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Arctic Yearbook 2012
cooperation. The UK shares a common interest with all the Arctic states to see the development of
safe and effective legal, security, shipping and resource regimes rooted in UNCLOS and the Arctic
Council (for a review see Østreng et al., 2010). An Arctic Strategy could be used to detail to both
domestic and ‘Arctic’ audiences how the UK proposes to contribute to these developments at a time
when its material capacity to contribute to scientific activity, maritime patrols, search and rescue and
maritime surveillance has been reduced. This would provide a far more durable political framework
to provide support to both public and private interests, justifying investment in intellectual and
material assets that have long build-times.
Perhaps more significantly, it would provide the political
basis for strengthening existing and developing new partnerships in the region, facilitating scientific
and commercial objectives, in particular the UK’s contribution to the working groups of the Arctic
Where a formal Arctic Strategy could prove controversial is in the practices through which it is
developed. Reading the Ilulissat Declaration (OceanLaw, 2008), the Arctic coastal states have
somewhat justifiable concerns about the way in which their management of the Arctic region is being
portrayed as an arena of high tension, militarisation and a race for resources; as if they need help
from the rest of the international community to manage their affairs and maintain stability. Such
sensitivities are only exacerbated by perceptions from the Arctic states that non-Arctic states are
developing their own strategies for the region behind closed doors. If Britain wants to develop an
effective Arctic strategy it will have to do so transparently and in conversation with the eight Arctic
states. At least as important will be the need to open up channels for the UK to discuss directly with
indigenous groups what is at stake in the region. As Nuttall (2010) observes, indigenous peoples have
become increasingly important to political processes in the Arctic. Moreover, sensitivity to
indigenous issues is an important source of legitimacy, particularly at the Arctic Council but also with
key Arctic partners such as Canada (Leahy, 2012).
The British government also has a domestic agenda which it will have to contend with concerning
the degree to which the British public is consulted on what kind of future the UK should push for in
the Arctic. There has been no attempt to measure what the Arctic means to the British population at
large, although the Arctic does enjoy high visibility within popular culture, in books, television
documentaries and film, as well as in museums, art galleries and NGO campaigns. However, the
degree to which the Arctic resonates with their everyday lives is unclear. The
Frozen Planet
series, for
example, attracted millions of viewers but does not appear to have inspired a clearer understanding
of how individuals’ own lives are connected to the region. If the government is to continue to invest