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Arctic Yearbook 2012
Collaborative Infrastructures: A Roadmap for International Cooperation in the Arctic
resource exploration, and remains “essentially an international advisory body providing support to
the governments that are seeking consensus-based solutions to common or shared problems”
(Heininen, 2004: 214). The 2011 search-and-rescue agreement may pave the way for some binding
international regulation of oil and gas development, as Sweden has indicated that it would use its
term as Arctic Council chair from 2011-2013 to push for regional coordination on oil spill
prevention and response (Arctic Council, 2011b). However, it remains unclear whether the Arctic
Council will ever acquire the authority to regulate and/or mediate disputes regarding ownership of
oil and gas deposits, given the highly strategic role of these resources in state agendas.
In the near future at least, such a transfer of power appears unlikely. The Ilulissat Declaration issued
by Greenland, Canada, Russia and the U.S. in 2008 unequivocally affirmed these states’ commitment
to the existing legal framework under UNCLOS. Implying that the terms of Article 76 are sufficient
for resolving present and potential future sovereignty disputes, the declaration asserts that there is
“no need to develop a new comprehensive international legal regime to govern the Arctic Ocean”
(Ilulissat Declaration, 2008). Effectively, this agreement among select governments – indigenous
groups and non-littoral Arctic states Finland, Iceland, and Sweden were excluded from the summit –
sent a clear message to the international community that matters of sovereignty and resource
development belong foremost on national, rather than international, agendas (Dodds, 2010). In this
way, the agreement undermined the spirit of international cooperation the Arctic Council was
created to promote, made plain by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s rebuke to former
Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon at the March 2010 meeting of the “Arctic Five”
(Woods, 2010). Contrary to regimes of “disaggregated” sovereignty coincident with the rise of
globalization, the “necessary fiction” that “there is absolute popular sovereignty vested in a
national/territorial political community rigidly marked off from all others” (Agnew, 2009: 98;
Chandler, 2003) remains a compelling geopolitical principle in the Arctic.
In spite of this focus on national rather than regional interests, all signs are that the former will be
advanced by peaceful means (Young, 2009; Brosnan et al., 2011). UNCLOS offers a peaceful
solution to territorial disputes: Arctic oil and gas, like those in any ocean, belong to the state which
exercises sovereignty there. Because most known reserves lie within unambiguous state EEZ
boundaries, states may pursue development of their own fields within an internationally recognized
legal framework. Where boundaries are disputed, Arctic states have shown willingness to find
peaceful resolutions: in September 2010, Norway and Russia resolved a four decade-long