Douglas C. Nord
The Swedish Chairmanship of the Arctic Council from 2011-13 represented a distinctive contribution to the development of an Arctic governance structure in transition. As the last of the Arctic Eight to assume the chair of the body, Sweden sought to follow a leadership approach that endeavored to build consensus and find common ground among members who seemed, at times, to be at odds with one another over several significant Arctic policy issues. During its tenure as chair, Sweden introduced a broad agenda for action on Arctic environmental and sustainable development issues. It also attempted to assist the Council in making some necessary organizational changes to the manner in which it conducted its own affairs. The purpose of this article is first, to describe the specific vantage point of Sweden toward the Arctic and the Arctic Council and second, to discuss the specific initiatives it chose to pursue during its chairmanship. Due attention is also given to some of Sweden's specific organizational efforts to "build a stronger Council" and to overcome barriers to institutional growth and development. Events of the Kiruna Ministerial Meeting are also discussed and evaluated in this context. An assessment is offered of the overall strengths and weaknesses of the Swedish Chairmanship and what may be the most significant features of its legacy.
Douglas C. Nord is Professor of Political Science at Western Washington University, USA and Visiting Professor at Umeå University, Sweden.
Belén Sánchez Ramos
The Arctic Council was created in 1996 as a high level intergovernmental forum to promote cooperation, coordination and interaction between the Arctic States. It has two primary objectives: i) to promote environmental protection; ii) sustainable development in the Arctic region. The Arctic Council is the primary forum for international cooperation in the region, and the Permanent Arctic Council Secretariat was created with the aim of responding to the different challenges it faces. According to its Terms of Reference "the Secretariat will enhance the work of the Arctic Council through the establishment of administrative capacity and by providing continuity, institutional memory, operational efficiency, enhanced communication and outreach, exchange of information with other relevant international organizations and to support activities of the Arctic Council". So while a Permanent Secretariat has been created, no changes have been made to the structure of this intergovernmental forum (i.e. working groups) and the way the decisions are taken. We believe that the main question to be explored is to what extent this change will be sufficient in order to reinforce the capacity of the Arctic Council, or if it would be desirable to go even further, with the creation of an international organization. It is also necessary to analyze the new criteria for admitting observers and their involvement in the Arctic Council. In this case, the European Union applied to become an observer to the Arctic Council on 1 December 2008.
Belén Sánchez Ramos is a Senior Lecturer in International Public Law at the University of Vigo, Spain.
For several decades high prices of oil and gas have been a major driving force for Russia's economic growth and state prosperity. During this period the state mostly relied on natural resources production in West Siberia. Today the Russian economy is still very dependent on the energy sector, however the traditional areas of energy production cannot satisfy the demand any longer and the state is facing a challenge of finding a new energy supply area. Arctic offshore resources represent an alternative energy supply; however severe climate conditions, environmental risks and high production costs make offshore exploration less attractive. This article examines different approaches and interests of the Russian state and businesses towards the offshore exploration in the region. Convergences and divergences in the stances are discussed, providing an outline for the future development of the Russian energy sector with relation to the on-going international energy market development.
Nadezda Filimonova is the International Relations Specialist at the Russian State Hydrometeorological University, Russia.
The Arctic is where the future of our industrial civilization is currently being played out: the melting of the Arctic ice and of the Greenland ice cover would (and will) not only mean significant sea-level rise; it would certainly also represent an irreversible tipping point in the Earth's climate system. In other words, the accelerating changes in the Arctic affect us all. In addition, and given that industrial development (and economic growth for that matter) remain based on natural resources (fossil fuels and minerals), the Arctic, along with other resources-rich regions of the world, has become one of the new theaters of global natural resources exploitation and international rivalry. Arctic fossil fuel resources represent a significant amount of the still globally available reserves. But exploiting them is not without environmental risks. Burning them will further accelerate global warming and bring the global climate closer to the dangerous tipping point. Ironically, such resources exploration and exploitation are precisely made possible by (some of) the consequences of industrial development in the form of global warming and subsequent receding ice coverage. This means that, in the Arctic, industrial civilization has it in its hands to address the root causes of the looming global ecological crisis, or at least the root causes and consequences of global warming. The Arctic thus serves as a perfect case in point, whereby one can explore whether industrial civilization is capable of slowing down and eventually stopping fossil fuel-based (industrial) development, and who might be able to do so. This is the topic of this article, whereby the Arctic basically serves as a socio-ecological laboratory for analyzing the dynamics of fossil fuel-based industrial development. But, while being a laboratory, it is also an entirely serious case.
Matthias Finger is a Professor at the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland.
Fisheries in the high latitudes were, up to the middle of the 20th century, largely a domestic affair of the Arctic societies. Only technological innovations of the 20th century, most notably the introduction of factory-freezer-trawlers to the fishing fleets of a number of industrialized and in particular European countries, enabled low to mid-latitude nations to participate in these fisheries. After the introduction of highly sophisticated fishing vessels to the distant-water fishing fleets, a number of conflicts between coastal nations and distant-water fishing nations occurred in the North-Atlantic basin that resulted in short time in the extension of national fisheries jurisdiction of Arctic and Subarctic nations and finally in a more or less complete nationalization of the Arctic fisheries. An unintended side effect of this nationalization was the transfer of fishing conflicts from an international to a domestic level within these nations. Now there are large-scale industrialized domestic fisheries operating for shareholder value on the one side, and subsistence fisheries on the other side. After the exclusion of the former distant-water fishing nations from fisheries in the Arctic parts of the Atlantic, some fishing companies of the nations formerly active in the North Atlantic Arctic region developed a fishery in the Southern Ocean off Antarctica. With no national jurisdiction but only a somewhat weak international treaty system in existence, new fishing conflicts arose in the South. But unlike the conflicts in the Arctic, these conflicts were between multinational groups interested in the protection of the marine ecosystem and national/multinational companies directly interested in shareholder value. While it seems that the domestic conflicts of the Arctic and the international conflicts of the Southern Ocean are completely different, they are in fact the two sides of the same coin. Fisheries in the high latitudes have been, throughout the 20th century, a mirror of the wider socio-economic question if natural resources are a common good or an exploitable resource.
Ingo Heidbrink is Professor of History at Old Dominion University, USA.