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Arctic Yearbook 2012
New Directions for Governance in the Arctic Region
Americans, that the organization did not take on a legal personality or receive structured funding.
Declaration on the Establishment of the Arctic Council
was subsequently signed in Ottawa, Canada on
September 19, 1996, with a mandate to “promote cooperation, coordination and interaction among
the Arctic states…in particular on issues of sustainable development and environmental protection”
(Arctic Council, 1996: 1).
In its first decade of the Arctic Council’s existence, important scientific work was conducted, leading
to high quality reports such as the
Arctic Climate Impact Assessment
(2004) and the
Arctic Human
Development Report
(2004). The Arctic Council was also successful in helping to normalize relations
between the West and Russia in the post-Cold era. However its limited mandate meant that the
Arctic Council was unwilling to implement any kind of mandatory or enforceable regulatory
framework to protect the Arctic environment.
Climate and Other Changes as Impetus for Evolving Governance
The circumpolar region failed to garner much global political attention during the late 1990s and
early 2000s, outside of circles interested in environmental security and indigenous rights – issues of
‘low’ politics. After 2007, however, a number of events came together that pushed the Arctic into the
global spotlight and highlighted the lack of, and need for, better regional governance frameworks.
The most significant catalyst for change in the Arctic has been climate change and global warming.
Arctic Climate Impact Assessment
(ACIA) of 2004 provided convincing scientific data, to back up
anecdotal evidence, that the Arctic was indeed warming and there were physical, economic and social
consequences for the Arctic states to deal with. The dramatic drop in sea ice coverage recorded in
the Arctic Ocean in September 2007 negated any residual doubts, when sea ice coverage declined to
4.28 million km², or 39% below the long-term average from 1979-2000 (National Snow and Ice Data
Center, 2007) (see Figure 1 below).