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Arctic Yearbook 2012
Finger-Stich and Finger
to the extractive industries to the extent that they can still control or regulate their activities, so that
they minimize risks of conflict and environmental degradation. Therefore the most influential actors
in environmental policy-making regarding the Arctic are nation-states and their respective TNCs or
SOEs (see below). The five Arctic rim-states are thus mostly preoccupied with their claims over
resources, and keeping good relations amongst themselves so as to not jeopardize their commercial
interests (e.g., “commercial peace”). Through the Arctic Council, the eight Arctic states, including
the three non-rim-states of Finland, Sweden, and Iceland, represent the broader interests of the
entire Arctic region.
The potential of the Arctic Council to be active in promoting needed institutional changes is
therefore limited by the Arctic ocean rim-states, who do not want to see their access to the
hydrocarbon resources regulated by other actors, and also by countries who have important
commercial interests related to their extractive industries, such as China, Japan, Korea, the United
Kingdom and France.
That said, Arctic Council states, acting through the IMO, are contributing to
the development of guidelines for ships operating in polar waters, known as the Polar Code. And the
potential for legally binding agreements was shown with the Arctic Search and Rescue Agreement
signed by all Arctic Council states in May 2011, at the same time that a permanent secretariat for the
Council in Tromsø was announced. However, other declarations show that the five Artic Ocean rim-
states are not interested in giving the Arctic Council the status of an international organization with
an enhanced legal authority (see Ilulissat Declaration, 2008 and the US Arctic Region Policy, 2009,
cit. in Heininen, 2011; Koivurova, T. & Hasanat, W., 2009).
The peace and environmental movements, beginning in the sixties and running into the late nineties,
problematised the development of the military and industrial complex on which the nation-states
consolidated their power as a political issue. With the end of the Cold War, there was hope for
demilitarization, and for the Arctic in particular, to be cleaned from military waste, including nuclear
and other contaminants, from radar stations, airplanes, warships, military camps and defense lines in
Russia, Northern Europe, Northern Canada and Alaska. However, it was the defense departments of
the Arctic states and their allies which kept control over that overwhelming matter, with some
programs still underway.
Nation-states have a great responsibility in internationally binding and soft law instruments, but the
development and implementation of these instruments has shown to be limited by the willingness of
the same states to compromise on their sovereignty and commit to collaborative action. Indeed,