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Arctic Yearbook 2012
New Directions for Governance in the Arctic Region
indigenous peoples, NGOs and local governments can participate. As Young counters,
the current patchwork of governance arrangements in the Arctic provides opportunities
for a variety of non-state actors to exercise real influence over a number of specific
issues arising in the region…The growing influence of non-state actors worldwide has
advanced too far to allow for traditional diplomatic practices to assume and maintain
supremacy over issues like those arising in the Arctic today. The negotiation of a
traditional legally binding treaty for the Arctic would not be regarded as a progressive
move in this context (Young, 2009a: 441).
How would a piecemeal approach work in practice? Because the Arctic Council has not developed
the authority or capacity to manage regulatory regimes, it would make sense for the different issue
areas to be managed under existing relevant organizations. Thus a mandatory Polar Code for
shipping would be enforced via the International Maritime Organization; the North East Atlantic
Fisheries Commission could cover industrial fishing throughout the Greenland and Norwegian Seas;
and the forum provided by the Convention on Biological Diversity could address matters pertaining
to the loss of species in the Arctic (ibid). This type of approach seems to describe what, in fact, is
now occurring in the Arctic.
Regional Seas Agreement
Advocates for a regional seas agreement argue that the clear benefits of an eco-system based
approach call for the establishment of such an arrangement in the Arctic. They argue that the sector-
based regulation approach has resulted in declining marine environmental quality and loss of
biodiversity across the globe (Saksina, 2009: 31), and that the intertwined nature of managing
increased shipping and oil and gas development on the one hand, and conserving fisheries, marine
mammals, sea birds and habitat on the other, argues strongly for a comprehensive ecosystem-based
approach in the Arctic (Huebert and Yeager, 2008: 28). The WWF Arctic program has been an
outspoken proponent of such a system, and has published a number of expert reports on the issue
(ibid; Koivurova and Molenaar, 2010).
There are plenty of models on which an Arctic regional seas agreement could be designed. The
North-East Atlantic region in particular, which includes Arctic Council members Denmark, Finland,
Iceland, Norway and Sweden, provides a model with its OSPAR Convention, established in 1992
and based on the following main principles: the ‘precautionary principle’; the ‘polluter pays principle’;
the Best Available Techniques (BAT); and the Best Environmental Practice (BEP). Furthermore, the
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)’s regional seas programme, which was