the shift in Polish foreign policy towards the Arctic and how Poland, as a country without significant economic and/or strategic interests in the Arctic, has become one of the most active outside actors discussing their role in the region with the Arctic states. Furthermore, it assesses prospects for a coherent Polish polar policy.
Piotr Graczyk is a Researcher at the University of Tromsø.
Nadine C. Fabbi
The nation-state has typically been employed as the primary unit for political analysis in conventional international relations theory. However, since the end of the Cold War, transnational issues such as climate change along with a growing number of multinational corporations and international organizations are challenging the limits of that analytical model. This is especially true in the Arctic where indigenous organizations have reframed the region as a distinct territory that transcends national political boundaries. In Canada, the Inuit have remapped the Arctic along cultural lines in an effort to ensure all Inuit benefit from future policy implementation. At the international level, the Inuit are promoting a concept of the Arctic based on cultural cohesion and shared challenges, in part to gain an enhanced voice in international affairs. The Inuit are also utilizing customary law to ensure their rights as a people will be upheld. What is occurring in the Arctic is an unparalleled level of indigenous political engagement. The Inuit are "remapping" the Arctic region and shaping domestic and international policy with implications for the circumpolar world and beyond. This paper explores the unique nature of Inuit political engagement in the Arctic via spatial and policy analysis, specifically addressing how the Inuit are reframing political space to create more appropriate "maps" for policy implementation and for the successful application of international customary law.
Nadine C. Fabbi is Associate Director of the Canadian Studies Center in the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington.
Annika E. Nilsson
Environmental issues have been central in giving the Arctic a distinct regional voice and making the region a global concern. Climate change is a case in point, but long-range transport of persistent pollutants and biodiversity have also played important roles. This article places the global framing of the Arctic environment in the context of the growth of global environmental politics that has occurred in parallel with the emergence of the Arctic's current international governance structure. It specifically addresses how Arctic environmental concerns have been framed in relation to more overarching goals of sustainable development, and in relation to security. By looking at past and current 'politics of scale', the article discusses what is realistic to expect from pan-Arctic environmental governance, and how the emerging global and regional geopolitics may affect the environmental domain. When the current political cooperation started in the Arctic in the 1990s, the environment was an area of 'low politics' suitable for new cooperative ventures – then between the East and West. Since then, global environmental governance has become 'high politics' and is increasingly linked to resource politics and global markets. This development is likely to also affect the Arctic.
Annika E. Nilsson is Senior Research Fellow at the Stockholm Environment Institute, Sweden.
Andréa Finger-Stich and Matthias Finger
This paper proposes a retrospective of the changes in environmental policies and the various actors' positions and strategies concerning the Arctic since Mikhaïl Gorbachev, then the Soviet Union's General Secretary, visited Murmansk and gave a ceremonial speech in October 1987 – a speech that triggered a new global outlook on the Arctic. The Arctic environment, 25 years ago, was perceived mainly as a Far North affected by distant modern civilization. Environmental concerns included Arctic haze, the depletion of the stratospheric ozone layer, the accumulation of pollutants in Arctic mammals, sea acidification, concentration of radioactive pollution, and hazards related to the presence of armament and military activities in the Arctic. But twenty-five years later, the Arctic has moved to the fore, experiencing environmental changes, mainly due to climate warming, firsthand and at double the rate of the world's average. With climate warming, paradoxically, the Arctic is not only a victim of change but has become a key actor in environmental change, with melting ice opening it up to intense fossil fuel and mineral resource exploitation. Who are the actors who will decide whether, to what extent and how these resources will be exploited? This article identifies the main periods and the main changes in the actors, their strategies and their power relations over the past 25 years in Arctic environmental agency. By doing so, it critically assesses these actors' constraints and potentials for mitigating and adapting to a rapidly warming climate.
Andréa Finger-Stich is Researcher, Ecologie et Communauté, Switzerland, and Matthias Finger is Professor at Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale (EPFL), Switzerland.
The signing of the Arctic SAR (Search and Rescue) Agreement and establishment of a Permanent Secretariat for the Arctic Council at the 2011 Nuuk Ministerial marked a move from a soft to hard law approach to governing the Arctic region. This article examines the events that led to acceptance of a more robust governance framework, involving climate changes leading to greater economic activity and geopolitical interest in the Arctic. It goes on to evaluate the spectrum of possible governance frameworks for the Arctic region, from the Ilulissat approach to a regional seas agreement to an Arctic Treaty, and examines issue-areas that are most likely to result in a legally binding instrument in the short-to-medium term. The article concludes by suggesting that limitations to the scope and intensity of potential regional governance frameworks in the Arctic make it likely that a regional seas agreement will be the end point of regional governance measures, at which point Arctic environmental issues could be de-securitized and dealt with as part of a normal, political and bureaucratic order.
Heather Exner-Pirot is Post-Doctoral Fellow at the International Centre for Northern Governance and Development and Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy at the University of Saskatchewan.