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Arctic Yearbook 2012
International law, like international relations, has traditionally utilized the nation-state as its primary
unit of analysis. However, as the UNDRIP evolves from a guiding principle to international
customary law, it has the potential to safeguard indigenous rights globally and to provide the Inuit, in
particular, with an effective tool in assuring their voice and rights in the dialogue on the future of the
Arctic. The ICC strategically included mention of their rights as “a people” under the UNDRIP in
A Circumpolar Inuit Declaration on Sovereignty in the Arctic
(2009) and
A Circumpolar Inuit Declaration
on Resource Development Principles in Inuit Nunaat
The Arctic is going through a dramatic change as a result of global warming. Increased access to
natural resources and new shipping routes are focusing international attention on the region. The
implications of this change are unpredictable particularly concerning geopolitics. A number of non-
Arctic states and organizations are pursuing Observer Status on the Arctic Council, including China,
Japan, Italy, South Korea and the EU. There is no question, according to a recent front-page article
The New York Times
, that “the world’s superpowers are increasingly jockeying for political influence
and economic position” (Rosenthal, 2012: A1) in the region. While significant research is being
conducted on how international law might resolve competing interests in the Arctic, much less
attention is given to how Arctic indigenous peoples are reframing the political map to develop a
method of governance better suited to the unique challenges of the circumpolar world. What
distinguishes international relations in the Arctic today from the Cold War, is that there are new
actors on the world stage who are exercising a relatively influential role in how future global interests
in the region will play out. Arctic indigenous peoples are forming effective transnational political
organizations (Permanent Participant organizations), challenging conventional concepts of territory,
drafting international declarations, and securing their rights as a people via international customary
law. These efforts are effectively enhancing the Arctic indigenous voice and influence in domestic
and international affairs and transforming the global dialogue concerning the Arctic region.
According to Wilson & Smith (2011), the Inuit voice has “challenged the state-centric status quo and
dominant economic ideologies that shape the current world order” (910). What is occurring in the
Arctic is an unparalleled level of indigenous political engagement. Arguably, for the first time in
history, indigenous peoples and nation-states are working together to resolve some of the most
significant environmental, social and geopolitical challenges of our time. The Inuit are “remapping”