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Arctic Yearbook 2012
Inuit Political Engagement in the Arctic
The role and influence of the Permanent Participants effectively illustrates how the conventional
nation-state framework is becoming increasingly inadequate to address transnational peoples and
their concerns.
Like Agnew, Fraser (2005 & 2009) also critiques the limitations of the nation-state model in
international relations theory. Fraser focuses specifically on social justice issues and human rights in
global context arguing that such challenges can no longer be fully understood in the nation-state
framework thereby pushing the bounds of conventional international relations theory. Fraser points
out that until the 1970s human rights were understood, and addressed, within the traditional nation-
state context. However, as a result of globalization and “post-Cold War geopolitical instabilities”
(Fraser, 2005: 71), social justice issues emerged at the transnational level (e.g. the impacts of climate
change). These emerging global challenges called for a new politics of “frame-setting” (Fraser, 2005:
80). According to Fraser, framing territory can be achieved one of two ways. The conventional
nation-state model can be revised or affirmed via redrawing boundaries or creating new ones (i.e. the
creation of new post-colonial states); or, nation-state borders can be transcended in favor of a new
organizing structure that prioritizes transnational interests and issues (Fraser, 2005). For example,
Fraser points out that environmentalists and indigenous peoples are “casting off the Westphalian
grammar of frame-setting” and “applying the all-affected principle directly to questions of justice in a
globalizing world” (Fraser, 2005: 84). A good example of this is found in the recent efforts of the
ICC to address global warming as a human rights abuse.
In 2005 the ICC filed a petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights charging the
United States with human rights abuses as a result of climate change. Prior, human rights had been
understood within a local context as the violation of one person’s rights by another or the violation
of individual/group rights by one’s own government. In other words, human rights were understood
and addressed within the parameters of the nation-state model. Rarely have human rights been
understood in the global context or, in the case of the ICC petition, by an international group
claiming violations by a foreign government. The filing of the petition by then-president of ICC,
Sheila Watt-Cloutier, and 62 Inuit hunters, changed the politics of climate change and how human
rights abuses are understood.
The ICC effectively challenged the limits of the nation-state model
and its ability to address the growing complexity of international relations in an increasingly
globalized world. This is one example of how the Inuit are challenging conventional representations
of territory to exert influence at the international level.