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Arctic Yearbook 2012
established in 1974 and includes over 140 countries in 13 programmes
, could provide both a model
and logistical guidance to an Arctic regional seas programme. In fact, the Arctic region already
participates in the UNEP regional seas programme through its Arctic Council working group PAME
(Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment), although it continues to lack a formal and legally
binding programme.
And so it seems the Arctic has been prepared to embrace the principles of the regional seas
programme but has not yet developed the will or desire to participate in a legally binding capacity.
Proponents of a regional seas agreement therefore see the development of a comprehensive Action
Plan, backed by a legally binding Convention and related Annexes, to be the best way forward in
providing necessary protection for the sustainable use of the Arctic Ocean.
Arctic Treaty
Some observers, most notably the European Parliament, have called for an Antarctic-type treaty to
govern the Arctic. In their 2008 Resolution on Arctic Governance, the European Parliament
[suggested] that the Commission should be prepared to pursue the opening of
international negotiations designed to lead to the adoption of an international treaty for
the protection of the Arctic, having as its inspiration the Antarctic Treaty, as
supplemented by the Madrid Protocol signed in 1991, but respecting the fundamental
difference represented by the populated nature of the Arctic and the consequent rights
and needs of the peoples and nations of the Arctic region (European Parliament, 2008).
The point of such an approach would be to create a highly formal and interventionist treaty that
would seek to balance resource development and environmental protection, with an emphasis on
protecting global rather than national interests (Raeva, 2009: 26). The outcome would prioritize
conservation over development.
In general, such suggestions have been anathema to Arctic indigenous peoples and national
governments. Indigenous groups resent the image of the Arctic as a pristine environment needing to
be saved by outside environmental groups, when they have managed its conservation for millennia
(Nuttall, 1998). This is reflective of the sometimes competing visions between environmental groups
and Inuit, for example, over what is an acceptable use of the area’s wildlife, such as polar bear
conservation and seal hunting. The A5, on the other hand, are unlikely to give up or share control of
an area that is largely under their exclusive jurisdiction and encompasses great economic promise.
While all five governments have made efforts towards enhanced environmental protection in the
Arctic, none are likely to be interested in developing a regulatory regime that hamstrings efforts to