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Arctic Yearbook 2012
to exercise self-determination over our lives, territories, cultures and languages.
By referencing the European Union the ICC cleverly bases its claims to sovereignty on concepts that
have been accepted in the international community, extending these innovative notions of
sovereignty to Inuit claims. Indeed, a journalist for
(the digital desk for the
Toronto Star),
introduced the release of
A Circumpolar Inuit Declaration on Sovereignty in the Arctic
by describing the
Inuit as
“a new party … shouldering its way into international sovereignty discussions” (Weber, 28
April 2009: para. 1). Mary Simon (2011) argues that
A Circumpolar Inuit Declaration on Sovereignty in the
defines sovereignty as not incompatible with nation-state membership and that the Inuit have
and will continue to take legal action if necessary to ensure their involvement in development in the
In 2011, the ICC released its second declaration,
A Circumpolar Inuit Declaration on Resource Development
Principles in Inuit Nunaat
to respond to the growing interest in resource development in the Arctic by
nation-states and transnational corporations. The release of
A Circumpolar Inuit Declaration on Resource
Development Principles in Inuit Nunaat
was to coincide with the Ministerial Meeting of the Arctic
Council in Nuuk, Greenland in April 2011. The declarations
draws on the
United Nations Declaration of
the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
arguing that Inuit rights are protected under domestic and international
law. While there is considerable debate within ICC regarding natural resource development, the Inuit
want the right to decide on the future of the region as “a people.” The two declarations are
effectively challenging traditional nation-state-centered concepts of territory and sovereignty and
furthering Inuit rights to land and resource use.
The Role of Customary Law in Inuit Political Engagement
In addition to challenging conventional concepts of territory at the domestic and international levels,
the Inuit are increasingly using international law to ensure their rights and voice on the international
stage. There is a growing body of literature from legal experts (Christie, 2011; Graham & Wiessner,
2011; Griffith, 2011; Koivurova, 2010) anticipating the impact of the
United Nations Declaration on the
Rights of Indigenous Peoples
(UNDRIP) on enhanced indigenous involvement internationally.
Koivurova (2010) and Griffith (2011) address legal notions of territory and the potential use of
international law to further the rights of Arctic indigenous peoples. Koivurova examines how
indigenous peoples have been successful in utilizing international law to their advantage. He
acknowledges that while the primary subject of international law continues to be the nation-state, “it