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Arctic Yearbook 2012
between environmental protection and social-economic development. It has become a normative
cornerstone in international environmental governance since the UN Conference on Environment
and Development in 1992, and was reinforced by the UN Conference on Sustainable Development
in 2002 (United Nations, 2003) as well as by the focus on Sustainable Development Goals at the Rio
+20 meeting in 2012. However, the tensions between environmental, economic and social
dimensions have remained ever since the concept was launched. The concept also appears to be
flexible enough for it to be used to serve a range of political agendas (Owens, 2003). In the Arctic,
sustainable development has a central place in international cooperation. For example, it appears as
one of the overarching goals for the Arctic Council (Arctic Council Ottawa Declaration, 1996).
article analyzes what aspects of sustainable development appear to be in policy focus at different
points in time.
The following section briefly summarizes how security and sustainable development have been
framed at different periods in contemporary Arctic cooperation. The periods in focus are the region-
building period (1987–1996), the consolidation of Arctic cooperation (1996–2007), and the years
following the 2007 sea-ice minimum.
1987–1996: The Region-Building Period
Mikhail Gorbachev’s famous Murmansk speech in October 1987 signaled the point at which the
Arctic changed from an arena of Cold-War tensions to a region with common interests regarding
environmental cooperation. Archer and Scrivener have described the interest in the environment as
part of a broader development of states with Arctic interests seeking to “guard their strategic
concerns, to secure access to the regions’ resources, enhance the scientific understanding of the
region and protect the environment” (Archer & Scrivener, 2000: 602). It was thus not only the
per se
that was of interest but the role of environmental protection as part of a broader
political agenda of “removing some of the obstacles to the Arctic’s ‘coming of age’ as an
international political region” (ibid, 603).
The time has been characterized as an era of region-building and included the creation of several
cooperative ventures (Keskitalo, 2004; Heininen, 2004). In relation to the environment, the most
relevant ones were the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC), the circumpolar political
cooperation in the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy (AEPS), and to some extent the
Barents region cooperation (BEAR/BEAC). While the Kirkenes Declaration (that set the stage for