Lassi Heininen, Heather Exner-Pirot, & Joël Plouffe

Defining governance and governing in the Arctic

Governance and governing have several (contested and distinct) meanings across the social and political sciences’ disciplines and sub-disciplines (Pelaudeix 2015; Cairney 2011; Kjaer 2004; Rhodes 1996, 2000 & 2006; March & Olsen 1995; Rosenau 1995; Newman 2005). As a theme for this issue of Arctic Yearbook, “Governance and Governing” is intended to provide critical analysis of the often-blurry functions of transnational and regional cooperation in the Circumpolar North. It seeks to emphasise governance as processes that embody a multiple set of public and private governing actions (Stoker 1998; Ansell & Gash 2011).

Broadly defined, these two conceptual ideas serve as a setting to map different levels of interactions (local to international) that constitute the multiple and complex equations of (historical and contemporary) Arctic geopolitics. Indeed, both concepts are useful since they offer reference points to conceptualize everyday language and practices embedded in public or private decision-making. They highlight a puzzle, web or network of northern collective efforts and relationships between many actors that make up the governance equation that underlines the peaceful and/or conflictual interactions of Arctic geopolitics (see also the definition of governance in the preface by Fran Ulmer).

Governance is considered here as numerous principles, objectives and meanings that create the space in which actors will implement ideas, policies and institutions and/or institutional arrangements in a way to achieve collectively decided objectives. Arctic Yearbook 2015 therefore seeks to map some patterns of various interrelationships and interdependences in the Arctic by looking at how (multi-faceted) governance structures have emerged, are negotiated, influenced and organized in a way to address cross-border and transnational problems and opportunities.

Governing is understood here as a set of, and a practice by, different private or public actors engaged in the development and implementation (or operationalization) of governance (structures and mechanism) through various actions and instruments. They are the makers and doers of governance in which various actors are engaged: public and/or private individuals, organizations and institutions (actors) that develop and implement governance frameworks that are established and structured by normative constraints and opportunities in different regional contexts and contingencies.

The interplay between governance and governing occurs at a variety of levels in the Arctic including:

  • Local – e.g. municipal (Barrow, Troms, Akureyri), indigenous (Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association, Yellowknives Dene First Nation, Kativik Regional Government);
  • Sub-national – e.g. self-governing constituencies (Greenland, Faroe Islands), territories (Yukon, NWT, Nunavut), states (Alaska), republics (Yakutsk, Komi, Karelia), provinces (Québec), and counties (Lapland, Norbotten);
  • National – e.g. states (Canada, Kingdom of Denmark, Iceland, Finland, Norway, Russian Federation, Sweden, United States);
  • Sub-Regional – e.g. Barents Euro Arctic Council, Arctic Five, West Nordic Council, Inuit Circumpolar Council, Saami Council;
  • Regional – e.g. Arctic Council, Northern Forum, Arctic Military Environmental Cooperation Program;
  • International – e.g. International Maritime Organization (IMO), UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (UNCLOS).

Most stakeholders will tend to view the governance level nearest to their interests and everyday life as the most important. But what is unique in the Arctic is the extent to which these various levels intersect and interact. In addition there are a variety of circumpolar non-governmental actors who often communicate, influence or participate in the process of policy development and implementation. It has often been remarked that the epistemic community on the Arctic is particularly influential and engaged, for better and for worse, and includes media outlets, academic networks, and environmental and social NGOs.

We chose the theme “Governance and Governing” to build awareness of and address the nuances of governance in the Arctic region, and the impacts of different histories, cultures, constraints and values. It is easy for the casual non-Northern observer to imagine the Arctic as a singular, international, region, governed by the Arctic Council. But this represents only a sliver of what is required and conducted. Governance of the Arctic (as structure and agency) is multi-faceted, interconnected and evolving. Above all, it is complex.

Exceptionalities of Arctic governance

If all politics are local, then it should be no surprise that governance in the Arctic seems to have taken on some unique characteristics, reflective of the culture of the inhabitants, the particularities of the geography, and the time in which many governance and arrangements came into being. There is a pervasive sense of governance in the Arctic being different – even exceptional.

How does this manifest itself in practice? First off, Arctic governance seems to be less hierarchical and more decentralized than conventional governance, from the local all the way to the regional level. There is a high premium placed, and increasingly an expectation of, consultation and engagement, a reaction to centuries of control and authority of distant southern capitals over local decision-making. Similarly northern governance often aims for consensus, something that is important when networks are small and close-knit, and the stakes are historically high given the extreme conditions. But the congeniality of consensus is often diminished by the concomitant slowness it imposes on decisionmaking in the 21st century, where rapid business and political changes often call for a more decisive approach.

This inclusive approach to decision-making has produced a flattened hierarchy where an unusually diverse collection of stakeholders, not just indigenous and state governments, have had agency in decision-making processes.

This includes the private sector, from the presence, though declining, of single industry company towns across the Circumpolar North where the line between work and community life is blurred; to the growing number of Impact and Benefit Agreements and their ilk, which once again is seeing the private sector accept responsibility for traditional state obligations such as training, employment creation, health promotion and infrastructure development.

The military has also had an inordinate level of governance and governing involvement in the Arctic, not only by producing the bulk of jobs in communities where bases are located but through the development of infrastructure, from airstrips, ports and roads to heat, power and water. Alaska, Greenland, Iceland, the North Calotte and the Murmansk regions, all provide examples of military needs driving local development.

But perhaps one of the most unique aspects of Arctic governance has been the role played by the epistemic community in policy development and decision-making. The Arctic epistemic community includes scientists, academics, environmentalists, and NGOs, brought together by common values around sustainable development and conservation. Is there any other region in the world where scientists play such a high profile role in policy shaping, from shipping regulations to resource development? Or where science, from polar bear numbers to the impacts of climate change, is so politicized? Is there another region where the average citizen is as fluent in environmental technicalities such as Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) or historic averages of sea ice extent?

Finally, accounts of Arctic governance often revolve around innovations in legal and political institutional arrangements (see AHDR 2004) developed in the past forty years, most notably:

  • The Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971, which transferred approximately 99 million acres (40 million hectares) of public land to native Alaskans, along with a US$962.5 million settlement;
  • The attainment of Home Rule in 1979 and then Self-Rule in 2009 in Greenland, which transferred control over a wide variety of governance functions from the Kingdom of Denmark to Greenland, including the right to revenues from non-renewable resource development;
  • The establishment of Sami Parliaments in Norway (1989), Sweden (1993), and Finland (1996) and a Kola Sami Assembly in Russia (2010);
  • Cultural self-determination in Finland (1996), and the Finnmark Act in Norway in 2005;
  • The establishment of the territory of Nunavut in 1999 and the settlement of land claims in the four Canadian Inuit regions of Nunavik (1975), Inuvialuit (1984), Nunavut (1993), and Nunatsiavut (2005);
  • The negotiation of the Yukon First Nations Land Claims Settlement Act in 1994; and
  • The devolution of additional governance functions to Yukon in 1993 and 2003, and Northwest Territories in 2013.

These are among the most progressive arrangements for devolving governance and governing powers and responsibilities to geographically and ethnically marginalized populations in the world, and in particular are a model for promoting the self-determination of indigenous peoples. Why did these innovative, even revolutionary, agreements cluster in the Arctic? Part of the answer is that many of these agreements occurred in underpopulated areas, particularly in North America and the Nordic region, where European migrants had settled only marginally and indigenous inhabitants still made up the majority, and where administrative structures were still relatively flexible. This made the political and economic costs associated with devolution bearable to Southern voters/taxpayers. Another factor was the introduction of devolution processes, much based on the Nordic model, after World War II, when the northernmost regions started to adopt/accept modernization. Devolution assisted northern regions to become more resilient, and prepared them for self-determination and self-governing functions, as the Home Rule Government of Greenland shows.

And while it’s a stretch to think of indigenous policies of the Arctic states as having been benign, the fact that they are almost all liberal democracies gave the shared values of self-determination and pluralism an ability to translate into concrete policy. The comparatively limited governing powers granted to Russian indigenous and northern peoples is much more similar to the abrogation of agency endured by ethnic minorities and indigenous peoples around the globe. That said, most if not all northern indigenous and sub-national governments remain dependent on national governments for large public transfers and subsidies for the services expected in the modern welfare state for the past several decades. However it is also true that in the early 21st century the situation changed due to massscale fisheries and exploitation of hydrocarbons and other minerals, and the gross production of the Arctic region as a whole exceeded transfers by southern capitals (AHDR 2004), although with significant regional variation.

De jure autonomy is not the same as de facto autonomy, and it remains to be seen if or how northern polities, with their huge geographical areas and small, often economically depressed, populations can combat the limitations imposed by a lack of economies of scale. Reducing dependence on external transfers will likely become more difficult as the globe shifts to a non-hydrocarbon based energy paradigm, an important source of local revenues in Alaska, northern Norway and the Russian Arctic especially. Greenland is making the most protracted efforts to become wholly independent, of Denmark, but a total break seems unlikely in the foreseeable future, as commodity prices slacken.

Finally, the innovative governance arrangements that extended around the Arctic can be said to have benefited from a lack of path dependency – few historical institutions and agreements limiting the options available to northern polities as they set to establish new frameworks for local governance and self-governing. The fact that northern governance matured in the post-World War II era, with the right to self-determination entrenched in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the global order slowly evolving towards a post-Westphalian paradigm, also opened up possibilities.

The special nature of regional Arctic governance

The Arctic Yearbook has an intellectual bias towards exploring regional governance, development and security, which in the past two decades has provided a front row seat to one of the most rapidly changing and exciting evolutions in contemporary world politics. It is often remarked that regional Arctic governance is unique, and even exceptional. What makes it so?

Regional governance bears many similarities to indigenous and sub-national governance in the Arctic. The Arctic Council, for example, operates on a consensual basis, and has created a tremendous amount of space for indigenous and local engagement, most notably in the creation of the Permanent Participant role. Although the format can impede the speed at which decisions are made, the net result has been incremental and consensual progression of activities, a governance dynamic based on a bottom-up (rather than top-bottom) approach for developing and implementing local to international ideas, and a very cooperative atmosphere. While the Arctic Council has no formal governance responsibilities and rights, it has proven progressively more effective at policy-shaping in the Arctic region.

Another aspect which is unique to the Arctic are the issue areas that have been identified as priorities. Regional governance equations in other parts of the world have typically developed as security or trade complexes. In the Arctic however, international collaboration has taken place almost entirely around environmental issues and sustainable development: from marine mammal protection to addressing pollutants, on the one hand, and supporting social-economic development to facilitating business interaction and responsible economic development in very remote and underdeveloped areas of the globe, on the other. This was started in the late 1980s by Indigenous peoples and their organizations, who together with environmentalists and some researchers first became concern on a state of the environment non-states, and then demanded and pushed the governments of the Arctic states to do something on the matter. The Arctic states listened and started their cooperation for Arctic environmental protection, as was agreed in the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy (AEPS) signed in 1991 (Rovaniemi Declaration 1991). Furthermore, the states manifested their commitment - to the well-being of the inhabitants, the protection of the Arctic environment and sustainable development - when the Arctic Council was established in 1996 (Ottawa Declaration 1996). These commitments have earned legitimacy among the people(s) and the civil societies of the Arctic region, though the implementation could be faster.

From a foreign policy and security perspective, it can also be argued that the interactions of Arctic governance agencies have provided an instrument that continues to serve the national interests of all regional state actors. Considered as a geostrategic hotspot during the Cold War era, the warming of East-West relations during the 1990s opened a foreign policy window of opportunity to push forward ideas, agendas and values that would strengthen regional state and sub-state confidence and prosperity in a very remote and complex area of the globe. Indeed, the Arctic has produced and has been shaped by governance efforts by regional state-to-state and people-to-people relationships that have arguably established and enhanced stability through diplomatic, scientific, and emerging economic, dialogue. From efforts to sustain scientific collaboration for common environmental imperatives, to recurrent post-Cold War regional and international networks and meetings dealing with non-military concerns between governments and non-governmental actors, Arctic governance is a rubric of ideas, ideals and actions that have resulted in numerous multilateral soft-power confidence building instruments that contribute to stability and security in a unique geographical and political area of the globe. As recently demonstrated by the compartmentalization of Arctic governance from other non-related geopolitical events (e.g. Ukraine-Russia crisis), states and non-governmental actors in the region have implicitly or explicitly expressed their common intention to preserve Arctic stability through multilateral softpower governance efforts.

Intergovernmental cooperation under the auspices of the Arctic Council continues, as was the message from the ministerial meeting in April 2015 in Iqaluit (Iqaluit Declaration 2015). In addition, scientific cooperation in Arctic research is stronger than ever, as the ASSW 2015 and ICARP III in April 2015 in Toyama, Japan indicated (see Toyama Conference Statement 2015). The Arctic states and nations, including the Russian Federation and the USA, have too much at risk if they lose the high stability of the Arctic and the solid foundation for international cooperation that exists – put simply, a stable and cooperative Arctic is valuable for its states and peoples, especially in an era of globalization. The Arctic, not overtly plagued by conflicts, can be seen an exception in international politics, akin to the International Space Station. It might, as well as Iran after the nuclear deal, become a new metaphor for ‘Exceptionalism’, and be taken as an example of how to shape alternative premises of security and politics. Here, maintaining and further developing the interplay between science and politics (‘transdisciplinarity’), as well as the high profile role of scientists and scholars in policy shaping, can be seen as critical (Heininen 2015).

The Arctic in 2015

This past year has been a watershed for Arctic governance, although in ways much muted. Most notably, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) finally agreed to the parameters of a new, mandatory Polar Code for regulating shipping in polar waters, including safety and environmental aspects. This has been over two decades in the making, and is probably the most important new governance arrangement affecting the Arctic since the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) was signed in 1982.

Speaking of UNCLOS, the past year saw official submissions for extended continental shelf in the Arctic Ocean from both Kingdom of Denmark and Russia (Norway’s claim was accepted by UNCLOS’ Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) in 2009, Canada is preparing the Arctic portion of its claim, and the United States is still not a signatory to UNCLOS). While these events sparked headlines about who owns the North Pole, the real story is in the manner in which the Arctic states have chosen to follow a rules based, legal and scientific approach to make their claims to vast new swathes of territory, as was promised at Ilulissat in 2008 (i.e. a recognized extended continental shelf offers coastal states exclusive rights to extract the natural resources of the seabed and subsoil of the extended continental shelf beyond the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of an Arctic state).

Bolstering the case that the Arctic is insulated from the geopolitical tensions that affect RussianWestern relations elsewhere, the Arctic Five – the five states bordering the Central Arctic Ocean, including Canada, Denmark/Greenland, Norway, Russia and the United States – signed in July a preemptive ban on fishing in the Central Arctic’s international waters until regulations are in place, applying the precautionary principle. Although applauded in political, media and environmental circles, Iceland’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs took exception to the exclusive discussions and called in the Arctic Five Ambassadors in Reykjavik for a scolding. Who could have predicted a year ago that the most contentious event in Arctic politics in 2015 would feature Iceland, over a fishing moratorium where no fishing heretofore has taken place?

Adding to the environment of progressive Arctic cooperation in 2015 is the establishment of an Arctic Coast Guard Forum, to take place in New London, Connecticut as this issue of the Arctic Yearbook goes to press. The eight Arctic military Chiefs of Staff have previously met in an effort to promote confidence building in the region, but these meetings have been deferred since Russia invaded Crimea in March 2014. The launch of a new forum, appropriately involving the constabulary forces of the Arctic states who have much ground to cover in the vast Arctic Ocean and much benefit in doing so cooperatively, is welcome news for a variety of reasons.

Finally, 2015 saw the handover of the Arctic Council Chairmanship from Canada to the United States, in April in Iqaluit, Nunavut. Politically, the Canadian Chairmanship was difficult relative to its predecessors, and the American Chairmanship promises to generate new momentum and interest in the work of the Council. But it remains to be seen whether issues of human and sustainable development, which Canada pushed against significant resistance, will be granted the attention they deserve amidst the Obama Administration’s single-minded association of the Arctic with climate change. This brings us finally to mention the COP21 meeting taking place in December 2015 in Paris where climate change impacts in the Arctic will be a dominating theme serving various interest groups. The final outcomes and results of this meeting remain to be seen.

The Arctic Yearbook 2015

Local, sub-national and national governance

The many scholarly articles and commentaries of this year’s Arctic Yearbook address these and many other contemporary regional governance issues. Several articles address issues of practical governance in the local and sub-national polities of the circumpolar north. Irina Barakaeva, Natalia Batugina, and Vladimir Gavrilov examine in significant detail the costs and challenges to importing fuel energy to the polar regions of Chukotka and Sakha, and the perhaps unintended consequences of devolving, or downloading, responsibilities from the Russian federal to regional governments of the Arctic. Energy security here has an entirely different meaning, and many local and sub-national governments be able to relate.

Leah Beveridge, Mélanie Fournier and Ronald Pelot share their visualization tool and concept to better engage and address the needs of the multiple marine stakeholders in the Canadian Arctic. This marks a progression to an era of addressing the practical challenges of using the Northwest Passage, a transition from when discussions and assessments were very hypothetical, or at best siloed.

Adrienne Davidson provides a much welcomed comparative review of self-government arrangements in the North American Arctic. The article provides insight into the ways that political and practical considerations result in different outcomes, and provides the reader with an appreciation of the significant and fascinating variations between even neighbouring self-governance models and institutions.

Erica Dingman examines how a particular nation-state, in this case the United States, implements Arctic Council environmental initiatives in practice. This is an eye-opening exercise that shows how Arctic Council recommendations are really only the very beginning of particular efforts, for example, to reduce black carbon or otherwise mitigate negative environmental effects. Once through the Arctic Council phase, states must negotiate through complex local and national particularities, challenges and barriers in order to make practical progress on these issues.

Marc Jacobsen illustrates the ways in which culture and collective identity are influencing Greenland’s path towards a more autonomous foreign policy. Of particular interest to the editors was the way in which Greenland has variously adopted an identity as a traditional nation-state to justify its increasing assumptions of state-like responsibilities and rights, while simultaneously forwarding an indigenous identity in other legal fora to legitimise extraordinary rights, such as in whaling or sealing, which ‘traditional’ states are not privy to.

Thierry Rodon and Aude Therrien tackle the notable complexity of the resource development approval process in the Canadian Arctic, where a mixed vertical and horizontal multilevel governance framework has been criticized for balkanizing decision-making. Here, the often competing processes and mandates of the federal and territorial governments, land claims agreements, Impact and Benefit Agreements, and various boards and organizations tasked with making recommendations on natural resource development, are institutionally challenging. But efforts to simplify the regulatory process may result in reducing the level of control local peoples have only just begun to exert on the process.

Heidi Tiainen, Rauno Sairinen and Olga Sidorenko examine the efforts and challenges in promoting sustainable mining practices in Finland, Sweden, Greenland and Russia. Although the concept of sustainability has achieved near universal acceptance, what it comprises and requires in practice is still under debate and negotiation. The structures, institutions and cultures that exist across these northern polities have resulted in a wide variety of strategies. The comparative approach for assessing these efforts proves very enlightening, and demonstrates the impact of the many contextual differences that exist across this Arctic region.

Finally, Gary Wilson and Jeff Kormos provide a case study of political change and self-determination in Chukotka, particularly in the decades since the Soviet Union collapsed. In addition to articulating the challenges and complexities that have affected the economic and political development of Chukotka’s indigenous peoples, the authors provide a much welcomed and needed insight on the local northern governance in Russia, a neglected topic in much of the mainstream Arctic literature.

Arctic regional governance

Several articles address issues of contemporary concern in regional Arctic governance. Melina Kourantidou, Brooks Kaiser and Linda Fernandez examine the governance structures needed to address marine invasive species. So much of the environmental work occurring in the Arctic is understood only superficially. This articles provides insight into the complexity of the Arctic environmental changes and challenges being spurred by climate change, and the role and variety of existing legal and governance frameworks which future policies must leverage but also conform to.

Michal Luszczuk provides, perhaps for the first time, a comparative analysis of the many interparliamentary institutions active in the Arctic region, including the Conference of Arctic Parliamentarians, the Barents Parliamentary Conference, the Nordic Council and the West-Nordic Council. These institutions comprise an important but often overlooked segment of regional Arctic governance, and the article provides a timely evaluation of the histories and mandates of these varied institutions as they expand their level of engagement, and influence, in Arctic issues.

Cécile Pelaudeix examines the governance of offshore activities in the Arctic, and the attempts to address tensions between sustainable development and hydrocarbon exploration. The concept of multilevel governance is drawn on to tackle the overlapping competencies, jurisdiction and interactions that mark such offshore activities, and the fundamental differences in history, politics and culture are seen to play a huge role in how the sector is ultimately governed across the Arctic.

Focusing on a separate but equally timely issue, Rebecca Pincus examines the state of disaster response in the Arctic. SAR and shipping have featured prominently in recent Arctic regional governance arrangements, and the many unique challenges have been well identified. Pincus argues that the challenge of emergency response in the Arctic comprises a ‘wicked’ policy problem. The article provides much in the way of identifying scenarios that represent real and immediate policy challenges needing to be addressed.

Finally, Malgorzata Smieszek and Paula Kankaanpää examine the role of the Arctic Council Chairmanship, a much needed assessment in a sub-field that is generally overlooked and under studied. Drawing on Arctic Council documents, the article provides an overview of the formal responsibilities of the chair, the inevitability of domestic political influence on the role, and the challenges the structure has imposed on the work of the Arctic Council, such as shifting priorities and truncated work plans limited by a two year rotating schedule.

International and global governance

The Arctic Yearbook is a product of the UArctic and NRF joint Thematic Network on Geopolitics and Security, and so writings on the topic are of particular interest. The year 2015 certainly had its share of geopolitics, and the articles presented here reflect that.

Kristen Bartenstein deconstructs the oft-used concept of “commonality”, the framing of the Arctic as somehow a common space. Whereas Arctic states may speak of working towards common goals with their Arctic neighbours, non-Arctic states often characterize the region as a global commons, to which everyone has rights and responsibilities. While the term is used in divergent ways, the author criticizes the fact that states are pushing narratives that position them to gain advantage on the Arctic “chessboard”. As a legal construct, furthermore, the concept of the Arctic as a common heritage is found to be misleading and misguided.

Ieva Bērziņa provides an insightful comparison of the way different Russian actors frame Arctic political discourse. As might have been expected, but which has rarely been so carefully documented, there is very different messaging for domestic and foreign audiences. Western analysts would do well to appreciate such nuances, which no doubt apply to the rhetoric adopted by other Arctic states, most notably Canada under the Harper government.

Reid Lidow frames the Arctic as one political region among many, and assesses its behaviour and characteristic accordingly. Of particular usefulness in devising, if not a model, then analogue, for the Arctic Council and the region as whole, is ASEAN, the Association of South East Asian Nations, which may provide lessons for enhanced regional Arctic integration.

Ingrid Medby provides a case study on the construction of an Arctic state identity, drawing on the example of Norway. An ever larger number of actors have found it advantageous and desirable to identify as “Arctic” – see Barack Obama’s GLACIER speech and visit to Alaska – with Arctic statehood in particular tied to political status, leverage, and legitimacy. The article demonstrates the very constructed and normative nature of the current focus and privileging of Arctic identities.

Jon Rahbek-Clemmensen explores the significant advances made in the past year on continental shelf claims in the Central Arctic Ocean, with both Denmark and Russia submitting theirs. The claims process is often articulated as a legal and scientific endeavor. The article reminds us that politics, indeed, are involved, and may prove a wild card going forward. However it seems likely that Canada, Denmark and Russia will continue to follow a peaceful and legal dispute settlement process, benefiting as it does all three of them.

Benjamin Schaller examines the current Arctic security environment, including the spillover from the Russian incursion into Ukraine. The article argues that the Arctic states should take additional steps to mitigate fallout from the crisis and its negative impacts on the Arctic, for example through confidence-building measures, ensuring that the Arctic role is not merely that of a sub-plot in European security, but rather a proving ground to restore peace and stability.

Commentaries and briefing notes

One of the more distinguishing features of the Arctic Yearbook is its platform for stakeholders, policyinfluencers and experts to provide commentary and analysis on events and actors of particular contemporary interest. This year we are pleased to provide comment on many of the year’s most notable developments, from the growing importance of sub-national actors in Arctic politics, as told from the perspective of Yukon and Alaska; evaluations of some of the year’s governance milestones, including the establishment of an Arctic Coast Guard Forum and the Arctic high seas fishing moratorium; analysis of some of the year’s biggest events, from the Arctic Council Chairmanship and the Greenlandic elections to COP21 and GLACIER; as well as an overview of some of the contributions made in the field of Arctic social science, including the publication of AHDR II, the Arctic Futures Initiative, and several other notable conferences and gatherings. These and many more opinions and analyses have been curated on the issues and events which have sparked our collective interest over the past year.

Finally, we want to acknowledge the work and support of those who contribute to the Arctic Yearbook every year, including and especially Arctic Portal, who provides web hosting and design; our Editorial Board, including our new Chair, Lawson W. Brigham from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks; the University of the Arctic; and Arctic Circle. Thanks also to all the reviewers, many of whom have provided their services to Arctic Yearbook every Summer since our establishment; our authors; and U.S. Special Advisor on Arctic Science and Policy Fran Ulmer, who graciously accepted to contribute this year’s preface.

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