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Arctic Yearbook 2012
25 Years of Arctic Environmental Agency: Changing Issues and Power Relations
ecological changes if they adjust their uses of the resources’ limits and develop socio-ecological
capacity to regenerate the renewable resources, and if they are well nested within polycentric
common resources management systems (Ostrom 2009, 2010). These systems often integrate
cultural, social, ecological and economic values, traditional and modern science, and innovative
knowledge and know-how. In order to “mind the sustainability gap”, common property resources’
institutions (distinct from public and private property regimes) will need to be maintained, restored,
adapted and innovated at the level of socio-ecosystems, taking into account the limits of the Earth’s
life support system (Fischer et al., 2007). The Arctic Climate Impact Assessment of 2004 (ACIA,
2005) has also shown that state policies aimed at settling and controlling indigenous peoples’ systems
of livelihoods can constrain or hamper their capacity to be resilient in the face of climate change,
such as when permafrost melts, when pests affect livestock, or when hunting and fishing are affected
by changing migration or reproduction patterns of Arctic fauna (Golovnev & Osherenko, 1999;
Kassam, 2009; Koivurova, Tervo & Stepien, 2008; Nuttall et al, 2005; Sydneysmith et al, 2010).
Governmental and private organizations tend to accord little legitimacy, hence institutional support,
to common property resource management systems. If they do, it is only occasionally and with little
security of rights. While energy is framed as a national security issue, also thanks to the active
lobbying of TNCs and SOEs, nation-states, which have the ownership rights over ocean and
underground resources, impose their decisions, each for their own particular interest and without
opening decisions to their own citizens’ democratic deliberations. This contemporary trend
contradicts the need for international and regional cooperation to address the degradation of the
climate (Giddens, 2009).
In fact, it seems that the parenthesis, which had been opened 25 years ago with Gorbachev’s speech
on the Arctic, is closing up again, as nation-states are pressed by peak oil, debt and recession. None
of the great problems raised by Gorbachev has been solved. Militarization of the Arctic has not
halted, even though there are less tense political relations than during the Cold War. Albeit the
Ilulissat Declaration of 2008 stated the good intentions of the five Arctic coastal states to solve “any
differences that states may have over the determination of the new boundaries (…) peacefully and in
accordance with UNCLOS”, current armaments and military presence in the region rather leads us to
think that “if political cooperation in the region should sour in the future, it is clear that most of the
Arctic nations will have forces that are prepared for a hostile northern environment” (Huebert,
Exner-Pirot, Lajeunesse & Gulledge 2012: 19). However, the social movements of the 1990s,