Tag Archives: Arctic

Ulrik Pram Gad and Jeppe Stransbjerg (eds.) The Politics of Sustainability: Reconfiguring identity, space and time (London: Routledge, 2019)

In The Politics of Sustainability, Ulrik Pram Gad and Jeppe Strandsberg brought together well-known Arctic social-scientists to rethink and establish new ways of understanding sustainability. In doing so, this edited volume provides a constructive alternative to the way the basic and evasive political understanding of sustainability is used to promote one narrative – what is important to sustain, when and where – over others. The idea of sustainability helps structure these narratives about future political decisions. As the editors rightly highlight, differences over what should be sustained remain key to the struggles over rights and resources in the Arctic.  These struggles vary depending on the context, yet patterns emerge as the Arctic becomes more integrated and institutionalized. The reconfiguration of sustainability through different lenses divides the book along three main lines (identity, space, and time). These three analytical frameworks are then neatly woven together to understand the complex and constant rearticulating of sustainability as a tool of governance.

The reconfiguration of identities is done through discerning the referent object of sustainability or, in other words, what deserves to be sustained. Individual or collective actors leverage political legitimacy and shape the discourse to sustain their own agenda. By analysing different sectors, such as fisheries in Greenland (Rikke Becker Jacobsen) and mining in Greenland and Nunavut (Marc Jacobsen), and the outside global vision of environmental sustainability in the Arctic petroleum development debate (Gerhardt at al.) highlight that the relationships sovereignty and power in affirming what needs to be sustained. Gerhardt et al. concludes that while Greenpeace has been able to bring the narrative of the pristine Arctic to the fore, their actions also triggered a backlash in targeted States where other types of sustainability (e.g. a fundamental commitment to securing the political sustainability of the nation state) are being prioritized. Another excellent example can be found in Ingrid Medby’s chapter where she provides a nuanced analysis of sustainability as a discursive legitimation of authority rather than a concrete praxis. In her study of Norway, Iceland and Canada, she demonstrates that a country’s ‘Arctic identity’ can be embedded within pre-existing national identity and imagined future narratives. In this way, speaking of Arctic sustainability is about sustaining a present object, or some its aspects (environment, cultures, economies), within a framed temporal dimension which in turn helps foster a broader national narrative.

The second dimension of this book is a reconceptualization of sustainability through space and the existence of a spatial dimension of the referent object in relation to a one specific environment. Sustainability is then articulated in terms of “scales”. In this spatial context, local and national geographical scales are being contrasted against the environmental scale of regional ecosystems and the global climate. As Gad and Stransbjerg argue in the conclusion, choosing one spatial scale often means prioritizing one dimension of sustainability over another. Temporality makes up the third dimension of this edited volume. The idea here is more to outline different ways of claiming responsibility and authority in the Arctic in relation to the sustainability of communities and ecologies. Sustainability narratives are again viewed as discursive tools to empower certain types of actors to act towards a sustainable future. As pointed out in the book, “sustainability narratives need to organize time to be able to credibility claim the environments which makes their preferred referent object sustainable.”

The Politics of Sustainability is dense and does not shy away from high-level theoretical discussions. It is a true tour de force that dissects every aspect of sustainability from a multiple of different angles. Written by well-established scholars atop of their fields in the broad world of polar research, this multidisciplinary edited collection not only achieves what its title suggests (i.e. a conceptual rethinking of sustainability a political concept) but, also provides one of the most complete academic analysis of Arctic governance under the umbrella of sustainability and sustainable development. As several researchers point out in their chapter (Keil; Wilson Rowe; Dodds and Nuttall), in mainstream political discourses sustainability is often conceived as a balancing act between social and economic development and environmental protection. However, there is a postcolonial critique of sustainability as a balancing act that needs to be added within this multi-layered framing to escape colonial ideas of indigeneity. Arctic sustainability is much more intricate than merely achieving balance between “ways of life” of Indigenous communities and what States want to do in the region.  Along these lines, the book manages to distil and explain challenging and complex critical Arctic geopolitical researches in a way that is both understandable and highly impressive. Each chapter are kept short, but they all surely deserve a stand-alone glowing review. In spite of a hefty price tag, The Politics of Sustainability will without doubt be of use to social scientists and researchers involved in Arctic research as well as advanced graduate students.

Donald R. Rothwell, Arctic Ocean Shipping: Navigation, Security and Sovereignty in the North American Arctic (Leiden: Brill, 2018)

The significance of Arctic shipping has long been underestimated because of difficulties associated with navigating through the hostile Arctic environment. This is bound to change for two reasons. Technological advances are giving ships greater capacity to operate in ice-covered waters. Moreover, the reduction of sea-ice is becoming less of a barrier because the hard multi-year ice gives way to thinner first-year ice as a result of climate change. These changes are creating new shipping routes through the Arctic via the Northeast or Northwest Passages and potentially through the central Arctic Ocean via the Bering Strait and the Denmark or Fram Straits. These emerging routes are up to 5,000 nautical miles shorter than alternative routes through the Panama Canal, which explains the growing interest in trans-Arctic shipping and relevant international law.

Arctic Ocean Shipping is a very well written book on important, contemporary, legal and geopolitical issues. It touches upon issues of security and sovereignty but it focuses primarily on rights and obligations relating to navigation in the North American Arctic, and on two state actors, Canada and the United States. Issues are analysed with reference to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and other relevant legal instruments.

Arctic Ocean Shipping is logically structured and divided into five sections, beginning with an introduction. Section II provides an overview of the “Arctic Ocean Legal Regime”, discussing the applicable international law, sovereignty, shipping, the “Regime of International Straits” and “Arctic Governance”. This includes a particularly interesting analysis of the special considerations concerning sovereignty in the polar regions and suggests that stricter standards of effective occupation might be applied to territorial claims in the Twenty-First Century, due to increased accessibility.

Section III, entitled “Arctic Navigation”, is very intriguing. It deals with “Arctic Navigation Routes”, the “Northwest Passage”, “Bering Strait”, “Arctic Straits and Trans-Arctic Shipping”, “Navigational Rights within the EEZ and High Seas” and “Canadian and US Arctic Rights and Interests”. This section provides an excellent account of navigational routes through the Arctic and their legal status. The rights, interests and policies of Canada and the US are thoroughly explained, with an emphasis on the Northwest Passage and the Bering Strait. Rothwell addresses a contentious issue in a particularly interesting chapter on “The Northwest Passage as an International Strait” where he explains the different positions of Canada and the US concerning the functional requirement of international straits. Reliance upon recorded number of transits would suggest that the Northwest Passage should not qualify as an international strait but a contemporaneous assessment of potential usage suggests the opposite. Recent transits of US vessels through the passage have been subject to an agreement with Canada, making them consensual rather than an exercise of the right of transit passage. This essentially allows the states to peacefully operate without resolving the disagreement. Rothwell does not definitively answer the question, whether emerging routes can qualify as international straits on the basis of potential use. It is an important question which should be relevant for the classification of other routes, such as the Nares strait. However, it will take further usage and involvement of other states to give an unequivocal answer.

Section IV is entitled “Arctic Maritime Security” and it deals with different aspects of “Post 9/11 Global Security Concerns”. This includes chapters on “Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism”, “Port Security”, “Safety of Navigation” and “Maritime Search and Rescue”. The point of this final section is to provide additional context for understanding Arctic policies of Canada and the US. There is not a lot of literature on maritime security in the Arctic so this is a timely contribution. The section gives an overview of the applicable legal instruments but does not consider particular issues in any detail. The monograph ends with “Concluding Remarks” in section V.

Arctic Ocean Shipping is well organised and well written by an exceptionally competent scholar. Yet, two points of criticism will be raised. First, it might have been relevant to include more information on the positions of other states and related issues in the Russian and Scandinavian Arctic for further context and deeper analysis. Second, issues of Arctic sovereignty arguably deserved further attention, given the title of the monograph. For example, it would have been interesting to learn more about the ongoing sovereignty dispute between Denmark and Canada in the Nares Strait.

In conclusion, Arctic Ocean Shipping is strongly recommended. It thoroughly explains the main issues concerning trans-Arctic shipping and does so in an accessible manner. The monograph provides an extensive and very useful overview of the field and is a welcome addition to the literature. The chapter on “Arctic Navigation” is particularly well written and it intriguingly sheds light on ongoing developments and contentious issues. The book is indispensable for lawyers involved with trans-Arctic shipping. Furthermore, it is relevant for all those interested in public international law and the Arctic, or navigational rights generally, and it is recommended for students, academics and practitioners alike.

Nikolas Sellheim, The Seal Hunt: Cultures, Economies and Legal Regimes (Leiden: Brill Nijhoff, 2018)

Nikolas Sellheim, a postdoctoral researcher, has written a comprehensive monograph on the legal aspects of the deviating seal hunting regimes around the world. The book takes both a socio-historical and legal view on the marine mammal harvests, and does not shy away even from the most remote or obscure hunts, such as the Latin American or freshwater seal issues.

The Seal Hunt opens with an overview of the “troubled” relationship seals and humans continue to have. Main body of the book is divided into four big themes – being cultures and seal hunt, legal regimes, the EU and the seal hunt and ultimately the core theme of the book – the juxtaposition of international trade law, seals and moral questions.

Included in the reviews are 19 different national jurisdictions of seal hunt around the world. Most of them do not allow commercial hunts, exceptions being Canada, Norway and Namibia. Some countries such as Finland, Iceland and Sweden argue for a quota-based sealing on the “protection” of their fisheries and the impacts seals are having. Sellheim notes in his review of the changing national contexts that “seal hunt issue goes beyond national legislation and includes broad and diverging standards of rights and wrongs”. He also correctly positions seal hunt in the larger context of marine mammal harvests and the complexities they have in global governance. Author also in a clear and coherent manner describes and reviews the Indigenous harvests around the world, both past and present. For example Sellheim raises the Bering Sea sealing regimes “having set a precedence” with indigenous peoples and their rights. Most of the limitations have been removed for traditional harvests.

In the book a certain number of notable hunts emerge. Sellheim spends time on the Newfoundland hunt which has been the flashpoint of animal rights groups and “birgitte bardot” -style campaigns from Eastern Canada. Whilst the hunt goes forwards, the author points to one of the best managed natural resource regimes in place, that includes legally-binding animal welfare provisions, sealers’ training programmes and monitoring mechanisms in place to ensure a well-conducted harvest.

Another flashpoint, partly related to the Newfoundland sealing and its impacts, is the Inuit relationship and sealing issues, including a lengthy and much-needed review of the situation in Greenland. Sellheim discusses what he sees as an “inner European View on public morality”, as a part of a lengthy process of EU – Greenlandic and EU – seal relations, if you will. Ultimately Sellheim deducts that the “EU clash” with seal hunting is centred around notions of what is seen as “inherently inhumane”. The International trade law becomes basis for some of the legal victories EU has over the seal skin product bans and associated processes.

Icelanding sealing is reviewed for its historical context and contemporary legal issues. However, we do not hear much of the living sealers voices in the book. For the interested parties, the recent Nordic IPBES report, Vol 2, Geographical Cases contains oral histories of the Icelandic subsistence sealers from the past 20 years.

Sellheim wrote much of his research in Northern Europe, including Finland and the context of Baltic Sea, and it is reflected in the level of details he is able to muster for his comprehensive review. For example it is rare to see accounts of Arvid Genetz on the Russian Sámi or reflections of the Kola Peninsula and 1751 legal context of trade, harvest and community rights. Clearly the author has taken the issues and the legal context to heart.

Throughout the book Sellheim also discusses the unique freshwater seals and their harvests, namely the lakes Saimaa and Ladoga in North-eastern Europe, and the lake Baikal situation (also bringing forth the crucial question – how did the seals end up so far inland at lake Baikal).

Most of the freshwater seal survey material points to urgent ecological crisis, especially in the context of the lake Saimaa seal, nowadays fully protected. Slight errors emerge in the numbers of the Saimaa seals (Sellheim argues for 150 living individuals, whilst the rebounding numbers are today closer to 400) but the main arguments are clear. He even goes out to point to the oral histories of the Evenki and Buryat peoples around lake Baikal as an important source of information about the seal and its life histories.

Sellheim also discusses the historical and present “technical” management treaties, such as the Russian – Norwegian and Russian – Finnish seal treaties as major confidence-building measures resting on their technical facilities and allowing dialogue to happen in a non-politicized environment.

Sellheim is able to convey a review of the governance of sealing well. And perhaps even more importantly he is able to convey the older relationship humans and seals continue to have, in the present so ‘troubled’, but a lengthy history indeed. All in all, tour de force of legal regimes and sealing globally, this book can be recommended to all experts and interested parties on sealing questions world-wide. A major achievement.

Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough, Danielle Marie Cudmore and Stefan Donecker (eds.), Imagining the Supernatural North (Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 2016)

Imagining the Supernatural North is a collection of sixteen essays written by scholars from various fields of study, who have investigated, from multiple perspectives, the theme of the North as part of the collective imagination throughout history, while focusing on the kindred connection between Northerness and the supernatural.

It is my belief that because of the subject at hand and the specific expertise of the authors involved, this book encourages the reader to reflect on one, or rather, two highly topical areas of study, which are strictly related to one another. The first area concerns cultural and imaginative geography, the attention paid to spaces and places in which the meetings of cultures and cultural phenomena occur, and to the multifarious area of maps and mappings, both geographic and mental. The second area is concerned with real and imaginary encounters with the ‘other’ and the ‘others’ as well as the complexity underlying the construction of otherness with its ensuing ambivalences.

To Europeans, the North is the exotic space of otherness, where dreams and fears can be relegated, and which is the perfect space where the supernatural dimension can be freed and nurtured inasmuch as it is alien to ‘western’ civilisation and rationality. However, the book’s standpoint is not merely Eurocentric. In fact, it is quite interesting to discover that the very Nordic peoples have their own northern ‘peripheries’ or, in other words, their ‘other’ places, which are designated for the dissemination of the magical, the monstrous and the diabolical.

This collection of essays maps out a journey around the theme of the Supernatural North through a cross-disciplinary approach encompassing the history of religions, mythology, historiography, anthropology, philosophy, geography as well as music and literary theory and criticism. This journey is built diachronically and attempts to outline the transhistorical trajectory of a theme through a narrative, following the variations of the image and concept of the Supernatural North from classical antiquity to very recent contemporary cultural phenomena.

The four parts the book is divided into mirror the evolution and the development of this central idea and are titled, respectively, “Ancient Roots. The Menace and the Divine”, “From the Middle Ages to the Early Modern Period. The Monstrous and the Demonic”, “The Nineteenth Century. The Scientific and the Spiritual” and “Contemporary Perspectives. The Desire of a Supernatural North”.

In the first part, the reader is confronted with the multifaceted ambiguity of the image of the North developed within Jewish (Ya’acov Sarig) and Greek (Maria Kasyanova e Athanasios Votsis) cultures: ancient Jewish rituals and legends seem to identify the origin of every evil with the North, although this image leads to more positive characterisations over time. On the other hand, in Greek culture, the ambiguity inherent in the figure of Boreas, the god of the North wind, is compounded by the virtuous yet mysterious myth of the Hyperboreans, creatures halfway between the gods and the human race.

This semantic duplicity seems to take a darker and more monstrous turn in medieval times, which the second part of the volume is dedicated to. This part of the book, besides following the diachronic transmission of the more fascinating “Monstra Septentrionalia”, from Adam of Bremen to the 16th-century maps still teeming with them (Rudolf Simek), delves into the relationship between witchcraft and the North, including those elements of Aristotelian natural philosophy, medicine and theology which form its theoretical basis (Brenda S. Gardenour Walter).  Additionally, this section introduces the reader to the manner in which certain specific literary sources make up the North’s supernatural otherness. On the one hand, it illustrates how Icelandic sagas portray Greenland as a place filled with monstrous ‘Wilderness’ (Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough), while on the other hand, the reader is introduced to the context and the strategy through which Somnium (1634), a peculiar posthumous work by Johannes Kepler, creates a magical Iceland and encapsulates the North in the early modern age, while using Olaus Magnus’s Historia de gentibus septentrionalibus as its primary source (Stefan Donecker).

The third part of the volume is centred on a dual encounter with the North: one that is a concrete and first-hand account of Arctic explorations and one that is romantic and which, by rediscovering northern cultures, reintroduces the image of a magical and mysterious North: the age-old fears arising from northern monstrosities now take on a lasting and darkly alluring aura. Both aspects (explorations and romantic ideas) are intertwined: romantic travellers, for example, seek the spirit of the songs of Ossian in real-world Scotland (Angela Byrne), while in 1845 the Austrian traveller Ida Pfeiffer explores Iceland as she deconstructs the romantic expectations she had set out with. (Jennifer E. Michaels).  In their travel books and books of legends (written between 1875 and 1921), the two anthropologists and explorers Knud Rasmussen and Hinrich Rink give an account of a magical and monstrous Greenland, in particular its desolate interior, thus meeting the general public’s ‘romantic’ expectation, which had by now been established, while also becoming an integral part of that tradition which can be recognized as Northerness (Silvije Habulinec). One last connection between Arctic travels and the supernatural may be identified in the mesmeric practices used for contacting lost explorers: even the voices of the clairvoyants seem to convey an image of the North which encapsulates all the knowledge and the tales, spun over time, surrounding the kingdom of ice (Shane Mccorristine).

The last part of the book explores the importance of the image of the supernatural North in a variety of current discourses between literature, the academic world and subcultures, such as heavy-metal music and the world of “Otherkin”. In Pale Fire, Nabokov describes a world that is alien, remote and northern, a longed-for place, a lost homeland that can preserve the freedom of the imagination while asserting victory over reality (Brian Walter), whereas Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass creates a northern world which, by drawing on the traditional and romantic topoi of the Supernatural North, is rendered deliberately realistic and concrete in an attempt to communicate its environmental, anti-authoritarian and anti-capitalist message more vehemently (Danielle Marie Cudmore). Again, it is the romantic legacy, sifted through the countless literary and filmic revisitations, which breathes new life into some subcultures that are particularly related to the supernatural north. In fact, black metal, pagan metal and newfolk music are all infused with the north and its myths in every respect, be it aesthetic, acoustic, performative and even linguistic and stylistic, often based on an idea of obscurity and irrationality, which sometimes take on martial and anti-Christian overtones (Jan Leichsenring). Conversely, the relationship that Otherkin has with its Nordic and mythological source seems to be more existential and philosophical, in that the individuals of these predominantly virtual communities feel the need to incorporate non-human (i.e., animal or supernatural) elements into their identity. Influenced directly by the Nordic myths and folklore, these communities prompt a philosophical reflection on the modern individual by also relying on such contemporary practices as New Age and New Shamanism (Jay Johnston). The last essay aims to reshape the romantic and exotic idea of the shaman rooted in the academic world by means of anthropological tools. In fact, the relationship with the supernatural is a practice men and women from various Arctic peoples engage in on a daily basis (Erica Hill).

In summary, this brief overview of the wealth of information, expertise and thought-provoking suggestions contained in this book cannot do full justice to its alluring potential as a research instrument. While on the one hand the scientific approach and language make for a delightfully riveting read, on the other hand, the trans-historic perspective helps the reader identify a number of threads which crisscross the whole volume and which call for further investigation (e.g., the relationship between the geographical landscape and the collective consciousness; the North from an eco-critical perspective; the role of the feminine in the supernatural construction of the North and so forth). I am sure this line of research still has a lot to reveal, partly and precisely because of this invaluable contribution.

Duncan Depledge, Britain and the Arctic (London: Palgrave Pivot, 2018)

Does geographical proximity make you closer to a region than long-standing historic ties? Is Britain a “forgotten Arctic State”? How can Britain find its way in the “Global Arctic”? These are the questions, Duncan Depledge, director of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Polar Regions Secretariat in Westminster and Special Adviser to the UK House of Commons Defence Committee tries to answer to in his new book Britain and the Arctic. In the field of polar research – in Britain or abroad – Depledge does not need any introduction anymore. His name, alongside his former professor at Royal Holloway, University of London Klaus Dodds, has become synonymous with high-quality research in both international relations and polar studies. Based on a doctoral thesis Depledge defended at Royal Holloway in 2014, this book might be regarded by some as a timely contribution to the field of polar studies, especially at a time where Britain is gauging its involvement in the Arctic. On a more structural level, Britain and the Arctic is written as a collection of six thematically self-standing essays that each tries to assess Britain’s relation to the high north in an all-encompassing and detailed manner. Written in a short, punchy format, each chapter takes the form of an essay (with an abstract at the beginning) that makes the whole book more reader-friendly.

As pointed out at the beginning of the introduction, Britain’s present interest in the Arctic has never been as high since the Cold War. Although one might be forgiven to think that British interests in the North is an offspring of Britain’s colonial past, Depledge posits the Arctic has come into focus based on the need to make sense of how the Arctic is changing and how understanding these changes can help Britain be more productive in terms of science, trade, conservation and national security (p.6). With this new contribution, Depledge endeavours to analyse four overarching themes to better assess Britain’s relation with the Arctic. Drawing on Britain’s long history as a global power, Depledge first shows that Britain has had a massive role in influencing and defining the Arctic for centuries. He then argues that in spite of the “circumpolarisation” of the Arctic where the Arctic Eight (Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the US) have pushed non-Arctic states such as Britain towards the periphery of Arctic affairs, interests for the region within Britain domestic political, scientific and public landscapes have continued to grow in the last decades. The third theme is linked with the production of new scientific knowledge and the interests of British scientists in understanding how the region is likely to evolve in the future. This comes at the interplay of science, environmental, military and security concerns. Finally, Depledge also assesses the extent to which Britain’s contemporary engagement in the region, mainly due to its colonial past, is shaped by the country’s need to atone and demonstrate sensitivity in engagement in postcolonialism and neocolonialism debates.

As Lassi Heininen suggests in one of the blurbs, the idea of that Britain might be a “forgotten Arctic State” definitely comes as a surprise at first. The layperson might indeed wonder how a State whose northernmost tip (Out Stack, Shetlands) lies a bit further north than Bergen, Norway but still south of the Faroe Islands  could be an Arctic State, let alone a forgotten one.  In Chapter Two (Britain: The Forgotten Arctic State), Depledge cleverly demonstrates that closeness is not only a matter of topographical proximity. In the Arctic, a geopolitical region that is being construed as more and more global, Depledge highlights the problems with creating an arbitrary dichotomy between Arctic and non-Arctic States that relies solely on geographical proximity. Such closeness, he argues, is also a matter of topology. While acknowledging that Britain’s longstanding history in the Arctic comes as a result of its colonial past, Depledge demonstrates that topography and topology offer two different ways of thinking about Britain’s proximity to the Arctic. Although topography might play a more important role in the contemporary geopolitical landscape and also makes the Arctic look further away from Britain – demonstrated in framing Britain as “The Arctic’s Nearest Neighbour” in successive government policies since 2010 -, Britain, he argues, share deep and extensive topological links with the Arctic. From a topographical perspective, Depledge points out that the Arctic as a regional construct would still be vulnerable to further changes if and when the Faroe Islands and Greenland ever chose to become independent. In this changing Arctic landscape, Depledge also briefly mentions  the “spectre of Scotland one day becoming independent” and how, he argues, “few would seriously question whether the rest of Britain’s interest in the Arctic should be at all diminished or that Scotland should have a greater role than the rest of the Britain in Arctic affairs” (31). However, this analysis might come as oblivious of Scotland sharing a similar set of commonalities with northern/Arctic European states. Scotland’s growing role in Arctic affairs over the past few years from its involvement in para-geopolitical fora such as the Arctic Circle Assembly in Reykjavik to being one of the driving Arctic forces within British politics.

Elsewhere in 2011 and 2012, Depledge had already made the case for the UK government to develop an overarching formal Arctic framework which would help Britain and other stakeholders reflect on what actually matters for Britain in the region. Following the release of the Arctic Policy Framework in 2013, British involvement in the Arctic has not ceased to grow. Depledge highlights the challenges the Polar Region Departments have encountered in their attempts to communicate Britain’s Arctic interests at home and abroad and the need for a new British Arctic strategic document. Such challenges include the recent short-term vision that has been dominating British foreign policy making. In Britain and the Arctic, Depledge argues for a review of the Arctic Policy Framework and for a new strategic document to be published. Since Britain and the Arctic’s publication however the UK Polar Regions Department did publish a new Arctic policy (Beyond the Ice: UK policy towards the Arctic) in 2018. However, the 2018 policy did not surprise much and had a rather conservative approach to Britain’s relation to the region.

Britain might not be a forgotten Arctic State, but the book’s overall raison d’être appears less to be putting Britain on the Arctic map once again and more a statement for Britain to become even more involved in the Arctic than it already is. As Depledge argues if Britain wants to have a bigger role and an impact on Arctic affairs, the focus should be less on claiming topographical proximity (“Britain as the Arctic’s nearest neighbour”) and far more on making Britain the Arctic’s closest neighbour through science, defense, trade and cultural links (127). This kind of involvement from contemporary non-Arctic actors is to be welcomed as the Arctic is being construed as a more global and evolving region. Cooperation between Arctic and non-Arctic stakeholders is key to build a better integrated region. Britain and the Arctic is an exemplar of quality research about the globalisation of the Arctic. With its practical outlook, Depledge has made many positive contribution to academic research in the field of polar studies and Britain and the Arctic offers the most recent example of such contributions. Its concise format and affordable price tag make it a must-read for everyone interested in Arctic affairs, from decision-makers and politicians to senior academics and undergraduate students.

Andreas Raspotnik, The European Union and the Geopolitics of the Arctic (Cheltenham & Northampton: Edward Elgar, 2018)

Andreas Raspotnik, in his new book “The European Union and the Geopolitics of the Arctic”, critically scrutinizes the decade-long history of successes, failures and attempts of the European Union in constructing its own legitimacy and credibility in the multi-layered geopolitics of its “northern neighborhood”, the Arctic. In doing so, the author attempts to define this “unknown” but yet a “component of the Arctic geopolitics”, that is to say the EU, and to provides his own response to the long-standing matter of which role the EU has to play in the region.

One immediate question that arises in the mind of those who are more familiar with EU’s studies, especially with regards to the Arctic, is not if the EU has an influence in the Arctic region, but whether the EU holds the actual capacity to act as an international actor in the given geopolitical context. Regardless of EU’s formal acceptance as an observer to the Arctic Council – now a symbolic token, as the EU can de facto observe, taken by too many as the ultimate proof of EU’s extraneousness to the region – this politico-economic Union of 28 Member States has shown clearly over the years both its negative and positive influence, yet influence nonetheless; though the question remains in which capacity. Raspotnik raises this question in his introduction, and skillfully adds another layer to this already complex picture, by using his study to “question [EU’s] broader role as an international actor with evolving geopolitical identity”. The study won’t provide the reader with a clean-cut answer, as the very last sentence of the book suggests – “[u]ltimately, the European Union attempts to act as sui generis geopolitical actor in the Arctic” – but it is a classic example of research where the journey itself is more relevant than the destination.

The main text of the book is structured in 5 parts which, excluding “Introduction” and “Conclusions”, compose the title of the book: II) Geopolitics, III) The Arctic, and IV) The European Union. This structure underlines the choice and need of the author for excavating and critically analyzing each of these concepts before providing – in an almost Hegelian fashion – a final synthesis. This book is indeed very well researched, and combines a vast literature of classic “Arctic Geopolitics” scholars, interviews, official documents and speeches given by EU representatives. Under several aspects – e.g. the use of explanatory “boxes” within the text and the careful contextualization of each new term used – this book could be positively marked as a textbook for students in geopolitics or European studies or a vade mecum for scholars, without ever providing a superficial account of the issue it addresses.

Raspotnik’s sets the start of his journey in 2007/2008, when high-level representatives of the EU and its member states – J.M. Barroso (former president of the EU Commission), Angela Merkel and Romano Prodi – all visited in different moments the new “Mecca of climate change”, Greenland, to experience first-hand the ice-cap melting. The Arctic was, in the meanwhile, experiencing a new moment in the global media, with the Russian flag being planted more than 4000 m beneath the North Pole, or the new record low in the Arctic Ocean’s sea-ice extent in September 2007. In addition, climate change – which will quickly turn into one of the strongest leitmotifs of the European Union’s narrative in the Arctic – was also having a new impetus in the same years and made it to the top of the G8 Summit agenda in Bad Doberan/Heiligendamm (Germany). Therefore, climate change, (potential) availability of resources, environmental and social challenges turned into a potential security issue for the EU, which, with the strong encouragement of Finland, added the Arctic to its “neighborhood’s radar”. In 2008, the EU formally started developing its own Arctic Policy.

This process took about 10 years, many documents and speeches, and for many observers it is not even yet fully finalized. The chapter dealing with this “policy-in-the-making” process is actually one of the highlights of this book. An overview that too easily risks turning into a repetitive and pedantic mantra – given the nature itself of the EU’s structure where documents/proposal need to bounce among the EU Parliament, the Commission and the Council (and repeat this itinerary several times) – was given new life. The author alternates the description of each step taken toward the development of an EU Arctic Policy with an “external reading”, combining in this way facts with his analyses.

The formal analysis used in the book, while accomplishing the need for providing a deep understanding of the EU’s role in the Arctic, runs into the same negative underestimation made by the EU regarding the role of indigenous people in the Arctic geopolitics. Reading this book, likewise most of the narrative and approaches used by the EU itself, the feeling is that the indigenous peoples of the Arctic appear more as a cameo – or a political/formal duty to be discussed – rather than part of Arctic geopolitics. In the description of the Arctic’s layered geopolitics, for example, a good overview is provided with regards to the “issue of eight national identifies”, but no mention at all is given regarding Indigenous peoples’ visions for their own territories. The role of Indigenous Peoples Organizations (IPOs) within the Arctic Council is only formally addressed and therefore minimized (“although the AC includes IPOs, decision making formally remains with its core members, the A8”), and the “seal-issue”, which ultimately costed the EU its formal acceptance as observer at the Arctic Council from 2009 to 2015 (then the Crimean crisis came into play) is dealt as a largely solved political issue, which formally and politically it is, but not in practice, at least for some of the indigenous peoples of the Arctic.

Jarich Oosten & Barbara Helen Miller (eds.), Traditions, Traps and Trends. Transfer of Knowledge in Arctic Regions (Alberta: The University of Alberta Press, 2018)

Indigenous knowledge – or traditional knowledge – has recently gained more and more attention, especially within the Arctic context. Large and complex bodies of knowledge(s) are thus acknowledged, which are mostly acquired in non-verbal ways: a learning by doing, or better, a learning by living (it), ensuring survival in the harshest environments of the globe for millennia.  Such a knowledge includes skills and “attitude that encourages perceptual rather than judgmental forms of knowing”, leading to a life oriented toward service to community. It is a knowledge that still today struggles with the Western concept of “science”, still deeply anchored to classic dichotomies, as “our way of thinking” vs ”their way of thinking”, or the Cartesian paradigm whereby mind and body are essentially separate entities.

The scope of this book, outlined by the editors Jarich Oosten and Barbara Helen Miller in the introduction, is to overcome the classic definition of “Western science” and “mak[e] a place in scientific discourse for contributions from Indigenous authorities”.  This cognitive place is therefore created by eight interdisciplinary case-studies, written by different authors, that explore knowledge transfer and knowledge practices of the Inuit in Canada, East and West Greenland, and the Northern Sámi of Norway. There is no given methodological explanation regarding the selection of Arctic regions treated in the book, but probably it is the result of the geographical areas of expertise of the authors, all members of the Research Group Circumpolar Cultures.

After a dense introduction, aimed at clearing out both the theoretical background and the histories of the peoples involved, the book is divided conceptually into two parts: the first one comprises five chapters on the Inuit of Greenland and North America; the second one three chapters on the Northern Sámi of Norway.

The first part considers the Inuit concept of IQ, “knowledge that has proven to be useful in the past and is still useful today”, in different contexts, historical times and geographical areas. Although following separate patterns, all the authors come to highlight, on the one hand, the disruptive effects that the introduction of Western education, with missionaries first and national school systems later, has had on individual, social and family relations. On the other hand, the dynamic and flexible nature of this IQ makes it still today a valuable body of knowledge(s) (inclusive of its spiritual component) for the younger generations’ well-being, both mental and physical. A correct transfer of this knowledge (or IQ), however, faces today several challenges, as for example the impossibility of extracting this knowledge from its material support, that is to say, the environment, and teach it in a classroom; obliging educators and researchers to experiment and find more suitable solutions (some of them are addressed in the book).

The second part takes the reader to a completely different location, Northern Norway, and into a different culture, the Sámi. This second part focuses on a variety of topics, yet connected with the main area outlined in the introduction, i.e. transfer of knowledge and knowledge practices.

Presented as a book for “students and scholars in anthropology and ethnology and for everyone interested in the Circumpolar North”, this collection of essays offers indeed different reading levels. However, probably due to a general lack of coordination among the authors of the first part, where the five essays share the same main topic, IQ, and different yet similar background (Inuit), make the reading often repetitive and redundant, hampering a fluid reading. The second part, while being definitely more diverse, sometimes struggles in showing clearly its connections with the overall scope of the book, leaving the reader a little lost.

Some peculiar design choices – such as the font and its size, slightly smaller than usual, and the left-side alignment – make the reading not easy, as they give the feeling of an endless footnote. On the bright side, this book includes also some interesting historical figures and drawings, such as those (pp. 166-167) illustrating stories related to “tupilat” (i.e. “evil spirits” in the form of small sculptures carved out of bone, ivory, wood or stone, depicting monstrous figures and believed to have destructive and sometimes lethal effects on rivals).

A question, however, remains unanswered.

Why is no essay in this book openly written by an indigenous scholar or an “indigenous authority” of the actual Arctic communities that are discussed therein, a child of their lived experiences and living cultures?  The feeling is that one very important classic dichotomy was not addressed at all, that is to say, indigenous cultures and indigenous peoples as proactive “subjects” of research rather than “objects”. If this dichotomy persists, can then the authors’ competent scientific approach really achieve the declared aim of the book’s editors, namely to “mak[e] a place in scientific discourse for contributions from Indigenous authorities”?

John V.H. Dippel, To the Ends of the Earth: The Truth behind the Glory of Polar Exploration (New York: Prometheus Books, 2018)

To the Ends of the Earthis a magnificent lost opportunity. Dippel takes his readers on a journey to the poles, describing the suffering, passions, delusions, ambitions, and cultural absurdities of the 19thcentury and early 20thcentury expeditions. But he does it in a tumultuous way.

Discovering the poles is not a “regular” discovery/exploration. Conquering the poles is not like conquering any other territory. The poles have an environment that is not simply inhospitable for humans, but that brings out the worst in them.

Explorers would head either North or South by boat, until their ship would get stuck in ice. The ships may or may not be crushed by the pressure of the ice. The men would spend the winter on the ice, in the hope to have a better start in the spring, assuming they survived the winter.

The months of darkness, freezing temperature, lack of food, and isolation from the known world bring almost inevitable depression and madness, aside from frostbites, malnutrition, and diseases. Having other people around in confined spaces drives people out of their minds. Having nobody at all, equally drives humans out of their minds. Deadly boredom would be alleviated with repetitive tedious scientific measurements, which eventually were doomed as irrelevant, but done nevertheless, in deadly conditions, in an attempt to keep a routine in a place that felt timeless.

The conditions on the way to the poles in the 19thand early 20thcentury were such that it is estimated that one in every two explorer died on expeditions.

Why go facing almost sure death? Or why facing conditions that may scar one for life, assuming one makes it back? Dippel offers a variety of answers, all of which are not necessarily flattering. Mostly, they boil down to greedy personal ambition. Scientific knowledge was just an excuse as testified by some penguin eggs collected risking human lives, and then left to gather dust in a box for decades in the British Museum.

Being a “successful” explorer meant fame and money. The glory to be recognized as “the first” and the royalties from the books one would publish upon their return (which often amounted to millions of today’s dollars). But the money was more often than not just instrumental to finance the next expedition. Glory remained the driver.

19thand early 20thcentury public fascination with polar expeditions, which drove the sale of books and newspapers, and most importantly drove the blind desire for glory, was often linked to nationalism and a craving for heroes, especially in times of peace.

But the attempted conquests of the poles were approached with the same attitudes people used to approach situations at home. British explorers would show up at the poles in their leather boots, flannel pants, and wooden coats. They would refuse to learn from indigenous people and wear snow shoes and animal skins. Indigenous people could not possibly have anything to teach the “obviously superior” British. Social status and ranks ought to be respected at all cost. Even when forced to live in a hand-made ice cave for several months. A line should be marked on the floor to divide lower-rank and higher-rank people. The superior and impeccable morals of the West implied both a divine investiture to conquer the poles, and thus a superiority over nature. Nature should be tamed by human will.

Not at the poles. At the poles, or on the way there, “success” was merely surviving; it was enduring indescribable suffering; it was still being a gentleman. Expedition after expedition would fail to arrive at the poles, or to discover the Open Polar Sea (an alleged warm and open body of navigable water at the North Pole), and would even fail to bring back men alive. Yet, these failures were heroic and thus were the celebrations of the cultural superiority of the explorers. So much so that even the disappearance of the Royal Navy officer Sir John Frankin and his 128 men was transmuted into a heroic gentlemen’s tale, so strong in the popular mind than when, after several years of search for him, evidence was brought back that he and his men may have engaged in cannibalism in the futile attempt to survive, the popular uproar discredited the evidence (and its discoverers) and not the Royal Navy officer or the inhuman conditions of an ill-equipped journey to the pole.

Dippel attributes the first arrivals at the poles by Norwegians (South Pole) and Americans (allegedly to the North Pole) to their more democratic and less stuffy culture, which allowed them to more easily adapt to this alien environment and to learn from past mistakes as well as from the Inuit.

But while Dippel remains almost silent on the Antarctic success of Ronald Amundsen, he describes the Arctic alleged successes built on the lies of Frederick Cook and Robert Peary. Both Cook and Peary were so driven by blind ambition and hunger for glory that they both willingly lied and falsified their records and accounts to claim something they did not achieve. The truth was only dug out later when, after the Vietnam War, the myth of an immaculate hero was no longer sustainable.

Dippel’s account of polar explorations is potentially a magnificent account of the darkest parts of the human soul that the darkness of the poles brings out. But his narrative, at least in the eyes of this reader, renders it into a polar storm. Each chapter swipes back and forward and without warning from the Arctic to the Antarctic, from one ship to another, from an explorer to another, from a time to another, leaving the reader disoriented. Not all explorers are present or presented with balanced importance, and no explanation is given for this. The volume does not provide a chronology of events or a list of explorers to aid the reader. It does not even have a map. It does instead have some period pictures, which do not quite help a reader not deeply familiar with all the expeditions. The constant back and forward makes several parts repetitive, without any necessary gain in clarity.

It is a book worth reading, if only because it may whet the curiosity to read more, to read something written more linearly on the topic.

Kamrul Hossain, José Miguel Roncero Martín and Anna Petrétei (eds.), Human and Societal Security in the Circumpolar Arctic (Leiden and Boston: Brill Nijhoff, 2018)

This well-conceived edited volume offers new research and analysis on human security in the Scandinavian and Russian Arctic. The editors sought to inform national and local policy as decision-makers and citizens plan for the future. The book uses many disciplines and methods to get at the dimensions of human security. In so doing, the volume illustrates how those who live in the Arctic—indigenous or not—respond to the opportunities and threats to human security in the region.

The book is divided into 5 parts: an extended essay on the central theme, as well as a conclusion. Parts 2, 3, 4 cut at the issues by putting the “local” into different contexts. Part 2 concerns local actors and governance frameworks. Part 3 switches scale and considers local implications of global developments. Part 4 then considers identity and values. Taken together the volume achieves its goal of being useful to those interested in refashioning Arctic policy and law to better facilitate human security.

The editors use the definition of societal security used by the Copenhagen School in security studies: “’sustainability, within acceptable conditions for evolution, of traditional patterns of language, culture, and religious and national identity and custom’ of a society. “Evolution” means the local society makes meaningful choices that work in their place rather than adapting to decisions made far away and with little input from the community. Security for communities produces deep security. The crucial claim in the book is that if communities can make their own security in important ways, then national security is largely sustained.

The policy side Arctic states each have policies for the Arctic. The thorough and thoughtful discussion by Martín in Chapter 2 of the policies, however, highlights the mismatch between what is good for the territorial state and what might be good for human security. The central problem is that national policies rarely multiply cultural and institutional options. Indeed they may weaken communities by undermining (sometimes literally) the economic security of a city or a herding community.

Alexander Sergunin continues that point by showing how Russian Arctic policy supports or hinders human security and sustainable development. In official policy both are to be enhanced. But, the federal bureaucracy usually resists or hinders local initiative rather than “using the resources of these actors in a creative way” (63). He pursues the gap between municipalities and the national level through a discussion of major city plans for human security and sustainable development. Even cities, however, mostly emphasize economic and environmental issues rather than the security of individuals.

Colonialism remains a governance reality. Sara Nyhlén, Katarina Nygren, Anna Olofsson and Johanna Bergström use a technique from feminist theory, intersectionalism, as a method to look at Swedish Arctic policy discourse. The discourses favor the state through claims, metaphors, and assumptions:

  • Claims of discovery over indigenous presence.
  • Mobilizing metaphors that shape problem representation, for example that sustainable development reduces risk and promotes economic development (in which central experts matter more than local ones).
  • Colonial assumptions that states are the only legitimate form of organization and that states cooperate.

Once unpacked, the discourses can be connected to power to act or not. Change the discourse and new human security-centered policy might be possible.

Wilfred Greaves continues the theme of colonization of Sapmi (the region where the Sami live in Scandinavia and Russia) by looking at policy over a long-time frame. Control over Sapmi and the Sami was part of Norway’s effort to establish itself as a sovereign state rather than a part of Sweden or Denmark. It was a matter of national security to put the Sámi under Norwegian control lest they ally themselves with other emerging states or abandon the borderlands. The Sami almost never resisted the efforts from further south and the policy of Norwegianization. By the 1970s, however, growing support for indigenous culture led Samí to claim they were rights holders who had a right to their own culture. Samí in Norway do not seek autonomy, so the colonial project is still at work, but they do negotiate frequently over government plans for their lands. They have also shown that “going green” is often a threat to human security of the Sami.

Michael Sheehan focuses on how different conceptions of territoriality produced conflict between Sami and Sweden’s construction of the ESRANGE launch site to put rockets into outer space. The Swedish government thought it wilderness. For the Sami, it represented numerous spaces for reindeer herding and other cultural activities. The author explains why Sweden chose space exploration and how the launch site connected to broader European space institutions, but were blind to Sami institutions. For example, rather than understanding Sami herding practices, Sweden responded to Sami concerns by imagining the communities were worried about personal security and offering blast protection sites to use.

The six chapters in part 3 are devoted to resource extraction. It begins with a critique of how states ‘cost’ things by Corinna Casi. Most states use economic cost/benefit analysis. They assign a price to clean air or freedom of movement and then decide on the most beneficial use. Casi argues the approach is misguided and not suitable for creating, preserving, or sustaining human security. Some environmental and human values can’t be priced effectively. Moreover, humans are more than consumers who buy and sell. Listening and finding solutions through discussion are better than seeing markets everywhere.

That critique is followed by how Arctic communities might get better discussion. Satu Rantu-Tyrkkö argues that social work could reduce risks of metal mining in Finland, if it would be more futures oriented by including intergenerational justice and responsibilities. Julia Loginova follows with her study local perceptions of security in Pripechor’e, Russia, a Komi-Izhuma community seeing considerable oil and gas development. The Komi-Izhuma have complex notions of security. When they sought to include this complexity in policy and plans, the government was deaf to them. As a consequence, they changed strategies and have demanded land and other rights from an oil firm rather than the national government.

Gerald Zojer argues that the discourse of sustainable development is too tied to the market to provide much human security. His evidence is based on discourse analysis of Arctic Council ministerial meetings. That discourse shifted from environmental concerns to market ones that emphasize the use of the region’s natural resources. In the shift the governments talked of human development through economic development. While it is possible that hydrocarbon development will help Arctic communities, it is not especially likely because formal markets do not recognize the benefits of the informal economies that are being displaced.

Hossain and Petrétei develop the evolutionary theme. They conceive Arctic society as a transnational one, but where all the communities are experience similar environmental and economic pressures. For resource extraction to promote human and societal security, policy would have to bring in environmental and sociopolitical responsibility.

The chapter by Stefan Kirchner argues law might help others find their responsibility to the Sami responsibility. He argues that the Sami of Finland have avenues to resist or shape government policy. While few Sami hold their areas as property, they do have procedural access to changing policy in areas of concern to them. For example, reindeer will not feed near power-generating windmills, but by using their procedural rights to participate, better policy might be possible in that new area as well as in subsoil mining.

Part 4 has four articles using a variety of cultural approaches to understanding human security. Helene Peterbauer and José Martín apply literary analysis to works about Svalbard. The chapter could be usefully read along with those in Section 1, notably Greaves. Some literature makes appeals to restore Sami culture, another type takes up a minority within the Sami as the theme. Traditional security themes from the Cold War, e.g. Soviet miners were really Soviet soldiers, told a different story about threats to Norway.


Tahnee Prior argues that a bottom up approach to understanding human (in)security would be useful and points to efforts to tell individual stories through blogs and other digital means. Digital storytelling can reveal relationships between gender and security.

Elena Busyreva interviewed descendants of Finns who migrated to the Kola peninsula in Russia to understand what was left of their culture. Most lost the Finnish language in a number of ways (policy, marriage…). The religious elements, while weakened by the closure of all Lutheran churches, survived in family traditions. Material culture carried over in housing design and the all-important sauna.

The last chapter in this part presents a research project by Tatiana Zhigaltsova where children drew maps and pictures of where they went during the day and also their most and least favorite places. Most of the Russian young intend to leave as soon as they are old enough…a problem for many Arctic communities. The results could improve planning on how to encourage the young to stay.

In sum, the book will speak to many researchers and policy makers. The sheer diversity empirical approaches and examples enhances Arctic scholarship. The solid use of shifting levels of analysis advances theory.

A. Shibata et al. (eds.), Emerging Legal Orders in the Arctic: The role of non-Arctic actors (London: Routledge, 2019)

There is no doubt that the Arctic is undergoing unprecedented changes. Not only has the Arctic environment been changing at a rapidly fast pace over the last decades, the Arctic has also become a more distinct social, political and legal region. All these ontological changes require more stable norms and institutional frameworks. Based on these premises, Emerging Legal Orders in the Arctic has put together a wide-ranging collection of deeply polar legal research by both familiar names in the field of polar legal studies but also by early-career researchers. As the editors point out at the beginning, this book is the outcome of a symposium held by the Polar Cooperation Research Centre at Kobe University, Japan in December 2017 on the role of non-Arctic states and actors in the Arctic legal order-making. The overarching theme of this book is to explore how, where and to what degree traditional non-Arctic actors, especially Asian States, interact with, influence and shape the creation of the legal order in the Arctic from a normative angle.

Part I of the book aims at giving a contextual understanding of and define the present and future scope of non-Arctic states’ engagement in regional governance with Timo Koivurova’s chapter and the rise of Asian countries, mainly China and Japan, on the Arctic stage. Describing the political and economic contexts of Asian engagement in the Arctic, Tonami points out, in chapter 3, that Asian states mainly pursue economic diplomacy with the aim to both enhance national economic prosperity and use economic leverage to increase domestic political stability. As Asian States’ role in Arctic governance increases, Arctic States expect them to be even engaged within existing institutions such as the AC and contribute to international norm-making in the region. Tonami argues, however, that from an Asian perspective, they are only willing to play this role to the extent that it serves their long-term political and economic agenda. According to her, the rise of Asian States in the region has resulted in a period of contested multilateralism. In chapter 4, Japan’s former ambassador in charge of Arctic affairs, Keiji Ide, analyses Japan’s contribution to the rule of law in the Arctic. He concludes that the challenges presently faced by the Arctic might be too great for Arctic States to deal with on their own. He argues in favour of more involvement and cooperation between both Arctic and non-Arctic states to face the challenges of our times. Taking the example of China and its Arctic policy white paper, Nielsson and Magnússon assesses China’s efforts to create and foster relationships with Arctic partners in order to better understand the region as a whole. According to them, China’s white paper on Arctic policy presents a balanced view between the opportunities for Chinese companies to enhance economic cooperation, the protection of the environment and combatting climate change.

Part II titled “People(s) in the Arctic” is the book’s shortest section with only two chapters. Chapter 6 written by the international chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Council, Dalee Sambo Dorough, argues that any discussion about the legal order in the Arctic should recognise the status and rights of indigenous peoples for whom the Arctic is home.  She emphasises that indigenous peoples are not just stakeholders in Arctic-related matters they are rightsholders in the region. According to her, although they are not Arctic states, non-Arctic States must engage more with Arctic indigenous peoples as they seek to become more involved in the Arctic legal order. Indigenous rights should not only be mentioned in Arctic policies, the status, rights and role of Arctic indigenous peoples should be respected in practice. Dalee Sambo makes some interesting recommendations for non-Arctic actors to better engage with indigenous peoples. To her education in the field of indigenous and human rights, engaging with communities at the local level, engaging outside with indigenous peoples outside of the AC, reaching out to indigenous peoples’ organisation and the AC Permanent Participants, identifying areas of mutual interests both within and outside the AC, being clear and straightforward about their Arctic interests and projects and, advancing research in social sciences and other areas of concerns to Arctic indigenous peoples are all means worth exploring to foster meaningful cooperation. The other chapter in Part II is an assessment of the role of non-governmental organisations (NGO) in influencing the Arctic sealing, whaling and hydrocarbon regimes in the Arctic by Nikolas Sellheim and Marzia Scopelliti.

In Part III on the marine Arctic, Joji Morishita discusses the Arctic Five-plus-Five process that led to the negotiations of the Central Arctic Ocean Fisheries (CAOF) Agreement. Morishita analyses each of the ten countries that took part in this process and takes the readers to the heart of the negotiations of this unique fisheries agreement. Although the Arctic Five (Canada, Kingdom of Denmark, Norway, Russia, and the United States) and the Plus Five (Iceland, Japan, China, Korea, and the EU) have substantial different interests, they share the same objectives regarding how the CAO should be managed according to the precautionary principle to avoid illegal fishing activities. The next chapter by Law of the Sea specialist, Erik J. Molenaar, is an almost-40-page-long masterpiece, which complements and adds another layer of understanding to Morishita’s chapter and provides one of the most in-depth analysis of the CAOF Agreement published thus far. Molenaar gives a concise but thorough overview of how the CAOF Agreement fits into international fisheries law and international law. Towards the end of the chapter, Molenaar also makes a comparative analysis of how participation in the Five-plus-Five process and the CAOF Agreement compares to participation in other RFMO/As. The following two chapters turn their focus on Arctic shipping as Rasmus Gjedssø Bertelsen delves into transnational knowledge network and epistemic communities and Leilei Zou provides a thorough analysis of cooperation between China and Russia in the legislative development of the Northern Sea Route.

Part IV switches gear to focus on scientific cooperation and the Arctic Council. In chapter 12, Akiho Shibata analyses the Arctic Science Cooperation Agreement that entered into force in May 2018 from the perspectives of non-Arctic States. In reviewing this third agreement negotiated under the auspices of the Arctic Council, Shibata assesses to what extend AC Observers States have been able to give substantive inputs at the negotiation stage. In his analysis, Shibata concludes that many pressing Arctic governance issues (e.g. black carbon) cannot be addressed without including non-Arctic actors. One of Part IV’s main themes seems to analyse the evolution of the relationship between AC Observer States and the Arctic Council. In their chapter, Sebastian Knecht and Jennifer Spence show that despite legal equality of all AC Observers, political considerations still play an important role. In the last chapter of the book, Yuanyuan Ren expands on China’s relation with the Arctic Council. According to Ren, China has shown more engagement at the AC level since being granted Observer status in 2013.

The book’s small, and perhaps only, quibble is that most of the chapters focus on non-Arctic States and look at Arctic law-making through a State-centric lens. This can in part be explained, as Sellheim and Scopelliti mention, because international law remains a state-driven process that tends to exclude non-State actors and communities. This seems like a missed opportunity to broaden that scope and to expand on the relation between non-Arctic actors, non-State actors and Arctic indigenous peoples in the context of creating new legal orders in the region. Such quibbles however do not detract from the book’s overall scholarly quality. The exploration of the evolution of the Arctic normative framework and its expansion on the global stage is still very much a work in progress. As the first edited volume in Routledge’s Research in Polar Law series, Emerging Legal Orders in the Arctic provides an in-depth and timely look at how the Arctic legal order is evolving and is a most welcome addition to the literature on international law that will certainly be of value not only to legal scholars involved in polar research but also to those with a broader interest in both Asian studies and region-building in the Arctic.

Scott Mackenzie & Anna Westerståhl Stenport (eds.), Films on Ice: Cinemas of the Arctic (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2015)

Load-bearing concepts are those that enable us to think (or conceptualize) something else.  [Any] mediation—between disciplines or subdisciplines, between interests within a field, and certainly between historical moments—can only be the result of the construction of a shared discourse within which a consensus must be sought for the use of specific words (hence, concepts).                      — Peter de Bolla, “Mediation and the Division of Labor”

In Films on Ice, “Arctic Cinemas” is offered as a load-bearing concept upon which varying forms of Arctic filmmaking hitherto regarded as discrete traditions can be placed in dialogue, challenging, as the introduction claims, the very notion of “Arctic” as an unified concept and conventional views of film history, at the same time. By proposing “Arctic Cinemas” as a new lens through which to view the diverse film histories of nations and peoples spanning the vast Arctic region, including those that might seem more dissimilar than similar on first consideration—Inuit and Sámi cinemas, Scottish women filmmakers, and Norwegian horror flicks, to point out a few—Films on Ice stakes an innovative claim concerning the “dialogue between insiders and outsiders” that occur across the Arctic region (1). In so doing, the collection of essays recasts ground that has been stereotyped by the glare of otherworldly ice, Eurocentric-ethnography and the sublime.

While “Arctic Cinemas” is indeed a load-bearing concept, the introduction to the collection, penned by its editors MacKenzie and Westerståhl Stenport, performs methodological heavy lifting worthy of Atlas, and the introduction is a veritable gold mine for anyone wishing to either design a course or binge watch film from and about the North, although the rarity of many of the films in question would make finding them on Netflix a feat.  As such, the introduction serves as an ample starting place for anyone needing to strengthen their broader knowledge of the Arctic and its many discourses, including Critical Arctic Studies and Arctic Art Cinema. Further, the introductions that open each of Film on Ice’s four parts are equally indispensable and help frame the plurality of theoretical perspectives included in the collection.

Perhaps the clearest articulation of the context from which the collection emerges is located in “Transnational, World, Global, Arctic Cinemas?” Here, the editors put forth their goal: “to challenge standard national cinema histories that have generally overlooked film production in, about, and for the Arctic region” (13). By envisioning “Arctic Cinema” as a concept by which “geographically related subsections of various nation-states” are incorporated into one conceptual rubric, Films on Ice also challenges normative definitions of World Cinema. This is equally achieved by including in the collection of essays examples of “sub-national” film, or those “not representative of what is understood as a ‘national’ tradition” (14). “Arctic Cinema,” then, expands the purview of both World Cinema and “cinematic tradition.”

It is because of this aim that the study focuses on what MacKenzie and Westerståhl Stenport describe as “three distinct, yet interrelated groups” (1). It is useful to describe these groups at length since it is through their interrelationships that the concept of “Arctic Cinemas” emerges.  They are: “(1) films made by Arctic residents, but mostly seen in the South […]; (2), films made outside the Arctic, typically by outsiders, and viewed mostly in the South and; (3) films made and viewed by Arctic residents through narrowcast broadcast and alternative venues” (1). As this list suggests, the collection is acutely attuned to the ways that perceptions of the Arctic, its regions, and its peoples have been amalgamated, marginalized and propagated in film.

The collection is equally attentive, however, to the ways in which pushback and reinscription have occurred with more frequency over the last several decades of filmmaking among the Arctic regions. Because of representation’s implicit function in film, the collection equally takes cue from Critical Arctic Studies, which is interested in exploring how cultural representation can serve as a humanistic counterpoint to the definition of the Arctic region by climate, geopolitics, or cartography (2). The collection’s broad scope is further organized into four parts, each highlighting a distinct frame of reference through which to view “Arctic Cinema.”

Part I, “Global Indigeneity,” focuses the notion of “unified singularity” on the indigenous peoples who populate the Arctic, representing “the first instance that the multiple cinematic traditions from various indigenous cultures and regions of the Arctic are placed in dialogue with one another” (31). There are very few venues, indeed, where an examination of Sámi, native Alaskan and Canadian, “Eskimo,” Inuit, and Greenlander film traditions would make sense standing side-by-side; this is one of them. This juxtapositioning succeeds in large part because of the engagement with the relationship between hybridity (cultural, ethnic, cinematic) and play in contemporary Arctic film, which stresses the reality of transnationality for the region’s indigenous peoples, both for the good and bad.

Part II, “Hollywood Hegemony,” constructs a thorough history of how, beginning at the turn of the 20th century, “the Arctic” has figured in American cinema and its “cinematic imaginaries” (121). The tradition of “location substitution” is one of the focuses in this section, as is the line between fiction and “actuality” in representations of the North. Perhaps one of the most startling aspects of this section is, however, the connection drawn between polar expedition, film production, and the way in which proto-fascist aesthetics reemployed the Arctic in its own image within German Bergfilm, the arctic landscape inscribed with sublime, masculine whiteness.

At the core of Part III, “Ethnography and the Documentary Dilemma,” are questions concerning time, chronology, the concept of historical progress and the ways in which ethnography and documentary film have grappled with and, in many cases, perpetuated notions of “cultural evolution” akin to those developed in stadial theory and disseminated in conjectural history and its descendants from the eighteenth century forward. It is in this section where the collection’s multiple threads begin to fully unite, and “Arctic Cinema” begins to signify in ways indicative of a functional, load-bearing concept: by juxtaposing the Arctic’s many unique regions and film histories with one another, it becomes apparent that, regardless of the differences among them, film made about the regions and peoples of the Arctic have repeatedly participated in forms of history-making predicated on the representation, evaluation and hierarchization of “otherness.” From this premise, one can more fully appreciate the flip-side of “Arctic Cinema” set forth in Part I, that of contemporary, indigenous filmmakers subverting, hybridizing, and playing with tropes long held within a film tradition that for too long functioned outside of their control. Although I appreciate the choice to place “Global Indigeneity” first in the collection, allowing indigenous voices to speak first and for themselves, I cannot help but wonder if Part III should have come before it, as the incredible contrast between early ethnographic film and contemporary, indigenous responses to it would deepen the significance of the latter, especially for a reader not wholly versed in the cinemas of the Arctic. After finishing the collection, read in order, I felt as though I needed to return to the opening chapters with the insights I collected along the way.

Part IV, “Myths and Modes of Exploration,” is perhaps the most daring section of the collection due to the broad geographical, cultural and temporal scope of its subjects: topics range from the earliest depictions of the race to the North Pole in silent film, circa 1901, to a comparison of 1930 and 1970s Soviet images of the North where, in the case of the later films, the Arctic space is imagined as “the place of possibilities where socialist dreams come true” (321); the collection closes with two works that scrutinize contemporary, visual interactions with the Arctic, examining new models of representing the region through “creolization” and “info-aesthetics.” Despite its diverse material, Part IV succeeds in connecting method, mythmaking, and exploration along several lines, including how film has mediated or attempted to mediate varying histories of the Arctic, personal, political, and environmental.

In its own words, Films on Ice demonstrates how the concept of “the Arctic” “elides the political, geographic, national, transnational and linguistic differences that define and populate the region;” foregrounding, even, how “the Arctic” encompasses an “intertwined” and “unifying singularity” (2). For even the most casual student of the Arctic, this conclusion will be unavoidable because although it signifies in so many interrelated ways, it is particularly prescient regarding climate change, which will not pause at borders and which will impact the Arctic and its peoples hardest, its uniqueness, its interwoven fabric, the first victim rent by modernity’s hubris. As a whole, the essays in Films on Ice speak among one another, pick up threads of common focus, and, in numerous cases, offer readings and arguments concerning the same films, scaffolding up, as it were, from the concept of “Arctic Cinema” to demonstrate the concept’s ability to provide a foundation for a new, counter history of film.


Geir Hønneland, Russia and the Arctic: Environment, Identity and Foreign Policy & Leif Christian Jensen, International Relations in the Arctic: Norway and the Struggle for Power in the New North (London/New York: IB Tauris, 2016)

Geir Hønneland and Leif Christian Jensen, both friends and colleagues at the Fridtjof Nansen Institute in Norway, wrote one book each that were published in the early part of 2016 by indie publisher, I.B. Tauris. Although each book discusses a subject of its own, for many reasons, the two books seem to nicely complement each other especially for scholars seeking a more holistic approach to Norwegian-Russian Arctic relations. As the present author started reading Hønneland’s book first and then went on to read Jensen’s, this review unfolds in exactly the same manner.

In “Russia and the Arctic: Environment, Identity and Foreign Policy,” Geir Hønneland goes back to one of his most prolific research subjects, namely Russia, and more specifically how Russia defines its own Arctic identity. Indeed, the aim of Hønneland’s book is to shift the discourse from the more media-friendly notions of the “Arctic buzz” and the “Scramble for the Arctic” to discuss what Russia actually wants in the Arctic, and how Russia actually defines itself, through its own Arctic and political discourses, as an Arctic nation. At the heart of the book lies an essential conceptualization of narrative and identity theory in which narratives are not construed as being a mere reflection of the world, but rather constitutive of the self, and as Hønneland puts it, narratives are rarely of one’s own making. In having Russia as the main protagonist of his book, Hønneland is able to further explore the role of the Arctic in shaping Russia’s projection of its own identity at the national level as well as onto both the international and the inter-regional (i.e. Arctic) stages. To do so, Hønneland divided his book into six chapters of relatively equal size touching upon subjects such as the so-called “Rush for the Arctic”, the delimitation of the Barents Sea, management of marine resources, continental shelf issues and Region building processes through identity formation. As a Norwegian researcher, Hønneland also strongly focuses on the relation between Norway and Russia, especially at the Barents-region level but also onto the broader stage.

Ambivalent relations could be said to be one of the major premises on which this book is built. Internally, Russia is perceived as the epitome of the epic absurdist genre, the “anti-Disneyland” where everything that could go wrong actually goes wrong, but Russia also likes to be seen as “the territory without limits”, the boundless, borderless land with no edges. And, to this respect, Hønneland shows the readers that the characteristics, which are generally associated with “Northern-ness” or with the Arctic, are the ones Russia associates with itself in a process that aims at constructing its own Arctic identity in blurring the boundaries between the Arctic as such and Russia. On this subject, Geir Hønneland even concludes that the Arctic is more Russian than Russia itself.

In the collective unconsciousness, the Russian struggle for identity is often perceived as being linked to its unconventional relation with the West and, in this view, the only choice there is to make for Russia is between being willing to create relations with the West – to get closer to Europe – or to create a sense of national identity more focused on Russia itself.  In either case, Russian identity is construed as being a narrative in which Russia needs to other the West in order to have a more stable identity. In modern days, as Hønneland points out, the Arctic is the modern incarnation of Russia’s willingness to work with the West, especially when Vladimir Putin talks of the Arctic as “our common Arctic home.” In this mind-set, Russia is both depicted as being warry of the West – especially Norway in the Barents Region and Canada in the broader Arctic – but also as being willing to sit at the table with other Arctic nations.

On top of discussing four key Arctic issues from a Norwegian perspective (i.e. security, Russia, the environment, and the exploitation of natural resources in the Barents Sea), with “International Relations in the Arctic: Norway and the Struggle for Power in the New North,” Leif Christian Jensen aims at offering a new methodological and analytical framework to the field of discourse analysis and to social sciences (more so than Hønneland), thus the first two chapters of the book are heavily theoretical. These methodological chapters focus on how dominant discourses enable and disable actions both at the domestic and the international levels and “how socially oriented discourse analysis can be relevant to analyses of actual political issues.”  Indeed, Jensen himself states that one of his sub-aims is to demystify discourse analysis and make it more accessible (to make it “less frightening and more tempting”) to both scholars and students who are active in political science and other fields within social sciences. Therefore, Jensen’s book, which is an extended version of his doctoral thesis, could well be read with a non-Arctic approach if one was to focus on the broader theoretical framework. Nevertheless, the case study being the Norwegian ‘struggle’ to construct itself as an Arctic nation, being knowledgeable in Arctic matters helps to understand how Jensen’s analysis is to be applied.

Throughout the book, Jensen wants to demonstrate that discourse is constructive, and that, through discourse, it is possible to construct truth, meaning, and knowledge. To do so, he divided his book into eight chapters in which he covers subjects such as discourse analysis of Arctic policy debates and official Norwegian and Russian foreign policy discourses on the New North. Relying on a well-constructed database research analysis of four of the main Norwegian newspapers (i.e. Aftenposten, Dagens Næringsliv, Klassekampen, and Nordlys), Jensen researched how national identities are constructed in newspapers and texts written by those holding power. Furthermore, Jensen uses the example of Norwegian mineral resources exploitation to show to what extent discourses and narratives can be co-opted and how Norway’s main official discourse in the Barents Sea shifted from being environmentally-friendly to “drilling for sake of the environment.” Indeed, the argument of Norwegian environmentalists was co-opted and reversed by the pro-oil side whose argument has been to focus on others, such as Russia, and say that if Norway left it to other states or private businesses, they would do a worse job at being environmentally friendly. To link this with Hønneland’s theory, this can be seen as a Norwegian attempt to other Russia to justify its own Arctic identity. Jensen even goes further in his analysis in stating that this kind of shift in discourses is accentuated by the press and by official publications, through which the main discourse reinforces itself.

One of the most positive aspects of Jensen’s book – and something rare in academia – is Jensen’s strong commitment to connect with his readers and to involve them through the text itself. Far from the generally dry and anonymous academic approach, which, more often than not, tries to suppress any trace of temporality and of self in order to make a lasting contribution to the researched field, Jensen’s inclusion of himself and of his readers into the structure of his research manages to make it easier for the readers to relate and to understand the theoretical framework.

Both Hønneland and Jensen managed to avoid talking of the Arctic as the new hotspot in international affairs, and, to some extent, their down-to-earth approach to Arctic relations can be seen as an attempt to normalise Arctic issues and to hush the “rush for the Arctic” discourse and to finally put it to bed. Both books can also be seen as a successful attempt to show how important it is, in terms of international affairs, to understand how countries perceived themselves and how they would like to be seen on the international stage. Far from gathering dust on libraries’ shelves, these books will be interesting for students, academics, and anyone interested in Arctic relations, especially in Norwegian-Russian Arctic relations and how this relation is construed on both sides of the border. However, these books should not only be read by Arctic scholars, as they also have much to offer to those seeking to read more about identity and discourse analysis and how it can be used in nation building and in international affairs.

Leif Christian Jensen & Geir Hønneland (eds.), 2017 Handbook of the Politics of the Arctic (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2017)

Over the last four decades, the study of Arctic politics has developed into a considerable disciplinary niche, extending to also incorporate perspectives from other fields such as developmental studies and law. Leif Christian Jensen and Geir Hønneland’s edited collection, Handbook of the Politics of the Arctic is a large and useful addition to this body that supplies current topics of relevance to the overall field. Employing contributing authors from multiple areas of expertise and institutions, this handbook provides an extensive and dynamic overview of the Arctic’s most pressing political issues and topics.

As pointed out in the introduction, Handbook of the Politics of the Arctic was compiled in response to a change in political climates, from the “age of the Arctic” to the “scramble for the Arctic”. This volume consists of twenty-nine unique articles of impressive assortment, separated into four thematic sections: ‘Geopolitics and Strategic Resources’, ‘Law of the Sea’, ‘Arctic Institutions and Specific Fields of Cooperation’, and ‘National Approaches to the Arctic’. As the title suggests, the collection was intended cover the breadth of political development and change experienced by today’s Arctic, with all manner of expertise addressed by many contributors from European countries, North America and Australia. As the editor remarks, other additional functional fields are also covered, such as climate change, energy, indigenous issues, jurisdiction, marine resources, pollution and preparedness and emergency response.

The first section is “Geopolitics and Strategic Resources”. In this part, articles such as “Arctic Securitization and Climate Change”, and “Strengthening US Arctic Policy through US-Russia Maritime Cooperation” trace the developments and conundrums transforming the political arena of our contemporary Arctic. Of particular interest in this section is Mark Nuttall’s piece “Subsurface Politics: Greenlandic Discourses on Extractive Industries”. In his article, Nuttall takes an ethnographic approach to explore and discuss the challenges of Greenland’s position as a new resource frontier, emphasising how political discourse surrounding the subsurface (what it entails and how it is imagined) intersects with resource development. Nuttall details the politics surrounding resource development in Greenland with sufficient enough range as to give the reader a general snapshot into the overall resource debate encountered by other Artic nations. Other articles in “Geopolitics and Strategic Resources” have also been chosen for their ability to render specific issues into their larger implications.

The second section, “Law of the Sea”, confronts many of the Arctic’s delicate legal enigmas, such as maritime boundary disputes, Arctic marine mammals in environmental and trade law, legal frameworks of outer continental shelf claims, and Canada’s Artic sovereignty. Purposely approached from a legal point of view, these articles manage to dissect the various arguments encompassing these legal dilemmas without any accompanied personal opinions. Unique to this book of Arctic politics is a dedicated legal section. Its utilization helps to both separate the many voices of this collection and lend clarity to overall debates in current Arctic politics.

The third section, “Arctic Institutions and Specific Fields of Cooperation”, is a carefully chosen collection with the specific purpose of highlighting the abundance and importance of cooperation in the Arctic. Well known topics, such as the Arctic council, are blended with newer subjects, such as China’s increasing Arctic ambitions, and together generate fresh ideas and areas of research pertaining to Arctic cooperation. This section is of particular interest due to its bridging of cooperation topics with alternative social concepts, such as Carina and Keskitalo’s article on “The role of discourse analysis in understanding spatial systems”, in which the concept of the Arctic is analyzed through discourse topics. While this section’s inclusion into the overall work is important for its coverage of new topics in cooperation, it has gathered some of the articles that may not have been easily classified into the other three sections, such as “Arctic change through a political reading” by Monica Tennberg. As a result, this section does seem to lack a general cohesive theme with regards to the articles presented. Regardless of its slightly miscellaneous nature, this section still helps take in the pertinent articles that would have been perhaps otherwise overlooked due to their contrasting content.

The final section is “National Approaches to the Arctic”, an interesting juxtaposition to its preceding section on Arctic cooperation, whose articles command the final pages of this collection to illustrate the various political interests, policies and complexities of Arctic and non-Arctic nations. This section exhibits the new and current policies in regards to national interests produced in the last while. This section particularly succeeds at demonstrating the book’s theme of demonstrating the changing from the “age of the Arctic” to the “scramble for the Arctic”, with articles on Russia’s northern interests, the European Union’s Arctic policy and Poland’s new science diplomacy approach. It is this collection that helps allude toward the plausible political topics and conundrums of the future, and leave the reader with these possibilities churning in mind.

Handbook of the Politics of the Arctic is superb overall. One of the volume’s few drawbacks is its size. In reality, the book’s title as “handbook”, may justify its extensiveness, however the length of this 617-page collection simply doesn’t make for light reading. Consequently, the targeted audience is slightly limited by its size and specialized content. Indeed, this book can be enjoyed by all readers, however it is better employed and possibly appreciated by Arctic scholars, students, and experts.

This minor criticism aside, Handbook of the Politics of the Arctic serves as an excellent and essential compendium of current topics in Arctic politics. This collection should be celebrated as a fundamental staple to any person involved in the field or study of Arctic politics.

Timo Koivurova, QIN Tianbao, Sébastien Duyck & Tapio Nykänen (eds.), Arctic Law and Governance: The Role of China and Finland (London: Hart Publishing, 2017)

This edited collection of essays is the product of a two-year project to assess and compare Chinese approaches to the Arctic with Finnish and/or EU approaches. These three entities are quite distinctive in population, politics and power and hence are not an obvious triumvirate. Nevertheless, the books’ chapters draw out interesting points of comparison. China is a relative newcomer to international relations and economic development in the Arctic. Backed by both military and economic clout, it triggers concerns amongst Arctic inhabitants and other stakeholders regarding its ambitions. Such worries are not helped by China’s closed political decision-making and limited official statements on its Arctic policies. This project, therefore, aims at increasing knowledge and understanding of China’s interests and expectations in the region.

The introduction to the book provides a good summary of the analyses that follow in the self-standing chapters which are themselves grouped into three Parts: Chinese Perspectives; Comparison between Finland and China; and Comparison between the EU and China. As a collection of essays, the book does not have a single or overarching thesis as such but a number of common themes are identified in the introductory and concluding chapters (by the 4 editors). One repeated them is climate change and pollution. Climate change is not coming to the Arctic: it is already here. China is the World’s biggest fossil fuel consumer and responsible for 29% of global greenhouse gas emissions (the EU, 11%). However, black carbon – a short term climate forcer – in the Arctic comes mostly from Europe. Europe is also a more significant source of the persistent organic pollutants (POPS) that end up in the Arctic (7). Another theme is economic development: even if the rights to exploit natural resources lie with the Arctic States and the peoples within them, the viability of doing so pivots on demand – and that demand is predominantly Chinese and European (8.)

The chapters go a long way to making up for China’s decision not to publish a comprehensive Arctic strategy or make regular and clear statements about its Arctic plans. China is not necessarily to be blamed for this: China is a lot more significant in the Arctic than the Arctic is for China, even if the book demonstrates that Chinese interest (and interests) in the Arctic have grown swiftly in recent years.

QIN Tianbao and LI Miaomiao’s chapter, “Strengthening China’s Role in the Arctic Council” calls for an official Chinese Arctic strategy but is itself rather more candid than an official State policy document is likely to be and as a result, probably more useful. The two authors make a rather bold proposal that China become a fully-fledged member of the Arctic Council (42), which will raise a few eyebrows amongst the more territorially sensitive of the Arctic States. Let’s just say that an official, published Chinese Arctic strategy is the more likely of the two scenarios in the near-term!

Ren Shidan turns to Chinese Arctic research and points to, amongst other things, frustration with Russia regarding access (53). She argues for freedom of research in the Arctic and rejects arguments that Chinese research is a foil for long-term plans to strip the region of resources. However, her concerns regarding Norway’s interpretation of the Svalbard Treaty (concerns shared by a number of European states) turn the chapter back to resource development (55-57).

Julia Jalo and Tapio Nykänen identify Chinese priorities in the Arctic based on World Affairs (a government-controlled magazine and unofficial mouthpiece). Only nine articles on the Arctic have been published since 2004 (indicating that the Arctic is still a relatively peripheral zone in Chinese politics). However, eight of these articles were published in 2008 or later, peaking when Chinese sought and accepted its seat as an observer at the Arctic Council in 2013, suggesting that interest is growing. The authors recognise that China is often viewed as a ‘threat’ in the Arctic, especially by those taking a classical realist approach, but they conclude that either China is indeed playing down its real intentions or that (more likely in their view) China is genuinely concerned about climate change and other environmental problems in the Arctic. In either case, they agree with QIN Tianbao and LI Miaomiao that a published strategy would help to clarify the situation.

Xiaoyi Jiang and Xiaoguang Zhou then consider maritime sovereignty and rights in the Arctic, looking in particular at the potential of the Northern Sea Route as an alternative to (or at least a supplement to) the Malacca route – even if they also note that Chinese shipping companies are adopting a ‘wait-and-see’ approach (96). They comment that China “has virtually no influence on the decision-making process at ministerial meetings” (of the Arctic Council)(90) and, like the other Chinese contributors, note that China is trying to be viewed as a partner in the Arctic rather than a threat (95).

Part II brings us to Finland with Lassi Heininen’s assessment of Finland, the EU and China and the asymmetry between them. Climate change – and China’s potential to take a lead role – is once again a key theme (107). Heininen sees common interests in shipping (Finland builds; China ships) (109); scientific research; resource governance and international cooperation (129). However, Finland and China also have shared interests in resource development in the Arctic (Finland produces; China buys) (118-120).

Tapio Nykänen presents the other chapter in this Part, using critical geopolitics to explore how the Arctic is framed in Chinese and Finnish Discourses. He agrees with the other writers that China is trying to build trust in the Arctic, seeking to present itself as a constructive partner (137). He analyses China’s position as a self-declared ‘near-Arctic state’, pointing out that geographically, it is extremely far from the Arctic Circle but arguing that instead it is geocritically close (140). Nykänen recognises China’s contributions to Arctic science but sees a political undercurrent to this: science is a ‘door’ through which China can claim a legitimate interest in Arctic governance (140).

Chapter Eight (Timo Koivurova, Waliul Hasanat, Piotr Graczyk and Tuuli Kuusama) is based on interviews with participants in the Arctic Council system, Chinese officials and scholars. It produces original, qualitative research on China’s position within the Arctic Council and identifies issues that would be unlikely to be uncovered by looking only at official publications. For example, the authors report that some Chinese officials are unhappy with the Nuuk criteria on observers (169)). They also identify a problem in the delegations which both lack continuity and do not always match the mandates of the working groups (175-177).

On fisheries, Sébastien Duyck sees shared interests in China and the EU – both being major fisheries jurisdictions and being outsiders seeking to ensure that their industries are considered in any new regime for the Central Arctic Ocean (Chapter IX). China, Duyck points out, is a ‘developing country’ and positions itself as a ‘leader’ of the G77 (196). Its policies on fisheries differ from the EU, being more defensive of High Seas freedoms and rational use, compared to a more conservationist (or even preservationist) orientated EU (197-198).

Adam Stepien considers China’s and the EU’s respective engagement with indigenous peoples. China maintains the questionable position that it has no indigenous peoples inside of China (222).  On the one hand, this means that China is not unnecessarily concerned with establishing precedents that could complicate matters at home (cf its position on international straits and Arctic shipping) but on the other hand, means that it has no experience and limited understanding of the stakes for indigenous people. China talks the talk (for example supporting indigenous rights in the UN – as long as it is clear that they don’t apply to or in China! (223)) but its engagement is uncoordinated and inconsistent (216). Environmental impacts are once more brought to the fore as Stepien explains that European and Chinese emissions are a major threat to indigenous communities (210-211). The EU, recognising the Sámi as the only indigenous people within the EU itself, has a more proactive stance on Arctic indigenous peoples and is, in theory, supportive of indigenous rights (218). That does not mean, however, that the EU always gets things right.

Nengye Liu and Kamrul Hossain address navigation in the Arctic and highlight the dependence of China’s economic strategy on shipping (243). The Northern Sea Route (less so the Northwest Passage) holds the promise of faster, cheaper shipping untroubled by the politics of alternative routes but, for now, this is still only a promise. While the shipping companies take things cautiously, the government has published the first Chinese guidelines on Arctic shipping (244). Like Xiaoyi Jiang and Xiaoguang Zhou, they note that China did not get involved in the development of the Polar Code and wonder if Chinese delegates to the IMO could take a more active role (247). They also suggest that China work alongside Japan and South Korea to promote (and defend) its shipping interests at the Arctic Council (249).

The concluding chapter by the four editors draws together the main findings of the contributions, reiterating the centrality of climate change and the consequent expectations of a natural resources boom (253-254). They note the resistance of the Arctic Eight to (too much) non-Arctic State involvement and how the Arctic Council system keeps the most powerful outsiders – like the EU and China – relatively subdued (261). Like most recent academic work on the Arctic, the final conclusion is that the answers are there and can be reached peacefully. International law has the answer to most questions; and for the others, it has processes by which to find, peacefully, those answers.

Although a number of writers call for a Chinese Arctic policy or strategy, this book gives us much more than any state policy every could. The original research and analysis by both Chinese and European scholars helps readers understand the dragon and, hopefully, fear it less. Nevertheless, there are subtle differences in approaches, with the Chinese authors tending to play down China’s resource ambitions and emphasise science and environmental concerns with some of the European contributors implying that China’s scientific contributions are driven by those very resource ambitions. I would wholeheartedly recommend this collection to anyone working on international law, international relations or economic development in the Arctic. Well edited, it is an accessible read for students as well as more seasoned academics. Even were the Chinese government to respond to the call to publish a formal strategy, it will not replace the excellent scholarship in this book.

Sanna Valkonen, Áile Aikio, Saara Alakorva and Sigga-Marja Magga (eds.), The Sámi World (London and New York: Routledge, 2022)

Long has cultural research involved scholars heading out into the ‘unknown’, writing gripping (and often inaccurate) tales about the peoples and societies they have met along the way. Understandably, this has caused much frustration for these ‘unknown’ people who know themselves very well, and who have had few opportunities to correct inaccurate representations, or to self-represent their worlds in academic literature. Published in 2022, The Sámi World is an invaluable contribution towards countering this trend.

Edited by Sanna Valkonen, Áile Aikio, Saara Alakorva and Sigga-Marja Magga, this scholarly work takes the reader through the past, present and potential future worlds of the Sámi, the Indigenous peoples of northern Europe and western Russia. Each chapter in the book acts as a stand-alone research paper, with overarching themes threaded throughout. A significant number of the chapter authors are Sámi themselves, or have long been embedded in Sámi communities, so rather than author and reader being two outsiders peering in and trying to make sense of this world, it often feels like the reader is a guest being invited in to learn from someone about their own reality. This can be seen in the prominent use of the various Sámi languages, with Sámi terminology for concepts reminding us that this world does not need to rely on Western theories to explain it, instead having its own body of knowledge and understandings. The inclusion of many quotes in Sámi languages first, followed by English translations, further highlights that the Sámi world is a complete, rich world within itself, rather than just a curiosity on the fringes of dominant society.

The first section, entitled Guođohit – Living with/in Nature, is made up of twelve chapters that explore Sámi relationships with their environment. Alongside more popular discussions of Indigenous land rights and the environmental knowledge of reindeer herders, the often forgotten subsistence activities of egg and berry gathering are included, further noting the roles of coffee, birch sap, and vitamin D deficiencies in Northern diets. When exploring how information about the environment is communicated, the role of oral histories and symbolisms within clothing such as the gákti are included, alongside lesser-known forms of knowledge transmission such as the musical storytelling of Skolt Saami leu’dd.

These highly informative chapters do not shy away from being critical. When discussing some of the ways the Sámi world has been communicated to wider audiences, authors outline how museums and the tourism industry have repeatedly provided inaccurate, staged depictions of Sámi cultures which homogenise and primitivise, ironically often under the guise of wanting to provide audiences with ‘authenticity’. Another chapter discusses how sacred sieidi sites, which hold a deep spiritual significance that has been expressed through changing practices over time, are simplified and stripped of meaning within archaeological narratives, just labelled as sites of animal sacrifice. Further, some authors highlight the constantly evolving nature of what it means to be Sámi, such as the roles of the Laestadian and Lutheran faiths within this identity. Even seemingly positive narratives of ‘strong Sámi women’ in ‘historically egalitarian societies’ are questioned in a chapter on feminist understandings of the impacts of colonisation on matriarchal and patriarchal Sámi societal structures.

The second section entitled Gierdat – Living through/in Societal Ruptures, which also contains twelve chapters, explores shifts in Sámi identity and representation. Beginning with recent history, authors tell the painful tales of residential schools, language suppression and harsh assimilation policies, with valuable nuance that acknowledges how experiences differed both through time and across the nation states that intersect the Sámi homeland. This gives context to later chapters exploring new formats of identity and representation today, from the development of the symbolically unifying Sámi flag, to novel administrative structures in Stockholm that cater for Sámi living in urban settings outside the traditional northern homelands. Once again, the authors do not avoid the complexities of these subjects. For example, they question the markers of identity that allow one to be part of new administrative and political structures, and highlight how inclusion in these structures can lead to both cultural revitalisation and abuse of power for external political ends. Following on from topics of communication in the previous section, authors explore the ways in which various Sámi groups have sought to self-represent, from protests to the formation of Sámi media in newspapers, literature, radio and TV.

The final section of eleven chapters, Duostat – Envisioning Sámi Futures, looks at how Sámi today are enacting, constructing and relearning their world. Authors discuss how skills and knowledge that have been temporarily lost, whether language or the construction of the ládjogahpir hat, are being regained. To safeguard this future, chapters lay out practical information such as ethical research guidelines created for researchers wishing to work with Sámi communities, and governance structures that could be (or be better) applied in today’s legal landscape. This section engages with key contemporary discourses, like the overlap between feminist approaches and queer world making with the Sámi world. It also proposes new approaches that have yet to be widely adopted in scholarly research, such as researching the activism of having fun.

The Sámi World gently unsettles common narratives about Sámi life by simply including. This is not involvement of more Sámi authors, but inclusion of diverse knowledge about and from Skolt Sámi, Queer Sámi, Urban Sámi, egg collecting Sámi, and many other parts of the Sámi world we hear less about. Whilst not one, unified storyline, it feels like a key go-to reference book for academics, which is deeply and often delightfully informative about a wide range of Sámi topics. Thomas Hylland Eriksen, in the epilogue of The Sámi World, sums it up quite nicely:

It has been an unmitigated pleasure and an adventure to delve into this treasure of a book. Although it is an academic publication with all the appropriate trappings in place, and even if the topic is sometimes grim, it is as if the authors cannot quite conceal their passion for the Sámi world, generously spiking their chapters with anecdotes and stories, details from domestic life and vivid descriptions of nature imagery from Sápmi. A good read it is, and an enlightening one.”

Monica Tennberg, Else Grete Broderstad, Hans-Kristian Hernes (eds.), Indigenous Peoples, Natural Resources and Governance: Agencies and Interactions (London: Routledge, 2021)

As Indigenous Peoples around the world face new and increasing forms of extractive pressure in their traditional territories, what opportunities do they have to exercise agency and protect their interests in local resource governance processes? In Indigenous Peoples, Natural Resources and Governance: Agencies and Interactions, editors Tennberg, Broderstad and Hernes seek to broaden their readers’ understanding of Indigenous resource governance dynamics by showcasing a wide range of case studies from settler States in the circumpolar Arctic (Norway, Sweden, Russia, Canada) and Oceania (New Zealand, Australia). Throughout this interdisciplinary collection, the editors’ and contributors’ focus is on the diverse and evolving interactions between Indigenous Peoples, State actors, and extractive industry players, which are shown to vary significantly across geopolitical and socioeconomic contexts.

Political scientists Hernes, Broderstad and Tennberg open the collection by summarizing core Indigenous rights and governance concepts and introducing their chosen theoretical framework: a ‘governance triangle’ highlighting the respective roles of State, industry, and Indigenous actors, as well as the governance mechanisms that mediate their interactions. In Chapter 2, Broderstad examines a rare Sámi victory against a proposed wind development in Kalvvatnan, wherein the Norwegian government took a precautionary approach and withdrew a permit that would have violated reindeer herders’ right to cultural protection by exacerbating pre-existing development impacts. This victory stands in sharp contrast to Chapter 3’s discussion of unsuccessful Sámi court challenges to the Norrbäck and Pauträsk wind projects. Through their joint analysis, legal scholars Cambou and Borg and expert witnesses Sandström and Skarin reveal how the proponents’ minimal efforts to mitigate anticipated project impacts facilitated the Swedish appeal court’s willingness to prioritize national green energy goals over Indigenous rights. In Chapter 4, Broderstad, Sámi scholar Brattland, and political economy scholar Howlett highlight how Norway’s and New Zealand’s differing “discursive, legal and institutional realities” (59) both enable and constrain Sámi and Māori efforts to influence or benefit from aquaculture licensing processes in their respective marine territories. The fact that State-mediated processes constitute Indigenous Peoples’ main point of engagement with resource governance in all of these case studies lends support to the editors’ contention that the State remains the “most prominent actor” (14) in the governance triangle. However, the balance of the collection deals with mining, an area in which direct Indigenous-industry engagement and deal-making is becoming increasingly common.

In Chapter 5, sociologist Goloviznina explores how Russia’s apparent disinterest in protecting Indigenous rights or mediating Indigenous-industry interactions has left the Evens of Yakutia little choice but to engage directly with mining corporations and try to use moral and reputational arguments to safeguard their interests. Sociologist Sam-Aggrey’s examination of Tlicho resource governance in Chapter 6 suggests that while First Nations that have entered into modern treaties with the Canadian State exert far more regulatory influence than their Russian counterparts, the Indigenous-industry agreements that have simultaneously become a central feature of mining governance in northern Canada have proved to be a mixed blessing for Indigenous signatories. In Chapter 7, political scientist Slowey argues that First Nations whose relations with the Canadian State are not mediated by modern treaties have far less leverage in resource governance and remain vulnerable to the whims of State actors, as illustrated by the Ontario government’s willingness to use the COVID-19 emergency to dismantle procedural safeguards and expedite mining approvals in northern Ontario.

In Chapter 8, Howlett and political scientist Lawrence offer a trenchant critique of the neoliberal logics underlying Indigenous-industry agreements in Australia and beyond. They conclude that “in the absence of an Indigenous veto over resource developments, there is no such thing as a fair and just negotiated agreement” (154). Indigenous Studies scholar Gjelde-Bennett offers a complementary critique of Sámi-State relations in Chapter 9, which examines the long-standing Kallak mine dispute in northern Sweden through the lens of competing neoliberal and Indigenous paradigms. While working “within the neoliberal political system in order to gain legitimacy” (167) may be the most effective way for Sámi to resist such projects, Gjelde-Bennett cautions that “appealing to liberal and neoliberal values of universal human rights and international rule of law” (167) may also undermine Sámi interests by helping to “uphold the ultimate authority of the state” (174).

In their concluding chapter, Tennberg, Broderstad and Hernes return to the governance triangle and associated theoretical frameworks in order to draw conclusions from a synthesized view of the case studies. As a result of the contributors’ limited and often confusing attempts to engage with those theoretical frameworks in their respective chapters, the editors’ heavy reliance on those frameworks makes the concluding chapter feel somewhat disconnected from the rest of the collection, even as the editors reach insightful conclusions about the evolving state of resource governance. Certain elements of the editors’ findings could also benefit from more nuance, such as their suggestion that “states will still have a central role in leveling the playing field for Indigenous peoples” (187), which implies that the playing field can in fact be leveled and that States can be expected to facilitate this leveling. This aspiration seems unlikely to be fulfilled while Indigenous Peoples’ scope for self-determination remains constrained by States’ privileged legal positions at international law coupled with their self-interest in retaining the final say in resource governance decisions – a reality recognized more clearly by Howlett and Lawrence.

While the collection purports to foreground Indigenous Peoples’ interests and perspectives, the contributor biographies fail to address the authors’ positionality, making it difficult to determine whether any of them are writing from a position of lived Indigenous experience. Explicitly addressing questions of voice and ensuring that editors and contributors situate themselves in relation to the material under discussion would strengthen a collection of this kind and make it easier for readers to assess the text’s decolonial bona fides. If future work in this vein is to be published with limited Indigenous involvement, Gregory Younging’s Elements of Indigenous Style: A Guide for Writing By and About Indigenous Peoples (Brush Education 2018) may offer a useful starting point for editorial decision-making on certain issues.

Marjo Lindroth and Heidi Sinevaara-Niskanen, The Colonial Politics of Hope: Critical Junctures of Indigenous-State Relations (London: Routledge, 2022)

The volume is edited by Routledge, the British publishing house founded in 1951 and now a safe haven for many publications on Arctic studies.

The authors are Marjo Lindroth and Heidi Sinevaara-Niskanen, both affiliates of the Arctic Centre in Rovaniemi and University of Lapland. As the title “The Colonial Politics of Hope” suggests, the volume deals with the relationship between Indigenous communities and the state, offering a comparative overview between Australia, Canada, Finland, and Greenland/Denmark.

The main theme is “hope“. The authors trace the sources of this concept to the colonial era in which the only “hope” for Indigenous peoples to survive was integration into Western society. The empirical and conceptual analysis of hope follows three thematic paths: the constitutional recognition of indigenous rights, the ratification of ILO Convention 169, and the creation of self-governments such as the one established in Greenland in 2009. The decolonization process by the Nations Unite began in 1960, when several declarations were stating that “natural heritage and political determination belong to all individuals”. These rights were not to be influenced by diplomatic relations between states and were to be respected in all member states. As the book points out, not all states adopt the new provisions easily. Since the declarations of the General Assembly are not legally binding, in the 1970s the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) came into force. Even today, these conventions play a role of absolute importance in disputes involving cases of inequality, discrimination, and racism.

In the 2000s, the Universal Declaration of Indigenous Rights (UNDRIP) sought to establish and enshrine the principles and prerogatives that Indigenous communities demanded that states respect them. However, some countries did not immediately acknowledge the value of this instrument, which was once again not legally binding, and did not accept the declaration. Among these was Canada which in the UNDRIP article on the FPIC (free, prior and informed consent) saw the possibility of granting the right of veto to the Indigenous communities on the exploitation of natural resources. In reality, the Declaration recognizes that international relations between states is also based on economic well-being and leaves ample room and priority to national economic initiative.

The United Nations monitoring system has revealed many situations where Indigenous peoples’ rights are not respected. The authors refer to the 2019 case, when the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination request Canada to respect the free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous people before the construction of a pipeline.

The second chapter is dedicated to how the concept of hope has been developed in the social sciences. In recent decades, academic literature has focused on the analysis of hope, especially in times of instability and crisis. The authors have chosen 4 channels of analysis of hope: philosophical (through Bloch’ theorisation), analytical, hope as an effect and how hope has become a political conduit. In the first philosophical approach, the authors build a theoretical bibliography in which hope and being hopeful are compared. The approach to utopian thinking in times of crisis as a weapon to be “hopeful” is interesting. The analytical approach is based on the anthropological work of Hirokazu Miyazaki. Miyazaki identified hope as a method of knowing. In his studies, Miyazaki referred to hope as a means of legal recognition of the land ownership of some Indigenous communities in the Fiji Islands. Another important contribution is that of Nauja Kleinst who associated hope with mobility referring to the phenomenon of great migrations. The third category underlines how many aspects of human life are the effect of emotions arising from hope. Anderson’s theory reconstructs the economic, political and social arrangements between actual and possible reality (which is possible to do) through the strong feeling of hope. The fourth category is represented by the hope and power connection. Also in this case, the authors have reconstructed a dense philosophical literature in which hope is analyzed in different positions of power and subjection.

The third chapter is entitled “Battlefields of recognition” and concerns the inclusion of Indigenous peoples within national policies (Australia, Finland, Greenland/Denmark). The analysis in this case retraces the events and the “empty and silent” moments that led to important amendments in the various national jurisdictions. The amendments mentioned in the volume concern the inclusion of Indigenous rights through the ratification of treaties and judicial amendments (cases that have led to the reformulation of some norms). Despite legislative efforts, even today it seems that Indigenous peoples still suffer from the problems presented decades ago. This phenomenon can be explained by the cautious national political will to recognize these rights, as dubious mechanisms of democracy and decision-making. What seems to emerge is that what is legal is not said to be right. Geographical areas clearly represent different political and social arrangements. For example, the issue of inclusion and recognition of Indigenous rights in Finland is advanced through the awaited ratification of ILO Convention No. 169, while the situation in Greenland through the timeline that saw the creation of a self-government in 2009. Despite the creation of a self-determined body, the dream, or rather the hope, for complete independence has never died out. To date, a form of administrative regionalism exists between Greenland and Denmark, in which some matters are the responsibility of the island and others of the central state. Some of these areas do not rise from the possibility of overlapping creating crises of competence. The largest is between natural resource management (Greenland) and foreign affairs (Denmark). The Greenlandic social fabric is quite homogeneous with some more remote communities in North and East Greenland. The question of Greenlandic indigeneity in the event of full independence is still unresolved. Finally, Australia has demonstrated a certain constitutional dynamism through a series of referendums related to the Indigenous situation on the territory.

The authors denounce that in all three countries there is the promise of a process and greater recognition of Indigenous rights. The authors criticize how such promises have always been broken due to lack of political will. Greenland appears to be the most virtuous having placed the protection of Indigenous rights as the cornerstone of internal politics. In the face of states’ reticence, Indigenous peoples instead lead decisive campaigns of awareness and legal change. An example reported in the volume concerns the declaration of intent that the Indigenous community of Torres Strait presented to the Australian Government. The declaration referred to the Government’s intervention requesting a new referendum and greater organization in the hearing processes.

The fourth chapter ” Fickle contractuality” is the most interesting. This part is about how the Western concept of “contractuality” emerged in the relations between Indigenous communities and the state. The contractual form of relationships is a crucial and common aspect in the Western mentality. Through various contracts it is possible to negotiate and agree many aspects of human life: from work, to property, to the more private aspects. The contract that includes two or more parties inspires division. And it is precisely the division that clashes with the community of Indigenous rights who often suffer from the disproportion of power with the state (which has the last word on the decision). Although the Indigenous populations find themselves in a political, negotiating, economic system very distant from their own, the states are still very reluctant to recognize their rights for fear that this will create a decrease in their sovereignty.

The fifth chapter is entitled “Colonialism in the grammar of hope” and reconnects the common thread between colonialism and hope. According to the authors, this correlation also exists with postcolonial theories, despite the protracted violations of Indigenous rights suggesting that we are actually in a “contemporary colonialism”. Despite the emphasis that the volume has dedicated to the analysis of the politics of hope, colonialism has resisted its power. However, this does not hide the fact that hope has not also brought benefits. The current policy has shown a certain “care” and attention to the Indigenous issue, adopting more inclusive initiatives. In various countries such as Canada and Finland work has begun on the Reconciliation and Truth Commissions. These commissions have the objective of “healing” relations between the state and Indigenous peoples. The major concern is that these Commissions have only a symbolic meaning without having any practical repercussions and compensatory initiatives for past mistakes. Another concern is related to the limitations of this state “cure”, especially if the recognition of Indigenous rights is still linked to Western political and legal systems. In fact, it appears that only legal recognition is the only way for Indigenous populations to feel “included”, affected signed and recognized. Despite these critical issues, Indigenous peoples still continue to fight for their rights, demonstrating an indomitable resilience in the face of marginalization and attempts at assimilation. Resilience has been the manifesto of recent times. This attitude recalls the individual’s ability to face and overcome a traumatic event in life. The authors also underline the difference between hope and resilience: the former is the sentiment with which we look confidently to the future; while the second is fortitude with which we overcome the traumas suffered. Indeed, hope operates on the present (violence, dispossession and marginalization notwithstanding), while resilience seems to be eternally tied to the past. Indigenous political hope is not only aimed at compensation or compensation for past traumas, but at the construction of a more equitable and inclusive political and legal system.

The analysis of hope as a driving factor in relations between the state and Indigenous peoples also branches out in economic matters. The authors reconstruct a vast bibliography on liberalism and on how the state, in the inclusive claim, has advanced economic agreements with Indigenous peoples in order to actually profit from them. Such agreements have often resulted in the legalization of land dispossession and monetary compensation as the only method of compensation. Has hope become the “currency” for economic relations between the state and Indigenous communities?

I would like to dedicate the last few lines to the final considerations on the volume. I think the topic is very interesting because it is little explored at an academic level. Hope usually exudes a poetic vein in literature, so a political technical examination was wholly unexpected. Especially, if that analysis has been applied to Indigenous peoples and their struggles for rights. The content of the volume is very rich, but the structure is not very intuitive if you don’t fully know the subject. What I appreciated most is the rich refinement of the bibliography. Hope is analyzed from many points of view and the argumentation is never trivial. The analysis seems to suggest a negative and compliant note of Indigenous affairs with respect to state policy and priorities. At the same time, I don’t think the authors wanted to leave the reader with certain answers or results, but rather to invite him/her to reflect on hope from both an academic and an introspective point of view. The project lends itself to greater developments in the future, considering the growing interest in environmental issues and increasing inclusiveness of Indigenous people in climate litigations. Due to the quality and complexity of the contents, I suggest reading this text to both experts in the field and students in Philosophy, Comparative Law, Political Sciences, especially if they include a focus on the Arctic and Nordic diplomacy.

Preserving Sacred Sites in the Arctic: Lessons from elsewhere?

Greetings! First of all, thank you for reaching out with regard to the question of how sacred sites can best be dealt with here in the Arctic. The answers surely depend on how best the local and indigenous residents see the matter. But, I believe, there are also examples that we can tap into from elsewhere to better address this research problem. During my six years of doctoral research among the Bakweri indigenous group of the Mount Cameroon National Park in sub-Saharan Africa, for instance, I got to gather new insights as to how the people of Mount Cameroon go about preserving their sacred sites amid an adverse system of collaborative management (co-management) that rarely follows principles of equal power-sharing.

The Arctic is not that much different. Here, we find several actors, from mining, tourism, transport, timber extraction, to name a few; all playing a part on the land, simultaneously with the local and indigenous land users, who keep reindeer and cattle, practice fishing, hunting, and other activities. Through my doctoral study, I got to understand how modern forms of land use such as tourism and extractive industries co-exist with customary practices. I think there are some ideas, which I could relate to from my own study, that have relevance to the Arctic. I suggest a fresh start with some of the analytic thoughts that developed from my previous study among the Bakweri. Namely, suitable methods, and theoretical underpinnings, that allow for flexibility and alternatives as to going about sacred sites. In my study, for instance, using ethnography, I was able to reveal the stories or knowledge that indigenous people mask beneath their day-to-day practices of living to continue their spiritual use of the land, its relevance to preserving biodiversity and their culture, which the locals tend to achieve through acts of cultural resilience I find as being rooted in their spiritual relations with the surrounding nature.

Using empirical data from my doctoral research, I raise questions and reflect on: whether similar approaches can be applied to understanding sacred sites in the Arctic; possible ways of reviving or preserving them; and whether there are any potentials for sacred sites to co-exist with other valuable forms of land use in the Arctic without jeopardizing their cultural importance.

The doctoral study I did is entitled “Knowledge Integration in Co-management: A Study on the People of the Mount Cameroon National Park” (MCNP), and it had three research questions:

a) What is the nature of power relations between park authorities and local communities involved in the co-management of the MCNP?

b) What agency do people display to boost their resilience?

c) What is the relation between local knowledge and biodiversity?

In terms of theory, the study looked into the interplay between power, hierarchy and egalitarianism as its overarching theoretical framework. Furthermore, it used the linkages between the concepts of traditional knowledge, agency and cultural resilience that are embedded in this framework. In an empirical sense, and for better analysis of the power relations, the study also used sub-concepts directly related to the framework, examples being institutional bricolage, convivial conservation and community resilience.

A twofold set of practices allowing cultural continuity, for instance, where people can preserve their culture and livelihoods through acts of cultural resilience, agency and traditional knowledge. Meaning, as agents, people can concurrently follow and circumvent the co-management system to cope with changes in the local environment.

Agency is one’s capacity to bring about change and, for example, can be active or passive, involving experiences of co-opting modern forms of conservation in ways that are meaningful to a people, usually towards the people’s own benefit, bringing about cultural resilience. The potential of traditional knowledge in biodiversity conservation is easily exemplified: adopting good practices from the people’s spiritual connection to giant tree species and populations of the African forest elephants native to Sub-Sahara.

Three key suggestions as to how the Cameroon study might benefit and support local people in the Arctic are:

a) Developing an understanding of spirituality, differentiating between the park managers’ perceptions and the local people’s meanings of spirituality. This gives us a prelude to how spiritual sites are categorized, used, and better managed. My study suggests that it is possible to have some sites with multifaceted use, while others do not allow for it, depending on what kind of norms, values and taboos are linked to them.

b) Adopting suitable methods and theories that enable researchers to explore the context of sacred sites in situations of a co-management system. A focus here can be on stories and experiences of how local people navigate the precarious and adverse situations of co-management systems.

c) Also, a focus on scenarios that appeal to the agency of an individual or group, especially where resource governance systems display with threats to the local culture could provide interesting clues about managing sacred sites. For example, how people react, the aspirations they share, and the decisions they make in response to policy agreements.

I will expand more on these issues during the conference. Meanwhile, I hope this  abstract gives some preliminary thoughts as to my contribution to the project.

For more information on my doctoral thesis publication, see: http://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-952-337-307-5

Håkon Hermanstrand, Asbjørn Kolberg, Trond Risto Nilssen and Leiv Sem (eds.), The Indigenous Identity of the South Saami: Historical and Political Perspectives on a Minority within a Minority (Cham: Springer, 2019)

Books written about identity, and specifically the identity of those in less well-known cultures, can easily fall into an exoticizing trap, focusing more on why those groups are different or ‘unusual’ than on who they simply are. Editors Håkon Hermanstrand, Asbjørn Kolberg, Trond Risto Nilssen and Leiv Sem manage to avoid this trap very well in their book The Indigenous Identity of the South Saami: Historical and Political Perspectives on a Minority within a Minority. Within it, they show how identity as a concept is felt, formed, reformed and perceived in various ways, using examples from the context of the South Saami, a minority within the larger Indigenous Saami minority in Fenno-Scandia. This makes for a piece of scholarly work relevant to those wishing to explore wider questions of representation, as well as a helpful volume for those seeking out information specifically about the South Saami.

The book is organised into five sections. The first contains an introductory chapter by the editors, sharing a brief overview of relevant history and their hope that the book will contribute towards creating a “memory environment”, promoting awareness and knowledge about the South Saami. They describe the wider academic discussions around Indigenous representation, alongside providing a brief positionality statement themselves and an acknowledgement that the book does not definitively answer any questions on identity, instead contributing to the negotiations around this multifaceted topic. This self-reflective tone rightfully fills the reader with confidence that the book is being approached from a duly nuanced perspective.

Section 2 dives into the complex world of identity in relation to language. Chapter 2 by Brit Mæhlum takes a practical and historical approach, discussing the institutional factors that have influenced the decline of the South Saami language, as well as those that have helped it to survive. She notes the role of schooling, the geographic spread of South Saami speakers, and the use of the language in the reindeer herding livelihood as particularly important in these processes. The chapter finishes by asking how the Saami identity can negotiate between tradition and the innovation and change inherent in all living, breathing cultures.

Chapter 3 by Inger Johansen continues by exploring the idea of the ‘identity tangle’, namely that the question is not of being or not being, but rather of how to be. This is done through outlining 10 South Saami language profiles. There are, for example, ‘Language Shifters’ who have chosen to use Norwegian or Swedish as a home language to help their children better navigate the dominant society, although with some regret to their loss of South Saami skills. On the other hand, ‘Reversed Shifters’ have grown up without the language yet intend to learn and become fluent speakers specifically for the sake of raising their children in a South Saami speaking household. Other profiles relate to the extent of ability in the language, but also the context of how and why the individual’s ability is at that level, and how they intend to use it. More than mere categorisation, this chapter does a brilliant job in outlining the nuances and diversity of individual experiences of identity in relation to their language. It shows how language transmission is situated in a complex emotional world.

Whereas section 2 could be said to focus more on self-identification, section 3 examines how the story of the South Saami has been written by others. ‘Written’ here is the key word, as it specifically questions the validity of written archival materials that tend to be viewed as more reliable than other sources. Chapter 4 by Håkon Hermanstrand reassesses the 1801 Norwegian census, outlining how the identification of the Saami in this record was inconsistent and at times clearly incorrect, based largely on the assumptions, preferences and biases of the census takers. Erik Norberg’s following chapter further critiques our overreliance on written records, outlining the value and wealth of archaeological and palaeo-biological records. He advocates for bringing these disciplinary approaches together to create a more rounded history of the South Saami region.

Turning back to the archives, Section 4 explores how the South Saami have been depicted, mostly by the dominant Norwegian society, over the last two centuries. Cathrine Baglo’s chapter does this from a more unusual angle, using picture postcards from approximately 1880-1950. Not assuming these postcards depict what South Saami culture actually was or is, she rather traces how the public’s understanding of the culture was constructed through the use of motifs and tropes within the images printed and sold. Asbjørn Kolberg also traces the evolution of depiction in chapter 7, outlining how regional presses have reported on Saami-related topics from 1880–1990. The arc of this change goes from generally well-intentioned aims at objectivity but with patronizing and exoticizing undertones, to a shift in the 1970s towards more works trying to see things from a Saami perspective. The details of this evolution are also linked to key societal events, particularly in the political sphere, that brought Saami topics to the fore.

Finally, section 5 lays out how some of these discussions around identity and representation are affecting the South Saami today. In chapter 8, Leiv Sem shows that a notable history of the Trøndelag region published in 2005 maintains some worrying characteristics of excluding and minimising Saami presence in the region, despite being such a recent publication. This highlights that the question of fair and accurate Saami representation is still an area of ongoing work. Trond Risto Nilssen expands this further in chapter 9 through the case study of the Fosen windfarm, a controversial construction project that has led to court disputes relating to its negative impacts on reindeer herding. Nilssen argues that underpinning this controversy is a lack of understanding that the reindeer herding livelihood has great importance, even amongst non-herding Saami. Maintenance of the livelihood is intimately connected to maintenance of the language, culture and overall identity, and so damage to one means damage to the others.

Overall, this book makes for a thought-provoking read. It raises universal questions about how we define group identity, how these definitions can vary within a group, how others can define us, and what impact these understandings can have in our wider lives. This is nicely interwoven with stories of how the South Saami are currently negotiating these questions, leaving the reader with a nuanced awareness and knowledge of this dynamic minority within a minority.

The Polar Mediterranean Imaginary. A Renewed Paradigm by Vilhjalmur Stefansson

Nordicum-Mediterraneum, the scholarly journal where this article is published, has an interesting and almost paradoxical name. It explores the ties between the Arctic and Mediterranean regions. When thinking about these two areas, it is almost guaranteed to have blended glimpses of cold, white and snowy landscapes immersed in dark skies full of dancing northern lights with warm and sunny afternoons by the seashore while enjoying the view of an historic town. However, the concept of mixing these two somewhat opposite geographical sites is not a pioneering idea coming from the creators of this journal.

Without any hostile intention towards the editors, this article presents another academic who dedicated his life attempting to shift inaccurate and misconceived ideas about the Arctic by “fostering the awareness and the understanding concerning the common origins, … intertwining and shared elements” [1] between the Arctic and the Mediterranean.

At first sight it seems almost illogical, or at least contrived, to find meaningful similarities between the Arctic region and any other southern regions of the globe, especially the Mediterranean basin. How can a frozen and inhospitable territory be connected with such a historical region, which is considered the cradle of European and Western civilization? What could be the possible relations between a peripheral zone of the globe, distant from the largest and most influential urban centers, with a central socio-economic and political hub?

This paper intends to introduce a different imaginary about the Arctic and its potential, an imaginary capable of facilitating the comprehension of the Arctic and its multiple players, especially as regards the Southern and Western populations with scarce information and outdated ideas about the North.

The concept of the Polar Mediterranean Imaginary (hereafter PMI) is the chosen one, mostly because it utilizes creatively and insightfully the famous Mediterranean region, which is well-known for its history, culture, economy, and long-lived political reality, but also to establish intriguing relations and parallelisms with the Arctic’s present and future. In fact, this paradigm, proposed almost a century ago, is not particularly well-known by today’s societies, nor is it well-established in academia. However it offers an accurate and rather positive approach regarding the potentialities of the Arctic under a great variety of perspectives.


Arctic Social Imaginaries

The concept of “imaginary” has been gaining more and more influence in research and studies belonging to many different branches within the social sciences [2]. Social imaginaries rely upon individual imagination and require intersubjective interactions, all within a specific socio-environmental context, i.e., an historical people and their actual environment. Hence, social imaginaries are built to help in the organization of communities in a never-ending meaning-giving process [3].

Collective imaginaries are never completely irreplaceable nor universal, since they are the result of dynamic relations and can be rearranged in time. As a matter of fact, the 20th -century philosopher Cornelius Castoriadis (hereafter CC) offers a very interesting insight regarding the “Social Imaginaries” [4].

Metaphorically, and quite aptly in the Icelandic context, CC compares the incessant flow of images, thoughts, ideas, and conflicts thereof, that any given socio-cultural imaginary exhibits in history with “successive formations of volcanic lava that almost never entirely solidify”, for each imaginary may seem to “preserve itself”, but in fact “it never ceases to alter itself.” [5] [6] .

The relationship between human imagination and the imaginary is the present article’s starting point to understand how the Arctic has been variously conceived of, i.e., imagined or comprehended, especially by Western and Westernized societies throughout the centuries, i.e., as a remote and distant territory with very reduced contact with the southern regions.

For most of its history, information in the West about the Arctic was scanty, especially when compared with other parts of the globe. The remoteness of the location, its harsh weather and geographical setup made the North a hard place to reach. On top of that, the information available was chiefly from reports by ancient sailors and old manuscripts [7]. Those sources helped to identify the existence of a northern region, by providing some clues of what the Arctic could be – the West’s (Arctic) social imaginaries.

Arctic Social Imaginaries are a set of ideas which were a product of collective efforts, not just individual ones. These ideas, consequently, may spread and, above all, are created through communication networks [8]. Thus, the Arctic itself has often been seen as a frozen wasteland and as being utterly inhospitable, according to the meanings produced and projected by southern and, culturally speaking [9], Western/ized societies [10].

For much of Western recorded history, governments and educated communities never looked to the Far North as an obvious opportunity to prosper. In other words, their specific and decisive imaginaries were interiorized, and fictions were embedded, turned into rules or “truths” that took the Arctic as a region of the world without significant potential, and despite the fact that certain human communities had actually managed to survive there for numerous generations [11].

Yet, the contemporary Arctic reality is marked by enormous socio-economic potentialities, just like the Arctic’s own history and legacy, i.e., the imaginaries developed by its native communities. As we will explain, the West’s interest in the northernmost region of the planet has shifted quite abruptly, especially during the last two centuries. Thus, in keeping with CC’s own metaphor, new layers of lava have been erupting and modifying the composition of old imaginaries, engendering eventually new ones.


Unveiling of the Arktos from a Mediterranean Perspective

The Arctic is a region characterized by unique features, such as its geographical remoteness from the world’s centers of global socio-cultural power, harsh weather conditions, richness in natural resources, and extraordinary biodiversity.

Composed politically today of 8 recognized States, the northmost territory of the globe can also be named “the Circumpolar North”, since the region includes, in the shared imaginary of contemporary experts and key local actors, the Arctic and Subarctic zones [12]. In truth, the Arctic itself does not have clear borders, because any such geographical determination results from the combination of geophysical, political, and social factors and conceptions [13]. All these culturally mediated forces have contributed to the construction of cultural ideas that define the historical Arctic imaginaries and determine the global understanding of the region as a region.

As a result, the Arctic can be seen from many different perspectives. On the one hand, the northernmost region of the globe is the home of different Indigenous Peoples [14]. Indigenous populations have established themselves in it many millennia ago, each group possessing their own perspectives and cosmologies regarding their living place [15] [16]. On the other hand, due to its remoteness and distant location from other civilizations and socio-economic hotspots, the Artic has been an almost unreachable/impenetrable place that led many southerner cultures to “forget” altogether about its existence and focus on their proximities instead [17].

To begin with, as regards the prevalent imaginary in Western culture, we should observe that the etymology of the name “Arctic” derives from the Greek word arktos, which means “bear”, because the Ursa Major (“the Great Bear”) is the constellation that applies to the polar region in the northern hemisphere, at least according to classical Graeco-Roman astronomy. It was during the apogee of the Greek Era that the Circumpolar North started to be imagined by important scholars and philosophers, who characterized the northernmost territories as inaccessible and remote places connoted with a mythical and mystical background [18].

Centered in the Mediterranean region, Classic Antiquity played an important role in determining the Western conception of the Arctic as an essentially unknown zone located at the outer limits of the human world. Reportedly, the first known contact with the Circumpolar territories was achieved by the Greek merchant and explorer, Pytheas of Massilia, who went sailing over the north Atlantic. His odyssey culminated with the discovery of the Island of Thule, “the most septentrional of the Islands of Brittany.” [19] Pytheas’ new description of the northern region had a large impact on his contemporary intellectuals (mainly cosmographers), who contributed to shape a more detailed Arctic imaginary.

At the apogee of the Roman Empire, especially through the migratory fluxes to and from the ‘barbaric’ regions of the North, a few more mysteries were uncovered. More populations were made contact with, and an increase in the knowledge about the septentrional areas of Europe was facilitated [20]. Nevertheless, the conception of the Arctic as an essentially unknown zone located at the outer limits of the human world persisted, to a great extent.

For many centuries, the West’s prevalent Arctic imaginary inherited from Greek and Roman times remained stable, up to the Renaissance, i.e., the so-called “Age of Discovery”, when long sailing explorations took place. Navigators such as Columbus, Vasco da Gama and Magellan opened the trend of maritime routes to new continents ready to be explored and, more often than not, plundered. The economic drive, combined with the renewed interest in the knowledge accumulated by Classic Antiquity about these regions of the world, and the legacies from older scholars and intellectuals, led to considerable improvements in the cartography of these regions. Thus, a more exact geographical grasp about the Arctic was built and, eventually, about the local inhabitants as well [21]. The Western imaginary of the Arctic started to change, as a result.

After the 16th century, on the basis of the European trends in navigating the oceans and, from Europe’s point of view, in exploring entirely new regions of the globe, the one surrounding the North Pole got on the spotlight too. Explorers started trying to sail and study those seas, in order to understand what economic and scientific potentials and other opportunities there could be in the Arctic. For instance, the possibility of a transpolar route that could connect the North Atlantic to China gained considerable traction. This theory, despite being very ambitious, was eventually proved to be beyond reach, due to the very harsh weather conditions and the many geophysical obstacles encountered, above all, by Mercator. Likewise, other navigators could not successfully prove the existence of a north-west passage to the Pacific Ocean [22].

The last steps of Arctic exploration were marked by the discovery of the Spitzbergen archipelago by Wilhelm Barents, while navigating over the northern seas. The inclusion of newfoundland territories had a tremendous impact in Westerners’ understanding of the septentrional regions. After the 19th century, reaching the North Pole became the main goal for the leading European Powers. Important expeditions were made in order to reach it and unveil the most ‘mysterious’ parts of the Arctic region. Many explorers (Captain Perry, Fridtjof Nansen, to mention few) attempted this feat, without success, but their contributions helped to modify the perceptions of the North and how it was imagined. It was only in 1909, when Robert Peary reached the pole by dog-sledge, that this long-sought goal was fulfilled.

All such endeavors contributed to a parallel evolution of thought in the 19th and 20th century, such that the focus moved onto crossing and exploring the Arctic qua valuable and possibly profitable destination in se, rather than as an instrumental route capable of facilitating the access from the Atlantic regions to the Orient [23].


Vilhjalmur Stefansson – The Mission and Roots of a New Imaginary

The Icelandic-Canadian-American explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson (hereafter VS) introduced the concept of “Polar Mediterranean” in 1920, whereby he highlighted how the Arctic Ocean was a relatively navigable central space that united diverse coastal peoples in commerce and productive interaction. In other words, his perspective was a friendly one, based on a historically successful case of international human transactions at many levels, thanks primarily to a shared navigable sea. VS’ perspective stood in opposition to the ones that had been embraced by previous Arctic explorers, who had seen the region as merely hazardous for human survival, and certainly most dangerous from the point of view of navigation  [24].

To understand the relevance of PMI, it is necessary to consider VS’ ideas and the way he perceived the North, along with its key players. His mission and focus were to clarify ideas and reeducate the southern communities (European and American) about the Arctic. VS was more than an anthropologist. He was a man on a mission. As a matter of fact, the scholarly literature about him often states that his work as an adventurer overshadows his anthropological career and personal life [25].

VS’ explorations were essential to establish a seminal yet stable contact with some isolated Arctic communities, and to discover new places that were unknown by the Western nations. Additionally, detailed descriptions and reflections exposing wrong Arctic ideals such as “The eternal polar silence” [26] and “The Polar Ocean is without life” [27] helped his readers to better understand the Arctic’s biodiversity, climate, and many other aspects that were not very clear until then to both specialists and non-specialists.

The preoccupation of introducing to Western nations new conceptions of the Circumpolar region was a fundamental step for a more accurate understanding of it. A transformation of old imaginaries was central for VS in both his field research and writings. VS even jokingly suggested the creation of a “National University of Polite Unlearning”, a concept created by one of VS’s teachers (Samuel Crothers) at Harvard University [28]. It was meant as a place where people could go to clear up the wrong ideas acquired in school, at the university, or through the mass media. Despite the sarcastic tone of this concept, its critical focus was very precise. VS himself wanted to help the dissemination of a new Arctic imaginary. He intended it to be his legacy.

Therefore, it was no surprise that throughout his career, VS gave numerous lectures and conferences throughout the US, Canada and Europe. These talks were a good opportunity to share his discoveries and experiences to audiences that had only a rather primitive idea about the Arctic. Even after his campaigns, VS describes his mission as one of shifting mentalities: “I wanted to remain south to continue my campaign of education with regard the Arctic sections of geography textbooks, and in general to influence school and university teaching” [29].

VS published numerous notes that reveal some rather interesting and curious reflections about many Arctic exploration topics. These transcripts offered, among other things, a first-person report about the diet in the North, the advantages of snow when compared with rain, and the importance of sled dogs in the northern communities [30].

As a matter of fact, throughout his books and diaries, and whilst always keeping a visionary and pedagogical mindset. VS approaches issues that are elemental for life in the North and, parallelly, are not trivial for most of the southerners either – as he wondered: “is the Arctic region barren and its nature hostile to life or is it hostile merely to life of a southern type and to men who live like southerners” [31]?



As mentioned above, VS emphasizes the necessity of introducing new data essential to create a solid structure of knowledge regarding a largely unknown territory. The remodulation of ancient socio-cultural imaginaries assumes for him a central role that can be achieved if and only if there is new data and a capacity for transmitting a message effectively. However, this a lengthy and complex process of demystification of well-established ideas: “If the average American or European university graduate has 10 ideas about the North, 9 of them are wrong. So far as the victims of American education are concerned, I know from experience. As to the Europeans, I judge them by their books and conversation” [32] [33] .

It was with this aim of fighting back the general ignorance about the Arctic and outdated social imaginaries that VS devised the concept of “Polar Mediterranean”. By presenting the Circumpolar North, not as a remote and inaccessible place, but rather as a friendly center connecting different cultures, territories, and resources, capable of making human flourishing a concrete possibility in this region [34] — “[VS] visualized the Arctic Sea as one great Mediterranean, not only in the sense that is a rather small ocean surrounded by populated lands, but also in the sense that it could be useful to the world as quick and relatively easy transportation route between import cities” [35] .

VS adopts a positive posture regarding the upcoming events by comparing the discovery of circumnavigation of the globe with the new understanding of the Arctic that he promoted: “When the world was once known to be round, there was no difficulty in finding many navigators to sail around it. When the polar regions are once understood to be friendly and fruitful, men will quickly and easily penetrate their deepest recesses” [36].

Contemporary academics have been taking this imaginary very seriously in order to understand the Arctic and its potential development in the upcoming decades. Indeed, in his works, VS writes of the advent of his day’s new transportation technologies (airplanes, submarines, ships and zeppelins) [37] that would facilitate the movement of people and goods, integrate diverse communities, enhance navigation across the ocean, and allow the region to emerge as a new epicenter of civilization [38] .

In particular, VS focusses on those means of transportation that can act as facilitators in the achievement of an Arctic Mediterranean, even if official governments and Western society had not realized that such a process could be occurring: “Although realizing the applicability of both aircrafts and submarines to commerce and warfare in our own latitudes, we have not adequately realized their significance in solving after four hundred years the problem of the northwest passage and giving us at last a short route from Europe to Far East” [39].

Moreover, his emphasis on the different economic activities that are possible to develop in the Arctic region suggests that the Far North is bound to become an indispensable economic, infrastructural, and socio-cultural center for the South too [40] . Hence, based on all the above-mentioned aspects, one of the core references about PMI was so written by VS: “A glance at a map of the northern hemisphere shows that in the Arctic Ocean is in effect a huge Mediterranean. It lies between its surrounding between Europe and Africa. It has in the past been looked as an impassible Mediterranean. In the near future it will not only become passable but will become a favorite route, at least at certain times of the year, safer, more comfortable, and much shorter than any route that lies over the oceans that separate the present-day centers of population” [41] .

VS intended with his paradigm to send a clear message: transpolar corridors assume a front role in the development and accessibility to the North (as mentioned/cited above); furthermore, the Arctic is not a wasteland, a resourceless region without capacity to prosper.

VS’ concern with offering a more accurate vision about the Circumpolar geography and culture ends up with his prophetic visions about the future potentialities of the Arctic Sea: “Whoever has any grasp at all of the great natural resources of the polar regions and of the conditions under which they are about to be developed, will have fascinating dreams about any number of other transpolar routes destined to come into common use whenever air travel itself becomes a commonplace in the more dangerous but already speculatively accepted routes between Liverpool and New York, San Francisco and Hawaii and Japan” [42] .

Hence, economic activities and the available resources of the North were diligently highlighted by VS. His appeal for economic investment all around the far North is economically justified by the geostrategic location of the Arctic Ocean, insofar as it connects three different continents and two oceans.

However, to be ethically, legally and politically justified, global connections and profit-maximization by exploitation of the Arctic resources must also be able to secure the local populations’ first needs, such as food and health-care services, as well as many secondary ones, lest they meet opposition and resistance [43]. Remarkably, VS developed arguments on this subject in an almost prescient chapter devoted entirely to “Arctic Industries” and focusing on the economic future of the region. He declares that economic development largely depends on the solid development of local infrastructures: “Local food production is fundamental in every permanently occupied land. It furnishes a basis for a stable population, it makes easy the development of industries which, although based in minerals, cannot well flourish when all the food needed has to be brought from a great distance” [44] .

In spite of being mere predictions (some of them rough, of course), he opened the window to a new Arctic region capable of being connected with the southern and global hubs. In other words, PMI can still bring a fresh perspective towards the general understanding of the Arctic, and the interactions among its human and institutional players. In particular, as VS depicts this reality in 1922: “the polar sea is like a hub from which continents radiate like the spokes of a wheel” [45] .


An Eventful Century

Since PMI’s first reference in 1920, a little more than a century has passed. During this period, the way to understand the Arctic and its social imaginaries have changed drastically. In fact, the first 100 years since PMI’s initial proposal were marked by many historic events that helped to shape international relations in the Arctic region and, haphazardly, push it in the direction envisioned by VS.

Two global wars, World War II (WW2) and the Cold War, were conflicts mirroring opposite political ideologies, using the world as a battlefield. The control of larger strategic territories became fundamental for the security of the different States. The Arctic was no an exception, and several States realized the geostrategic importance of the northernmost regions for their security and access to other parts of the globe [46].

‘Thanks’ to WW2 and the Cold War, the Arctic became a vital place for Arctic States such as the United States, the USSR and Canada, which aspired to influencing, if not controlling, all intercontinental movements of goods and peoples in the region.

Simultaneously, the North experienced exponential scientific, technological, and infrastructural advancements as a direct outcome of these global conflicts, which also improved accessibility and services around the region [47]. The warlike atmosphere also gave space to the natural sciences across different areas (e.g., oceanography, geology, and geography) to generate new knowledge and new perspectives about the Arctic. Inevitably, with the development of better aerial and aquatic transportation vehicles, and with the building of modern infrastructure aimed at facilitating the further exploration of the northernmost regions, the Arctic became a military and geostrategic site [48].

The 20th century clearly put the Arctic region on the map. Like VS suggested, science and technology contributed to a better knowledge and, eventually, increased cooperation in the region, making the PMI a more viable option [49]. A new paradigm of the Arctic was clearly brewing. Finally, among the outputs of scientific knowledge and strategic concerns stood out the Arctic States’ investments into infrastructures (e.g., airports, roads, buildings, harbors) that became valid promoters of regional development [50].

Despite not being characterized by VS’ friendly approach, these wars and confrontations also highlighted how the Arctic had passed from a mere transition point to a geostrategic center [51].

The end of the Cold War era brought increased peace and stability to the Arctic region, and helped to develop a new cooperative and diplomatic reality [52]. The world changed, and social imaginaries were once again reshaped – the North became closer to be seen as the proposed PMI. In other words, more globalized, connected, and accessible in terms of information/knowledge, goods and (inter)national cooperation.

Since then, initiatives focusing on Polar matters and respective strategies of cooperation have taken different shapes, but are nevertheless legion.

For example, we can list: the foundation of the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy in 1991 (Rovaniemi Declaration) and the Arctic Council in 1996 (Ottawa Declaration), involving simple intergovernmental agreements; the Northern Forum of 1991, giving voice to subnational subjects and their respective interests, usually different from their national governments; the Inuit Circumpolar Conference of 1977 and the International Arctic Science Committee of 1990; and even the launching of the University of the Arctic (2001), which did not have a governmental root but has constituted an important platform for the research, discussion, and promotion of Arctic-related matters, ranging from social work to natural science [53].

The Arctic region was a very active place of these shifts, in fact, still is. The scientific advancements also unveiled the existence of climate change and its dire consequences for the planet, especially the Polar regions [54]. Warmer temperatures have a direct impact on the biodiversity and geographic composition of the Arctic, which can be seen, simultaneously, as a menace and/or an opportunity. This trend raised considerable awareness during 20th century and, since then, it has caught much attention from governments, international organizations, and national as well as local communities [55].


How Does the Mediterranean Basin Mirror the Arctic?

Unlike the Arctic, the Mediterranean region has been an epicenter of Western socio-cultural and economic interactions for many centuries. Its history is well-documented, and a varied number of civilizations have thrived along its shores. A multicultural environment has always been surrounding the basin. The unique geography and climate have also played a big role in the development of the region.

In spite of being diametrically opposite in many respects, both the Mediterranean and the Arctic regions have similarities and nuances that allow them to be compared, as done creatively and insightfully by VS. This comparison is the core element of his PMI, because it aims to find those significant parallelisms that can help us to comprehend what could possibly happen in the future of the Arctic.

The Mediterranean basin is characterized by an agglomeration of fragmented landscapes that are densely interconnected [56]. Indeed, the variety of local communities and the possibility for mutual communication led also to the promotion of three major religions within a relatively small area, underlining the richness of the social imaginaries in the region. These paths proved essential for the regional and global development of numerous societies and their imaginaries. Hence, the Mediterranean Sea and the adjacent rivers had the role of uniting, instead of disjoining [57].

Historically, despite its conflicts and contradictions, the Mediterranean basin provided an ideal environment promoting trade and socio-cultural interactions through the establishment of routes over millennia. Mediterranean civilizations had a great influence on world development at large, and could be seen as pivotal merchant and cultural highways that stimulated prosperity and growth [58]. Well-established economic and cultural routes throughout the Mediterranean Sea could then play a function as mediators between the central territory and other regions or continents, i.e., a hub or transition point where other cultures could trade different goods and ideas.

As the historian Fernand Braudel underlines: “The rule has been that Mediterranean civilization spreads far beyond its shores in great waves that are balanced by continual returns (…) The circulation of man and goods, both material and intangible, formed concentric rings around the Mediterranean. We should imagine hundred frontiers, not one, some political, some economic, and some cultural.” [59].


Future Transpolar Routes?

The Arctic’s future is definitely connected with the necessity of being more accessible and open to the southern regions. As mentioned above, the idea of Transpolar Routes dates back to the 16th and 17th century, when there was considered the existence of a path capable to link the Atlantic Ocean to China. It was VS, however, who insisted and envisioned a future for the Arctic region based on (Transpolar) Sea Routes. In VS’ own writings, hints abound at ways in which the Arctic peoples have been capable to accept and adjust to the presence of strangers, who are bound to become more and more numerous in the future, given also how “[t]he transpolar route will become more important decade by decade” [60].

Sea routes constitute an important economic value, but they can also have a tremendous social-cultural impact on the development of the regions, in many negative senses too. Nevertheless, the cementation of transpolar pathways takes time, but by being aware of such possibilities the local Arctic communities can develop strategies to generate income, infrastructure, and services, whilst preparing for any negative impact as well. Finally, it is important not to forget that an accessible and connected Arctic can excel in the assimilation of a Polar identity, especially in a globalized world.

As Fernand Braudel wrote: “The different regions of Mediterranean are connected not by the water but by the peoples of the sea” [61]. This statement can be linked with the contemporary Arctic Imaginaries aiming to establish a new North, which is connected, i.e., not isolated and apart. To a relevant extent, the Arctic has the background and the potential to pursue such a path, i.e., the transpolar routes [62], which would then be capable of offering reliable solutions to the modern and future global community. All of this, of course, as long as we are willing and able to pursue the socio-economic development of the region in an adaptative and sustainable way, i.e., such that it does not threaten international peace, local stability, and human survival.

Parallelly, geography and climate also play a crucial role in the PMI and its future. As mentioned above, both the Arctic and Mediterranean regions have unique characteristics. The geographical boundaries of the Mediterranean Sea are set by a long and jagged coastline. However, this region is more than its sea, or even its coastline, insofar as the radius of influence embraces the adjacent territories from its edges for millions of square kilometers in the hinterlands [63]. Simultaneously, the Arctic is a peripherical region, with less population when compared with the south, but with an extended and also jagged coastline that, allied with the climate and septentrional location, offers a pristine diversity of natural resources (i.e., terrestrial and oceanic). As a result, the Arctic Ocean is a place where peripheries connect.

The predictions regarding the rising of the modern transpolar routes started with VS and are part of the remarkable importance of his legacy. Even though his expectations are not an exact mirror of what happens nowadays, they nonetheless cleared the horizon, so to speak. The new PMI intended to substituted old socio-cultural and political imaginaries into a renewed portrait of the Far North, i.e., a region with a huge diversity of possibilities and far more accessible than it had been thought for centuries: “Accordingly, most of us will get a wider view of the commercial, political, and military future of the world when we realize that the airplane, the dirigible, and the submarine are about to turn the polar ocean into a Mediterranean and about to make England and Japan, Norway and Alaska, neighbors across the northern sea.” [64].


Concluding Reflections

The PMI is a set of ideas originated in order to provide a dynamic and informed conception of the Arctic, promoting an interactive and constructive relation among all the involved players, immersed in their unique geo-cultural surroundings. VS was, to a certain extent, the decisive bridge between the past and the present beliefs about the Arctic. The originality of his ideas earned him the title as the so-called “Prophet of the North” [lxv]. He helped to enlarge the factual comprehension of the local human component, the international divulgation of the region’s potentialities, and the creation of a new way of looking at all things Arctic, i.e., his PMI.

The Arctic region was deemed to be an inaccessible and inhospitable zone, and yet started to be seen as a hub connecting different cultures, States, and socio-economic realities. The frozen and seemingly impassable Arctic Ocean turned into a region “conceived as a land to promote peripheries and not a center” [65]. VS openly pointed out to a conception of the North as a middle point that unites geographically opposite regions, instead of an inaccessible barrier or wasteland.

From the first reference of PM (during the inter-war period) until the first decade of the 21st century, the North slowly became a zone of dialogue and cooperation, promoting all kinds of environmental protections and cooperative projects for sustainable development in the Arctic. The Arctic reality has truly shifted exponentially in the last century. These shifts bringing not only more opportunities but also a plausible threat to what the Arctic is. It is not possible to dissociate the climate, the geography and, of course, its peoples. VS drew the attention for northernmost region in a very positive and friendly way, where everyone could benefit from a more developed and accessible Arctic. However, trends like environmental changes and globalization can also be menaces to the identity of the Polar regions.

PMI is, nevertheless, an interesting approach and worth to be put into table as paradigm to approach the future. A viable balance and a sensible strategy must be obviously thought of in order to not destroy the Arctic’s individuality, its own unique heritage, and constructively capitalize on its potential benefits.

From the early stage of Humanity, the Mediterranean Region has been occupied by many different cultures, traditions and customs, some of them having still a very big presence and impact in modern societies (e.g., the Latin alphabet, Roman law, classical canons of beauty). The dynamic history of this region can serve as a potential source of information for the Arctic. Mark Twain said: “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.” Parallelly, by understanding the importance of the Mediterranean and how it developed, and using it as a reference point, the PMI can provide the Arctic at least some of the required knowledge to be prepared for the future. With that information, Arctic players can have more tools to negotiate their interests and preserve their cultural identity.



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[1] This sentence was surgically taken from the editorial policy section of the Nordicum-Mediterraneum (https://nome.unak.is/wordpress/editorial-policy/), and perfectly suits the aim of both Vilhjalmur Stefansson and this journal.

[2] The concepts of ‘idea’ and ‘imaginary’ are quite complex and relate to different fields, ranging from history, philosophy, as well as psychology, to anthropology and much else. Hence, for this research, I have only emphasized some crucial and brief points in order to help the reader to grasp the notions of ‘imagination’ and ‘imaginary’.

[3] Cornelius Castoriadis, The Imaginary Institution of Society (MIT Press 1987) 117.

[4] This article is based on Cornelius Castoriadis’ (CC) legacy. The Greek French philosopher provides a solid philosophical background that helps to understand how social imaginaries work. He put “imagination” at the very center of his understanding of reality. In particular, he suggested that there are important connections between the individual faculty of “imagination” (i.e., a person’s ability to produce new images, hence ideas or concepts) and the social “imaginaries” (i.e., the complex symbolic networks that we also call “cultures”), without which no society and no individual could ever survive. As a matter of fact, for CC, the human faculty of imagination is the basis of social organization and the possibility of autonomy, i.e., self-rule, both individually and socially

[5] Aris Komporozos-Athanasiou and Marianna Fotaki, ‘A Theory of Imagination for Organization Studies Using the Work of Cornelius Castoriadis’ (2015) 36 Organization Studies 321, 325.

[6] Castoriadis (n 3) 124.

[7] Richard Vaughan, The Arctic: A History (A Sutton 1994) 35–39.

[8] Yuval N Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (Vintage 2015) 26–42.

[9] Vilhjalmur Stefansson, The Friendly Arctic (The Macmillan Company 1921) 10–13 <http://archive.org/details/friendlyarctic017086mbp> accessed 1 March 2021.

[10] “West” and “Western” identify cultures originating from Western Europe in a geographic sense, but there exist also many “Westernized” cultures across the globe, given the West’s pervasive influence over the past four centuries, e.g., the US and Australia.

[11] Vilhjalmur Stefansson, The Northward Course of Empire (1922) (The Macmillan Company 1924) 42–50.

[12] Lassi Heininen and Chris Southcott, Globalization and the Circumpolar North (University of Alaska Press 2010) 1.

[13] ‘Boundaries of the Arctic Council Working Groups | GRID-Arendal’ <https://www.grida.no/resources/8387> accessed 8 September 2023.

[14] Mary Durfee and Rachael Lorna Johnstone, Arctic Governance in a Changing World (Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group 2019) 9–11 <https://rowman.com/ISBN/9781442235649/Arctic-Governance-in-a-Changing-World> accessed 1 March 2021.

[15] Joan Nymand Larsen and Nordic Council of Ministers (eds), Arctic Social Indicators: ASI II ; Impletation (Nordic Council of Ministers 2014) 23.

[16] The “Far North” started to become populated after the migration routes of “Super Eurasian Family” reached the Northern Circle. In fact, between 40,000 and 15,000 BC, various populations started to occupy the northern parts of Eurasia and, gradually, reached the Northern Circle territories either by boat or on foot. Based on these migratory patterns, different groups took different paths, in what was a mixture between the shared instinct of survival, flexible adaptations to the features of the surrounding environments, and the creative development of unique techniques.

[17] Níels Einarsson (ed), Arctic Human Development Report (Stefansson Arctic Institute 2004) 22–26.

[18] Louis Rey, ‘The Arctic Ocean: A “Polar Mediterranean”’ in Louis Rey (ed), The Arctic Ocean: The Hydrographic Environment and the Fate of Pollutants (Palgrave Macmillan UK 1982) <https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-349-05919-5_1> accessed 26 March 2022.

[19] ibid 5.

[20] Federico Actite, ‘Ancient Rome and Icelandic Culture – A Brief Overview’ (2009) 4 Nordicum-Mediterraneum 1–2.

[21] Fernand Braudel, The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II: Volume I, vol I (Fontana Press 1990) 226–230.

[22] Earl Parker Hanson, Stefansson, Prophet of the North (Harper & bros 1941) 182.

[23] Philip E Steinberg and others, Contesting the Arctic: Politics and Imaginaries in the Circumpolar North (IBTauris 2015) 6 <http://www.bloomsburycollections.com/book/contesting-the-arctic-politics-and-imaginaries-in-the-circumpolar-north> accessed 9 February 2021.

[24] Stefansson, The Friendly Arctic (n 9) 29.

[25] Gísli Pálsson, Travelling Passions: The Hidden Life of Vilhjalmur Stefansson (UPNE 2005) 25.

[26] Stefansson, The Northward Course of Empire (1922) (n 11) 128.

[27] ibid 20.

[28] ibid 20–22.

[29] Hanson (n 22) 178.

[30] Stefansson, The Friendly Arctic (n 9) 354–358.

[31] ibid 162.

[32] Stefansson, The Northward Course of Empire (1922) (n 11) 20.

[33] ibid 22–41.

[34] Klaus Dodds, ‘A Polar Mediterranean? Accessibility, Resources and Sovereignty in the Arctic Ocean’ (2010) 1 Global Policy 303, 308–310.

[35] Hanson (n 22) 182.

[36] Stefansson, The Friendly Arctic (n 9) 6.

[37] In Vilhjalmur Stefansson book The Northward Course of Empire (1922) (n 8), he devotes the entire chapter VII to those matters.

[38] Kimberley Peters, Water Worlds: Human Geographies of the Ocean (Routledge 2016) ch 2.

[39] Stefansson, The Northward Course of Empire (1922) (n 11) 172.

[40] ibid 120.

[41] ibid 168.

[42] ibid 202.

[43] Joan Nymand Larsen (ed), Arctic Human Development Report: Regional Processes and Global Linkages (Nordic Council of Ministers 2014) 154–155.

[44] Stefansson, The Northward Course of Empire (1922) (n 11) 130.

[45] Vilhjalmur Stefansson, ‘The Arctic as an Air Route to the Future’ (1922) 205–18 National Geographic Magazine 205–18.

[46] Scott R Stephenson, ‘Confronting Borders in the Arctic’ (2018) 33 Journal of Borderlands Studies 183, 187–188.

[47] Ronald E Doel and others, ‘Strategic Arctic Science: National Interests in Building Natural Knowledge – Interwar Era through the Cold War’ (2014) 44 Journal of Historical Geography 60, 77–79.

[48] Stefansson, The Northward Course of Empire (1922) (n 11) 199.

[49] Durfee and Johnstone (n 14) 49.

[50] Doel and others (n 47) 63–66.

[51] Durfee and Johnstone (n 14) 107–108.

[52] Tim Marshall, Divided: Why We’re Living in an Age of Walls (Elliott and Thompson Limited 2018) 177–183.

[53] Oran Young, ‘Governing the Arctic: From Cold War Theater to Mosaic of Cooperation’ (2005) 11 Global Governance 9, 9.

[54] Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA). Slide 8

[55] Nymand Larsen (n 43) 142–145.

[56] Eivind Heldaas Seland, ‘Writ in Water, Lines in Sand: Ancient Trade Routes, Models and Comparative Evidence’ (2015) 2 Cogent Arts & Humanities 1110272, 5.

[57] Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Hegel: Lectures on Philosophy: The Philosophy of History, The History of Philosophy, The Proofs of the Existence of God (e-artnow 2019).

[58] GH Blake, ‘Settlement and Conflict in the Mediterranean World’ (1978) 3 Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 255, 255–256.

[59] Braudel (n 21) 170.

[60] Stefansson, The Northward Course of Empire (1922) (n 11) 178.

[61] Braudel (n 21) 276.

[62] The Arctic has been experiencing the changes brought about by climate change about twice as fast as any other part of the globe. Specifically, Arctic average temperature has risen almost twice the rate as the rest of the world in the past few decades. As a direct result of this phenomenon, there has ensued a growing number of months that are considered “ice-free”, which is a viable economic justification for conceiving of the Far North as allowing the settlement of new transpolar routes, using the Arctic Ocean as a means for traveling and connecting different polar regions and the surrounding continents. The Northern Sea Route, Northwest Passage and Transpolar Sea Route are three of the main corridors mentioned and studied in contemporary academia.

[63] David Abulafia, The Mediterranean in History (Getty Publications 2011) 11.

[64] Stefansson, The Northward Course of Empire (1922) (n 11) 199.

[65] Hanson (n 22) 233–234.

[66] Steinberg and others (n 23) 8.

In dubio pro natura: Environmental Constitutionalism and the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in the Arctic


Constitutional law is going through a period of transformation due to a wider approach to human rights. In particular, the strong link between a healthy environment and human rights is gaining ground internationally, especially in terms of sustainable development. New legal concepts come from increasingly multidisciplinary analyses combining jurisprudence, ethnology, politics, and psychology. Environmental constitutionalism aims to integrate principles, such as precaution, prevention, integration, and polluter pays into national legal frameworks. Due to its legal supremacy, constitutional law guarantees high protection of rights by building several kinds of dispute resolution mechanisms. Indeed, constitutional law is able to create the ground for a more inclusive decision-making process including by creating specific institutions such as ombudspersons and innovative legal interpretations. Relentless environmental concerns have underpinned a new political approach supporting the idea that the environment is a common good and that all stakeholders enjoy the right to meaningful participation, access to information and justice in environmental matters (according to the Aarhus Convention[1]). An ecological-orientated democracy offers a fairer distribution of environmental benefits and costs, avoiding the centralization of decision-making powers and recognizing the feeling of loss of Indigenous populations due to ecological degradation (e.g., ecological grief). This constitutional process has been reinforced by jurisprudence, such as the application of the principle in dubio pro natura, as a criterion of application of the principles of conservation of the ecosystem. As the English translation suggests, the in dubio pro natura approach aims to protect ecological conservation in case of events potentially harmful to the environment.  The costs of ecological conservation and the impacts of mitigative measures on environmental degradation have highlighted inequalities among the most vulnerable social groups (as the ones at risk of poverty and social exclusion, including Indigenous Peoples). Furthermore, the long delay in the implementation of ecological policies presupposes greater pressure for future generations. Since the protection of Indigenous culture is closely connected to a healthy environment, the article investigates how intergenerational equity applies to Indigenous rights and the maintenance of their traditions for future generations.

The following analysis introduces the concept of environmental constitutionalism before briefly discussing constitutional provisions pertaining to the environment in Arctic jurisdictions. It then explains the in dubio pro natura principle and connects this to the rights of Indigenous Peoples, in particular the right to culture as recognized in international instruments on human rights and on Indigenous rights. It reflects on examples from two jurisdictions: whaling, hunting and fishing in Alaska and windfarms in Sápmi (Norway) to assess the extent to which the in dubio pro natura principle is emerging in these jurisdictions. It argues that an in dubio pro natura approach can be a successful strategy to promote both environmental protection and rights of Indigenous Peoples. The methodology adopted includes legal theory, consultation of legal documents, reports, and the analysis of international instruments.


Environmental Constitutionalism

Environmental constitutionalism refers to a comprehensive and articulated legal framework of rights, duties and principles derived from the constitutions and international law on environmental matters. The rights included in environmental constitutionalism are divided into rights to a healthy environment, environmental rights, and procedural rights[2]. The 1992 Rio Declaration includes the precautionary principle, the prevention principle and the polluter pays principle.[3] The growing interest in environmental law has supported the human rights-oriented interpretation which argues that the protection of environmental rights guarantees sustainable social, economic and political development. It is no coincidence that some conventions, such as the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR),[4] have been central to national debates to encourage governments to adopt more stringent measures against climate change and ecological degradation.[5] Principles such as intergenerational equity, integration and public participation are the results of the emergence of this new approach.[6]

Procedural rights are also guaranteed by the afore-mentioned Aarhus Convention, namely: the right of the public to participate in decision-making processes and the right of access to environmental justice. These rights are counterbalanced by duties of citizens and the State to protect the environment, setting specific targets, creating regulatory frameworks, and creating environmental agencies, ombudspersons, or specialized courts to enforce environmental laws.

According to Kotzé, the constitutional model appears more effective for implementing environmental principles from international sources. The first reason is that the constitutional system is more directionally actionable in domestic legal proceedings, reflecting the principles of subsidiarity typical in international systems, such as the UN, the EU and under the ECHR. Second, domestic legislation includes more of the demos, i.e., the people of a political community, in decision-making processes as constitutional amendments generally require a qualified majority and, in some cases, a popular referendum.[7] Thus, constitutional approaches are both more accountable and more enforceable than international law which depends on diplomatic negotiations between State representatives and have weak dispute settlement procedures.

Environmental constitutionalism developed in three historical phases: the 1970s/80s in which nature played an instrumental role in the survival of human beings and their needs; the 1990s in which nature was perceived as a fundamental resource for the respect of human rights; and today’s phase in which human rights are intrinsically connected to a healthy environment.[8] There are not many examples in the comparative constitutional panorama, but it is possible to investigate Arctic constitutions (from West to East: Alaska (US), Canada, Greenland (Kingdom of Denmark), Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and Russia) have implemented the principles of environmental law.


Environmental Provisions in Constitutions from Arctic Jurisdictions

Starting from the West, the Alaska State Constitution of 1959 recognises the importance of the conservation of natural resources and biodiversity.[9] Article 8 of the Constitution states that state natural resources such as waters, forests, wildlife, and minerals, shall be used and developed for the maximum benefit of the people, including Alaska Natives, while maintaining sustainability for future generations. Article 11 is dedicated to the conservation of natural resources declaring delegating the Parliament to provide specific provisions for their utilisation. Article 8 guarantees access to natural resources, prohibiting the deprivation of rights to use by any citizen or resident. However, the article does not recognise any exclusive rights of Alaska Natives to hunt or fish in rural or traditional areas and for cultural purposes.

The Canadian Constitution and integral Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms do not provide specific articles on environmental principles, but the Constitution recognises the relationship between Indigenous Peoples and their lands by respecting the self-determination right in article 35.[10] Article 7 of the Charter on legal rights has recently been interpreted as including the right to a healthy environment (Carter v Canada[11]).[12]

The Constitution of the Kingdom of Denmark does not make direct reference to environmental principles.[13]

Like other jurisdictions, the Icelandic Constitution has no specific reference to environmental principles but delegates the legislation of these to the Parliament. However, this topic has been much discussed in the context of proposed constitutional reform.[14]

The Constitution of Norway includes article 112, addressing the right to a healthy environment. It emphasises the responsibility to ensure sustainable development for present and future generations. Article 108 [ex.110a] affirms that the Sami people have the right to preserve and develop their language, culture, and way of life.[15] The Norwegian constitution guarantees every person’s right to a healthy environment in order to maintain productivity and diversity (in the future). Differently from Alaska, the Norwegian constitution recognises the exclusive right of the Saami to practice reindeer herding in light of their cultural rights and livelihood.

Article 2, section 4 of the Swedish constitution states that the “public institutions shall promote sustainable development leading to a good environment for present and future generations.”[16]

Like Norway, Finland recognises Saami cultural and linguistic rights (article 17) and respects the right to cultural self-government (article 121). While it does not provide any mention of environmental principles per se, article 20, section 1 states that nature is the “responsibility of everyone” and “public authorities shall endeavour to guarantee for everyone the healthy environment”.[17]

Finally, the Russian Constitution does not specifically deal with environmental issues, but the art. 69 “guarantees the rights of small indigenous peoples in accordance with the generally accepted principles and standards of international law and international treaties of the Russian Federation.”[18]

Sweden, Finland, Norway and Alaska have all integrated intergenerational equity into their constitutions. These constitutions recognise the intergenerational equity in force of the public trust doctrine, whereby the state is responsible for environmental protection.[19]


In Dubio Pro Natura and the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

“When in doubt, in favor of nature.” With this Latin brocardo, we mean a solution method that tends to safeguard ecological well-being in the event of activities that are potentially harmful to the environment.[20] Although this concept recalls the precautionary principle, it differs significantly from it. The precautionary principle is activated in case of scientific uncertainty at the potential risk of ecological degradation and, as per the Rio Declaration, invites States to take precautionary measures to the extent these are “cost-effective.”[21] The precautionary principle does not shift the burden of proof to prove that a proposed activity is innocuous.[22] In dubio pro natura, on the other hand, applies to already existing regulatory frameworks as a tool in case of conflicts of interests in favor of nature and shift the burden of proof in environmental disputes.

The Latin American jurisdictions are the ones that implemented this principle first. In 2002, the constitutional court of Colombia established “the precautionary principle must be followed, a principle that can be rendered by the expression ‘in dubio pro ambiente’‘. In dubio pro natura can be expressed in many legal cases concerning Indigenous rights and land claims. In particular, in dubio pro natura can be applied in the case of territorial disputes, the protection of sacred sites, the conservation of biodiversity and participatory rights in decisions concerning the exploitation of natural resources. Indeed, this principle can be an important tool to demonstrate how Indigenous traditional ecological knowledge can limit environmental degradation in light of the importance of the environment for their cultural heritage. The affirmation of in dubio pro natura means recognising the Indigenous cosmovision including the strong relationships between nature and cultural, spiritual and traditional practices. As far as participation in decision-making processes involving natural resources is concerned, in dubio pro natura can be applied to ensure that the potential environmental impacts and risks are thoroughly assessed and mitigated. It can also advocate for Indigenous communities’ right to free, prior, and informed consent and meaningful consultation in resource development projects.[23] In case of Indigenous traditional knowledge, in dubio pro natura intrinsically affirms the principle of intergenerational equity, recognizing the right of future generation to get access to natural resources equally in terms of quantity, quality and accessibility.[24] Brown-Weiss identifies three elements of intergenerational equity, namely: conservation of the diversity of natural and cultural resources, conservation of environmental quality, and indiscriminate access to resources.  As regards the first element, Weiss states that environmental and cultural conservation is essential to not limit future generations to satisfying their needs and values. This is by virtue of the fact that one generation does not have the right to decide how culture should develop in the future.[25] Intergenerational equity finds its roots in the 1972 Stockholm Declaration.[26]

Constitutional law includes intergenerational equity mainly through the aforementioned public trust doctrine – which considers natural resources the responsibility of the State acting as a trustee on behalf of its citizens and beneficiaries. Intergenerational equity per se does not include a distinction between Indigenous or non-Indigenous communities, especially because environmental obligations appear universal. However, a presumption of universality fails to reflect all possible visions as Indigenous populations have different socio-ecological goals and priorities.[27] These are in part based on the right to self-determination of Indigenous peoples, including the right to choose their own political and economic structure and decide how to develop their culture.

The right of self-determination has been underlined by several international instruments and in particular for Indigenous Peoples under the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).[28] General human rights instruments such as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination also protect, inter alia and rights to culture for Indigenous Peoples.[29]

To date, however, there are few sources that define the relationship between nature and Indigenous culture at an international level, which weaken Indigenous negotiating power in licensing processes and in environmental and social assessments of environmental exploitation projects.


In Dubio Pro Natura: Case Studies from Alaska and Norway

The inclusion of intergenerational equity in constitutional provisions is not an indicator of a sustainable country. At a procedural level, intergenerational equity within constitutions still remains a very vague principle. Furthermore, most constitutional texts are based on public trust doctrine, rather than an obligation under the civil responsibility of the individual citizen. Therefore, without adequate operation of the judicial and legislative system regarding environmental protection, reporting an ecologically harmful action can be very complicated.[30]

Although Alaskan and Norwegian constitutions include the intergenerational equity principle, their approaches to Indigenous cultural rights present substantial differences. It is necessary to investigate their historical background to understand their effective application on Indigenous rights and weather the in dubio pro natura approach enhances the conservation of their culture for future generations.

This part of the paper compares the two different constitutional approaches to intergenerational equity in light of Indigenous right to practice one’s own culture, highlighting the main complexities regarding the recognition of Aboriginal subsistence fishing and hunting in Alaska and the protection of the exclusive right to reindeer herding of Saami people in Norway.


Whaling, fishing and hunting in Alaska

The population density of Alaska has periodically fluctuated as the historical phases have followed one another. The first unofficial census of all of Alaska was made by a Russian Orthodox missionary, Father Ioann Veniaminov and it took place in 1839. He calculated a population of 39,813 natives, including an estimated 17,000 people from native communities still uncontacted.[31]  With the acquisition of Alaska by the United States, there was an increase in immigration, while initially maintaining the Indigenous majority (33,426 of which 430 were white, based on the first official census made in 1880). During the gold rush and the beginning of the first mines and the arrival of the canned salmon companies, the Indigenous population of Alaska became a minority for the first time (46% of the total population).[32] Between 1867 (the year of American acquisition) and 1924, native populations had no rights to acquire land, vote or file any claims for mining concessions.[33] Some exemptions from harvesting restrictions and the right of Aboriginal communities not to be disturbed were included in the federal law.[34].

By the time of statehood in 1959, 4 out of 5 people in Alaska identified as white. On November 8, 1955, 55 elected delegates from across Alaska met to create the new document at a constitutional convention. Frank Peratrovich, the mayor of Klawock, was the only Alaska Native among the delegates.

Thus, the Constitution of Alaska, drafted in only 75 days, was drafted with minimum native participation. The constitution focuses on future economic prospects and strengthening its institutional weaknesses. The preamble still does not acknowledge the presence of Alaska Natives.[35]

In 1971, the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act addressed native land claims but ultimately abolished all Aboriginal title to land and rights to subsistence hunting and fishing.[36] The Alaskan Constitution includes article 8, which recognises the right of every citizen and resident to get access to natural resources.[37] Article 8 then reflects the public trust doctrine as the state must promote the development of natural resources and the equitable access to all citizens without any discrimination (i.e., there are no specially reserved rights for native Alaskan in the state constitution).

The constitution of Alaska engages intergenerational equity for environmental protection. However, the case of whaling by native Alaska demonstrates the complexities of multiple and sometimes competing layers of domestic and international law affecting Indigenous Peoples. Whaling is regulated internationally by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) according to the 1946 Convention for the Regulation of Whaling.[38] The commission sets further regulations and monitors compliance by contracting states (now 88). The Preamble of the International Convention for the regulation of whaling recognizes “the interest of the nations of the world in safeguarding for future generations the great natural resources represented by the whale stocks,” i.e. a nod to intergenerational equity. The International Whaling Commission distinguishes Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling (ASW) from commercial whaling and the current moratorium applies only to the latter. Four IWC member countries lead the ASW, including United States. The IWC recognizes the cultural and nutritional importance of this activity while maintaining the objectives of sustainability. ASW is monitored by the Scientific Committee and the national governments must inform about the needs and priorities of Indigenous populations to continue whaling.[39] In Alaska, eleven small Inuit communities conduct ASW. The hunt is not commercial (the meat is not sold on an open market) but the catches are divided among the members of the communities according to traditional principles and custom (Indigenous law).

Aboriginal whaling concessions reflect the right of self-determination, which means the right of Indigenous people to decide on the development of their culture even if it involves environmentally contested activities. However, as Indigenous people are subjects of international law and their quotas must be approved at multiple levels within the IWC and these in practice reflect ecological sustainability principles, including intergenerational equity.

Despite Indigenous provisions for ASW within the IWC, the Alaska Constitution itself does not provide any exclusive rights to traditional fishing or hunting for Alaska Natives. Article 8 guarantees equitable access to natural resources, or “common good” for all Alaska citizens and residents. The article guarantees ecological conservation for the indiscriminate use of resources. For this reason, Article 8 does not provide for any exclusive right to use resources and might limit to conduct activities potentially harmful to the environment (including flora and fauna).

Whaling aside, the following jurisprudence developed a new interpretation of article 8 as source of the intergenerational equity. However, the inclusion on article 8 in Alaska State Constitution on the use of natural resources served to avoid any interferences of the federal government. The article uses the term ‘common use’ without special provisions on Alaska Native cultural rights. It was not until the 1980s and 90s that the Supreme Court started to interpret article 8 as related to subsistence hunting and fishing rights. In McDowell v. The State of Alaska,[40] the court interpreted article 8 as guaranteeing equal access to natural resources regardless of residency. This way, it did not recognize special rights to rural areas, even less the substantial rights to fish and hunt for Indigenous peoples living outside the cities. In Kanaitze Indian Tribe v. State,[41] state law interpreted article 8 as the right to substantial hunting and fishing only for who lives close to resources. However, the Alaska Supreme Court then declared the state law in violation of article 8 of the constitution as it limited the equal access to resources. In the court’s view, “residence” and “proximity” are considered a mere convenience compared to the right to access traditional territories. Recently, the Supreme Court recognized the right to subsistence fishing and hunting in the Manning case[42] holding that the subsistence statute protects “traditional culture and a way of life”. It is noteworthy to point out that this positive outcome was based on state laws instead of the Constitution.[43] Although constitutional law does not provide exclusive rights to traditional practices and does not mention subsistence fishing and hunting, there is a management framework that guarantees exemptions regarding mammal fishing quotas (Marine Mammal Protection Act[44]) and hunting of polar bears (U.S. – Russia Agreement on Conservation and Management of Alaska- Chukotka Polar Bear Population)[45] and species at risk (Endagered Species Act, ESA).[46]


The exclusive right of Saami to herd reindeer in Norway

There are approximately 40,000-60,000 Sami within the State frontiers of Norway. The Norwegian constitution recognizes Indigenous rights in article 108, establishing “the authorities of the state shall create conditions enabling the Sami people to preserve and develop its language, culture and their way of life”. Norway also has obligation to the Sami population pursuant to international conventions, particularly article 27 of the ICCPR and ILO Convention 169 concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples.[47] It is notable that Norway is the only State with a Sami Population to have ratified the ILO convention. After the 2014 reform, article 110b was introduced with the aim to provide rights and duties – not merely principles – on the concept of the right to a healthy environment. The first reason for doing so was to ensure that this provision enjoyed constitutional supremacy over other legislation. Second, constitutional implementation enables courts to enforce these principles of environmental protection. The article was then replaced by article 112 which reinforced the state duty to adopt protective measures with room for political discretion. Nowadays, article 112 can be interpreted under the legal framework of the current intergeneration equity. The Reindeer Grazing Act of 1978[48]held that Sami have exclusive right to herd in Norway on the basis of time immemorial use an as to preserve their identity.[49] This act has been later repealed by the Reindeer Herding Act of 2007.[50]The Court also held that Sami reindeer herders resident primarily in Sweden can cross border to Norway according to the Saami reindeer act of 2007.[51] The Sami Council, which represents Sami across Sápmi, has expressively declared how climate change represent a double burden to Sami as they are the most affected by the ecological degradation and also by the mitigative strategies- as wind power farm or mining to extract minerals used for electric cars.[52] This is visible in Norwegian Lapland where a joint venture wind power farm is interfering with Saami reindeer herding, making it impossible for Saami in the area to continue their herding practices since time immemorial. The energy company has constructed and continues to operate over 200 turbines as part of Norway’s ambitions for a “green transition” but also producing a significant economic profit. In fact, Stakraft, the state-owned renewable energy company responsible for the turbines, made over 1 billion the last quarter of 2022 alone, nearly 15 million dollars in profit a day. It is said to be the biggest Eolic Park, and many roads connecting the different constructing areas.[53]

The Fosen windfarm project is also the major source of energy for the nearby town of Fosen and other nearby settlements. Construction of the wind farm started in 2016, with energy production starting in 2018. However, the Fosen Vind project has received much criticism regarding the environmental and landscape impact of wind turbines on local fauna, flora and Saami communities. Moreover, the project is located in the centre of the country where the southernmost Saami population resides, which has the lowest number of members and reindeer herders. Among other concerns, environmental activists have denounced the project’s negative effects on bird migration, bat flight paths and the visual appearance of the landscape. As early as 2010, the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate (NVE) had granted licenses to some wind power plants to be built on the Saami pastures. Some Saami organizations in the area (South-Fosen sitje and North-Fosen siida) initiated several legal paths to stop the non-construction of the wind farm.[54] The various legal proceedings demonstrated the limits and difficulties of applying international human rights law with regard to the protection of cultural and minority rights. The South Fosen sitje based its requests mainly on article 27 ICCPR, article 1 Protocol 1 of the ECHR, and article 5 (d) (v) of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Although the ICCPR had been ratified in 1972 by Norway through the Human Rights Act, at the time of the Fosen case the jurisprudence on Indigenous rights was still rather undeveloped. Before the Fosen case, in fact, the Norwegian Supreme Court had expressed itself only on three other cases from which it tried to reconstruct the tolerance threshold to establish the circumstances in which article 27 could be defined as having been violated. Article 27 of the ICCPR declares that:

In those States in which ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities exist, persons belonging to such minorities shall not be denied the right, in community with the other members of their group, to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practice their own religion, or to use their own language.

The ICCPR establishes both negative obligations (not to limit the enjoyment of cultural rights to minority communities) and positive obligations on the State (to take measures to guarantee these rights).  Article 108 of the Norwegian Constitution opens the door to a new interpretation of article 27 of the ICCPR, establishing that “the authorities of the state shall create conditions enabling the Sami people to preserve and develop their language, culture and way of life. Article 105 of the Norwegian Constitution also provides that the person affected by land expropriation must receive full compensation, even in the event that the expropriation takes place “for more benefit than damage”. Despite the economic and compensatory benefits, if the expropriation violates the right of ethnic, religious, or linguistic minorities to practice their culture (e.g., Sami reindeer husbandry) it will not be legally valid.[55]

In the Fosen case, the Norwegian Court had to intervene to define when the expropriation should be considered a violation of human rights and of article 27 of the ICCPR. The threshold established by the Supreme Court of Norway is based on international jurisprudence, in particular the three Länsman v Finland Views and the Poma Poma View of the Human Rights Committee (para.119)[56].

In the three Länsman v Finland cases, the Human Rights Committee confirmed that economic activities should come within the ambit of Article 27 without the state’ party of ICCPR margin appreciation on the development of Indigenous culture. Activities should be planned with the minority’s consent.[57] In the second Länsman case, the Human Rights Committee stated that also the cumulative effects of the activities must be taken into account.[58]

The Poma Poma v Peru case concerns the construction of wells in Peru that source water from the mountains, lands inhabited by the Aymara people, and divert it to the city.[59] This diversion not only limited the Aymaras’ access to water but had drastic repercussions on the llama pastures. The Human Rights Committee decided in favor of the complainant, Ms Poma Poma, who is a member of the affected Aymara people.[60]  Indeed, the Human Rights Committee considered that the claimant and her community were deprived of their right to participate in the decision-making process regarding the wells construction and the state party did not obtain the free and prior informed consent of Poma Poma.

Following these views, that are themselves technically non-binding, the Norwegian Supreme Court establishes the right to consultation that, in the cases of Indigenous Peoples, can include a right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent (e.g., in Poma Poma). The right to meaningful consultation, and a requirement of consent if the interference crosses the threshold of severity, is not subject to a margin of appreciation, a proportionality test or balancing test. In other words, States cannot disapply the right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent because of countervailing interests of the majority population or even global goods such as the green transition.

The Supreme Court stated that the mitigation plans – i.e., fencing in and artificial feeding of reindeer was not a sufficient “mitigation” to override the interference with their cultural rights. Nowadays, the windfarms continue to operate unlawfully, the Saami cannot herd and they still do not even get compensation.[61]


Discussion: Indigenous Rights in Light of in dubio pro natura

The in dubio pro natura principle suggests an alternative way to solve uncertainty in environmental conservation. It recognises traditional knowledge and sustainable practices when it is applied to Indigenous rights[62]. Theoretically, in dubio pro natura guarantees Indigenous rights and knowledge by prioritising the protection on nature in case of ambiguity. However, in dubio pro natura doesn’t grant Indigenous rights to use the land since it might prompt conservation measures encouraging alternative and more sustainable practices. Commonly, national legal systems address Indigenous rights and environmental conservation on different levels.

In these situations, cooperation between authorities, environmental experts and Indigenous communities is crucial in the application of more inclusive decision-making process and culturally- sensitive environmental strategies[63].

The coexistence of environmental principles like in dubio pro natura and legal provisions for Indigenous rights involves negotiation to balance environmental conservation and cultural diversity. This approach can lead to a more inclusive constitutional revision process which guarantee the right to a healthy environment. In this sense, in dubio pro natura can lead to several inclusive instruments to include Indigenous peoples in environmental matters as: co-management of natural resources, adoption of contraindicative provisions, political polycentricity, innovative interpretation of pre-existing articles. In this way, the protection of ecological diversity could promote the conservation of traditional practices and knowledge.

For example, co-management suggests a cooperation between Indigenous communities and the authorities on natural resources in traditional land. It has been applied in Sweden in the World Heritage site of Laponia[64]. However, this approach has been criticised, raising strong ethical concerns that co-management of Indigenous cultural heritage with the state does not support the right of self-determination.[65] On the same matter, Daes denies the co-management by introducing the term “collective heritage” to cover Indigenous cultural and property rights. Daes understands “heritage” as “everything that belongs to the distinct identity of a people and which is theirs to share, if they wish, with other peoples. It includes [..] inheritances from the past and from nature, such as human remains, the natural features of the landscape, and naturally occurring species of plants and animals with which a people has long been connected.”[66]

Finally, in dubio pro natura can also promote innovative interpretation of pre-existing article (as article 8 of Alaska constitution) which suggests a stronger connection between human rights and nature.



Environmental constitutionalism represents an important process for strengthening compliance with international obligations regarding the conservation of biodiversity. In dubio pro natura jurisprudential applications support the dynamism of the law which is gradually moving from an anthropocentric approach of environmental law to an ecocentric perspective in which nature must be preserved for the future. Intergenerational equity inspires a partnership between generations through the preservation of a healthy environment for a dual purpose: ensuring the right of future generations to access natural resources and the right to practice their culture. Indigenous populations share a great attachment to nature by virtue of traditional activities (fishing, hunting, traditional knowledge). It is very difficult to determine whether intergenerational equity or the in dubio pro natura approach better supports access to cultural heritage for future generations or even how the two approaches can be integrated. This is firstly because intergenerational equality has not been sufficiently explored jurisprudentially to have an exhaustive definition. Secondly, intergenerational equity, together with the in dubio pro natura principle address predominantly environmental protection goals rather than the conservation of cultural diversity. This creates a strong disconnect between environment and culture that differs from Indigenous perspectives (for example, views of nature and humankind as part of the same “continuum”). Alaska and Norway are among the Arctic jurisdictions to have implemented the principle of intergenerational equity in their constitutions. Nonetheless, the tendency for courts to rule in dubio pro natura for the maintenance of a healthy future environment does not necessarily strengthen the rights of Indigenous peoples to practice traditional activities, which are essential to the preservation of their traditional knowledge for future generations. These conflicts can arise whether the constitution itself includes exclusive Indigenous rights to traditional practice (for example in Norway) or whether it excludes them by virtue of fair and indiscriminate access to natural resources (for example in Alaska). It is also important to analyse the etymology of the texts, especially of the individual articles, to determine whether the constitutional text contributes to a colonial narrative (as in the case of Alaska). Clearly this refers to constitutional law, as the objective of this article, without excluding the presence of a different legal framework that dispute moratoriums, exemptions, or rights to support Indigenous practices on traditional territories.



[1] Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (adopted 25 June 1998, entered into force 30 October 2001) 2161 UNTS 447, 38 ILM 517 (1999) (Aarhus Convention).

[2] Serena Baldin, ‘Il costituzionalismo ambientale in un’ottica multilivello’ (in English: Enviromental constitutionalism from multilevel perspective”, DPCE online, Spring 2023, p.1-3 ISSN: 237-6677.

[3] Rio Declaration on Environment and Development (1992) 31 ILM 876. See also: Wirth A. D., ‘The Rio Declaration on Environmental and Development: Two steps Forward and One back, or Vice Versa,’ Georgia Law Review, 29, 1995. Pp. 165.

[4] Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (adopted 4 November 1959, entered into force 3 September 1954) ETS 5 (ECHR).

[5] Council of the European Union, ‘Servirsi dei diritti umani per proteggere l’ambiente’ (English translation “Human Rights for environmental protection”), <https://www.coe.int/it/web/portal/human-rights-environment>, accessed 30 November 2023. .

[6] Ibid.

[7] Kotzé, L. (2019). A Global Environmental Constitution for the Anthropocene? Transnational Environmental Law, 8(1), 11-33. doi:10.1017/S2047102518000274.

[8] Ibid. Baldin (n 2) 12

[9] The Constitution of the State of Alaska, adopted 5 February 1956, ratified 24 April 1956, operative 3 January 1959 (Alaska State Constitution). Text available: <https://ltgov.alaska.gov/information/alaskas-constitution/>.

[10] Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. Text available: <https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/corporate/transparency/committees/inan-jan-28-2021/inan-section-35-consitution-act-1982-background-jan-28-2021.html>.

[11] Carter v Canada (Attorney General), 2015 SCC 5, at para 63.

[12] Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Section 7. Text available: <https://www.canada.ca/en/canadian-heritage/services/how-rights-protected/guide-canadian-charter-rights-freedoms.html>.

[13] FAOLEX, Constitution of Denmark. Report available: <https://www.fao.org/faolex/results/details/en/c/LEX-FAOC127862/> (last access on 20th December 2023).

[14] E.g., Ragnheiður Elfa Þorsteinsdóttir, ‘Natural resources and the reform of the Icelandic Constitution,’ in Ágúst Þór Árnason and Cahterine Dupré (eds), Icelandic Constitutional Reform: People, Processes, Politics (Routledge, 2021).

[15] Norway Constitution, 1814, as amended. English translation available: <https://lovdata.no/dokument/NLE/lov/1814-05-17>.

[16] Constitution of Sweden, 1974, as amended, Article 2 s 4.  English translation available: <https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Sweden_2012>.

[17] Constitution of Finland 2000, as amended. English translation available: <https://www.finlex.fi/en/laki/kaannokset/1999/en19990731>.

[18] Constitution of the Russian Federation, 1993, Article 69. English translation available: <http://www.constitution.ru/en/10003000-01.htm>.

[19] Erin Ryan, “The Public Trust Doctrine, Property, and Society” in Nicole Graham, Margaret Davies & Lee Godden (eds), Handbook of Property, Law, and Society (Routledge, 2022).

[20] Nicholas Bryner, ‘An Ecological Theory of Statutory Interpretation’ (2018) 54(1) Idaho Law Review, 28.

[21] Rio Declaration (n 3), Principle 15.

[22] Case Concerning Pulp Mills on the River Uruguay (Argentina v Uruguay) (Merits) [2010] ICJ Rep 14, para 164.

[23] Serena Baldin and Sara De Vido, “The In Dubio Pro Natura Principle: An Attempt of A Comprehensive Legal Reconstruction” (2023) SSRN <https://ssrn.com/abstract=4313438> and <http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4313438> .

[24] Edith Brown-Weiss, ‘Implementing Intergenerational Equity,’, in Malgosia Fitzmaurice, David Ong, and Panos Mercouri (eds), Research Handbook on International Environmental Law (Edward Elgar, 2005), 101.

[25] Ibidem, 102-103.

[26] Stockholm Declaration on the Human Environment (1972) 11 ILM 1416, Principle 1.

[27] Malgosia Fitzmaurice, ‘Indigenous Peoples and Intergenerational Equity as an Emerging Aspect of Ethno-Cultural Diversity in International Law’ in Gaetano Pentassuglia (ed), Ethnology- Cultural Diversity and Human Rights: Challenges and Critiques, (Brill 2017), 198.

[28] Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, UNGA Res 61/295 (13 September 2007) (UNDRIP).

[29] International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 1966, 993 UNTS 3 (ICESCR) articles 1 and 15; International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966, 999 UNTS 171 (ICCPR) articles 1 and 27; Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination 1966, 660 UNTS 195 (CERD).

[30] Joerg Chet Tremmel, ‘Establishing Intergenerational Justice in National Constitutions’, in Joerg Chet Tremmel (ed), Handbook of Intergenerational Equity  (Edward Elgar, 2006), 203-5.

[31] Eric Sandberg, Eddie Hunsinger and Sara Whitney, ‘A History Of Alaska Population Settlement,’ (Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Division of Administration and Services,  April 2013) 4-13. Available online at: <https://live.laborstats.alaska.gov/pop/estimates/pub/pophistory.pdf>.

[32] Ibid.

[33]  William L. Iggiagruk Hensley and John Sky Starkey, ‘Alaska Native Perspectives on the Alaska Constitution,’ (2018) 35 Alaska Law Review 129-137.

[34] Tyson Kade and Van Ness Feldman, ‘The Protection of Alaska Native Subsistence Rights and Use: Overview of Alaska’s Subsistence Framework,’ Presentation for the Alaska Federation and Natives, 2022. Available online at <https://www.nativefederation.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/AFN-Subsistence-Workshop.May-2022.pdf>, accessed 1 December 2023.

[35] Ibid.

[36] Ibid.

[37] Constitution of the State of Alaska (n 9), Article 8 c.14: Free access to the navigable or public waters of the State, as defined by the legislature, shall not be denied any citizen of the United States or resident of the State, except that the legislature may by general law regulate and limit such access for other beneficial uses or public purposes.

[38] International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling 1946, 161 UNTS 72.

[39] International Whaling Commission, ‘Description of the USA Aboriginal Subsistence Hunt: Alaska,’ <https://iwc.int/management-and-conservation/whaling/aboriginal/usa/alaska> accessed 20 December 2023.

[40] McDowell v The State of Alaska, 785 P.2d 1 (1989).

[41] Kanaitze Indian Tribe v. State, 894P.2d 632 (1995).

[42] Manning v Alaska State Department of Fish and Game, 853 P.2d 1120 (2015).

[43] Ibid. Hensley and Starkey (n 32),137.

[44] Marine Mammal Protection Act (2017) 16 U.S.C 1361-1407.

[45] U.S- Russia Bilateral Agreement on Polar Bear Conservation 2007/792. ROP available: <https://polarbearagreement.org/polar-bear-management/bilateral-cooperation/united-sates-russian-federation>.

[46] Endangered Species Act, 1973, 16 U.S.C. 1531-1544. Text available: <https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/USCODE-20https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/USCODE-2017-title16/pdf/USCODE-2017-title16-chap35-sec1531.pdf>.

[47] ILO Convention 169, (1989) 28 ILM 1382.

[48] Act No.49, 1978 on Reindeer Farming 1978 (rev. 2003).

[49] Statnett SF et al. v. Sør-Fosen sijte, Supreme Court of Norway, HR-2021-1975-S, Judgment of 11 October 2021.

[50] Act. 40 of 2007-06-15.

[51] Norwegian Supreme Court, Case 2021, HR-2021-1429-A (ask no.20-16328SIV-HRET).

[52] Eva Marja Fjellheim and FlorianCarl, ‘Green Colonialism is Destroying Indigenous Lives in Norway’,  Al Jazeera, 1 August 2020, <https://www.aljazeera.com/opinions/2020/8/1/green-colonialism-is-ruining-indigenous-lives-in-norway>.

[53] Martine Aamodt Hess, ‘Norway’s Treatment of Sámi Indigenous People Makes a Mockery of Its Progressive Image,’ Jacobin, 13 March 2023, <https://jacobin.com/2023/03/norway-sami-indigenous-people-reindeer-herding-wind-turbines-dispossession-protest>.

[54] Øyvind Ravna, ‘The Fosen Case and the Protection of Sámi Culture in Norway Pursuant to Article 27 ICCPR,’ (2022) 30(1) International Journal on Minority and Group Rights 156.

[55] Ibid, 163-164.

[56] Appeal against Frostating Court of Appeal’s reappraisal, Supreme Court of Norway, HR-2021-1975-S, (case no. 20-143891SIV-HRET), (case no. 20-143892SIV-HRET) and (case no. 20-143893SIV-HRET), para.119. Full text available at: <https://www.domstol.no/globalassets/upload/hret/decisions-in-english-translation/hr-2021-1975-s.pdf>.

[57] Ilmari Länsman et al v Finland, Human Rights Committee, Communication No. 511/1992 (8 November 1994) CCPR/C/52/D/511/1992 (Länsman I); Jouni E. Länsman et al v Finland, Human Rights Committee, Communication No. 671/1995 (30 October 1996) CCPR/C/58/D/671/1995 (Länsman II); Jouni Länsman et al v Finland, Human Rights Committee, Communication No. 1023/2001 (17 March 2005) CCPR/C/83/D/1023/2001 (Länsman III).

[58] Länsman II.  

[59] Poma Poma v Peru, Human Rights Committee, Communication No. 1457/2006 (27 March 2009) CCPR/C/95/D/1457/2006.

[60] Ibid.

[61]  FrodeStøle and Jens Naas-Bibow, ‘Fosen: Wind Power and Reindeer Herding – Now What?,’ Advokatfirma AS <https://enkommafem.no/en/posts/supreme-court-fosen> accessed 20 December 2020.

[62] Ibid. Baldin (n 2), 26-7.

[63] I refer mainly to Nepali Constitution approach during the revision in 2015 after two years of consultation with minorities. See: IDEA, Inclusive Constitution Building: Identifying Common Ground through Political Dialogues on Contentions Constitutional Issues & Indigenous People’s Concerns in Nepal (Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities, 2015).

[64] Leena Heinämäki, Thora Herrmann and Carina Green ‘Towards Sámi Self-Determination over Their Cultural Heritage: The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Laponia in Northern Sweden,’ in  Alexandra Xanthaki, Sanna Valkonen, Leena Heinämäki and Piia Kristiina Nuorgam (eds), Indigenous Peoples’ Cultural Heritage: Rights, Debates, Challenges (Brill, 2017).

[65] Sam Grey, and Rauna Kuokkanen, ‘Indigenous Governance of Cultural Heritage: Searching for Alternatives to Co-Management,’ (2019) 26(10) International Journal of Heritage Studies 919.

[66] Ibid. Heinämäki and others (n 64), 82. See also: Erica Irene Daes, ‘Discrimination Against Indigenous Peoples: Study on the Protection of the cultural and Intellectual Property of Indigenous Peoples,’ E/CN.4/Sub.2/1993/28, UNCHR, Geneva,(1993) para. 23.

Climate Change and Mental Health: A Snapshot of Arctic Indigenous People’s Resiliency and Suffering as the World Transforms

For years, the Arctic region, home to 4 million people, ten percent of whom are indigenous, has provided an example of rapidly changing climate patterns impinging on human ability to adapt to the change (Arctic Centre, University of Lapland). The Circumpolar region has experienced warming at a rate roughly two to three times greater than the rest of the world (AMAP, 2021). As the environment changes, the region’s economic prospects also change, both positively and negatively. But to understand the full extent of the Arctic as a region experiencing rapid climate change also requires examining the human toll—the emotional toll—this transformation causes. Duane Smith, President of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference Canada and Vice-President of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, points out in the UN Chronicle that the sacred knowledge of the world passed down through generations in Indigenous communities is becoming less accurate as Arctic ecosystems change with the climate. As a result, traditional ways of life are less viable for Arctic Indigenous peoples (Smith). Many Indigenous people have begun to feel like strangers in their own lands (GreenFacts Scientific Board, 2021). These communities have shown incredible resilience thus far, but that forced adaptation is also costly. Take for instance, the fact that Circumpolar people, specifically the wellbeing of adolescents, is worsening with not enough solutions in sight. Suicide is on the rise among Indigenous adolescents in the Arctic, especially in Greenland (Bjerregaard & Lynge, 2006). In the Arctic region, Greenland is the world’s largest island with a population composed primarily of Inuit people (Rasmussen, 2021). The island is also home to the world’s second-largest ice sheet, which is vital to global climate patterns (National Snow and Ice Data Center, 2020). Much like rapid modernization and cultural identity deviation, climate change impacts and melting Arctic ice are also contributing to this region’s worsening mental health crisis (Barrett, 2019).

As Indigenous cultures and their relationship to the ice struggle to endure, they are vulnerable to underrepresentation in the face of globalization and modernization. If their unique needs and experiences are not recognized, they will suffer disproportionately from the impact of global climate change. Their experience could prove to be a warning sign for many cultures in the coming decades.

Mental health is a key area of concern, especially among younger generations in Greenland. Greenland has the highest suicide rate of any country in the world, almost to the point where suicide is a normal part of life. Every Greenlander can say they know someone who has died by suicide (Hersher, 2016). As the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) framework is being deployed across the globe in accordance with its 2030 agenda, it’s essential this region and its communities are not left behind. One way to do this is to mobilize the recommendations of the UN’s Goal 3 (Good Health and Well-being) by investing in improved mental health infrastructure for Arctic native people.

The Inextricable Link Between Environmental and Mental Changes for Arctic Indigenous People

According to recent reports by the UN, 2019 was the second-hottest year on record within the hottest decade recorded (2020). For the Arctic, this reality has been unmistakable. Glacier ice, sea ice, and permafrost are melting at alarming rates in this region, creating devastating impacts on the world’s cryosphere (National Snow and Ice Data Center, 2020). According to predictions, the Arctic will be ice free for at least part of the year before this century ends. It might even be ice-free by the middle of the century (Scott & Hansen, 2016).

The UN recognizes Indigenous people as “inheritors and practitioners of unique cultures and ways of relating to people and the environment” (United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs Indigenous Peoples). And, with more than 40 different ethnic groups, the Circumpolar Indigenous people have called the Arctic home for thousands of years (Arctic Centre, University of Lapland).

Ford and others explain that Indigenous people have strong cultural and spiritual ties to their lands and “also have a central role in detecting and managing change due to [those] deep connections to the land and seas” (Ford, 2020). As industrialization and social and climate change erase Arctic ice and change weather patterns, the foundational continuity for indigenous traditions, livelihoods and culture are threatened (Arctic Centre, University of Lapland). This is leaving the Arctic’s native people more vulnerable than ever, impacting their housing, infrastructure, and transport connections to the point of necessary relocation (Arctic Centre, University of Lapland). One example from the National Snow and Ice Data Center shows that slower fall freezes are leaving Indigenous peoples without access to hunting, other communities, and health care (2020). “As a result, the livelihoods connected with hunting, fishing, and herding are under threat. Indigenous peoples have an especially strong bond with nature and the changes in harvesting activities may have implications for the economy, society, culture and health” (Arctic Centre, University of Lapland).

Relative to these people’s ancestral lineage on this land, the impacts they are seeing now from climate change are very disruptive to what they have always known. We know that disruption causes mental health challenges and suicidal risk factors like family collapse, increased alcoholism, and child abuse and neglect (Hersher, 2016). One example of widespread community devastation and rapidly forced adaptation happened in New Orleans, Louisiana following Hurricane Katrina in 2005. A study found that serious to moderate mental illness nearly doubled among survivors of one of the deadliest hurricanes on record, forcing 500,000 people to relocate from their homes (Kessler, 2006). Another example of how climate change is devastating homelands, and by extension the mental health of its residents, comes from a 2016 wildfire at Fort McMurray in Alberta, Canada (AMAP, 2021). A mental health status assessment of young adolescents showed triple the rate of depression and double the rate of anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (AMAP, 2021).

While change in the Arctic has been more gradual than a single natural disaster event, considering mental health and psychological theory shows how this disruption of ecosystems and livelihoods can adversely affect mental health. Psychologist Urie Bronfenbrenner developed an ecological paradigm that shows how a person’s development, interpersonal relationships, and overall well-being are influenced by the interconnected relationship between various ecosystems, from an individual to a macro level, and vice-versa (Guy-Evans, 2020). The work of Bronfenbrenner illustrates how interconnected human beings are with their environments and cultures. This is especially true for Arctic Indigenous people. Livelihoods, cultures, and support systems, all of which are under threat in the Arctic Indigenous communities, play an important role in identity formation, life fulfillment, and resilience to stressors. When people’s ecosystems are threatened or out of balance and interpersonal relationships are strained, mental, physical, and spiritual vitality wane. That can be a catalyst for isolation and mental illness.

Mental health literature also demonstrates what can happen when basic needs become more challenging to meet as a result of disrupted ecological systems. One of psychology’s most influential theorists, Abraham Maslow, asserts that human needs exist in a hierarchical schema where low level basic needs like food, water, shelter, safety, and security must be accomplished before higher level, self-fulfillment needs like a sense of belonging, fulfilling one’s full potential, and creative innovation can be satisfied (McLeod, 2014). If the lower-level basic needs go unmet, or are disrupted, it creates a substantial impact on a person’s mental health.

Some of the higher-level needs for the Arctic Indigenous, in particular, are currently under threat and often overlooked in health care systems. According to the Arctic Human Development Report, Arctic Indigenous people emphasize the importance of three key factors of human development not found in the Human Development Index. These include fate control (controlling one’s own destiny), maintaining cultural identity, and living close to nature (Larsen et al., 2014). Unfortunately, large gaps still exist for the Arctic Indigenous populations when it comes to meeting their lower-level, basic survival needs making it that much more difficult for them to realize these higher-level needs they hold as sacred and necessary for well-being.

The unsustainable burden climate change puts on the Arctic Indigenous people is playing out most uniquely for the future generations. These future generations are being raised by parents who have long been coping with ecological disruptions and unmet needs. Now, these parents are suffering with mental illnesses such as substance abuse and depression as a result of traumatic assimilation demands and rapid modernization. This increases mental health risk factors for their children (Barrett, 2019). As these parents are then looked upon to manage the burden of past and present circumstances, they are also managing the path forward for their children. This begins to illustrate what can happen when a culture and its needs are substantially eradicated within the span of a generation or less. In Greenland, for instance, many young people feel cut off from the older generations while also not really belonging to the new one (Hersher, 2016). The Indigenous youth are caught somewhere between a demand for modernity and new ways of living and a sacred duty to honor the culture of their ancestors as they find a way forward amid the far-reaching impacts of climate change.

Suicide Among Greenland’s Indigenous Adolescent

According to Chow, “Inuit Indigenous peoples make up 89% of Greenland’s population which means that mental health issues are particularly prevalent in Inuit communities” (2019). Of that 89%, the most alarming mental health concerns come out of the adolescent population.

“Inuit suicide rates per 100,000 for Greenland, NWT and Alaska with their national averages for Denmark, Canada and US by age group 1980-89 (8)” (Einarsson et al., 2004)

The above image indicates the vast disparity in suicide rates across the Arctic’s Indigenous youth. “Youth suicide rates are alarmingly high in many parts of the Arctic, particularly in Greenland [where] the suicide rates were around two to 10 times higher among Indigenous youth” (Lehti, Niemelä, Hoven, Mandell, & Sourander, 2009).

Additionally, youth suicides follow unique patterns. They tend to occur in clusters meaning for every suicide, there are many more attempts and instances of people experiencing suicidal thoughts and ideations creating catastrophic impacts on their communities (Larsen et al., 2014). This ripple effect of youth suicides can be devastating in small communities with nearly 60% of adults and roughly 33% of adolescent Greenlanders having lost a loved one to suicide (Larsen & Huskey, 2010). Suicidality at this level perpetuates the mental health crisis in this region as families take on more stress and coping responsibilities due to losses and grieving.

In the Arctic, male Indigenous populations are even more disproportionately affected by suicide when compared with populations as a whole (Einarsson et al., 2004). One reason for this among Arctic Indigenous males could be the effect climate change is having on traditional Indigenous male roles. The image below indicates such rates across the Arctic with the highest numbers occurring in Greenland (Larsen, 2014).

(Larsen, 2014)

Not only is risk of suicide significant in the Arctic’s Indigenous communities, but it is also directly tied to globalization and climate change. Greenland’s suicide wave has followed historical patterns and is indisputably linked to the rapid changes in Greenlandic ways of life (Larsen & Huskey, 2010). Youth is meant to be a time of growth, learning, and hope for the future, not a period of time marked by so many hardships and barriers that a person takes his/her own life. In order for these adolescents to have the best chance at a good future, they need mental health resources.

It’s important to note that it’s not just environmental changes that are impacting the Arctic Indigenous adolescents’ mental health. Social-political changes like forced assimilation can lead to loss of traditional practices and beliefs, displacement, loss of lands, and acculturative stress (Kvernmo, 2006). The intersectionality of acculturation demands and challenges due to climate change leave the Arctic’s Indigenous populations uniquely vulnerable to mental illness amid a lack of mental health resources. Climate change is resulting in food and water insecurity and impacts on health care infrastructure thus having a profound impact on human physical and mental health resulting in suicide and domestic violence, among others (Larsen et al., 2014). Mental illness can be shrouded in stigma and desires to avoid addressing the issue can run deep. Mental illness is often a difficult problem to face with no clear cut solution. Healing requires empowerment, hope, and thoughtful, intentional resource allocation.

In order to control their fate, the Arctic Indigenous people must have agency and resources. Unfortunately, large gaps still exist for the Arctic Indigenous populations when it comes to decision making opportunities, especially in regard to health systems. Many Indigenous people see the inclusion of local values as foundational to any healing system, therefore, making it important to broaden our ideas about what constitutes cross-cultural healthcare services and create new approaches to solving old problems (Einarsson et al., 2004). Acknowledging what is happening to the people in these communities begins to illustrate how this fate could befall others if more isn’t done to mitigate the risk factors.

A Case Study for Populations Everywhere

Research proves that when people are supported by mental health resources, they are more resilient, can take better care of their families, can participate more fully in society, and have the freedom to innovate and the world needs more of this (World Health Organization, 2013). By paying attention to the quality of life and adaptability among its vast and varied interconnected ecosystems and people, any region stands to gain a better understanding of itself and how it, too, might adapt to the changing environments. The Arctic Indigenous communities are currently some of the hardest hit by climate change, but they won’t be the only ones. They offer a clear example of why mental health needs to be a priority in implementing the UN’s Goal 3 and the allocation of resources.

Bolstering this community starts by creating more mental health infrastructure for the Arctic’s Indigenous people and their youth. This would broaden the community’s capacity to live at their fullest potential, to thrive, and to innovate. However, it’s important to consider the many barriers to mental health care services that often exist in rural areas. These include stigma around mental health, stigma toward those who have a desire for care, lack of anonymity when seeking mental health treatment, lack of mental health professionals, lack of affordable culturally competent care, and lack of transportation to care (Rural Health Information Hub, 2019). These are barriers that must be overcome.

Research shows that societies greatly benefit from more investment in mental health resources. One study looked at the effectiveness of implementing mindfulness-based practices into mental health care for Native American youth for suicide prevention. The results indicated the mindfulness approach, in collaboration with an indigenous research framework, improved their self-regulation and reduced suicidal thoughts (Le & Gobert, 2013). Another example of the positive impact mental health resources can have come out of Germany. In a study where interventions for depressive disorders were implemented, there was success in reducing suicidality, and this approach is currently being implemented in several other regions across Germany (Hegerl et al., 2006). Though the implementation of mental health resources is often costly and challenging, these studies indicate that it is a necessary and worthwhile priority.

Currently, there are numerous examples of resilience and evidence that Indigenous people are having some success coping and adapting to rapid change. They are improvising, adapting technologies, altering knowledge systems, and learning how to navigate challenging new environmental and social realities (Ford et al., 2020). While their resilience is evident, it is in response to great suffering that continues to escalate. That is why investment in mental health resources is urgently needed to allow the Arctic Indigenous people time and space to preserve their vibrant cultures in a changing world. No one knows better what the Arctic Indigenous people need to heal and to prosper than themselves. Providing them with the resources they need could allow them the space to do just that.


The melting Arctic ice and the rapidly changing environmental and economic landscapes of the Arctic regions are creating a trickle-down effect that is impacting every facet of Indigenous life, right down to the mental health of youth. Creating a healthier, more sustainable path forward for the next generation of Arctic Indigenous livelihoods, cultures, and health will require innovative changes ranging from environmental sustainability to responsible business practices to increased mental and physical health resources. The UN’s Goal 3 calls for global good health and wellness (United Nations Development Programme, 2020). According to the World Health Organization (WHO), world leaders are now recognizing a need for the promotion of mental health and well-being as health priorities within the global development agenda (2016). One compelling reason is the direct impact mental illness will have on the global economy. As Chisholms writes, The World Economic Forum estimated that the cumulative global impact of mental disorders in terms of lost economic output will amount to US$16 trillion over the next 20 years, equivalent to more than 1% of global gross domestic product (GDP) over this period. (2013). As the world works to implement changes in response to Goal 3, investment in mental health care will be needed in order to reduce suffering and unnecessary loss of life in the global health paradigm.

Climate change will continue to impact more and more populations and cultures, and we must be ready to support the emotional, and not just physical or economic needs, brought on by our changing environment. True sustainability is not just about protecting the environment, it’s about protecting people and human rights as well. When looking at the compelling evidence for global mental health investment, the WHO states, “for each year of inaction and underinvestment, the health, social and economic burden will continue to rise. Doing nothing is therefore not a viable option” (Chisholm, 2013). What the Arctic region proves is that there is work to be done in supporting mental health in order to foster resilient societies in the decades of transformation to come.


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Singapore and the Arctic: Is the Gibraltar of the East Going to Materialize its Geopolitical Ambitions?

In 1965, Singapore achieved independence after being expelled from the Federation of Malaysia. Having no natural resources and being one of the smallest countries in the world, Singapore had to shape itself as a State, regional and global player in order not to become, like most micro-states, gobbled up by expanding, neighboring states, or an inaudible voice and non-existing international diplomatic and political structures[1]. To do so, Singapore saw the action of a team led by one man that directed the country for 25 years, shaped its political system, diplomacy, economy and society: Lee Kuan Yew[2]. But to understand Singapore, we must understand its unique conditions that led to a unique economic, political, diplomatic and social system that drove its survival and, later, prosperity.

Singapore: an “Independent Gibraltar” in Asia

From its British colonial past, Singapore inherited the title of “Gibraltar of the East”, an analogy based on geographic, strategic and commercial features both cities enjoy[3]. However, Singapore is an independent country which had to reinvent and adapt itself to a new rising international order, being in a difficult region at the time (and still today): there was war in Vietnam, Communism in Cambodia and China, unstable political and religious conditions in Indonesia, and the United States’ military presence in the region. In order to survive in such a regional context, Singapore crafted what I will call its “Singaporean Survival” philosophy adopting national and diplomatic core values[4]:

  • Successful and Vibrant Economy: How?
  • Not Being a Vassal State: Why?
  • Friendly to All, Enemy of None: Who?
  • Global World Governed by the Rule of Law and International Norms: Where and How?

The first core value may be considered as a “How?” in the international relations analysis of the “Singaporean Survival” philosophy. It is the means for Singapore to achieve primary survival as a sovereign nation, ensure an income and opportunities for its inhabitants, as well as ensuring an economic income for the national government with the goal to secure a political system to run the country. The second core value may be considered as a “Why?”, as it reflects Singapore’s fears driven by the concept of Westphalian Statehood: not having full sovereignty within its borders and not having a strong international status. It is a fear driven by the fact that Singapore is a small nation without resources, and with a small population[5], meaning it would be relying on other countries to secure its status as a microstate. The third is a “Who?” in the sense of identity. Singapore had to shape itself as a nation, implying the creation of an international identity that would fit its regional geopolitical context and thus avoiding conflict, as it would not be strong enough to be an international military power. Furthermore, this approach helped Singapore in cooperating with everyone and then shape economic partnerships. It is a barrier-free approach to Liberalism. However, Singapore does not want to have friendly relations at any cost as its primary interest is its own security[6]. Finally, the fourth component is a “Where and How?”. This last point reflects Singapore’s ambition to promote freedom and stability to strengthen its image as a safe State willing to play by the rules. In this sense, this core value shows Singapore’s faith in peace and international cooperation, promoting international institutions as the primary international rule to avoid conflicts of interest by promoting the common international rules for all states and not a particular foreign state’s philosophy.

Singapore and International Relations Theories: the 2-Stroke State

Singapore created, through its philosophy, a development structure for its small nation, in which we may identify several points:

From Independence to Security and Stability:

As a small State, Singapore may not be able to compete with other States in terms of military capacity and technology, being rapidly outnumbered and outpowered by larger States due to its relatively small population (around 5,7 million people), small territory and therefore limited natural resources. This implies that the realist definition of power given by Waltz: “size of population and territory, resource endowment, economic capability, military strength, political stability and competence”[7] is overall not favorable to Singapore. This means that Singapore had to find new ways of asserting power while still developing such traditional fields with the development of an army, the implementation of compulsory military service and a constant progression towards cutting-edge military technology[8]. Therefore, Singapore achieved a version of soft Realism to achieve a primary survival: despite being small and limited in resources, be consistent, trustworthy, competent, stable politically, and keep asserting your position in the world as a state[9]. By recognizing its own features and the regional context in which it had to develop itself, Singapore accepted the vision of chaos and State-driven interests, starting with its own[10]. This Singaporean approach targeted the promotion of national wealth through the development of international cooperation where Singapore would play a key role, trying to be a “necessary, competent and wealthy” actor on the international scene. In this sense, the goal was the creation of a strong economy and then transition towards a more liberal approach. The process was a 2-step one: first reaching security, stability and international recognition, and then reaching sustainability and prosperity by using its key status to continue running its economy. I will call this process the 2-Stroke Singaporean Engine: 2 strokes that complement each other and meant to keep the Singaporean ball of survival rolling while increasing its wellbeing, international high-level status as an untouchable state, and therefore security. A philosophy marked by a progressive mix between realism (dominant at the beginning of Singapore’s history for its own survival) and liberalism (a philosophy progressively introduced over time). In this sense, Lee Kuan Yew’s approach to Realism and political stability was based on a hybrid regime[11] with a dominant – party system, a political system that still continues today. This political system would help in controlling all aspects of the State’s development without contestation, building continuity within government policies and society, with strong measures such as implementing compulsory military service to raise an army and to limit freedom of press[12]. In this sense, the shift from Realism to Liberalism is the first of the 2-Stroke Singaporean Engine: materialization of national effort to secure the international position of the State in a chaotic region with almost no natural resources but with a high strategic geographic position.

From Security and Sustainability to Sustainability and Prosperity:

The implementation of a strong liberalist approach to economy mixed with an institutionalist perspective[13] is the second stroke, where Singapore increases its liberal approach by creating and promoting all the required frameworks and values to enhance its economy and take the most out of it[14], frameworks based on the analysis of foreign countries and international companies’ policies[15]. However, the second stroke is still based on soft Realism, where Liberalism plays a stronger role of catalyst than traditional realist concepts of power such as military strength by achieving economic capability and, to some extent, competence. In this sense, Singapore has secured its survival and stability, starting then the building of a wealthy nation that is meant to be a model of sustainability and prosperity, attracting two of the core values promoted by Liberalism: investment and free trade. Singapore progressively achieved this shift, notably with the creation of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 1967[16] and its membership to the General Agreement on tariffs and Trade in 1973 (that would become later the World Trade Organization in 1995)[17]. Therefore, Singapore is promoting a very aggressive form of Liberalism and Pragmatism[18], supported nationally by a hybrid political regime that is still meant to achieve, at the same time, a soft form of Realism. An example and cornerstone of Singapore’s success may be the creation of the Economic Development Board in 1961, which laid the foundations for the economic development of Singapore through industrialization and the import of high-level engineering skills[19]. Therefore, this soft form is diversified in terms of tools used to achieve prosperity while serving the purpose of strengthening constantly the state of security, such as the production of high-level technology and the concentration of financial services and institutions, generating therefore economic, social, industrial and ultimately geopolitical stability for the benefit of all actors connected to the country.

Overall, with this second stroke, Singapore means to increase its wealth and develop its nation, capacity, resources and international gravitas, not forgetting to improve its own security at the same time. In this sense, the second stroke achieves a shift in terms of priorities, in which economic, diplomatic, technological and social development are the first goal, serving at the same time the purpose of security as a secondary but not so far away goal.

Friendly to All, Enemy of None: Is Singapore the Maximum Exponent of the Democratic Peace and Regime Theory?

Singapore’s international approach to diplomacy is mainly cooperative and peace-focused[20]. Despite its larger GDP[21], stronger military alliances (with the US for example) and technological development, Singapore remains a small city-state facing bigger neighbors in case of conflict. Therefore, Singapore developed an international diplomatic policy of “Friendly to All, Enemy of None”[22] to survive as a micro-state in the international scene. This policy might be compared to the democratic peace theory as it promotes a peaceful relationship between Singapore and its regional belligerent and bigger neighbors such as Malaysia and Indonesia[23]. In order to be successful, and not being a full-scale democracy (hybrid regime) by itself, Singapore adopted a dyadic approach to the democratic peace, making no difference between democratic and non-democratic States in its diplomatic and economic relations[24].

However, it can be argued that Singapore, as a hybrid regime, may not be associated with the concept of Democratic Peace. Despite such feature, Singapore still represents, in many aspects, a credible and successful representative of the Democratic Peace. Going further, the country represents a true alternative in terms of governance, stability, prosperity, international relations, social and economic development. In this sense, the country tops the world ranking highlighted in the Global Competitiveness Report from the World Economic Forum since 2019, in which metrics such as health, infrastructures, environment, institutions, skills, education, employment conditions and workers’ rights play a prominent role in evaluating the country’s economy[25]. Therefore, it can be argued that despite being a hybrid regime with a dominant – party syndrome, Singapore is performing pretty close to, or even better than, traditional democracies, as highlighted in the Global Competitiveness Report 2019. This implies that Singapore’s government succeeded in building a strong, stable, sustainable and prosperous country despite being a dominant – party system.

In this sense, despite the political sacrifice of democracy as a cost of opportunity, this effort has been materialized in a successful and innovative model, in which the People’s Action Party (PAP) plays the dominant political party building governmental authority, stability and consistency. Therefore, Singapore’s representation of the Democratic Peace may be justified by the fact that the PAP appears to be largely approved by Singaporeans, as the party won the 2020 general elections[26]. Nevertheless, it may be argued that Singapore is not a democracy and thus the elections may be flawed. However, it is harder to argue Singapore’s success since its independence, outperforming regional and international competitors, leaving a clear legacy and an existential question for other countries: “What is the ultimate purpose of government?”[27].

In this sense, as the goal was to achieve survival and reach a minimum level of security, Singapore’s government efforts were oriented towards the creation of stability and make use of opportunities and commonalities between states to create a fruitful cooperation. The country was ultimately showing to the World that it is safe and profitable to work with them, despite being an atypical country in many aspects above-mentioned.

This perspective is strengthened by the fact that Singapore has shown a strong belief in and commitment towards international institutions, building supra-national protection against its more powerful partners and bringing the necessary stability its cooperation agreements needed to survive[28]. But not confident in its militarily weak situation in Southeast Asia, Singapore nuanced its liberal policy with a strong realist component: military cooperation with the US. In this sense, Singapore is friendly towards the US, perhaps in an attempt of applying the shelter theory, and is definitely frustrating any regional threat to its sovereignty[29][30]. It is a double protection in the end: an economically “necessary” partner and protected militarily by a superpower.

Singaporean Geopolitical Pillars

To understand what the Singaporean interest in the Arctic would be, four geopolitical pillars have been identified: Geography, maritime sector, financial sector, and education sector. Singapore is located right in a key junction of the main international sea routes between Asia and Europe: Malacca. Being the shortest passage for maritime routes between East Asia and Europe, Malacca is a heavy traffic and maritime strategic area as well as a converging point between the Andaman Sea (Indian Ocean) and the South China Sea[31]. The development of harbor facilities, bunkering and a friendly policy towards shipping positioned Singapore to get the most out of its geographic location: becoming a key harbor within the main trade routes as it provides all the shipping-related services before entering the Indian Ocean or the South China Sea[32]. Furthermore, the maritime sector is vital for the country as it allows its industrial and manufacturing sectors to continue developing as it is an important logistic factor for exports and imports. Alongside the maritime sector, which constitutes up to 7% of its GDP[33], the financial sector was developed with tax-friendly policies to attract foreign investments[34]. This policy would bring another nickname for Singapore: the Switzerland of the East[35]. Bank secrecy and favorable tax policies, in addition to its neutrality and stability, would lead Singapore to become a central marketplace and one of the most economically competitive countries in the world[36]. But Singapore did forecast future trends and saw that its citizens would have to follow the country’s growing path, realizing as well that a highly educated population would represent a strong asset to further development of the country. Education was a central social component of the State’s social policy, increasing its budget every year and considerably (up to 70% increase between 2007 and 2018)[37]. It is a way to mitigate or “compensate” the regime theory approach to State, so population would not feel being apart and ignored totally. We may find points of comparison with the famous Roman “Panem et Circenses” (Bread and Circus), best analyzed by Fyodor Dostoevsky in his poem “The Grand Inquisitor”, in which he describes how persons may bow down to the person who will give them bread[38]. However, seduction of mind may constitute a barrier to this “power” given by bread, but Singapore has found the way to achieve both: ensure social security and prosperity (bread) and promote opportunities and provide a strong international status to its citizens[39].

Global Role Translated in Arctic Affairs

Therefore, what are the possible interests of Singapore in the Arctic? According to the previous short analysis, and in light of the recent developments in the Arctic (e.g., the increasing in traffic and tonnage on the Northern Sea Route[40]), we may identify three main fields of interest: diplomacy, shipping and natural resources. As it has been highlighted, Singapore heavily relies on maritime industries. As the Arctic routes represent a strong alternative (despite being still under development and facing great challenges), they constitute a direct threat to the traditional maritime routes passing via Singapore[41]. In this sense, there won’t be a total shift of traffic from these Southern routes to the Arctic ones, as East Asia is still connected to other Southern regions that will continue passing through Malacca Strait: the Persian Gulf and the oil fields; India; Africa; Eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea; etc. In addition, not all companies might be willing to upgrade their fleet, which is very expensive (upgrade to or acquisition of Ice-Class vessels, compliance with the Polar Code, subscribing to particular insurances for Polar waters, paying the Russian fee for the Northern Sea Route, etc.), and may decide to continue sailing the controlled and mastered Southern routes. But Singapore has a long-term economic policy in which it tries to forecast all trends and diversify its assets[42]. In this approach, Singapore follows the move towards the Arctic, where high level investments are required and where opportunities and empty seats are still available. Russia is in need of foreign investments for its mega projects on natural resources (e.g., Yamal LNG and Arctic LNG 2 have French, Chinese and Japanese investments[43]) and for developing infrastructures such as bunkering, harbors, shipyards and trade centers, features in which Singapore is specialized. We may notice the presence of the largest Asian maritime stakeholders like China, Japan and South Korea in such projects (e.g., South Korean Samsung Heavy Industries signed a partnership with Zvezda Shipyard in Bolshoy Kamen, Eastern Russia to develop Arctic shipbuilding[44]), having developed an official Arctic policy[45]. But Singapore has, probably in its flexible and “Friendly to All” policy, not issued an official policy yet, but has developed structured and recognized by the Arctic Council strong diplomatic ties.

However, it is participating actively within the Arctic Council’s Working Groups, as this is the main entrance door for Observers to Arctic Affairs[46]. It demonstrates that Singapore is seeking to strengthen its actions in the Arctic as a future trade place for natural resources (according to a US Geological Survey report, large reserves of oil, gas and minerals are untapped in the Arctic[47) and as a future maritime transit passage. Singapore has developed, in its attempts to reach sustainability and prosperity, education and essential diplomatic, maritime and financial positions that have been the key to be part of large international ventures. The approach to the Arctic is no different. In this sense, Singapore may bring via the Arctic Council’s Working Groups its knowledge power (experience, expertise and education) as a diplomatic way, and its financial and industrial expertise through the private sector for economic ventures. The lack of information regarding Singapore’s moves in the Arctic might be attributed to the geopolitical challenges linked to the region, where its two main partners are in an open front: China and the US (e.g., the construction of airports in Greenland[48]). We might then raise awareness on the Singaporean diplomatic policy: will the Friendly to All survive to the Arctic tensions? Will Singapore be able to keep its neutrality if its steps in Arctic diplomacy and industry? As many Asian countries, governments may issue interventionist policies for their private sector (e.g., the South Korean government urged the merger between Samsung and Daewoo Heavy Industries shipyards[49][50]) to maintain international competitiveness. Singapore is much of the same. Moreover, as a supporter of the regime theory with a dominant – party syndrome, it is known to be highly interventionist[51].

Furthermore, Arctic challenges stress Singapore’s adaptability skills. Its natural economic, political and geopolitical environments are strongly linked to its Asian geography. As a region dominated by sovereign states (which apply a strict Westphalian conception of state and a hard realist approach in the Arctic[52]), the Arctic will oblige Singapore to walk on a thin line between the two facing blocs if it is willing to cooperate on Arctic affairs: East and West. As a regional economic power in Asia, Singapore might be pushed by its neighbor China to take its side, but the US might be willing to see Singapore as an ally or, at least, to continue being neutral economic and diplomatically. However, Singapore may find diplomatic ties in more neutral Arctic States such as Norway or Finland, States that have been through the Cold War and survived to the East-West tensions adopting specific diplomatic approaches such as the Nordic Peace for Norway[53].


Singapore has crafted, applied and enhanced a successful economic, political and social model over the decades to reach the top of the ranking in terms of economy, international influence and wellbeing. Despite the nuances between its national interventionist and regime theorist policy, and its ultra-liberalist international approach, Singapore faces the greater challenge of reinventing itself. Furthermore, a progressive shift of the maritime sector to the Arctic might engage a third stroke in the Singaporean Engine. However, this economic shift is implying a geopolitical shift in its international relations and to adapt to Arctic diplomacy and the emerging opportunities. In this sense, Singapore will play in the same arena as its two major partners: the economic China and the military US. Nonetheless, the past ghosts of the Cold War are reappearing: nuclear accident in the Russian Arctic in 2019[54], China – US confrontation in Greenland[55], progressive military build-up in Russia[56], aggressive Chinese Arctic policy[57], tensions around Svalbard between Russia and Norway[58], to name but a few. In this sense, some of these Arctic challenges and issues may highly benefit from the Singaporean diplomatic and pragmatic approach, giving to Singapore a chance to promote itself as a problem solver. However, Singapore has to find its narrow line to steer gently across the geopolitically stormy Arctic, avoiding losing its neutrality, promoting cooperation and taking the most out of the new markets and economic opportunities. To do so, Singapore may apply to Arctic affairs its savoir-faire and promote its own philosophy through its neutral economic and diplomatic approach, avoiding falling into taking part in geopolitical issues that might have repercussions back in Asia. As a successful path forward in a conflictive region, Singapore represents a lighthouse that may be used in order to navigate the harsh Arctic affairs conditions: avoiding escalation, advancing stability, and ultimately promoting new ways for all States to follow a peaceful cooperation with mutual benefits and respect in the Arctic.


[1] Archie W Simpson, ‘Revisiting the United Nations and the Micro-State Problem’ International Relations 8.

[2] ‘Lee Kuan Yew | Biography, Education, Achievements, & Facts’ (Encyclopedia Britannica) <https://www.britannica.com/biography/Lee-Kuan-Yew> accessed 14 May 2020.

[3] ‘Battle of Singapore | Infopedia’ <https://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/infopedia/articles/SIP_2013-07-19_113523.html> accessed 14 May 2020.

[4] ‘Full Speech: Vivian Balakrishnan Highlights Principles Underpinning Singapore’s Diplomacy’ (CNA) <https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/full-speech-vivian-balakrishnan-highlights-principles-9038582> accessed 14 May 2020.

[5] OECD, Southeast Asian Economic Outlook 2013: With Perspectives on China and India (OECD 2013) 191 <https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/development/southeast-asian-economic-outlook-2013_saeo-2013-en> accessed 14 May 2020.

[6] ‘Full Speech: Vivian Balakrishnan Highlights Principles Underpinning Singapore’s Diplomacy’ (n 4).

[7] ‘Comparing and Contrasting Classical Realism and Neorealism’ <https://www.e-ir.info/2009/07/23/comparing-and-contrasting-classical-realism-and-neo-realism/> accessed 26 May 2021.


[9] ‘Full Speech: Vivian Balakrishnan Highlights Principles Underpinning Singapore’s Diplomacy’ (n 4).

[10] The regional chaos generated by different political movements opposed and in war with both the Malaysian and Indonesian central governments (such as the Second Malayan Emergency 1968 – 1989, the invasion and occupation of East Timor by Indonesia 1975 – 1999 and the still ongoing Papua Conflict which opposes Indonesia to the Free Papua Movement since 1962) deviated these countries’ attention from Singapore’s independence and development.

[11] International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, The Global State of Democracy 2019: Addressing the Ills, Reviving the Promise (International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance 2019) 167 <https://www.idea.int/publications/catalogue/global-state-of-democracy-2019> accessed 14 May 2020.

[12] ‘Singapore : An Alternative Way to Curtail Press Freedom | Reporters without Borders’ (RSF) <https://rsf.org/en/singapore> accessed 14 May 2020.

[13] ‘Full Speech: Vivian Balakrishnan Highlights Principles Underpinning Singapore’s Diplomacy’ (n 4).

[14] ibid.

[15] Jon ST Quah, ‘Why Singapore Works: Five Secrets of Singapore’s Success’ (2018) 21 Public Administration and Policy 5, 15 <https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/PAP-06-2018-002/full/html> accessed 30 September 2020.

[16] ‘ASEAN’ <http://www.mfa.gov.sg/SINGAPORES-FOREIGN-POLICY/International-Organisations/ASEAN> accessed 26 May 2021.

[17] ‘WTO | Singapore – Member Information’ <https://www.wto.org/english/thewto_e/countries_e/singapore_e.htm> accessed 26 May 2021.

[18] Quah (n 15) 6.

[19] ‘Transforming Landscapes, Improving Lives: 50 Years of Economic Development’ <https://www.roots.gov.sg/stories-landing/stories/transforming-landscapes-improving-lives-50-years-of-economic-development/story> accessed 26 May 2021.

[20] ‘MINDEF Singapore’ <https://www.mindef.gov.sg/web/portal/mindef/defence-matters/defence-topic/defence-topic-detail/defence-policy-and-diplomacy> accessed 14 May 2020.

[21] ‘Singapore Economy’ (Base) <http://www.singstat.gov.sg/modules/infographics/economy> accessed 14 May 2020.

[22] ‘Full Speech: Vivian Balakrishnan Highlights Principles Underpinning Singapore’s Diplomacy’ (n 4).

[23] ‘The Indonesian Confrontation 1962 to 1966 – Anzac Portal’ <https://anzacportal.dva.gov.au/wars-and-missions/indonesian-confrontation-1962-1966> accessed 26 May 2021.

[24] ‘Democratic Peace | Political Science | Britannica’ <https://www.britannica.com/topic/democratic-peace> accessed 26 May 2021.

[25] Klaus Schwab, ‘The Global Competitiveness Report 2019’ (World Economic Forum 2019) 506–509 <http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_TheGlobalCompetitivenessReport2019.pdf>.

[26] rosamir, ‘SINGAPORE 2020 GENERAL ELECTION: The Results’ (The Straits Times, 11 July 2020) <https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/2020-general-election-the-results> accessed 26 May 2021.

[27] Graham Allison, ‘Lee Kuan Yew’s Troubling Legacy for Americans’ (The Atlantic, 30 March 2015) <https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/03/lee-kuan-yew-conundrum-democracy-singapore/388955/> accessed 26 May 2021.

[28] ‘Full Speech: Vivian Balakrishnan Highlights Principles Underpinning Singapore’s Diplomacy’ (n 4).

[29] ibid.

[30] Prashanth Parameswaran, ‘Army Exercise Puts US-Singapore Defense Ties into Focus’ <https://thediplomat.com/2019/07/army-exercise-puts-us-singapore-defense-ties-into-focus/> accessed 15 May 2020.

[31] Xiaobo Qu and Qiang Meng, ‘The Economic Importance of the Straits of Malacca and Singapore: An Extreme-Scenario Analysis’ (2012) 48 Transportation Research Part E: Logistics and Transportation Review 258 <https://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S1366554511001104> accessed 26 May 2021.

[32] ‘Why Is Singapore Port so Successful? A Look at World’s Top Shipping Centre’ (Ship Technology, 24 October 2019) <https://www.ship-technology.com/features/why-is-singapore-port-so-successful/> accessed 14 May 2020.

[33] ‘The Establishment of Maritime Singapore Ecosystem’ (Maritime Singapore) <http://www.maritimesingapore.sg/about-maritime-singapore/> accessed 14 May 2020.

[34] ‘Singapore Tax Rates, Tax System, Tax Incentives – 2020 Guide’ (CorporateServices.com) <https://www.corporateservices.com/singapore/singapore-tax-system/> accessed 14 May 2020.

[35] ‘Singapore, “Switzerland of the East”’ The New York Times (21 January 1973) <https://www.nytimes.com/1973/01/21/archives/singapore-switzerland-of-the-east.html> accessed 14 May 2020.

[36] Schwab (n 25).

[37] ‘MOF | Singapore Budget 2020 | Government Spending On Education And Healthcare’ <https://www.singaporebudget.gov.sg/budget_2020/about-budget/budget-features/govt-spending-on-education-and-healthcare> accessed 14 May 2020.

[38] ‘11. Dostoevsky.Pdf’ <https://www2.hawaii.edu/~freeman/courses/phil100/11.%20Dostoevsky.pdf> accessed 14 May 2020.

[39] ‘Full Speech: Vivian Balakrishnan Highlights Principles Underpinning Singapore’s Diplomacy’ (n 4).

[40] ‘Shipping on Northern Sea Route up 40% | The Independent Barents Observer’ <https://thebarentsobserver.com/en/arctic-industry-and-energy/2019/10/shipping-northern-sea-route-40> accessed 5 April 2020.

[41] NSF Abdul Rahman, AH Saharuddin and R Rasdi, ‘Effect of the Northern Sea Route Opening to the Shipping Activities at Malacca Straits’ (2014) 1 International Journal of e-Navigation and Maritime Economy 85 <http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2405535214000096> accessed 14 September 2019.

[42] ‘Singapore Economy’ (n 21).

[43] Published at: Apr 16 2020-09:17 / Updated at: Apr 16 2020-09:17 From Malte Humpert, ‘Construction of Novatek’s Arctic LNG 2 Project Ahead of Schedule’ <https://www.highnorthnews.com/en/construction-novateks-arctic-lng-2-project-ahead-schedule> accessed 14 May 2020.

[44] MarketScreener, ‘Samsung Heavy Industries : Zvezda Shipbuilding Complex and Samsung Heavy Industries Sign Contract for Arctic LNG 2 Project Gas Carriers Design | MarketScreener’ <https://www.marketscreener.com/SAMSUNG-HEAVY-INDUSTRIES-6491583/news/Samsung-Heavy-Industries-Zvezda-Shipbuilding-Complex-and-Samsung-Heavy-Industries-Sign-Contract-fo-29163839/> accessed 31 March 2020.

[45] ‘Arctic Relevant Policies – Icelandic Arctic Cooperation Network’ <https://arcticiceland.is/en/the-arctic/arctic-relevant-policies#japan> accessed 14 May 2020.

[46] ‘Observers’ (Arctic Council) <https://arctic-council.org/en/about/observers/> accessed 14 May 2020.

[47] USGS, ‘Circum-Arctic Resource Appraisal: Estimates of Undiscovered Oil and Gas North of the Arctic Circle’ <https://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/2008/3049/fs2008-3049.pdf>.

[48] Published at: Dec 05 2019-08:20 / Updated at: Jan 20 2020-23:55 From Malte Humpert, ‘Greenland’s Kangerlussuaq Airport to Close For Major Commercial Traffic in 2024 Due to Climate Change’ <https://www.highnorthnews.com/en/greenlands-kangerlussuaq-airport-close-major-commercial-traffic-2024-due-climate-change> accessed 6 May 2020.

[49] Richard Luedde-Neurath, ‘State Intervention and Export-Oriented Development in South Korea’ in Gordon White (ed), Developmental States in East Asia (Palgrave Macmillan UK 1988) <http://link.springer.com/10.1007/978-1-349-19195-6_3> accessed 14 May 2020.

[50] ‘South Korea to Combine World’s Two Biggest Shipbuilders in $2 Billion Deal’ Reuters (31 January 2019) <https://www.reuters.com/article/us-daewoo-s-m-m-a-hyundaiheavyinds-idUSKCN1PO17K> accessed 14 May 2020.

[51] William KM Lee, ‘Economic Growth, Government Intervention, and Ideology in Singapore’ (1996) 12 New Global Development 27 <http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/17486839608412592> accessed 14 May 2020.

[52] ‘American Flags in the Barents Sea Is “the New Normal,” Says Defence Analyst’ (The Independent Barents Observer) <https://thebarentsobserver.com/en/security/2020/05/american-flags-new-normal-barents-sea-says-defence-analyst> accessed 14 May 2020.

[53] Gunnar Rekvig, ‘The Legacy of the Nordic Peace and Cold War Trust-Building in the North Atlantic’ (Háskólinn á Akureyri) <https://www.unak.is/is/samfelagid/vidburdir/gunnar-rekvig-a-felagsvisindatorgi> accessed 14 May 2020.

[54] ‘Russia Says New Weapon Blew Up in Nuclear Accident Last Week’ Bloomberg.com (12 August 2019) <https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-08-12/russian-says-small-nuclear-reactor-blew-up-in-deadly-accident> accessed 14 May 2020.

[55] ‘How the Pentagon Countered China’s Designs on Greenland – WSJ’ <https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-the-pentagon-countered-chinas-designs-on-greenland-11549812296> accessed 13 April 2020.

[56] Barbara Padrtova, ‘Russian Military Build-up in the Arctic: Strategic Shift in the Balance of Power or Bellicose Rhetoric Only?’ <https://arcticyearbook.com/arctic-yearbook/2014/2014-scholarly-papers/91-russian-military-build-up-in-the-arctic-strategic-shift-in-the-balance-of-power-of-bellicose-rhetoric-only> accessed 14 May 2020.

[57] ‘The Increasing Security Focus in China’s Arctic Policy’ (The Arctic Institute, 16 July 2019) <https://www.thearcticinstitute.org/increasing-security-focus-china-arctic-policy/> accessed 14 May 2020.

[58] ‘Moscow Sends Signal It Might Raise Stakes in Svalbard Waters | The Independent Barents Observer’ <https://thebarentsobserver.com/en/arctic/2020/04/moscow-sends-signal-it-might-raise-stakes-svalbard-waters> accessed 14 May 2020.

Understanding the Role of Arctic States, Non-Arctic States and Indigenous Peoples in Arctic Affairs Through the Lens of International Relations Theories

The Arctic has progressively entered the world of international relations since the first creation of the Russian American Company and the Hudson Bay Company up to the opening of the Northern Sea Route and increasing access to untapped resources. The individual in the Arctic could see, from the early stages of colonialism[1] up to nowadays’ industrialization, a shift in international relations: from a realist war for resources to a war for geopolitical security, and now for securing and exploiting resources. This last step is due to the current world economic trend (led by a capitalistic approach of an ever-growing economy) based on an exponential increase of technologies and population[2]. However, the individual has followed States’ philosophies and diplomatic approaches as the key word was security, sovereignty-related based on the Westphalian conception of States. Therefore, in order to understand the evolution and structure of the Arctic, a first analysis of the region may start with the application of International Relations’ Theories in order to understand the political shift and the consequences on all stakeholders.

The Arctic

In order to understand how international relations work in the Arctic, and hence security, a short analysis of the Arctic is required, applying the method of the 5Ws + 1H (What, Where, When, Who, Why and How), giving the following definition from the National Geographic Society:

“The Arctic is the Northernmost region of the Globe. […] the area within the Arctic Circle, a line of latitude about 66.5° North of the Equator. Within this circle are the Arctic ocean basin and the northern parts of Scandinavia, Russia, Canada, Greenland, and the U.S. state of Alaska. […] The Arctic is almost entirely covered by water, much of it frozen. […] River mouths, calving glaciers, and constantly moving ocean currents contribute to a vibrant marine ecosystem in the Arctic. […] Indigenous […] People established communities and cultures in the Arctic thousands of years ago. […] Rights to land and natural resources are an important part of contemporary culture and survival of indigenous peoples in the Arctic, […] tremendous challenges, often the result of colonization and exploitation of land and energy resources. […] Engineers and geographers estimate that oil and gas deposits in the Arctic make up 13% of the worlds undiscovered petroleum resources, and 30% of undiscovered natural gas resources. The Arctic is also rich in minerals.” [3]

This definition answers partly to the following questions: “What is the Arctic?”; “Where is the Arctic?”; “What is the History of the Arctic? (When); “What is the structure of the Arctic? (How)”; “Why is the Arctic so important?”; and most importantly “Who is living in the Arctic?”. Regarding the questions “What is the History of the Arctic? (When)” and “What is the structure of the Arctic? (How)”, an example of past race for the control over Arctic resources and land may be highlighted by the Russian – American Company and the Hudson Bay Company, helping in shaping future state borders. In addition, the Cold War era with the military control of the Arctic is another answer to the “When” question. Regarding the “How” question, since Gorbatchev’s speech in 1987[4] and the following creation of the Arctic Council in 1996, the Arctic has gained a regional political structure, an international forum where the Arctic States and the Permanent Participants may discuss Arctic Affairs and eventually issue non-legally and legally binding regulations (e.g., the Arctic Marine Strategic Plan and the MOSPA Agreement[5]).

The Approach

The Arctic is often referred to as a multifaceted region (i.e., No single definition of the Arctic)[6], therefore broadening the approach to the analysis of International Relations Theories applied to the Arctic may result in a more concrete study of the parameters that conform and shape the Arctic relations. As there is no single Arctic, going deeper in a single International Relations Theory would mean to leave aside many crucial parameters that characterize the Arctic. In this sense, through the application of International Relations Theories, a map of the organization of the Arctic might be drawn. The theories considered will be: Realism, Liberalism and English School. The Indigenous Level of Analysis[7] will be considered as cross-cutting due to the transboundary nature of the Indigenous Peoples’ organizations.


In this section, the realist approach will be applied to understand the relations between Arctic and non-arctic States and to obtain a hard security overview, in which the Westphalian concept of State, sovereignty and Indigenous Peoples’ claims will be considered. Only the differences between Russia and the United States (as the two opposed States during the Cold War), the state of China in the Arctic, and the Indigenous Peoples will be studied.

Russia vs. United States: In this clash of visions and regimes, the US and Russia oppose their claims over the Arctic, laying down their political approach to Realism. As stated before, the Arctic contains a large amount of offshore oil and gas. After the Cold War and the militarization of the Arctic, the post-Cold War era is characterized by the adoption of international legally binding conventions and agreements. The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea is one of them, being used by Arctic States in order to assert claims over continental shelves and extensions, as highlighted by Russia[8]. After the collapse of the Soviet Union and hence the end of the Cold War, there has been an exacerbation of the Westphalian concept of State from the economic perspective with the assertion of sovereign rights to advocate for resources in the Arctic [9]. In the case of Russia, there has been a military de-escalation after 1991 due to the economic chaos, therefore a lack of income, of the recently created Russian Federation[10]. But after its recovery, Russia shifted towards a scientific development to assert claims according the UNCLOS via the CLCS[11]. Moreover, the progressive melt down of the Arctic and a greater policy of sovereignty assertion, highlighted by the above-mentioned CLCS submission and because of its shrinking economy, are giving place to a military build-up[12]. In this sense, Russia develops and secures its own supply lines, trade routes, industrial and natural resources assets in the Arctic. In the case of the United States, the approach has been keeping an eye over the Arctic but not engaging in further expenses on militarization[13], resulting in a loss of military presence in the Arctic due to the end of the nuclear threat during the Cold War. In this sense, the US has followed the scientific movement to assert claims in the Arctic (despite not being part of UNCLOS, the US still gathers information that might be useful to formulate future claims in the Arctic Ocean[14], lowering its realist approach to transform it into a more liberal focused system with the extraction of oil and gas in Alaska[15]. However, according to the recent events, such as the announcement of the intentions to buy Greenland or the creation of the Polar Security Cutter program[16], the US has shown a shift towards a harder realist approach in dealing with Arctic affairs as Russia, allied with China, seems to represent a direct threat to its territorial sovereignty and sphere of geopolitical influence through Russia’s intentions of militarization[17] and the passive-aggressive behavior from China that considers itself as a near-Arctic State.

China and the Arctic: In its Arctic Policy, China declares itself as a near Arctic State, asserting through the wording its claims over the Arctic. According to the Policy and its international acts (e.g., participating in Arctic mining projects such as Arctic LNG 2 and Yamal LNG), China shows a clear realist approach in which it intends to gain political control, alongside Russia which has over 40% of the Arctic coast, over the Arctic and thus expanding a direct threat to the US in response to the American First and Second Island Chains in the Pacific[18]. Furthermore, China tried to increase Chinese-built infrastructures in Greenland, but the intervention of NATO blocked that investment at the last minute, showing the tensions between the NATO bloc and China for a strategic control of the Arctic[19]. As China launched the Polar Silk Road[20], theoretically, every logistical infrastructure would have the capacity to be used militarily due to the the involvement by the Chinese government as most of the Chinese companies participating in these projects are state controlled (e.g., Shandong Gold Mining Co. Ltd. and the bid to purchase the gold mine of Hope Bay, Canada[21]). These facts are confirmed by the increase in Chinese military assets and the already military use made by China of its Belt and Road Initiative infrastructure (e.g., the use of the Djibouti Port facilities as a naval base[22]).

Indigenous Peoples of the Arctic: Being the first peoples present in the Arctic, they fight against past colonialism, State bureaucracy, structuralism and the Westphalian concept of State applied in the Region. In this sense, Indigenous Peoples have gained in recognition of their rights through diverse mechanisms such as the land claims acts (e.g., Alaska Native Claim Settlement Act and Indigenous land claims in Canada) or the progressive approval and implementation of UN Conventions (e.g., UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights or the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples). From the recognition of their lands and cultures, Indigenous Peoples have adapted to the Westphalian concept of State through diverse political forms: one would be the creation of a borough like the North Slope Borough, another would be Greenland through the adoption of Home Rule Act and subsequent Self-Government Act that ensure the progressive gain in autonomy of the lands concerned, and a last example would be the reunification of tribes and peoples under International bodies in order to produce an international and tangible voice against States’ interests in international fora[23], some of them going further and building an alliance with States to secure their position (e.g. Finland, Norway, Sweden and Russian and the Saami Council[24]). These political adaptations are meant to build resilience against the Westphalian concept of State (Hard borders, centralized State with a full sovereignty over the territory within these borders). In this sense, these political and organizational structures allow the Indigenous Peoples to adapt themselves to both National and International structures and preserve then their rights while enhancing their recognition on both levels. It is a realist approach in the sense Indigenous Peoples fight to survive in a hostile environment where their interests are often a threat for sovereign States and private companies’ interests. It is not hard security such as military, but a security where the use of a constructive and peaceful dialogue is promoted, using international fora and diplomacy as a way to gain influence and public recognition. A clear example is the Permanent Participant status of Indigenous Peoples within the Arctic Council.


In this section, the liberal approach will be applied in order to understand the shift from hard security during the Cold War to the development of economic interests in the Arctic.

Russia and the Northern Sea Route (NSR): After the sanctions issued by the European Union in 2014[25], the Russian economy has been shrinking[26]. In this sense, and for almost a century, Russia has been trying to develop the Northern Sea Route in order to exploit its Arctic natural resources that are locked by the lack of infrastructure to export them outside the Arctic[27]. Furthermore, Russia has to exploit these resources in order to satisfy its industrial needs and continue developing its economy and assert its claims over the Arctic, operating a shift from realism to liberalism. This change is certainly the fruit of adaptation to world economics, but as well it has been induced by international sanctions from the US and Europe[28] that have precipitated the entry of Asian countries in the Arctic through mining projects in Russia such as Arctic LNG 2[29]. So, in a way, it is more about adaptation rather than State Philosophy.

Asian States (China, Japan, South Korea): Being part of the development of the NSR, the new Arctic marine technology and mining resources projects is the opportunity to integrate the development process of new trade routes [30], new resources and forecast the progressive shift from the traditional maritime routes to the Arctic. As the Asian countries above-mentioned are highly influential States linked to maritime industries, the control over new opportunities is clearly a liberal approach in order to keep their seat at the table in international fora as well as asserting their position in emerging Arctic markets. China, as mentioned in the realist approach, might be considered in a different way due to its economic position and military nature. However, the other Asian States are involved in a pure liberal approach, promoting economic interests with the help of the State that issues regulations and frameworks for its national private and public companies to take advantage over foreign companies through a fiscal, social and economic adaptability[31].

US, Canada, Norway, Greenland (Kingdom of Denmark) and Iceland: All these States have interests in the NSR and/or the Northwest Passage (NWP), as well as in developing their Arctic resources. In this sense, the approach differs from Russia where the NSR is controlled by the government and is only crossing one country: Russia. In the case of the Northwest Passage, Canada is involved for the archipelagic part but still have to go through the Bering Strait (Half controlled by Russia and half by the United States), where both Coast Guards may enforce controls as the strait is within territorial waters and located in the Polar Code area, meaning the Article 234 from UNCLOS[32] might be applied. Furthermore, Canada is fighting internationally to protect the Northwest Passage and consider it as internal waters in order to seek environmental preservation and pretend to the right of charging passage fees. In this sense, Canada and the United States are developing their resources and shifted, at the end of the Cold War, from a realist approach to Arctic affairs to a liberal approach with major developments in extraction of mining resources[33]. Iceland and Greenland may face their strategic location to both the North Atlantic entrance to the Arctic and the central Arctic with a more realist approach. In this sense, Iceland relies on NATO’s forces for a hard security apparatus while Greenland has a mix between Denmark and NATO’s security forces. Nonetheless, both countries are oriented towards a liberal philosophy as Iceland is willing to continue developing fisheries and maritime traffic, and Greenland is willing to develop sustainable industrial activities and infrastructures for a better communication with global trade routes. However, Iceland is progressively back as a key player in NATO’s strategy[34] and Greenland is increasingly developing a major role in securing the United States and NATO allies’ influence and control over the Arctic, being still under influence of the approach to build commercial infrastructure which would be used as military (e.g., like China and the Belt and Road Initiative[35]).

Indigenous Peoples: Indigenous Peoples may find in the technological build-up of the Arctic and the invasion of infrastructures and industries both a threat and possibility. This development may suppose a direct threat to their traditional culture and way of living, possibly destroying their ancestral lands and natural resources. However, they have to embrace economic progress to ensure food and health security, social and professional security through the creation of income from their resources to generate a stable political structure to be autonomous (e.g., Greenland and its first Home Rule Act of 1979 replaced by the Act on Self-Government of 2009). In this sense, Indigenous Peoples have to apply (Some already do, like the North Slope Borough with their political and regulatory framework) the liberal approach in order to continue achieving sustainability, build resilience and continue their march towards autonomy. As long as achieving a full-scale political, military and economic structure for a whole State might be not viable yet (e.g., Greenland and the fact Denmark controls foreign policy, currency and security), the best option to create security and face a State with equal arms would be the application of the liberal approach to generate income and thus protecting their way of living. Despite their ancestral culture and traditional way of living, Indigenous Peoples may have to adapt to, at least a national framework to ensure a required political security to protect their rights against both national and international interests. In this way, Indigenous Peoples may want to use liberalism as a primary mean to achieve security and thus achieving a soft form of realism.

As a cross cutting approach, the English School plays the role of reminder of the past. The Cold War being quite recent, all Arctic States, particularly Russia and the United States, may not want to come back to a state of constant military security threat that would impede the development of Arctic economies. In this sense, the Arctic Council is the best example in terms of English School application, being built on a solid and common interest to all Arctic States: environmental protection[36]. Therefore, it provided a common ground to overcome the differences generated during the Cold War (Realism) to achieve cooperation in order to control the future of the region (Realism) and to lead the Arctic development and economic efforts (Liberalism), all based on the analysis of the past, of cultures and societies, of the differences and resemblance[37].


The individual in the Arctic has been observing and experiencing a shift in international relations, from experiencing hard security threats (e.g., the Cold War) to a liberal approach that has driven the rapid build-up of mining and transportation facilities in the Arctic (e.g., Greenland and the construction of three new airports[38]). Therefore, there is an economic development underway, bringing social and economic security, which might be still missing in strength in most of the remote communities[39]. However, despite the recent military escalation between the US and Russia in the Arctic, Liberalism is definitely on the rise and supported by all States as economic ventures are increasing in number and strength across the region, with examples such as the Royal Arctic Line – Eimskip cooperation agreement, the multistakeholder LNG projects in Russia, to name but a few. This shift has been driven by the implementation of the English School that exposed the economic losses and the waste of capacities from both blocs (Eastern and Western), being translated into a state of permanent threat that channeled efforts and finances towards hard military security. In this sense, Indigenous Peoples across the Arctic experienced different political approaches that led to different security issues. In some parts of the Arctic, specific legal mechanisms have been signed, promoting the recognition of Indigenous rights and creating a certain autonomy (e.g., Greenland and its first Home Rule Act in 1979, or Alaska and the ANCSA in 1971). In other parts, Indigenous communities were sacrificed for the sake of the Nation (e.g., Russia and the construction of infrastructures on Indigenous lands[40]). However, after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the decrease in military expenses from both sides (One driven by a collapsed economy like Russia and another by the military financial release) and therefore decreasing the militarization of the Arctic created a void that was filled up by both public and private companies that were looking for new opportunities. Suddenly, Arctic communities would see the opportunity of an opening to the World as the geopolitical tensions would decline. Indigenous Peoples then could enjoy an economic breath and an international recognition as the land they occupy would not be longer subject to tensions, bringing the space and opportunity to start building an international voice that would be recognized by the UN (e.g., the ILO Convention 169 in 1989 and the UNDRIP in 2007 and then by several States in both the Arctic and the World). Nonetheless, in order to secure this voice and claims, the Indigenous Peoples made the opposite shift, using Liberalism and English School as two powerful tools to achieve Realism and thus create security for their rights, culture and lands. In this sense, Indigenous Peoples understood the current and increasing shift from state to intergovernmental organization-driven interests, in which states slowly gather in groups from the same geographical region and/or sphere of influence to pursue common international economic, political, security and/or military goals (e.g., NATO, the EU and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization). After all, unity makes strength, and Indigenous Peoples have a great track record of applying such philosophy to survive in the Arctic.


[1] Janice GAE Switlo, ‘Modern Day Colonialism – Canada’s Continuing Attempts to Conquer Aboriginal Peoples’ International Journal on Minority and Group Rights Vol. 9, No. 2 (2002), pp. 103-141.

[2] Juan Martínez-Barea, El Mundo Que Viene.

[3] National Geographic Society, ‘Arctic’ (National Geographic Society, 6 October 2016) <http://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/arctic/> accessed 13 April 2020.

[4] KRISTIAN ÅTLAND, ‘Mikhail Gorbachev, the Murmansk Initiative, and the Desecuritization of Interstate Relations in the Arctic’ Cooperation and Conflict Vol. 43, No. 3 (September 2008), pp. 289-311.

[5] Arctic Council Secretariat (ACS), ‘Status of Ratification: Agreement on Cooperation on Marine Oil Pollution Preparedness and Response in the Arctic. Information Document Submitted by the Arctic Council Secretariat.’ (Arctic Council Secretariat 2014) Working Paper <https://oaarchive.arctic-council.org/handle/11374/1350> accessed 17 October 2019.

[6] Annika E Nilsson and Miyase Christensen, Arctic Geopolitics, Media and Power (2019) 2 <https://www.taylorfrancis.com/books/9780429199646> accessed 13 April 2020.

[7] Barry Scott Zellen (ed), The Fast-Changing Arctic: Rethinking Arctic Security for a Warmer World (University of Calgary Press 2013) <http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2307/j.ctv6gqr43> accessed 13 April 2020.

[8] ‘Continental Shelf – Submission to the Commission by Norway’ <https://www.un.org/Depts/los/clcs_new/submissions_files/submission_nor.htm> accessed 20 March 2021.

[9] ‘Continental Shelf – Submission to the Commission by the Russian Federation’ <https://www.un.org/Depts/los/clcs_new/submissions_files/submission_rus_rev1.htm> accessed 13 April 2020.

[10] ‘Russia – Post-Soviet Russia | Britannica’ <https://www.britannica.com/place/Russia/Post-Soviet-Russia> accessed 13 April 2020.

[11] ‘Continental Shelf – Submission to the Commission by the Russian Federation’ (n 9).

[12] Lassi Heininen, Alexander Sergunin and Gleb Yarovoy, RUSSIAN STRATEGIES IN THE ARCTIC: AVOIDING A NEW COLD WAR, p 5 <https://www.uarctic.org/media/857300/arctic_eng.pdf>.

[13] ‘Ref-181-Americas-Role-in-the-Arctic.Pdf’ 5 <https://www.americansecurityproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Ref-181-Americas-Role-in-the-Arctic.pdf> accessed 13 April 2020.

[14] ibid 2.

[15] ‘Alaska North Slope Crude Oil Production (Thousand Barrels per Day)’ <https://www.eia.gov/dnav/pet/hist/LeafHandler.ashx?n=PET&s=MANFPAK2&f=M> accessed 13 April 2020.

[16] ‘Polar Security Cutter’ <https://www.dcms.uscg.mil/Our-Organization/Assistant-Commandant-for-Acquisitions-CG-9/Programs/Surface-Programs/Polar-Icebreaker/> accessed 13 April 2020.

[17] ‘China, Russia and Security Strategies in the Arctic’ <https://www.highnorthnews.com/en/china-russia-and-security-strategies-arctic> accessed 13 April 2020.

[18] ‘China’s Reach Has Grown; So Should the Island Chains’ (Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, 22 October 2018) <https://amti.csis.org/chinas-reach-grown-island-chains/> accessed 13 April 2020.

[19] ‘How the Pentagon Countered China’s Designs on Greenland – WSJ’ <https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-the-pentagon-countered-chinas-designs-on-greenland-11549812296> accessed 13 April 2020.

[20] ‘China Launches the Polar Silk Road’ <https://www.csis.org/analysis/china-launches-polar-silk-road> accessed 13 April 2020.

[21] ‘SHANDONG GOLD MINING CO., LTD. : Shareholders Board Members Managers and Company Profile | CNE000001FR7 | MarketScreener’ <https://www.marketscreener.com/quote/stock/SHANDONG-GOLD-MINING-CO–6497385/company/> accessed 26 May 2021.

[22] Lauren Ploch Blanchard and Sarah R Collins, ‘China’s Engagement in Djibouti’ 2, para 1.


[24] ‘The Saami Council’ (Sámiráđđi) <https://www.saamicouncil.net/en/the-saami-council> accessed 13 April 2020.

[25] ‘EU Restrictive Measures in Response to the Crisis in Ukraine’ <http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/policies/sanctions/ukraine-crisis/> accessed 13 April 2020.

[26] Martin Russell, Europäisches Parlament, and Generaldirektion Wissenschaftlicher Dienst, Seven Economic Challenges for Russia Breaking out of Stagnation?: In-Depth Analysis (2018) <https://doi.org/10.2861/227260> accessed 13 April 2020.

[27] ‘Moscow Adopts 15-Year Grand Plan for Northern Sea Route – The Moscow Times’ <https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2020/01/02/moscow-adopts-15-year-grand-plan-for-northern-sea-route-a68798> accessed 14 April 2020.

[28] ‘Dreyer et Popescu – 2014 – Do Sanctions Against Russia Work.Pdf’ 1 <https://www.files.ethz.ch/isn/186485/Brief_35_Russia_sanctions.pdf> accessed 26 May 2021.

[29] ‘Press Center : Press Releases and Events | NOVATEK Closes Arctic LNG 2 Transaction’ <https://www.novatek.ru/en/press/releases/index.php?id_4=3317> accessed 12 March 2021.

[30] Svein Gjelle and Norges geologiske undersøkelse, Landet Ved Polarsirkelen: Geologi Og Landskapsformer (Norges geologiske undersøkelse 1995) 68.

[31] ‘South Korea to Combine World’s Two Biggest Shipbuilders in $2 Billion Deal’ Reuters (31 January 2019) <https://www.reuters.com/article/us-daewoo-s-m-m-a-hyundaiheavyinds-idUSKCN1PO17K> accessed 14 April 2020.

[32] ‘Unclos_e.Pdf’ 113 <https://www.un.org/depts/los/convention_agreements/texts/unclos/unclos_e.pdf> accessed 8 April 2020.

[33] Øyvind Østerud and Geir Hønneland, ‘Geopolitics and International Governance in the Arctic’ Arctic Review on Law and Politics, vol. 5, 2/2014 pp. 156–176 159.

[34] ‘Iceland’s Role in Transatlantic Security Growing | NATO PA’ (Iceland’s Role in Transatlantic Security Growing | NATO PA) <http://www.nato-pa.int/news/icelands-role-transatlantic-security-growing> accessed 14 April 2020.

[35] ‘China Is Weaponizing the Belt and Road. What Can the US Do About It? – The Diplomat’ <https://thediplomat.com/2020/10/china-is-weaponizing-the-belt-and-road-what-can-the-us-do-about-it/> accessed 26 May 2021.

[36] Arctic Council, Arctic Council Anniversary Documentary: 25 Years of Peace and Cooperation (2021) <https://vimeo.com/549367004> accessed 26 May 2021.

[37] ibid.

[38] ‘How the Pentagon Countered China’s Designs on Greenland – WSJ’ (n 19).

[39] ‘Iqaluit’s Population Turns to Amazon to Save Money, Government Program “Not Working” – National | Globalnews.Ca’ <https://globalnews.ca/news/3587158/iqaluits-population-turns-to-amazon-prime/> accessed 14 April 2020.

[40] ‘Russia: Legislative Change to Demolish Indigenous Land Rights – IWGIA – International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs’ <https://www.iwgia.org/en/russia/2010-russia-legislative-change-to-demolish-indigenous-l.> accessed 14 April 2020.

Glacial Water Melt in Greenland: Resource for the Future


Research into the cause and effect of increased thawing in permafrost areas and rising sea level has led to the conclusion that without extensive decrease in carbon emissions, future generations may be presented with severely different global conditions (IPCC, n.d.). This condition could make populated areas uninhabitable and leave others with limited possibilities for agriculture and other activities vital for human survival.

However, the increasing melt rate of Greenland’s glacier may present an opportunity to harness more energy for electrical generation than is currently being done today. Such a project could prove beneficial for Greenland’s economy and may possibly attract the interest of various energy demanding industries, which may in turn present various employment opportunities and infrastructure investments for the benefit of the indigenous people of Greenland.

Hans Stauber studied the potential of the glacial meltwater of Greenland’s glacier in the 1930’s (Alther et al., 1981). His study outlines the methodology for harnessing the meltwater by using the elevation difference of the glacier, utilising the Nunataks for creating reservoirs and transporting the energy.

This research paper will focus on the feasibility of a large-scale hydropower project in Greenland, presenting examples from Iceland and Norway, and paying careful attention to the current global conditions, modern applicable parameters, and the potential benefits of large-scale hydropower investments in Greenland.

Hydropower Background

Since the development of the Francis, Pelton and Kaplan turbine, hydropower has been a vital contributor to economic growth. The world’s first large scale alternating current hydropower plant was built in the USA. It harnessed the energy from the Niagara Falls in New York, coming into production in 1895. By the beginning of the 20th century, hundreds of small hydropower plants were installed across the world. In 1940, the United States accounted for around 40% of the electric generation after completion of The Hoover Dam and the Grand Coulee dam finishing in 1942. The Itaipu dam in Brazil was finished in 1984 and was the world largest hydro power plant until the Three Gorges dam power plant was finished in 2012 (“History of Hydropower”, 2018) (Bank, 2013) .

Hydropower in Norway
The power production in Norway is divided among hydropower, wind, and thermal power, with the vast majority coming from hydropower. The total annual energy production on an average wet year is 151 trillion watt hours (TWh), with hydropower production at 90%, wind power around 7.5% and thermal power producing the rest. Currently, Norway has around 1671 hydropower plants, 52 wind power plants, and 30 thermal power plants across the country, with the majority situated along the coast (NVE, 2019). Norway’s history of producing electricity by hydropower dates back to the 19th century as plants were built to energize chemical and metallic production. This heralded the start of economic and technological growth in Norway. The majority of the hydropower plants built during the 20th century are still running today, with only maintenance and minor modifications required. The oldest hydropower plant currently running is Hammeren which was built in the year 1900.

Hydropower in Iceland
Iceland’s terrain and position offers the unique opportunity of being able to utilise both geothermal and hydropower energy sources. Geothermal energy contributes 28.9% of the total energy generation, hydropower contributes 71%, and 0.3% are gained from wind energy (NEA, n.d.). Iceland’s location on the Mid-Atlantic ridge offers geothermal possibilities, but not without some complications. Iceland has multiple active volcanoes and a history of violent eruptions which have had severe effects both inland and abroad. For example, the Eyjafjallajökull eruption in 2010 disrupted a large portion of the air traffic in Europe.

In 2015, Iceland’s electricity generation was 18.798 GWh (GI, n.d.), but a recent study by David Finger points out that there is still unexploited hydropower potential in Iceland (Finger, 2018).Hydropower electrical energy in Iceland began in the 20th century when the main power station located in Elliðaár was built in the year 1921. This power station is still in partial use today. A further complication is that Iceland’s glaciers cover around 11% of the land, with Vatnajökull covering 7900km2 (NI, n.d.). Because Iceland’s glaciers hold a mass of 3600 km3, they could raise the global sea level by around 10 mm if melted (of Earth Sciences, 2020).

Hydropower in Greenland
Greenland is the largest island in the world. Located 740 km from the North Pole, with Kap Farvel having the same latitude as Oslo. Greenland’s total area is 2.166.086 km2 with 81% permanently covered by icecap (Nunatsiaq, 2016). Buksefjord, Greenland’s first hydropower plant was constructed in 1993. Today, Greenland utilises five hydropower plants which supply six towns with electricity used for domestic use and heating (Nunatsiaq, 2016). Greenland relies partly on imported oil, even though they are increasing self-production and utilising heat from waste incineration. The Co2 emission of Greenland in 2013 reaching 555Kt with 94% of the emission originating from energy consumption (Nunatsiaq, 2016).

Indigenous People
Greenland is part of Denmark’s kingdom, but has had a self-government since 2009 and “has had exclusive responsibility regarding extractive projects on the territory and in surrounding maritime zones” (Johnstone and Hansen, 2020). A great deal of attention is currently being paid internationally to Greenland’s pursuit of independence from Denmark as a sovereign state (Johnstone and Hansen, 2020). The Indigenous people of Greenland view extractive industries as a means to increased stability, improved living conditions, and good employment opportunities which among other factors could lead to an increased standard of living. From an outsider’s perspective, enabling extractive industries in Greenland is a stepping stone towards independence from Denmark. But as the study depicts, the Indigenous people place more importance on the benefits of increasing economic independence by allowing the extractive industries, rather than seeking political independence. “Exploration and exploitation of natural resources is known to contribute to major changes at individual, community and national levels” (Johnstone and Hansen, 2020). Greenland’s Mineral Resources Act states how developers are required to conduct an environmental impact and social impact assessment (SIA). The government often requires a social sustainability agreement, i.e. Impact and Benefit Agreement (IBA), to promote equitable development. “The provisions in the Mineral Resources Act on EIA and SIA are brief, but are developed further in a number of topic-specific Guidelines. Although the latter are not legally binding in a formal sense, it is unlikely that the government will grant a license in cases where the developer has not met, if not exceeded the requirements in the Guidelines.” (Johnstone and Hansen, 2020).

Technical details
Greenland’s glaciers theoretical energy potential is, according to the Geological Survey of Greenland (GEUS), 470 Twh per year. “This estimation gives results far from the real available hydropower energy, which can be applied only when the water comes into hydrological catchment areas where hydropower plants in reality can be constructed” (Nunatsiaq, 2016).

Figure 1: Hydropower potential locations in west Greenland (Højmark, 1996). “Blue areas indicate hydropower basins, black squares possible localities for hydropower plants and black circles are observation localities for water flow estimates operated by GEUS. (Geological Survey)” (Nunatsiaq, 2016).

An estimate based on multiple years of research work determines 16 catchments areas with a combined energy of 14 Twh in the western of Greenland (Nunatsiaq, 2016).

Energy Exportation
Exporting the energy from Greenland could be achieved by hydrogen generation through electrolysis. Additionally, ammonia could be used as an energy carrier with water and air combination (Alther et al., 1981).

Figure 2: Distance between Nunavut and Nuuk (Nunatsiaq, 2016).

With distances between countries contributing greatly to the cost of an energy exportation project, there are locations within reach of Greenland which may present opportunities to transfer electric energy to other countries. Studies reveal how energy could be exported to the west, to Nunavut in Canada since Nunavut is only 800 km from Greenland’s capital, Nuuk. Currently Nunavut has a population of 23,000 people and requires more electric energy (Nunatsiaq, 2016). Additionally, the western part of Iceland could possibly utilise electric energy from Greenland (Nunatsiaq, 2016).


A study from 1981 presents a methodology for harnessing the meltwater of Greenland by utilising electric power transportation stations with reservoirs at different elevations.

Figure 3: “Schematic illustration of a glacial power station in Greenland. 1 = Inland ice. 2 = Firn. 3 = Snow cover. 4 = Melt water channel. 5 = Bedrock. 6 = Upper reservoir. 7 = Lower reservoir. 8 = Natural dam (Nunataks). 9 = Pipe shaft. 10 = Iceberg.
(After kollbrunner and Stauber, 1972.)” (Alther et al., 1981).

Perpendicular channels which are cut into the bedrock guide the meltwater to the reservoirs with minimal loss. From the reservoir flows water through pipelines to a lower reservoir (7), where the natural dams (Nunataks) serve as a dam wall (8). “These Nunataks provide a natural drop of some 2000 m from the terminus of the ice cap to sea level.” (Alther et al., 1981). Which in turn is guided through pressure pipeline and turbines.

Natural forming reservoirs may be created by distributing coal dust or other heat absorbing material to enable the ice in that area to melt faster than normal during the summer months; this procedure would only serve to initiate the process. This formation could be enlarged and altered as needed and channels made as required by each reservoir at any given time (Alther et al., 1981).

Hydropower Development in Norway

The integration of hydropower in Norway had a large impact on the country’s economic development. The first hydropower plant in Norway, was built in Hamn, Norway in 1882, where the power was used by a nickel production plant (Vasskrafta, 2019a). In the late 19th century and well into the 20th century, the chemical industry developed where hydropower energy was available, mainly because long distance energy transmission was not feasible at that time. An industrial company named Borregaard was established in 1889, to produce biochemical products. Borregaard later developed the hydropower plant Borregaard kraftverk in 1898. This was the beginning of multiple other industrial developments, such as Norsk Hydro, the largest industrial establishment and hydropower developer. Norsk Hydro was the first company to develop synthetic nitrate fertiliser and used hydropower energy and water for this production. In 1907 Norsk Hydro developed a hydropower plant in Notodden named Svelgfoss 1, which was Europe’s largest hydropower plant and the world’s second largest hydropower plant at the time. By 1911, Norsk Hydro had completed Vemork hydropower plan, the world’s largest hydropower plant with an installed capacity of 108MW (“Kraftverk: Vemork”, 2016). Furthermore, the development of Solbergfossen hydropower plant had excessive technological and historical importance for Norway. It was developed during the First World War after the completion of the hydropower laboratory at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). The cooperation among contractors, developers, and NTNU managed to increase the efficiency of the turbine by more than 10% using Norwegian contractors, thus ensuring the country’s competence comparable to an international level. This is historically important as construction started in 1913 and finished in 1924, a time period when political forces wanted to use and develop Norwegian technology (“Kraftverk: Solbergfoss”, 2016) (Vasskrafta, 2004) (NTNU, 2019). Development of Glomfjorden kraftverk, a hydropower plant using two of what was in 1920 the world’s largest turbines, laid the fundamentals of an important industry in Glomfjorden and also bureaucracy in Norway. The project development contributed to the decision to develop NVE, the Norwegian regulators of hydropower (“Kraftverk: Glomfjord”, 2016) (Vasskrafta, 2019b).

Hydropower Development in Iceland

Iceland’s incentives to create its first large scale hydropower plant came in the 1960’s when the company Alusisse showed interest in constructing an aluminium plant in Iceland (Energy, 2019). Afterwards when Iceland had been attracting high energy demanding industries, the national power company of Iceland was established (Landsvirkjun). Its first task was to administrate the construction of Búrfell hydropower plant which came into operation in 1969 with the capacity of 210 megawatts (MW). Iceland has since become a large aluminium and ferrosilicon exporter, with increase in demand through the years, which in turn has increased the energy need and prompted further the construction of more hydropower plants (Energy, 2019). The effects of the construction of hydropower plants to satisfy the industrial energy demand has had a large effect on Iceland’s infrastructure, both economic and social, with the construction of the plants and employment from the industry.

Incentives for Greenland

Using Norway and Iceland as an example, there are two proposals for Greenland to proceed with its hydropower development:
Generate interest from high energy demanding industries by proposing access to sustainable clean hydropower electric energy with a comparable geological location as Iceland. Private equity firms and industries could be involved in the construction of a large scale hydropower plant.
Construct a hydropower plant with the aid of Denmark for the future prospects of energy exportation, providing the necessary foundation for large scale industries to operate in Greenland.

Greenland could benefit greatly in terms of economic development and social effect. Greenland could possibly satisfy all of its energy demand and become completely carbon neutral. In the near future a shift in emphasis of the transportation and mobility sector is almost certain. Such development and the ever growing demand for industries to implement sustainability in their manufacturing process, will broaden the market for clean energy and Greenland could be in a position of being able to supply sustainable electric energy for industries willing to offshore their operations to Greenland. It can be said that Greenland certainly has the building blocks to reach similar development as Iceland by harnessing the glacial meltwater and being able to provide sustainable energy for many years to come. Metallurgical processing, used in industries such as copper electrolytic refinement and aluminium, could utilise the meltwater generated electric power (Alther et al., 1981).

International collaboration

For a project of this caliber, international collaboration would be necessary for design and supplying equipment such as excavators to Greenland. With such a collaborative effort the project should be achievable in 15-20 years (Alther et al., 1981). According to The cost estimate for the power scheme would be around $275 – $320 per kilowatt (Partl, 1978). With considerations to transportation facilities as gas pipelines or AC/DC rectifiers / inverters, the additional cost could amount to $220 – $430 per kilowatt hour. Disruptions to local population would likely be minimal, but would be different between energy harnessing locations since the population is fairly small and dispersed in comparison with Greenland’s geographic size. The effect on the environment should be minimal (Alther et al., 1981). If H2 spillage did occur, such as by the bursting of gas pipelines, the effect on marine life would likely be insignificant.

LCA of Industrial Project

As a requirement to uphold Greenland’s clean reputation and to fulfil environmental require- ments regarding emission standards and pollution, industries that show interest in relocating to Greenland should do a full life cycle analysis (LCA). This would need to be approved by Greenland’s and Denmark’s governments and abide to their requirements.

Social Economics Benefits in Norway

Electricity has increased the welfare of the Norwegian population. The development of effective transmission lines enabled industries to grow and make electricity more available. In the 1920’s the majority of people living in Oslo had access to electricity, but in the 1940’s, 80% of the entire Norwegian population had gained access to electricity. Since the Second World War and up to the 1990s, there have been large investments in the electrification of Norway and in 1965 nearly every house had access to electricity. This development has been a driver for the continued economic growth and increased welfare in Norway (norske leksikon, 2020).

Social Economics Benefits in Iceland

Since the 1960’s Iceland’s population has grown from 175,000 to over 340,000 (Worldome- ter, 2021). Its gross domestic product (GDP) has increased from 1400$ to over 66000$ per capita (Commons, 2019), with a large portion in direct relation to the industrial development that followed the construction of the hydropower plants and the accessibility to electrical energy. The infrastructure of Iceland relies on the energy-demanding industry and seldom has any single industry had such an impact on one country. With employment opportunities and increased quality of life, population is able to grow and other industries can emerge.


“Climate change will further exacerbate the unique applied glaciological challenges associated with the proglacial mining described above. Rising atmospheric temperatures are expected to increase the meltwater runoff from the ice sheet by a factor of five by the end of the century” (Colgan et al., 2015). Greenland’s glacial meltwater hydropower potential could become more feasible as the global conditions become more severe due to global warming. Emissions from electricity generation using coal and other environmentally polluting methods may be decreased substantially by harnessing Greenland’s glacier meltwater. This project might prove to be much more beneficial than anticipated as we witness the growing demand for sustainable electric energy.


As Greenland’s glacier melts and opportunities emerge for hydropower, it is these authors’ opinion that Greenland should proceed with large-scale projects that keep the best interests of the Indigenous people of Greenland in mind and, at the same time, create an incentive for industries to relocate their operations to Greenland. This may in turn stimulate the economy through employment opportunities and provide Greenland with the incentive to invest in its infrastructure to accommodate this development. With the hydropower developments in Norway and Iceland, and with Greenland sharing similar geological location as Iceland, Greenland should consider this opportunity while it is still a possibility.

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The Legal Protection of Sea Ice Areas and the Triple Bottom Line Approach to Mining Management in the Arctic

2020 is the year when 40% of the 4,000-year-old Milne Ice Shelf, located on the north-western edge of Ellesmere Island, caved into the sea. 2020 is the year when the Greenland Ice Sheet has already passed the point of no return. 2020 is the year when human presence in the Arctic Ocean fell dramatically due to the COVID-19 outbreak. And at the same time, 2020 is another year when the dispute between the economic profit from mining in the Arctic and environmentally sustainable future was not resolved. Environmentalists are afraid that, as the sea ice melts, the Arctic Ocean will become more available and accessible for mining and navigation. Economists are afraid that mining activity in the Arctic Ocean will become less available as shrinking sea ice areas get international protection measures. Existing legal measures are not able to address the problem of melting in the Arctic adequately. The common problem of environmental protection measures and mining regulation measures is considering sea ice as “part of something.” There are no ice protection regulations as a separate natural object, only as a Natural Park as in Canadian and the United States legislation, and there are no international protection measures that consider sea ice as “sui generis”. Initiatives to invent glaciers protection legislation meet the strong opposition of mining supporters, as it was in Chile and Argentina. The main question of our research about potential sea ice protection legislation concerns the concept of “sui generis”: is it possible to create legal measures based on the fact that sea ice areas are “one of a kind” that require their own, unique, protection? We will check existing legal protection systems and analyze current mining practices through the triple bottom line approach to answer this question.

Sea ice and the environment

Nowadays, Polar vortex-increased heat waves, and the unpredictability of weather caused by ice loss are already causing significant damage to crops on which global food systems depend (Hancock, 2020). Furthermore, but no less critical, the melting of the Arctic ice pack affects sea level in the Arctic Ocean, sea surface temperature, and wildlife populations, like beluga whales, narwhals, and bowheads. Moreover, these species would require additional protection measures and flexible measures adapting to the consequences of melting. In the first section of our research, we would like to pay attention to the significance of sea ice protection from the environmental perspective. Melting Arctic sea ice opens up this once frozen frontier to new interests, such as fishing, shipping, and resource development. Increased human presence in the Arctic Ocean could potentially affect many sea ice patterns and local marine biodiversity. We will answer the following questions to understand how to make shrinking ice areas environmentally safe: Who has the rights to “sea ice”? Who has the rights to fish and tap the minerals that potentially may be found underneath of sea ice areas? And is it possible to protect flora and fauna?

Who has the rights to sea ice? Sea ice areas located within national jurisdiction are regulated by the legislation of the coastal state. Coastal states may adopt non-discriminative legal measures to protect these areas from pollution, according to Article 234 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) (United Nations, 1982). In the case of sea ice areas located beyond national jurisdiction, we need to define the legal concepts of res and terra, communis and nullius. The main feature of the nullius concept is that something belongs to nobody and can be taken by the first taker, and terra can be occupied in a real or effective way. The concept of communis means that something belongs to everybody and cannot be occupied by somebody. In the case of sea ice, we question whether it is possible to effectively or really occupy and establish sovereignty over sea ice. The most common opinion is that it cannot: sovereignty can be established over the territory possible to transform for further effective use. So, those Arctic sea ice areas, located beyond national jurisdiction, may be considered as res communis: territories belonging to everybody and exploitable by those who wish to and are capable of doing so. However, fish located underneath sea ice is res nullius and appropriated by taker in the amount of completed catch.

The situation with mineral resources that potentially may be discovered underneath is different. Extraction of minerals explored underneath the sea ice areas, potentially on the seabed and ocean floor, is regulated by Part IX, Section 2 of UNCLOS, since the seabed and ocean floor located beyond national jurisdiction falls under the definition of “Area” provided in Article 1 section 1 of UNCLOS and in Agreement relates to the implementation of Part XI of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982. Article 136 of UNCLOS and annex to Agreement reaffirm that all mineral extraction on the seabed and ocean floor is implemented under the principle of the common heritage of mankind (Agreement, 1982). Following legal regulations mentioned above, we can conclude that the most applicable legal concept for minerals underneath is res communis. Notwithstanding, we need to pay attention to the fact that the United States (US) is not a member-state of UNCLOS and Agreement, so the linkage of mineral extraction with the concept of the common heritage of mankind would be ineffective from the US’s perspective.

Access to fish and mineral resources may be limited, but limitations should be justified by reasonable ground. Today, the most reasonable ground for imposing limitations on access to natural resources is global warming and sea ice melting. Consequences of melting, which is especially fast-paced, will lead to Arctic marine ecosystem changes. These issues need to be addressed. Protection measures from human activities would apply to sea ice areas with an average thickness less than 1.5 meters or ice temperature from -20 to -10℃, since human activities can accelerate shrinking (see for example: polarportal.dk/en/sea-ice-and-icebergs/sea-ice-thickness-and-volume/). As an example of existing biodiversity protection measures of areas where sea ice will probably melt and increase accessibility and availability, we would like to point out the Agreement to Prevent Unregulated High Seas Fisheries in the Central Arctic Ocean. Thinking of fishing as two types – for commercial and exploratory purposes – would protect those affected by sea ice melt and changed ecosystem species and allow commercial fishing to be beneficial at the same time. How will it work in case of fragile aquatic ecosystems? It is possible to declare exploratory fishing, which according to Article 1 section e), means fishing to assess the sustainability and feasibility of future commercial fishing, only applicable for threatened species (Agreement, 2019), the list of which would be possible to put into the annex. Commercial fishing would apply only to species who may have an advantage from global warmings, like Polar (Arctic) cod, and krill. At the same time, we would like to point out that the mentioned international fishing regulation will apply only to high sea areas without sea ice. Currently, massive commercial fishing is not taking place on the Central Arctic Ocean sea ice, plus, sea ice-associated species have no substantial commercial value nowadays. Nonetheless, sea ice-associated species are the most vulnerable to ice melt and their extinction can affect the food web, for example, ice algae that form the base of the food web (Barry, 2011). Some algae stay attached to the bottom of the ice, some fall into the water column, and some fall to the bottom of the sea to provide food for species that feed at different depths (Barry, 2011). Protists (single-celled organisms) and zooplankton eat the algae which are then eaten by, for instance, Arctic cod and sea birds, which in turn act as the primary link to other fish and birds, seals, and whales (Barry, 2011). So, the extinction of sea ice-associated species will make “commercial” species vulnerable. Yet commercial fishing would increase the vulnerability of such commercial species.

To limit human interference into fragile ecosystems around sea ice areas, we need to pay attention to the Marine Protected Areas approach. Example of provisions regulating the issues of Protected Areas can be found in the Antarctic Treaty System. Antarctic Treaty System is effectively recruiting human activity limitations in the most fragile areas. Annex V to the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty regulates the establishment of specially protected and specially managed areas in the most fragile environments. Such regulations make it possible to limit human presence in such areas (Annex, 1991). In addition to the tool mentioned above, article 9 section 2 of the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) provide an opportunity to designate the quantity of any species harvested, regions, and sub-regions based on the distribution of populations of Antarctic marine living resources, opening and closing of areas, regions or sub-regions for purposes of scientific study or conservation, including special areas for protection and scientific study (Convention, 1980). Moreover, the article of CCAMLR makes it possible to regulate harvesting methods, including fishing gear, with a view, inter alia, to avoid undue concentration of harvesting in any region or sub-region (Convention, 1980). To use the analogy of the above-mentioned legal instruments, the Arctic Ocean’s sea ice areas may be defined as areas kept inviolate from human interference so that future comparisons may be possible with other localities affected by human activities, such as representative examples of major marine ecosystems, or potentially, areas of particular interest to planned scientific research (Annex, 1991). However, as the Arctic does not have its hard-law treaty system, it would be almost impossible to analogize this situation to the Antarctic Treaty System. In the Arctic, the Marine Protected Areas establishment is in International Maritime Organization and Regional Fisheries Organizations’ competence. In our opinion, the best way to define the type of protection regime for the sea areas with accelerated ice melt is to use the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Protected Area Categories System. According to their guidelines for applying protected area management categories, there are seven categories of the Protected Areas, and we would like to pay attention to the most suitable regimes for vulnerable ecosystem after sea ice melt. By implementation of the Category IA: Strict Nature Reserve, protection areas may achieve preservation of ecosystems, species, and biodiversity features in a state that is as undisturbed by recent human activity as possible, while still procuring examples of the natural environment for scientific studies, environmental monitoring and education, including baseline areas from which all avoidable access is excluded, and minimizing disturbance through careful planning and implementation of research and other approved activities (IUCN Ia, 2018). The Category IV: Habitat/Species Management Area usually helps to protect or restore: 1) flora species of international, national or local importance; 2) fauna species of international, national, or local importance including resident or migratory fauna; and/or 3) habitats (IUCN IV, 2018). The size of the area varies but can often be relatively small. Category IV will be the best protection regime if locations around the shrinking sea ice area have threatened species. Nevertheless, IUCN has no power to establish protected areas and can only provide recommendations and assessments to existing protected areas. Nowadays, the most powerful categorization of the marine protected areas is the Marine Environment Protection Committee’s (MEPC) of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) division of protected areas on particularly sensitive sea areas, special areas, emission control area designation, areas to be avoided, and no anchoring areas. The most suitable protection regime, according to MEPC categorization, is a particularly sensitive sea area. IMO’s Resolution A.982(24) Revised Guidelines for the identification and designation of particularly sensitive sea areas regulate the criteria of adopting such a regime, including the one mentioned in section 4.4.1-4.4.11 ecological criteria (Resolution, 2005). Adoption of a particularly sensitive sea area regime will oblige parties to adopt ships’ routing and reporting systems near or in the area, according to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) and following the General Provisions on Ships’ Routing and the Guidelines and Criteria for Ship Reporting Systems, and to limit navigation through such areas that should protect the environment from navigational harm (Resolution, 2005). However, we think that procedurally it is hard to demand the adoption of such a regime. It is difficult to prove scientifically that some Central Arctic Ocean area meets ecological criteria for adopting particularly sensitive sea area regimes. Besides, in the case of IMO, the navigational issue will always prevail over the ecological one, but it is definitely a subject of disputes. The question remains, who will be responsible for the control and assessment of environmental protection, prevention, and response in connection with navigational and industrial issues? The most likely organization for such responsibility is IMO, since it is the specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) and is responsible for the safety and security of shipping and the prevention of marine and atmospheric pollution by ships, the main reason why the imposition of strict environmental protection measures may become necessary in the future. Such control and assessment of IMO can cooperate with the Protection of the Artic Marine Environment (PAME), a working group of the Arctic Council, the main interest of which is mentioned in this section on environmental protection.

In conclusion to this section, we would like to draw attention to Category VI: Protected area with sustainable use of natural resources: the primary objective of this protection regime is to protect natural ecosystems and use natural resources sustainably when conservation and sustainable use can be mutually beneficial (IUCN VI, 2018). To understand if conservation and sustainable use of natural resources can be mutually beneficial, we need to answer the question: would it be possible to promote sustainable use of natural resources, considering ecological, economic, and social dimensions (IUCN VI, 2018)? The answer to this question is the subject of the next section of our research. We summarize that sea ice areas located within national jurisdiction are protected following domestic legislation rules from the environmental perspective. Regarding sea ice located beyond national jurisdiction, we would like to assume these ice areas res communis. However, resources located inside this territory, except resources that can be extracted only from seabed and subsoil, are res nullius. Resources that can be extracted only from seabed and subsoil, due to UCLOS’s existing regulations, are res communis, thus extending to them the principle of the common heritage of mankind. Nonetheless, due to existing legal practices and regulations, especially on the international level, we can conclude that through increased adoption of the protection areas regimes, it seems possible to protect sea ice from increased human activities. The question remains, how will these protection measures affect the economic consequences of melting? And how will they affect navigational? It’s worth mentioning that the consequences of sea ice melt may be seen from the indigenous perspective also. As the brightest example, we would like to point out the Canadian and Greenlandic Inuits located around Pikialasorsuaq, where the North water plynya connects the Canadian and Greenlandic settlements of Inuits. The accelerated melt of local sea ice makes communication difficult and creates risks that could cause dog sledding to become extremely dangerous. That may lead to crucial changes in Inuit’s lifestyle.

Ice Melt and the Resulting Industrial Opportunities

Promoting comprehensive legal protection regimes for non-jurisdictional Arctic sea ice and the Central Arctic Ocean will naturally face opposition due to the potential industrial economic value of the region. The Triple Bottom Line (TBL) sustainability approach demands that when implementing strategies or sustainability practices, three prongs be analyzed and balanced: 1) people, 2) profit, and 3) planet. As discussed above, there are numerous factors and considerations present to support that a protection regime for Arctic sea ice is beneficial from an environmental lens. However, a proper TBL analysis will also require an in-depth inquiry of the benefit that the utilization of resources in the Arctic can bring to the pillars of profit and people.

The melting of Arctic sea ice and the opening of access to greater portions of the Arctic have important economic consequences for a number of industries. There is a wealth of highly valuable resources that are being made accessible due to Arctic sea ice melt. Untapped within the Arctic, there is an estimated 1,670 trillion cubic feet of natural gas (30% of the planet’s untapped gas), 44 billion barrels of liquid natural gas, 90 billion barrels of oil (13% of the world’s undiscovered oil reserve), and reserves of gold, zinc, nickel and iron (Bryce, 2019). The opportunity to exploit these new resources is of great interest not only to Arctic states, but to other world powers as well, and has led to a greater politicization of the Arctic in recent years (Rosenthal, 2012). As more ice melts, more of these resources will be available for extraction and nations will be vying for increased access. For non-jurisdictional Arctic areas, which are open to all for exploration, the opportunity for access to these resources is not only of interest to the surrounding Arctic states, but of global interest as well. A concern here from an environmental perspective, is that the economic incentive of exploiting these resources, particularly for Arctic nations with sovereignty over them, may weaken resolve to mitigate Arctic sea ice loss.
Oil & Natural Gas

As more sea ice melts, it is anticipated that vast reserves of oil and natural gas, which have remained mostly undiscovered, will become accessible. As of 2015, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) had predicted that there could be approximately 90 billion barrels of available oil in the area above the Arctic Circle, which equates to 13% of the world’s undiscovered and accessible oil (US Energy Information Administration, 2012). As for natural gas, it is estimated by the USGS that 1,670 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 44 billion barrels of recoverable natural gas liquids are stored in the area beneath Arctic sea ice (US Energy Information Administration, 2012). This is equivalent to 30% of the world’s undiscovered natural gas reserves. The economic potential of these resources is vast and, as a result, the world is enticed by the opportunities that melting sea ice presents. These resources only become available when, in the eyes of some environmentalists, there has been failure to adequately protect and prevent the melt of Arctic sea ice. As sea ice melts, the potential to capitalize on the wealth of resources below increases and countries are poised for when that happens.

Oil and natural gas companies have already begun to develop agreements with Arctic countries for access to their reserves. Russia in particular has taken initial steps to advance their exploration and extraction efforts. However, other states have certainly shown interest in capitalizing on these opportunities.

Navigation and Shipping in the Arctic
One of the significant impacts from Arctic sea ice melt that will lead to global economic implications and power struggles is the opening of shipping lanes across the Arctic. These passages were previously inaccessible but, because of sea ice melt, there is potential for mass-scale commercial shipping through shipping lanes made accessible with additional sea ice melt. The first new sea route is the Northwest Passage, which connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans through the Canadian Arctic Archipelago (Sharma, 2019). Since the turn of the twenty-first century, that passage has experienced relatively ice-free conditions multiple times, though it’s not yet a dependable pathway for commercial ships (Struzik, 2019). The other path, the Northern Sea Route, is along the coast of Siberia and has begun experiencing summertime sea ice declines that may transform it into a reliable shipping route (Sharma, 2019). The Northern Sea Route runs from the Barents Sea to the Bering Strait between Siberia and Alaska and would dramatically reduce the transit time for ships traveling from East Asia to Western Europe (Sharma, 2019). In fact, it is estimated that it would reduce transit time by 10-15 days and that, as a result, a huge portion of Chinese trade would be conducted through this route if it became available (Sharma, 2019).

There are, however, still barriers to using these routes: the ice conditions are unpredictable and there is a lack of rescue teams and support infrastructure (Murphy, 2018). Therefore, it may be several years, if we continue on our current path, before these routes become available for large-scale commercial shipping. However, Arctic states are beginning to address these issues in anticipation of these new shipping routes. For example, in Russia there are plans to construct new ports and roads, and to improve roads between Arctic states for movement of goods (Murphy, 2018). Therefore, some countries may be more prepared for this transition than we think. This new reality will have impacts not only on the environment, but also on the world economy and national security, as nations compete to gain rights to shipping lanes and newly accessible resources in the Arctic.

The “New Cold War”
These resources have sparked a battle over the Arctic, coined “the New Cold War.” Climate change is drastically changing the Arctic, and Arctic states are all staking claims over regions of the Arctic seabed, and the valuable resources within them. Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, coastal states have sovereign rights over their continental shelf for the purpose of exploration and exploitation of its natural resources (United Nations, 1982). The continental shelf typically extends 200 nautical miles (nm) from the baselines of the coastal states (United Nations, 1982). However, under some circumstances, such as when there are unique geological geographical features, states can extend their continental shelf beyond the 200 nm, but not greater than 350 nm from the baseline (United Nations, 1982). The desire to control more of the continental shelf in order to exploit those valuable resources has led to extended claims and significant debate over who has sovereignty over Arctic waters and the continental shelf. For example, in 2001, Russia was the first to claim an extended continental shelf. Denmark followed suit in 2014 (Barents Observer, 2019). More recently, in May 2019, Canada submitted its claim for an extended continental shelf, including 1.2 million square kilometers of seabed and subsoil, with the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, who holds the decision-making power over these claims (Barents Observer, 2019).

The Arctic Council was established by the states with territorial claims in the Arctic in part to help manage the competing interests that arise concerning the Arctic and promote cooperation among different countries and indigenous communities in the region, as well as help manage and discuss plans for sustainable development and environmental protection in the Arctic (Exner-Pirot, 2019). There is both opportunity and hope that the engagement of the Arctic Council can help facilitate any action taken to establish protection regimes among the Arctic states and help balance these competing interests.

The Triple Bottom Line Analysis
The potential for legal protection of these non-jurisdictional Arctic sea ice can be analyzed using the Triple Bottom Line (TBL) approach. The TBL approach is a sustainability framework that attempts to balance the interests of “people, planet, and profit” when dealing with a particular issue or activity. This tool balances the competing interests of an activity and can be used to develop a stable and just regulatory framework. Arctic oil and gas exploration is a perfect example of both the advantages and challenges of using the TBL. On the one hand, it helps all relevant aspects be considered when constructing a new thinking framework for Arctic mining, given there is currently no hard-law regulatory scheme. There is little value in only considering the environmental effects or economic of an activity, as these complex issues cannot be addressed in a silo. On the other hand, balancing the many different interests involved in Arctic oil and gas extraction is a difficult task. The exploitation of resource-based industries in the Arctic is a key economic driver of the region, which makes it complicated to implement strict legal policies that affect not only all eight Arctic states, but impede the global interests of untapped and unexploited potential resources in the Arctic.

Of course, a key factor in this analysis is the profit potential of extracting these resources from the Arctic. The economic value to Arctic countries who have offshore resources within their jurisdictional continental shelf, and then the economic value of resources outside of Arctic state jurisdiction are not to be underestimated. There is global interest in investing in exploration and extraction. In particular, China is looking to expand efforts to the Arctic. They are not only interested in the oil and gas opportunities in the Arctic, but the opening of shipping lanes. China ships vast amounts of goods and the opening of new routes, such as the Northwest Passage and the Northern Sea Route, could substantially reduce their transit times. In fact, in early 2018, China published a white paper dictating the nation’s first Arctic policy and unveiling their vision for a “Polar Silk Road” across the Arctic (Nakano, 2018). This vision included plans to build infrastructure and conduct trial voyages along those new shipping routes (Nakano, 2018). It will be interesting to see how China’s involvement shifts the distribution of power among the other Arctic nations. Offshore extraction in the Arctic could also affect the global market and price point for these resources (Krupnick, 2011).

Important to note are the incredibly significant investment and operational costs. There are hefty financial and logistical challenges associated with offshore exploration, which could slow efforts to commercially and substantially capitalize on these resources (Bergo, 2014). Serious Arctic exploration is predicted to be years, if not decades, in the future, predicated on the further melting of sea ice and the development of adequate infrastructure. The infrastructure dilemma in the Arctic is significant. The harsh environment of the Arctic makes it slower and more difficult to establish the needed infrastructure to make the Arctic an industrial hub of resource exploration and extraction (Bergo, 2014). Naturally, many nations would likely hope to see the Arctic develop into that image. However, as more Arctic states work to capitalize on their resources found within their jurisdictional waters and the continental shelf, coastal infrastructure will be built that will facilitate and expedite exploration into non-claimed regions of the Arctic open to all for extraction (Sherwin, 2019). Therefore, while the upfront time and cost associated with Arctic exploration is great, the barriers to resource extraction will likely diminish exponentially as more infrastructure and newer methods are developed.

However, we also must consider that there is a significant economic benefit from the existing ecosystems, wildlife, and natural resources in the Arctic, even without the exploitation of mineral and oil resources. “Local communities benefit from access to subsistence goods, such as fish, birds and marine mammals, and obtain significant cultural benefits from collectively engaging in subsistence hunting and interacting with their landscapes.” If Arctic exploration and resource extraction is allowed or encouraged to a great extent, coastal Arctic communities may have reduced access to ecosystem services and natural resources that help sustain livelihoods of Arctic peoples merely due to the feedback loops and ripple effects stemming from the exploitation of Arctic resources. As costly as resource extraction may be in the Arctic, future efforts to invest in exploration and develop the necessary infrastructure should be anticipated in the coming years. Therefore, the time is ripe to discuss how these economic benefits can be objectively balanced with the resulting environmental harm.

Finally, we must consider how mining affects the people of the region. Resource extraction in the Arctic has the potential to bring significant sums of money to Arctic states. With the opening of shipping lanes and the potential for the industrialization of the Arctic Ocean, the push to develop infrastructure in coastal Arctic towns may yield entire new industries, create jobs, bring in revenue, and generate tourism for Arctic states and communities. The infrastructure may very well benefit the people by bringing significant economic benefit to the region. However, extraction activities can also run contrary to the culture and heritage of Arctic communities and may bring industry in an undesirable direction. Furthermore, as mentioned above, the degradation of the Arctic environment due to glacial melt and mining may disrupt their way of life and cultural practices.

Given the many factors influenced by mining in glacier areas, it is clear how the balancing of these interests would pose challenges and create great opposition to region-wide protection regimes for sea ice in the Arctic.


From the environmental perspective, sea ice areas should be considered sui generis and require special protection measures. These protection measures should define the status of such areas and resources within and under areas, regulate biodiversity protection, and declare limitations of human activities in the most fragile areas. The most applicable concepts defining the status of sea ice areas and resources are res communis and res nullius. As biodiversity protection measures for sea areas that will lose ice cover, we would like to recommend the separation of fishing activities based on the list of threatened species, as well as the implementation of the Marine Protected Areas approach following IUCN or IMO categorization, which would be a useful tool in limiting human presence in the fragile glacial areas.

There is no doubt that the Arctic still suffers the severe consequences of climate change and the conservation of the Arctic ecosystem is a huge incentive to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote sustainable societies. However, the battle over the Arctic will continue as its resources become more accessible. For the sake of the environment and conservation, the hope remains that climate change mitigation practices will reduce the amount of Arctic sea ice loss and therefore the amount of space and resources over which disputes can arise. Organizations like the Arctic Council provide confidence that the efforts to protect the Arctic and promote sustainable management are very much still alive.

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Sustainable Development of Arctic Oil and Gas: Indigenous Peoples’ Rights and Benefit-Sharing.

How would you feel if foreigners encroached on your natural resources for commercial exploitation without your consent and had no agreement with you regarding the sharing of benefits generated from its use? This is the case for vulnerable Arctic populations and Indigenous peoples. The Arctic is known as a vast storehouse of potential resources. Oil seeps have been recognized and used for commercial purposes in Northern Alaska, Canada, and Russia since the 1920s (Huntington & Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme, 2007). They will continue to be a significant economic force in the Arctic, spreading through many areas and environments and impacting many individuals and communities. Additionally, the melting of Arctic glaciers caused by climate change provides opportunities to exploit new Arctic oil and gas deposits (Casper, 2009). In the Arctic, extractive factories invade indigenous and local populations’ land and water, posing a danger to their resources. These activities are, therefore, likely to affect the delicate and fragile Arctic ecosystem and endanger already vulnerable Arctic populations and Indigenous peoples, while at the same time improving economic growth (Casper, 2009).

Benefit-sharing can be described as a fair and equal distribution of the monetary and non- monetary benefits produced by resource extraction activities. Rewards include the allocation of taxes and royalties, business, and equity ownership, employment creation, negotiated arrangements, and community development (Wilson, 2019). Globally, benefit-sharing offers mean that indigenous/local populations and extractive industries cooperate peacefully to turn the resource “curse” into a developmental advantage (Petrov & Tysiachniouk, 2019). In remote areas in the Arctic, oil and natural gas production offers growth opportunities and also raises costs for residents, indigenous communities, and cultures. It affects the economy’s survival and reduces the traditional resource utilization of land (Tysiachniouk & Petrov, 2018). Benefit-sharing is a legal requirement and a component of corporate social responsibility that can promote sustainable development in the remote Arctic regions if adequately structured. In the Arctic, sustainable development can be defined as development that enhances the well-being, health, and protection of Arctic populations and inhabitants, while maintaining the institutions, roles, and resources of ecosystems (Petrov & Tysiachniouk, 2019). On the other hand, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a management principle in which organizations combine fiscal, social, and environmental issues in their business practices and the relationship with their stakeholder (“What Is CSR? | UNIDO,” n.d.).

Meanwhile, according to Wilson, for efficient control of industrial production’s environmental and social impacts, indigenous and local populations are pressing for fairer benefit-sharing by the extractive industries. International principles refer to Indigenous peoples’ rights to benefit from creating resources, engaging in decision making, and establishing development planning goals that specifically impact them. Although international standard procedure on indigenous rights for Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) exists for equitable distribution of benefit sharing with Indigenous peoples in resource development, there are currently no prospects for Indigenous peoples to play a significant role in strategic planning. Lack of meaningful engagement and participation of indigenous communities in decision- making during the life cycle of resource extraction activities undermines the FPIC principles in violation of Indigenous peoples’ rights. The disagreements over the benefits and negative effects of resource extraction have intensified due to structural changes triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic. The fall in market prices for gasoline due to a decrease in demand has impacted productivity and profitability (Bernauer & Slowey, 2020). It has resulted in exposing the failure of extractive corporations’ failure to incorporate Triple Bottom Line (TBL) initiatives that focus on the 3 Ps: (Planet, People, and Profit) into their business operations. Due to limited data on the ongoing economic, social, and health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a gap in this research paper on the full impacts of the pandemic that will have to be addressed by future research.

This paper aims to address benefit-sharing in extractive industries and how Indigenous people can participate in community development decisions by answering how benefit-sharing would promote sustainability and access to decision-making in the era of Covid-19. The paper’s approach is based on a review of the literature to establish the principles underlying the study. The paper is divided into three (3) parts: a) benefit-sharing instruments and corporate social responsibility; it explains benefit-sharing principle, formation, purpose, and the relationship between benefit sharing and CSR to promote sustainable development in the Arctic, b) discuss indigenous control and implementation of international standards in respect of indigenous rights through the effective implementation of FPIC and its achievement strategies, and c) the impacts of COVID-19 on benefit-sharing agreements concerning the TBL initiative.

Fair and Equitable Benefit Sharing Principle, Formation, Purpose

In international environmental law, the debate regarding control and ownership of natural and biogenetic resources has been ongoing for the past several decades (Stellina, 2015).

Natural and marine genetic resources have traditionally been regarded and accepted as part of the common heritage of mankind. Nevertheless, the developed nations have been too concerned with the extraction of biological and genetic resources with the advancement of technology and the increased north-south divide over sovereign rights for natural resources (Stellina, 2015). To bring equity between the needs of developed and developing nations and how to protect and conserve marine and natural resources. Access to Benefit Sharing (ABS) was seen as a solution.

Since the 1990s, benefit arrangements have been a growing interest in regions with sound indigenous regulations, such as North America and Australia. (Sulvandziga, 2019). The principle arises from various international instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention No. 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), and the “Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit-Sharing to the CBD” (Sulvandziga, 2019, p.64). Access and benefit-sharing from an international legal perspective refer to how benefits resulting from the natural resources utilization, the protection of the environment, and the use of traditional knowledge would be shared between the communities granting access to the resources and the users of the resources (Unit, 2020 “The Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit-Sharing”).

James Anaya, the former United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, drew unprecedented attention to the role of benefit-sharing concerning Indigenous people’s rights to land and natural resources (Morgera, 2014). According to Anaya, Indigenous people’s rights to benefit-sharing implies “the broad international recognition of the right to indigenous communal ownership, which includes recognition of rights relating to the use, administration and conservation of the natural resources existing in indigenous territories, independent of private or State ownership of those resources.” (Sulyandziga, 2019, p. 67). He stated that “Aside from their entitlement to compensation for damages, Indigenous peoples have the right to share in the benefits arising from activities taking place on their traditional territories, especially in relation to natural resource exploitation” as a reference to benefit-sharing in Article 15(2) of ILO Convention No. 169 and appropriate to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) Articles 25 and 26 respectively (Morgera, 2014, p. 1-2). In this regard, Anaya also stressed that the only clear international standard applicable to benefit- sharing is that it must be “fair and equitable” for such sharing. The benefits to be shared include tax revenue, information, scientific and commercial cooperation, joint management of natural resources, and technical support, which have been identified as monetary and non-monetary (Morgera, 2016).
James Anaya also argued that benefit sharing is seen as “one of a set of inter-linked safeguards for the realization of substantive rights of Indigenous peoples” (Sulyandziga, 2019, p.67). Sharing of benefits explicitly reflects a particular relationship among governments, commercial businesses, and indigenous groups. It is known that benefit sharing is part of the social license to operate, thus, the public approval of the operations of the industry plus the completion of mandatory mineral extraction licensing and permit requirements (Tysiachniouk & Petrov, 2018).

In a nutshell, the benefit-sharing aim is to ensure indigenous communities’ involvement in decision-making by improving their well-being and offering local communities’ control over their future as well as protecting Indigenous peoples’ human rights by promoting community development projects in remote areas in the Arctic.

Benefit-Sharing and CSR for Sustainable Development

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a principle whereby corporations willingly decide to commit to a healthier community and a safer world. CSR is defined by the Commission of European Communities in 2001 as “a concept whereby companies integrate social and environmental concerns in their business operations and their interaction with their stakeholders on voluntary basis.” CSR initiatives for international oil firms include developing risk control policies such as steps to avoid oil spills; focusing on energy conservation and green energy; establishing partnerships with the local communities where they operate; enhancing the quality of life of workers; and contributing to society as a whole (Cao, 2018). Thus, CSR initiatives enable businesses to move beyond regulatory standards to add to their competitiveness by engaging more in human capital, the community, and stakeholder partnerships.

Sometimes, companies engage in corporate social responsibility benefit-sharing schemes to satisfy investors and shareholders and to meet the needs of local communities only to the degree required to receive the ‘social license’ to operate (Tysiachniouk & Petrov, 2018). The commitment of an organization to localities often takes the form of compensation or targeted investments. However, the corporation holds the leadership role in the decision-making power of benefit sharing, making its preference prevail in several ways over community needs and desires (Petrov & Tysiachniouk, 2019).

According to Johnstone & Hansen 2020, the socio-economic and environmental effects of the exploration and production of oil have led to political and civil society problems that have caused social damage by companies in violation of human rights laws of the local populations and workers. This includes the right to land, culture, rights at work, an acceptable standard of living, and the right to engage in decision-making processes relevant to projects involving land and communities (Johnstone & Hansen, 2020). For this reason, it is therefore crucial for businesses practicing CSR to follow the TBL 3P’s (Profit, People, and Planet) approach as a measure for financial reporting on their business activities. The TBL concept, proposed in 1987 by the Brundtland Commission, is the basis of most CSR theories. In 1994, the phrase was coined by John Elkington, often known as 3Ps or three pillars. It notes that a corporation should be accountable for three characteristics: profit, people, and the planet, i.e., economic, social, and environmental responsibility.

The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) also argues that, as a method for assessing and reporting organizational success toward economic, social, and environmental performance, the TBL methodology is used. It is an effort to connect private businesses to sustainable global development by giving them a complete set of working priorities than just profit alone. The view held is that an organization must be financially stable, eliminate its adverse environmental effects, and function in compliance with community norms in order for it to be sustainable. Therefore, businesses can be considered profitable only if it takes care of all three components of the TBL, and all of them are incredibly closely related (Księżak & FischBach, 2017). Thus, one element cannot be adopted in isolation from the others.

Meanwhile, one accepted definition of sustainable development in Brundtland’s 1987 report defines it as “the development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”(Fonseca, Domingues, & Dima, 2020, p.1). Sustainable development aims to resolve the societal desires to live best under the limits placed by nature. Development is a multidisciplinary process for all persons to reach a better quality of life. The interdependent and mutually reinforcing elements of sustainable growth are economic growth, social development, and environmental conservation (Fonseca et al., 2020, p.2). It indicates that, there is a relationship between CSR, TBL, and sustainable development as they all aim to address the same core elements.

Non-Governmental Organizations and the general population have a great deal of influence on CSR initiatives. According to Sustainable Development Working Groups Report, 2013 on “CSR in the Arctic-way forward,” the primary universal standards which drive CSR in the Arctic that were approved by the Arctic Council in the first workshop on CSR held in Stockholm from 26-27 January 2012 are the OECD Guidelines, the United Nations Global Compact, and the Global Reporting Initiative Reporting Standard. These guidelines are considered strong and adequate instruments that warrant more focus, follow-up, and enforcement by Arctic business operators (Group (SDWG), 2013).

The United Nations Guiding Principles (UNGPs) of Human Rights promote that all states are responsible to uphold human rights and prevent violation by corporations and organizations of all kinds and sizes. The obligation allows enterprises to comply with appropriate national laws and self-regulate to fill policy differences between national and international law. Both government and non-states players must ensure that victims are entitled to remedies (Johnstone & Hansen, 2020). The UNGPs also stress that businesses should dialogue on stakeholder engagement, particularly in terms of “meaningful” consultation and engagement with communities and stakeholders (Wilson, 2020). Mineral extraction and mining ventures in the Arctic can not only add to the economic circulation of natural resources, produce revenue, and provide new employment for the local population, but can also be followed by negative effects on the ecosystem, traditional land, climate, and the health of local people ((Novoselov, Potravny, Novoselova, & Gassiy, 2020).

For that matter, Novoselov, Andrey, et al., 2020 argue that industrial projects in the Arctic are highlighted and influenced by many Arctic stakeholders’ interests through social, environmental, anthological, and cultural practices. Therefore, the achievement of benefits for resource extraction projects on conventional lands in the Arctic should also mention:

  • Protection of the environment needed to lead the traditional Indigenous peoples’ commercial activities;
  • Cultural heritage preservation and traditional knowledge;
  • Reduction of social conflict induced by project implications awareness;
  • Employment development;
  • Health care improvement;
  • Providing infrastructure
  • Providing educational accessibility;
  • Increasing living standards and empowering the indigenous community with requirements for socio-demographic reproduction.

The compensation process must meet all parties’ needs, which can only be accomplished by including all stakeholders in the execution of strategic planning. For this reason, the fair and equitable benefit-sharing arrangement in the Arctic regions is critical, and it must facilitate both procedural and distributional equity. The principle of benefit-sharing encompasses several instruments, such as the negotiation of partnership agreements, the purchase of traditional products, the creation of indigenous jobs, the funding of transport, and social infrastructure development (Tysiachniouk, Henry, Tulaeva, & Horowitz, 2020). This scheme encourages indigenous communities to make better use of these financial opportunities to achieve future sustainable growth.
Consequently, community engagement is an essential aspect of international human rights law in the decision-making process on matters concerning one’s own life and the society in which one lives. However, Agenda 21 also acknowledges, among other things, that strong public involvement in decision-making, including the need for individuals, groups, and organizations to engage in decisions, especially those concerning the communities in which they live, is one of the essential prerequisites for achieving sustainable development. The mining industry in the Arctic affects the environment, the safety of the water supply, and the local people’s welfare. It then takes the form of compensation and corporate social benefit to cater to the harm suffered. In the meantime, a win-win outcome will only be accomplished if all parties are engaged in the decision-making process to disclose their specific needs regarding the benefit of enhancing the indigenous livelihood towards community development.

Indigenous Control and Implementation of International Standards

Various international partners have been discussing international standards on human rights and Indigenous peoples’ protection for the sustainability of the environment. As a result, resource production’s social and cultural issues are of significance, and the lack of community participation in the early stage of resource development and active engagement of indigenous communities in decision-making strategies violates the FPIC rights of Indigenous peoples.

The precise interpretation of the theory can be determined by breaking down the meaning of the terms that make up the FPIC principle. The UN Guidelines on FPIC describe “free” as a system that is not subject to externally imposed deadlines. As a result, aboriginal peoples should not be forced, intimidated, or threatened into consent (Hughes, 2018). According to (Pillay, 2020), “prior” means that approval should be obtained sufficiently in advance of any permission or start of operations, and that indigenous consultation or consensus procedures should be respected in terms of time constraints. Thus, the engagement must take place well ahead of planned events to give Indigenous peoples and communities enough time to establish and create relationships, consider all key information, and make decisions with the aim of successful relations (Hughes, 2018).

(Pillay, 2013) further explain that “informed” implies that information is provided on a variety of topics, such as the nature, size, pace, reversibility, and scope of any proposed project or activity; the project’s purpose as well as its duration; the locality and areas affected; a preliminary assessment of the likely economic, social, cultural, and environmental impact, including potential risks; personnel likely to be involved; and the locality and areas affected. The possibility of refusing consent may be included in this procedure. The approval process must include consultation and participation.

Therefore, a fragile Arctic environment is of concern because of the adverse consequences of extractive practices, which are now turned into industrial “green movements,” resulting in the invasion of indigenous lands (Wilson, 2020) and causes danger to their ways of life, such as herding, fishing, and farming. The focus on indigenous rights is on FPIC principles. FPIC may take many forms but is an important sustainable development corporate governance framework. It is a right set out for Indigenous peoples in international treaties and declarations, especially ILO Convention 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and some national legislation (Buxton & Wilson, 2013).

The interpretation and implementation of international norms and values will enhance shared understanding and meaningful stakeholder participation. In recent years the call for respecting indigenous privileges concerning a set of criteria in resource development has grown stronger and stronger. According to Wilson (2019), the lack of respect for Indigenous peoples’ control, rights, and consents in resource exploration has urged local communities in the Arctic regions to encourage governments and companies to allow them to take greater control and do more in adhering to international norms/standards. To achieve these objectives, there exist the calls for FPIC to create fairness/equity, in addition to guiding and applying the spirit of FPIC in industry projects through existing laws/international standards around the world.

However, (Buxton & Wilson, 2013) argue that, for effective implementation of FPIC, first, it must be enforced by deliberative mechanisms in which fair viewpoints based on shared data are weighed through gathering information from all parties. Second, the procedure must be structured in a flexible way for societies concerned in order to fulfill customary practices, human rights, and to reach joint decisions. Finally, the process must enable local citizens to participate on equitable footing and make responsible decisions constructively. Indigenous control, in many ways, has been pointed out by Wilson. She further explains as the ability a) to ascertain how organizations envision their future about extractive industries and whether they want resource development to occur on their lands and b) to ensure appropriate decision-making powers and fair benefit sharing if products appear as stated (Wilson, 2019).

As Wilson explains, these demands are indicated in the ILO Conventions on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which suggest, among other things, it is the right of Indigenous peoples to decide their priorities and to exercise control over their development; yet, as the former UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, James Anaya, agrees, this particular indigenous right is rarely respected in practice (Wilson, 2019).

Strategies for Achieving Control through Free, Prior, and Informed Consent

As noted earlier, there are some debates on the right methods to address the lack of control in achieving fairness and equity: the former UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, James Anaya, identified a ‘preferred’ model, based on greater levels of indigenous control over the nature of the development and the sharing of the benefits, emphasizing, in particular, the indigenous right to determine priorities and strategies for the product or use of their lands and territories. Also, elsewhere, the ‘prevailing’ model of resource development has been termed by some as ‘extractivist’ which in turn means indigenous relations with the natural environment should be based more on the partnership, respect, and entitlement through ‘knowing’ rather than ‘owning’ the resources (Wilson, 2019).

Anaya’s ‘preferred’ model adds more voice and corresponds to Tysiachniouk and Petrov’s ‘shareholder’ model that envision greater indigenous control over decision-making, including strategic planning (Wilson, 2019). The notion of ‘indigenous control’ also extends to decision- making about whether a project goes ahead. However, in cases where Indigenous peoples do not own the mineral resources in question, this requires a process of FPIC before critical development decisions get formulated in these communities (Wilson, 2019). Therefore, for the standard of good practice in stakeholder participation, the FPIC must be established from discovery to completion over the project life cycle in line with obtaining the social license to operate for a transparent and timely procedural process.

The Impacts of Covid-19 on Benefit-Sharing Agreements Concerning the TBL 3 Ps Initiative

The Covid-19 global crisis is worrying and poses a threat to health care for all, including to Indigenous peoples worldwide. Indigenous populations are still facing inadequate access to hospitals, a substantially higher incidence of infectious and non-infectious diseases, lack of access to necessary facilities, hygiene, and other main prevention steps, such as drinking water, soap, and disinfectants. Vulnerable populations may suffer discrimination and stigma in accessing healthcare and may only be considered if programs and amenities are offered in indigenous languages. Meanwhile, Indigenous peoples’ cultural lifestyles are a pillar of their resilience as most indigenous groups frequently hold large traditional meetings to mark special occasions, which can pose a danger at this moment in preventing the spread of the virus.

As stated in (“COVID-19 and Indigenous Peoples | United Nations for Indigenous Peoples,” n.d.) the number of COVID-19 infections worldwide grows, with high mortality rates in some vulnerable communities with underlying health conditions. However, statistics on the prevalence of infection in indigenous populations are not yet available (even where ethnicity records and tests are available) or are not reported. It is also not available in indigenous languages for important information on infectious diseases and prevention steps. This means that aboriginal communities became incredibly fragile during the global pandemic since they face a high degree of socioeconomic neglect and are at excessive risk of public health crises. The Arctic indigenous communities are not left out of these devastating issues. In contrast, “A report from the Centers for Disease Control found that non-Hispanic American Indians and Alaska Natives (AIAN) account for 0.7 percent of the U.S. population, but 1.3 percent of COVID-19 cases”(“Vulnerable Communities,” 2020).

Meanwhile, industrial resource activities are ongoing in their territories. It means that the benefits provided by extractive industries are not meeting the need and desires of the local communities. Infrastructure such as adequate and modern health facilities is not available. Corporations must adhere to the benefit-sharing mechanism that can promote community development. On the other hand, the COVID-19 pandemic is also creating chaos in extractive economies worldwide because of decline in the selling price of oil. This is due to the decrease in demand and decrease in production and profitability caused by running physical distancing protocols, all of which has resulted in a substantial decrease in the share price of many large mining firms (Bernauer & Slowey, 2020).

As claimed by Bernauer & Slowey, 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic brought conflicts over the benefits and harmful effects of extraction activities in Canada. Three conflict issues include:

Community Health (People)
As a result of chemical pollution by extractive industries, physical and mental health conditions have been an issue for Indigenous peoples in the communities. Additionally, new diseases can be contracted from immigrant workers, local lifestyle changes, and disturbances in relationships with the community. Such migrants, however, are agents by whom the coronavirus could spread to remote communities.

However, the reaction from mining firms initially varied as the COVID-19 pandemic hit Canada. Although some companies responded by shutting down, some, such as in British Columbia, continue to operate. Criticism from some Indigenous elders and activists is that this is because the companies still operating value corporate revenues more than the people’s health and safety, condemning their decisions to keep operating during the pandemic as not thinking of the well-being of their workers and the community at large. Nevertheless, in Nunavut, the Baffin Land Iron Mines-operated Mary River iron mine drastically reduced activities and sent all Nunavut workers home with pay as a benefit to help deter the transmission of the disease to Inuit communities.

Environmental Protection
Environmental impact mitigation is the concern of Indigenous peoples regarding activities of extractive industries. More tension is likely to develop since the pandemic interrupts production and impact global commodity prices. For instance, the oil price is affecting the exploration of Russian Arctic oil compared to competitor producers. In the sense that demand for February – June of a particular form of oil supply was seen to have traded below zero at about $40 per barrel (/bbl_.28) in May (“Isolation and Resilience of Arctic Oil Exploration during COVID-19,” 2020). Besides, this is not a complete reflection of global demand. Meaning, the extreme conditions, and instability indicate the effect the pandemic is having on the oil markets. As a result, enterprises may call on the Indigenous people for environmental sacrifice to give them more space to adjust and return to profitability for the share of the benefit.

Economic Benefit (Profit)
The income generated by oil and gas industries would continue to bypass indigenous communities, including revenues, royalties, company contracts, and employee salaries. Benefit- sharing arrangements incorporated in new agreements and Indigenous Industrial Agreements are essential tools for capturing Indigenous peoples’ local economic benefits. In the post-Covid-19 world, the businesses may request not sharing benefits for the communities’ development. They will propose reducing rentals for resources and salaries for employees regarding the global economic recession and incentives. Indigenous groups have embraced extractive industries as an engine of community development and as a way of promoting self-determination goals. These economic developments are also impacting industry-indigenous relations (Bernauer & Slowey, 2020), resulting in many others getting trapped in their territories with extractive schemes that continued either with or without their consent. Therefore, to negotiate agreements that will support community development, Indigenous peoples must pursue consultation (Wanvik & Caine, 2017) regarding equity in distributing the benefits sharing to address the needs and desires of the people, the communities, and for future generations.

Conclusion and Recommendation

Benefit-sharing is a useful tool for community development and demands high indigenous participation throughout extractive industries negotiation. Fair benefit-sharing is a legal requirement and part of good governance and corporate social responsibility, which encourages sustainability in the environment if managed properly. Benefit-sharing arrangements enhance human well-being and preserve or compensate for ecosystem degradation. Meanwhile, the broadest benefit-sharing mode and mechanism in the Arctic may not ensure sustainable development in the communities (Petrov & Tysiachniouk, 2019).

Therefore, the absence of Indigenous peoples’ representation in policy decisions on creating the extractive sector in their territories, including decisions on the allocation of land for extractive industry operations and the awarding of exploration licenses, threatens the possibilities for fair development results. It is advised that there should be an informed decision to monitor the benefit-sharing scheme, and total community control of benefit-sharing and management must exist to eliminate any controversy. As a result, companies and the state must collaborate with indigenous and other impacted populations to develop local institutional capacity and human resources as part of benefit-sharing obligations. This will ensure that the policies that share benefits are transparent, sensitive, empowering, and lead in a just and equitable way to Arctic populations’ sustainable development. Thus, corporate social responsibility and Triple Bottom Line initiatives should be monitored and enforced in every Arctic state’s soft laws. Every mining and oil industry player operating in the Arctic must report companies’ financial, social, and environmental performance over time by protecting businesses amid future uncertainty.


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The Pandemic, the Arctic and Me: A Levels of Analysis Discussion of Arctic Security Focusing on the 2020 Global Pandemic

The Covid-19 pandemic hit the world during the winter 2020. Still on-going, it impacts everyone’s everyday life on a great scale. The present paper was written in the fall 2020. Therefore, it must be noted that some facts related to the pandemic at that time may have evolved. It aims to provide an international relations based analysis of the pandemic in the Arctic, using the author’s personal experience as a starting point of a broad and objective analysis in order to identify and discuss major stakes of the pandemic as well as the opportunities it provides. Hereinafter, the author will provide a subjective point of view in order to bridge the level of analysis and to embed herself into the very structure of world politics being studied. The individual will be considered, in the following argumentation, as a stakeholder as well as an analytical level of importance. This is particularly relevant in the Arctic where, due to small-scale populations, individual contributions to governance and historical influence are visible. For these reasons, the author will provide a strictly subjective point of view in the introduction.

Introduction – IR, the Arctic and Me… and Covid-19

I discovered the Arctic, as a topic of research, during my last year of undergraduate studies. My international law professor at that time had prepared a special issue on the topic of the legal status of the Arctic. This gave me passion for both international law and the Arctic. Since then, I have managed to focus, at every occasion I could, on Arctic (or Antarctic) related topics for my research, until I decided to expand my knowledge to the daily and cultural side of the Arctic by coming to Iceland. While the academic year 2019-2020, as a student of the Polar Law program of the University of Akureyri, was such an achievement, it was also greatly disrupted due to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic (hereinafter the Covid-19 pandemic).

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines a pandemic as “a worldwide spread of a new disease. An influenza pandemic occurs when a new influenza virus emerges and spreads around the world, and most people do not have immunity”.[1] Moreover, “viruses that have caused past pandemics typically originated from animal influenza viruses”.[2] The Covid-19 virus fulfils these observations: suspected at first to have emerged as a consequence of the consumption of pangolin meat[3] in China, the virus primarily spread across the city of Wuhan, contaminated China and rapidly spread all over the world. As I followed the news from my own country, I do not recall any major concern about the discovery of a new disease in China in November last year. It became so as the virus spread across the world a lot faster than adequate responses could be adopted, thus becoming an apparent threat.

I live (I purposely use the present tense here as the pandemic is still on-going) the Covid-19 pandemic as a student – abroad. Therefore, I notice an important gap between the news I follow from my home country and what I actually experience living in Iceland. While the virus was spreading during the winter, I followed how the crisis was, at first, probably underestimated. In fact, on January 24, the Minister of Health at that time, relying on recent monitoring of the activity of the virus, announced that, at this moment, the then epidemic had little chance to reach Europe, yet carefully acknowledging that the situation could certainly evolve. The virus reached the country shortly after, hurrying the response that was converted into the extreme measure of lockdown.[4]

Iceland was certainly less impacted by Covid-19 than other European countries,[5] at least during the ‘first wave’. Thus, measures taken by Iceland to avoid the spread the virus across the country were less restrictive than responses adopted elsewhere. Per se, while other countries had pronounced a general, Iceland had closed facilities that were not considered necessary (swimming pools, gyms, bars and restaurants, etc.), imposed a physical distancing and proceeded to isolate cases tested positive as well as potential contact cases. As a matter of fact, living with the pandemic in Iceland was certainly very much different than in my home country. Furthermore, Iceland was taken as an example for how efficient its responses to the crisis were. However, it should not be forgotten that an island of approximately 350,000 inhabitants would respond differently to the crisis than an inland country of several million inhabitants. Nonetheless, Covid-19 measures created a great wave of unemployment in Iceland just before the tourism season was supposed to start. Facing the cancellation of bookings for accommodations or tours, I have seen some of my friends losing their jobs. I myself had a hard time getting a job for the summer, being a foreigner in a situation of general unemployment.

As a student, I saw my friends leaving Iceland in a hurry after the university had closed and before their own countries would shut their borders. I saw them making the choice of leaving Iceland to take the chance to get home. Being a student during the peak of the pandemic was also facing the change of the school schedules: a course was cancelled due to the impossibility for the professor to come to Iceland; the format of several assignments was modified; there were difficulties accessing a work place and satisfying documentation as both the university and the public library were closed, etc. I also discovered online education, which I was not used to. In this regard, the university responded immediately by providing satisfying materials and adapting the academic schedules despite the complexity of the situation. Perhaps such an efficient response was allowed by Iceland’s experience in remote teaching, culture of innovation and performing infrastructure.

Using the levels of analysis, this paper will discuss the unfolding impacts of, and responses to, the global pandemic in the Arctic. The author’s personal experience of the pandemic will hereinafter be analysed according to international relations principles. For this purpose, the paper will focus on the Scandinavian region in its broad spectrum (Iceland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland). Parallels will be made with other regions of the Arctic when deemed necessary for the argumentation. Applying the levels of analysis to the Scandinavian region aims to demonstrate how responses to the pandemic were adopted, taking into account the needs of the populations and groups of population, including indigenous peoples, and how international cooperation has and/or could implement further responses to a crisis that is not over yet (I). The author’s experience as a student will also be used as an occasion to examine the role of new technologies and the impact of the “cyber-sphere” during the Covid-19 crisis. Perhaps such analysis would lead to a better understanding of the trends and challenges the Arctic, as a region and a place of enhancing cooperation, will face in the near future (II). Concluding remarks will underline the uncertainty of this near future, not only in the Arctic but in the entire World, due to the global impact of the pandemic.

I. The Covid-19 Pandemic: a Level of Analysis applied to Scandinavia

While keeping in mind David Singer’s remarks on the accuracy of the levels of analysis method in international relations[6] and, for the purpose of analysing the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on international relations in the Arctic, this method will be, hereinafter, applied to levels relevant to the Arctic; namely: the international level; the regional level; the national level; and the community level. The following comments will be organized according to the scope of institutionalism as Anne-Marie Slaughter defines it,[7] as such an approach corresponds to my own knowledge of international law. On the opposite, the view of realists, who “assume that all States possess some military capacity”,[8] does not suit the Arctic where interests have gone far beyond the unique game of hard powers.

1. The international level

At the international level, the main actor in the Covid-19 crisis is, without a doubt, the World Health Organization (WHO). As the international reference in terms of health matters, the WHO holds a major role in the international response to the crisis for several reasons.[9] Indeed, the WHO is at the heart of the action responding to the crisis caused by the pandemic, in conducting and organising the international response. It first organises and proceeds worldwide surveillance and monitoring of Covid-19 related matters. The WHO also published several sets of recommendations and guidelines for individuals, as well as for its members. For the purpose of the latter, the WHO has adopted a Covid-19 Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan[10] and created, for its implementation, a Covid-19 Solidarity Fund that has already collected more than 233 million dollars.[11] The WHO also ensures an equitable supply to its members’ health teams and participates to the training of health professionals. Furthermore, it shares Covid-19-related knowledge through its worldwide network of experts, and supports and sets priorities for scientific research, notably in order to develop a vaccine.[12]

However, the recent announcement of US President Trump’s intention to withdraw from WHO in the middle of the crisis is worrisome. Indeed, “the President had made his intention clear in late May, accusing the WHO of being under China’s control in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic”.[13] Therefore, the current tensions between the US and the People’s Republic of China could perhaps affect and interfere with WHO’s global effectiveness. The US being the main financial contributor to WHO,[14] such “funding shortfall would gut the WHO’s ability to respond to global emergencies – such as the current one – by reducing the resources for providing vaccines and tracing outbreaks”.[15] Even if the recent outcomes of the presidential election in the US may overturn the process of withdrawal, as “Joe Biden has pledged his support for the WHO”,[16] such threat certainly weakens the capacity of WHO to provide global and effective response to the current and future pandemics. Furthermore, the US being an Arctic State, this would also perhaps affect the Arctic.

2. The regional levels

Two actors are here particularly relevant concerning Scandinavia: Europe (i.e. the European Union and the European Economic Area (EEA)) and the Arctic Council. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), a specialized agency of the European Union, “is closely monitoring the outbreak and issuing regular epidemiological updates and risk assessment” of the Covid-19 pandemic in the EU/EEA, including the UK. The last Rapid Risk Assessment, published on August 10th, acknowledging that “the COVID-19 pandemic continues to pose a major public health threat to EU/EEA countries and the UK and to countries worldwide”[17] – especially since the relaxation or removal of several measures created a subsequent increase in Covid-19 cases[18] – suggests several options for response. As such, the ECDC advocates the elaboration of ‘strategic planning for different scenarios’; continuous and permanent ‘monitoring evaluation’; the elaboration of a ‘testing strategy’ based on, among other things, accessibility, efficiency and rapid contact tracing and quarantining; a rigorous ‘contact tracing’ so as to “promptly identify and manage contacts of Covid-19 cases in order to reduce the risk of them contributing to further onward transmission before they have been identified and quarantined”;[19] the promotion of ‘general measures’ such as hygiene measures, physical distancing and limiting gatherings, the use of face masks, teleworking, isolation and quarantine, protection of vulnerable populations, travel restriction, etc.; and the prevention through  continuous ‘risk communication’.

The Arctic Council is believed “well-positioned to play a leadership role in better understanding the impact of Covid-19 in the Arctic and spearheading activities to respond to the pandemic in the short-, medium- and longer-term”.[20] As “Covid-19 has reminded the world how vulnerable societies can be in the face of infectious diseases”[21] and given the rural nature and remoteness of communities in the Arctic, Sustainable Development Working Group (SDWG) overtook its responsibility in gathering the Senior Arctic Officials on May 7th for the purpose of establishing a plan for a response to the pandemic in the Arctic. Acknowledging that the pandemic “uniquely impacts the Arctic”[22] and “underscore[s] existing vulnerabilities”,[23] SDWG conducted an open and collaborative approach for the Arctic Council’s action, along with the Arctic Senior Officials, more than 50 experts, and 17 scholars.[24] Involving the input of all the Arctic States as well as the Permanent Participants, the report, produced in a very rapid time, focuses on the unique conditions and characteristics of the pandemic management in the Arctic, the direct and indirect impacts on Arctic communities, and identifies opportunities for action in the short-, medium- and longer term. As such, the report values international cooperation to support research and policy action; notices the necessity to ensure that Arctic people participate to fully respond to the needs of their communities (in this regard, the report also mentions the opportunity to take in account the value and the relevance of indigenous practices to respond to the pandemic);[25] gives a great importance to the impacts of fragile, substandard or absent physical or social infrastructures on the management of the pandemic in the Arctic; and promotes the information and data sharing, coordinated research and the involvement of locals and communities in these activities. The report generally insists on the importance of international cooperation as the pandemic is global and not specific to the Arctic. However, the report recalls the necessity to focus on characteristics specific to the Arctic in the response to the pandemic. As a matter of fact, the pandemic could be the opportunity for the Arctic Council to reaffirm its leadership in supporting the resilience of Arctic communities and of the Arctic environment in a broader sense. While failures in US public health policy, and some recent tensions in the Arctic Council over climate change, could create an Arctic Council-specific challenge associated with a pan-Arctic approach, the recent outcome of the US presidential elections allow to soften such concerns. Indeed, Joe Biden is likely to pursue efforts in continuity with the Obama administration, which was certainly committed into Arctic affairs.

3. The national level

As David Singer outlines, “as the nation-as-actor focus permits us to avoid the inaccurate homogenization which often flows from the systemic focus, it also may lead us into the opposite type of distortion – a marked exaggeration of the differences among our sub-systemic actors”.[26] In other words, an analysis comparing state actors’ behaviour could be biased. Therefore, this paragraph will solely mention how different Scandinavian countries responded to the crisis.

While Iceland did not proceed to a complete lockdown of the country, but instead imposed a rule of physical distancing and closed so-considered unnecessary facilities, Norway and Finland processed to a general lockdown of their territory. Sweden did not observe such strict rules. Statistics have shown Sweden’s strategy weaknesses while Norway, Denmark and Finland showed frustration and defiance towards their neighbour and did not open their borders to its citizens until recently. Iceland, congratulated by its management of the crisis abroad, fearing its economy, relying on tourism for its bigger part, would collapse, rapidly chose as a priority to attract tourists again (Icelandair advertisements, testing at the borders, no quarantine, etc.). As a result, Covid-19 made it back to Iceland and the complete and definitive opening of facilities, including schools, was continuously postponed. The current wave hits Iceland particularly hard, with an infection rate per capita among the highest of Europe.[27]

4. The community level

“Indigenous peoples of the Arctic have historically almost always been severely impacted by pandemics and have shown a higher mortality rate than communities further South”.[28] A recent survey of the Arctic Council collected testimonies of the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on several Arctic communities: Aleut, Athabaskan, Inuit, communities of the Russian Arctic, and Saami. In general, representatives of these communities recall the vulnerability of elder populations, already significantly affected by other diseases, the remoteness and the lack of infrastructures allowing testing and urgent health care, the importance of social gatherings for these communities and the subsequent isolation when these gatherings are either prohibited or impossible because of closed borders, and the local economic loss. For the Saami people, the impossibility to maintain their handcraft market and to hold festivals, conferences and seminars, has resulted in an important loss of income.[29] More specifically, according to a recent interview of Christina Henriksen, President of the Saami Council, “so, far, there have been few Covid-19 cases in the Saami area, except in Russia, and Norrbotten in Sweden. Thus, there is relatively little experience of the disease in Sápmi and we have yet to test the health service and infrastructure when put under pressure of an outbreak peak”.[30] Furthermore, even though the Saami people benefits, in theory, from an equal access to health services, the remoteness of some communities, the few infrastructures and medical equipment available, and the lack of Saami speaking health professionals, can weaken the response to the pandemic for the Saami people.[31]

As a more positive point, all indigenous representatives mention the satisfying effectiveness of the measures adopted and their participation in the elaboration of regional strategy through the Arctic Council, as well as the prevention allowed by better and faster communication. Concerning the Saami people, Christina Henriksen mentions that prevention campaigns and recommendations have been translated in several Saami languages and are available in national media, Saami media, as well as on the Saami Parliaments websites.[32] Moreover, indigenous representatives all greet the signs of resilience of their communities, especially in term of self-supply by traditional ways.[33] The reindeer husbandry in Northern Scandinavia was allowed to derogate to lockdown measures[34] and did not suffer from tourism this season.[35] As a matter of fact, national measures had both negative and positive impacts on the Saami people activities. Scandinavian countries, as land of the Saami people, adapted their measures to them, like the derogation to border controls demonstrates. In the same way, some initiatives use the Covid-19 pandemic as an opportunity to promote their culture, such as the International Sámi Film Institute that invited “Saami film makers to apply for a small grant to make short film about the Covid-19 situation”.[36]

II. The Covid-19 pandemic as an opportunity to enhance resilience in the Arctic

The report published after the Senior Arctic officials meeting insisted on the pandemic to be used as an “opportunity to explore, understand and support resilience of Arctic communities and of the Arctic environment”.[37] Two major remarks could be exposed in this regard: the successful use of new technologies as a way of maintaining communication and cooperation; and the major concerns about side-effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on Arctic populations, especially regarding mental health issues.

As a student, I directly experienced the use of cyber technologies during the first peak of the pandemic in the spring of 2020. The settlement of online teaching by the University was particularly efficient, as well as the quality of teaching materials. Such rapid and efficient response could come from the fact that Iceland has been using remote-teaching tools since a long time. The popularisation of online teaching before the pandemic surely contributed to speeding the transition and improving the outcome in the context of the pandemic. Indeed, professors were already using cyber tools in order to share their class with students abroad, such as in Greenland or in the Faroe Islands, or were recording their classes in order to provide the students a better availability and flexibility in their education. Therefore, the pandemic did not require from universities to settle new tools of teaching, they just had to generalize those they were already occasionally using. This positions Iceland as a leader in Arctic international education. Unfortunately, there is a great gap between Iceland and other countries in term of the use of these technologies. In my home country, the transition towards cyber teaching proved difficult, as the use of new technologies in education, especially online-teaching, is uncommon.

In the same way, some international events or conferences could be maintained through Zoom, such as the Arctic Science Summit Week 2020 that was scheduled to be held in Akureyri, Iceland, last winter, or the meeting of the Senior Arctic officials mentioned earlier. In this regard, Zoom and other online tools definitely keep Arctic cooperation on-going. Yet, this does not suit bigger events or cultural demonstrations, such as the Saami festivals or the Arctic Circle that has recently been cancelled. However, this shows great future opportunities for Arctic cooperation and Arctic culture sharing.

Another opportunity of understanding and enhancing Arctic resilience could be found in longer-term impacts of the Covid-19 crisis. As such, the impact of the pandemic on mental health issues, particularly affecting Arctic indigenous communities, constitutes a major concern for the Arctic Council. Per se, the Inuit Circumpolar Council recently recalled “suicide was a pandemic in the Arctic before covid-19 came along and after is dealt with, suicide prevention will remain a priority for ICC and other Arctic Indigenous peoples”.[38] In other words, “as the current pandemic evolves, the focus on the health effects of the coronavirus widens. While nations around the globe implement strict measures to flatten the curve of infections, concerns are rising that the virus and the measures taken to combat it, will cause long-term mental health issues”.[39] While this is not a concern particular to the Arctic since lockdown has already proved to have certain negative effects on some groups of people, especially of particular needs, mental health issues were already a great concern in the Arctic. These impacts are not to be neglected, as “the economic consequences of lost wages and rising debt, or social effects of being isolated from family, friends, and other important contacts”[40] could particularly affect Indigenous communities. They “may result in depression, anxiety and possibly enhanced suicidal risk in vulnerable populations”.[41] Therefore, according to SDWG, “in the months and years after the pandemic, a holistic approach to mental health and suicide prevention will be key”.[42] As an example of these dramatic effects, a survey conducted in Akureyri by Dr. Sveinbjarnardottir showed:

“‘We have now the first results and they are devastating.’ Of the students that had answered the survey, 85 per cent agreed and totally agreed that they were experiencing anxiety because of covid-19. More than 70 per cent were experiencing depression symptoms, and 87 per cent stated that they were experiencing more stress that was affecting their educational performance”.[43]

As a conclusion to her research, Dr. Sveinbjarnardottir urgently recommends “the local governments to invest funds into mental health after we flattened the curve”.[44] Yet, there are certainly many ways to invest in mental health: as an interesting example, the increased embrace of online collaboration, such as Zoom meetings, could contribute to greater connectedness and improved mental health.


The level-of-analysis applied in this essay demonstrated how the Covid-19 pandemic impacted and continues to impact Arctic inhabitants. Whilst the Arctic shares global concerns with the rest of the World, some trends and challenges remain proper to the region. Per se, Indigenous peoples specificities, the remoteness of the region, the other health issues that are already to tackle in the region, its models of economy, but also the capacity it shows to respond to the crisis with an efficient regional cooperation as well as the involvement of Arctic communities and their own knowledge and practices, the resilience it shows, etc. All these elements surely participate to (re) affirm the “Arctic exceptionalism”. Accessibility, functioning of facilities, especially health structures, education and culture sharing, require the need of a permanent and continuous cooperation involving all Arctic actors to face the uncertainty of the near future.


[1] ‘WHO | What Is a Pandemic?’ (WHO) <http://www.who.int/csr/disease/swineflu/frequently_asked_questions/pandemic/en/> accessed 2 August 2020.

[2] Ibid.

[3] This allegation is currently being questioned. See David Quammen, ‘Did Pangolin Trafficking Cause the Coronavirus Pandemic?’ (The New Yorker) <https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/08/31/did-pangolins-start-the-coronavirus-pandemic> accessed 27 October 2020.

[4] ‘Coronavirus : Agnès Buzyn a-t-elle sous-estimé le risque de propagation en France ?’ (Franceinfo, 9 March 2020) <https://www.francetvinfo.fr/replay-radio/le-vrai-du-faux/coronavirus-agnes-buzyn-a-t-elle-sous-estime-le-risque-de-propagation-en-france_3851495.html> accessed 27 October 2020.

[5] France has registered 141 919 confirmed cases and rate of 41,1 deaths per 100 000 inhabitants, while Iceland has registered 1802 confirmed cases for a rate of 2,83 deaths per 100 000 inhabitants. ‘Coronavirus Nombre de Cas Pour l’Europe | En Direct’ (Coronavirus Statistiques) <https://www.coronavirus-statistiques.com/stats-continent/coronavirus-nombre-de-cas-europe/> accessed 17 August 2020.

[6] J. David Singer, ‘The Level-of-Analysis Problem in International Relations’ (1961) 14 World Politics 77.

[7] Slaughter Anne-Marie and Hale Thomas, ‘International Relations, Principal Theories’ in Slaughter Anne-Marie and Hale Thomas, Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law (Oxford University Press 2013) paras 8–13.

[8] Ibid 4.

[9] ‘Cinq raisons qui expliquent le rôle essentiel de l’OMS pour lutter contre le Covid-19’ (ONU Info, 9 April 2020) <https://news.un.org/fr/story/2020/04/1066332> accessed 2 August 2020.

[10] ‘Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan for the Novel Coronavirus’ (WHO) <https://www.who.int/publications-detail-redirect/strategic-preparedness-and-response-plan-for-the-new-coronavirus> accessed 17 August 2020.

[11] ‘Fonds de réponse solidaire à la COVID-19 pour l’OMS’ <https://covid19responsefund.org/fr/> accessed 17 August 2020.

[12] ‘Cinq raisons qui expliquent le rôle essentiel de l’OMS pour lutter contre le Covid-19’ (n 9).

[13] ‘Coronavirus: Trump Moves to Pull US out of World Health Organization’ BBC News (7 July 2020) <https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-53327906> accessed 12 October 2020.

[14] ‘The United States of American and the World Health Organization: Partners in Global Health’ (WHO) <https://www.who.int/about/funding/contributors/usa> accessed 27 October 2020.

[15] ‘Here’s What We’ll Lose If the U.S. Cuts Ties with the WHO’ (National Geographic) <https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/2020/07/what-we-will-lose-if-united-states-cuts-ties-with-world-health-organization/> accessed 27 October 2020.

[16] Ibid.

[17] European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, ‘Rapid Risk Assessment – Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the EU/EEA and the UK – Eleventh Update’ (2019) 1.

[18] ‘COVID-19 Pandemic’ (European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control) <https://www.ecdc.europa.eu/en/covid-19-pandemic> accessed 14 August 2020.

[19] European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (n 17) 16.

[20] ‘Covid-19 in the Arctic: A Briefing Document for Senior Arctic Officials’ (Arctic Council) <https://arctic-council.org/en/news/covid-19-in-the-arctic-a-briefing-document-for-senior-arctic-officials/> accessed 17 August 2020.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Arctic Council, ‘Covid-19 in the Arctic’ (16 July 2020) <https://vimeo.com/438905383> accessed 17 August 2020.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Ibid.

[25] ‘The Impact of Covid-19 on Indigenous Peoples in the Arctic’ (Arctic Council) <https://arctic-council.org/en/news/the-impact-of-covid-19-on-indigenous-peoples-in-the-arctic/> accessed 17 August 2020.

[26] Singer (n 6) 83.

[27] ‘20201012-Weekly-Epi-Update-9.Pdf’ <https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/situation-reports/20201012-weekly-epi-update-9.pdf> accessed 12 November 2020.

[28] ‘The Impact of Covid-19 on Indigenous Peoples in the Arctic’ (n 25).

[29] ‘The Impact of Covid-19 on Saami Communities’ (Arctic Council) <https://arctic-council.org/en/news/the-impact-of-covid-19-on-saami-communities/> accessed 14 August 2020.

[30] Ibid.

[31] Ibid.

[32] Ibid.

[33] ‘The Impact of Covid-19 on Indigenous Peoples in the Arctic’ (n 25).

[34] ‘The Impact of Covid-19 on Saami Communities’ (n 29).

[35] Ibid.

[36] Ibid.

[37] Arctic Council (n 22).

[38] ‘The Coronavirus in the Arctic: Spotlight on Mental Health’ (Arctic Council) <https://arctic-council.org/en/news/the-coronavirus-in-the-arctic-spotlight-on-mental-health/> accessed 2 August 2020.

[39] Ibid.

[40] Ibid.

[41] Ibid.

[42] Ibid.

[43] Ibid.

[44] Ibid.

Schrödinger’s American: A Self-Reflection of One Person’s Role in Iceland’s Nordic and Arctic Discourse

It is fair for one to ask, what does that quotation have to do with International Relations (IR) theory? For me, the quotation represents a push factor that has placed me into a metaphorical crossroads. By looking at this crossroads through an IR lens, I find myself in many long-standing and contemporary IR debates:  realism versus institutionalism, rationalism versus social constructivism, and the levels of analyses in which to apply these modes of thought. I will look at myself at three levels. The first layer will be the State in which I current reside (Iceland), which being a “small state,”[1] tends to be more institutionalist than the greater powers. Next, I will look at my role in academia both as a student and a research fellow working at the Stefánsson Arctic Institute, which is one institution in the “mosaic of cooperative arrangements emerging in the Arctic.”[2] Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I will analyze myself as an American abroad. Using the concept of “ontological security”[3] and Foucault’s definition of the individual, I will show that I am what I will coin “Schrödinger’s American.” My father may call himself one as well, yet living abroad (and questioning if I’ll return), I believe personally amplifies the moniker.  Section II will briefly define Schrödinger’s American and expound upon the words of my father to give context on how I define myself as an individual in this contribution. Section III will provide the definition of the layers of analysis chosen in order to dissect Schrödinger’s American, which will be divided into three subsections with each subsection analyzing the school of IR thought applicable to that layer within the Arctic.

Schrödinger’s American:  A Definition of the Self

Schrödinger’s American is what I define as the state of being American, in the realist sense of acting for individual benefit as an American subject, while at the same time actively participating in institutional arrangements in other sovereign States yet still begrudgingly being a part of the American cultural hegemon. My father’s words have stuck with me since our last email exchange; exchanges that have gone on for pages and years, ranging from topics as inane as college football to as serious as my career choices and his personal health. Yet despite the distance or time apart, there has always been a sense of levity, a knowing undertone of humor or even self-deprecation, when it comes to politics and the current affairs in the United States. COVID-19, and the United States’ response to it, has changed his tone. As a nephrologist who works at three different clinics and prisons in southwest Georgia, he puts himself at risk every day given his age (68) and health (diabetic). In a state that President Donald Trump criticized for opening too early,[4] my father has become disillusioned. He believes he is seeing the worst that the media, in its quest for viewership, and the populace of my town, by equating the inconvenience of social distancing measures with the current and historical oppression suffered by racial minorities, has to offer. I share his view and concern; I no longer feel the call of home as I once did.

My time in Iceland is too ephemeral to be called an expat, and my feeling towards home not callous enough to call myself a political exile. I exist somewhere in the interstitial fluid of being an American who cannot go home due to COVID-related and educational reasons yet may have to go home for personal and financial ones in the near future as I am an only child, regardless of whether I want to or not. Then I remember my father’s words actively telling me to stay away, and the loop of emotions (wanting to go home to make a difference and the guilt of not being there back to the happiness of being able to extract myself from all the vitriol and enjoy my sanctuary) begins all over again. I am at once American and not American; a player for which no IR theory can predict his actions.  Despite that gap in IR theory for the individual, I will attempt to do so in the following sections by breaking myself down layer by layer.

The Layers of Analysis

The levels of analysis question has been a constant debate throughout the development of IR thought and theory. David Singer “examine[d] the theoretical implications and consequences of two of the more widely employed levels of analysis:  the international system and the national sub-systems.”[5] His focus on the two levels has been further critiqued by scholars as new modes of thought were explored. From Waltz, “who stands squarely in the Realist tradition,”[6] gives us “three distinct categories or layers of analysis:  this individual, the state, and the international system.”[7] There are scholars who argue for even more layers of analysis. For example, Barry Zellen argues for the creation of a new taxonomy:

In today’s world, we have persistent, organic state-level entities (POSLEs) as well as ephemeral, and synthetic state-level entities (ESSLEs), some which are nation-states but others which are multi-ethnic states, the former widely perceived to be more enduring over time than the latter. We also have tribes, sects, and clans, some that reside within states, some between and across state boundaries (thereby creating fault lines for future inter- and intra-state conflicts), and those which have survived into the contemporary era are the POSSEs, so-named for their endurance. And now, with the proliferation ofnetworks and digital communications systems, we have neo-tribal entities which could, in time, evolveinto persistent and organic units of world politics, much like more traditional clans, sects and tribes. Indeed, organized crime networks and other illicit trade networks show many parallels with POSSEs, and could in time join their ranks.[8]

This new taxonomy redefines the traditional layers of analysis as used by Singer and Waltz in order to encompass layers not considered by them, such as tribes that are interwoven into the fabric of the United States and Canada and with whom they have a complicated history and various current levels of co-management schemes.

My choice of three layers is a hybrid of both the Waltzian and Zellen perspective. I choose to redefine the concept of the individual from Waltz, yet add it into the taxonomy of Zellen. Waltz’ definition of the individual is problematic given that his three layers are viewed through the “notion [as] the causes of war”[9] rather than curators of a Kantian peace.[10] I place this altered definition, one who is attempting to curate the Kantian peace, of the individual into “the Ethereal dimension [of Zellen] . . . [as] [i]t is one that exists in the mind and heart, such as the world’s religions.”[11]  While my perspective on the self is not religious in nature, it is more attached to the Foucault vision of the self and can be considered as to what exists currently in my heart and mind. Furthermore, the addition of my current role in academia shifts towards the mode of thought of Oran Young as an institutionalist rather than that of the realist Waltz when looking at the international system layer.

Layer One:  The State of Iceland

Iceland plays a unique role within the theory of international relations. It has found itself in a geographically advantageous region, an Arctic state between Europe and North America, yet does not have aspects of normal Westphalian state, such as a standing army. As “[a] small state with limited resources, [Iceland] cannot afford to just observe such first-order threats . . . Like any modern polity, it needs to be aware of all the different aspects of security – military, political, economic or functional – that are crucial for its survival. Since it can rarely find the answers on its own, and its limited internal market also makes its prosperity highly dependent on outside relations, it needs a conscious national strategy to find the external support (or ‘shelter’) and the openings required at the most reasonable price.”[12] Iceland acts both in an institutional capacity in some regards but cannot be denied that it has acted under the realist school of thought when it comes to certain issues, such as fisheries and maritime boundaries.[13]

For hard security issues, Iceland has been reliant on the United States and NATO strategic cover,[14] making it more reliant on institutions, yet with the current Icelandic government not wishing to have the United States back on its sovereign soil,[15] Iceland has rejected being a NATO “vassal” and sees itself as a thought leader for bridging East-West dialogue, especially with its Chairmanship of the Arctic Council from 2019-2021 with it’s motto “Together towards a sustainable Arctic.”[16] By being Euro-sceptic, yet still being in the EEA and Schengen Zone, Iceland has walked the tight rope of being a Western ally, yet not committing fully enough to bother other regional and world powers such as the Russian Federation and China. The former is an important trade partner while the latter has been a large investor in new shipping infrastructure projects. For example, Iceland “advocates cooperation with BRICs and other Asian powers for diversifying Iceland’s trade relations, investment sources and economic base. Iceland has not only supported several nations’ wishes to become AC observers, but was one of the first OECD states to conclude a Free Trade Agreement with China, and recently gave one seabed exploration licence to a part Chinese consortium.”[17]

In further support of its institutionalist approach, “Iceland also participates with Norway, Russia and all EU members in the EU’s ‘Northern Dimension’ program, which offers funding for joint development projects and addresses the High North through the ‘Arctic window’ scheme.[18] As a founder-member of the Barents Euro-Arctic Council, Iceland supports that organization’s efforts to stabilize relations and promote development across the land borders of Russia, Norway, Sweden and Finland. Significantly more active, however, is Iceland’s diplomacy within the Nordic Cooperation framework, comprising the Parliamentary Nordic Council and Nordic Council of Ministers (NCM), and its West Nordic sub-group.”[19]

Iceland is not only a pivot point for realism versus institutionalism, the creation of small state studies has led to a new discourse of which Iceland is a prominent member:

The changes in IR theory that came with the end of the ‘bipolar freeze’ (and, in some cases, the rise of nationalism) – in particular social constructivism with its focus on international norms, identity and ideas – may have eased the opening of the field of small state studies again in the 1990s. If not only relative power and/or international institutions matter, but also ideational factors, small states may gain new rooms of maneuver in their foreign policy. They may, for instance, be able to play the role of norm entrepreneurs influencing world politics they may not only engage in bargaining with the other (greater) powers, but also argue with them, pursue framing and discursive politics, and socially construct new, more favorable identities in their relationships.[20]

A summary of Iceland’s IR debates as a small state is covered in Table 1 below:[21]

My opinion is that Iceland falls under the social constructivist view even though it is more of a meta-theory than a theory in and of itself. Social constructivists “view cooperation as a result of social interaction and collective identity formation, not inter-state or intergovernmental bargaining. They do not accept the idea that the interests of states are fixed and independent of social structures. It is this basic assumption that makes room for the introduction of other mechanisms for understanding international cooperation.”[22] This can be seen in the changing concept of Iceland to the European Union; in 2013, the government in power wanted to join yet the current administration is Euro-sceptic.[23] Rather than the bargaining of governments, Iceland chooses not to enter into intergovernmental bargaining and has begun taking actions based on social structures. An example of acting through identity is its move to “Nordicness.” At present, “Iceland’s foreign policy is, to a greater extent, constructed by the Nordic environment, with its shared culture and institutions, than during the Cold War. Nordicness has never been more important to Iceland’s foreign policy in terms of increased security and defence cooperation between the Nordic states.”[24] This is due to “the end of the Cold War, the departure of the US military from Iceland, and the US government’s refusal to provide Iceland with a rescue package during the 2008 economic crash have transformed the impact of the Nordic environment on Iceland’s foreign policy. Accordingly, the culturally dense Nordic environment is having more impact on Iceland’s foreign policy and Iceland is moving higher on the continuum the degree of construction of the units by the environment in the security cultures model.”[25] By progressing towards a collective identity of Nordicness, we see Iceland slowly moving away from rationalist thought and the European Union towards other Scandinavian countries that balance foreign relations between both East and West, such as Norway and Finland.

Layer Two: My Role in Academia

The layers of analysis are not mutually exclusive of one another but rather may contradict or complement one another in an attempt to be complicit with or rebel against the actions of a larger entity. We see the complementary aspect of my work at the Stefánsson Arctic Institute and my role at the University of Akureyri contribute to the institutionalist route that Iceland seems to prefer. For example, my office borders the offices of the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna, one of the six working groups of the Arctic Council, the premier multilateral forum for Arctic discourse, and one in which Iceland views itself as a current thought leader given its possession of the Chairmanship.

Education has been a key institution through which Iceland has enhanced its Arctic viewpoint. “When identifying key actors within Iceland’s Arctic initiatives one cannot exclude academia. Iceland has had a strong presence in the EU’s and other international organisations’ scientific and educational networks. Akureyri University . . . runs an International Polar Law LLM and MA programmes, and regularly hosts international Arctic conferences.”[26] Part of my work at the Stefánsson Arctic Institute will be in its JustNorth program, which is based off an IR perspective of Mark Nuttall. Part of the program states “there has been a marked policy move towards promoting mining as a major industry, including with the Greenlandic parliament voting to repeal Greenland’s zero-tolerance policy on uranium mining. While resource development in Greenland represents a potential key source of income, the process of resource exploitation also raises the question of how to ensure that gains from resource development accrue to the people of Greenland.”[27] This research was inspired by Mark Nuttall and his own exploration of a realist versus institutionalist Greenland given the rising mining sector.[28] Thus through an Icelandic institution, I’ll be furthering the independence dialogue of a West Nordic sub-national entity of the Kingdom of Denmark. I’ll be continuing this Icelandic institution pursuit by teaching in the University of Iceland’s Arctic Studies’ Graduate Diploma program as a PhD Candidate in Political Science.

This institutionalist approach to realize goals that are generally thought of in the school of realism stands in for the complexities of Arctic governance “where social institutions rest on ideas, even when they have been around so long that it is difficult to ascertain the origins of the relevant ideas and trace the pathways through which they became influential. To my way of thinking, a research program that can profit from the insights of alternative schools of thought rather than becoming enmeshed in the sectarian battles among them has much to recommend it.”[29] The Stefánsson Institute is that type of body. Detached from sectarian, ideological disputes, it goes about its work unintentionally reinforcing Iceland’s institutionalist framework but with realist end goals of a possible independent Greenland, yet at the same time contributing to certain constructivist arguments by exploring what individuals want within Greenland and thus identifying social norms.

Layer Three:  The Individual

This layer has been somewhat defined in Section II of the contribution, yet needs meat added to the bone so to speak. As stated above I place myself in the ethereal dimension as laid out in Zellen where we look at what is in the heart and mind of subjects, yet those ideas seem to be conflicting with my current identity as American citizen. Zellen does not explicitly analyze the individual as Waltz does, yet placing the concept of the individual or subject into Zellen’s taxonomy makes logical sense. For Foucault, “subject is an entity which is capable of choosing how to act within the constraints of the given historical and cultural context. Foucault makes the distinction between the subject and the individual. The individual is transformed into the subject and the transformations take place as a result of outside events and actions undertaken by the individual; different forms of power relations makes individuals subjects. Foucault himself proposes in his essay The Subject and Power (1982) two meanings of the word ‘subject:’ subject to someone else by control and dependence; and tied to his own identity by a conscience or self-knowledge. Both meanings suggest a form of power which subjugates and makes subject to.”[30]

Through my actions as an individual, I have been transformed into the two various definitions of the subject as defined by Foucault. First, I am a subject of Iceland based on my dependence of financial support and residence here and control by being subject to their laws, yet I am an American subject based on my own self-knowledge. These two seem reconcilable until we look at the “form of power.” The form of power for me being an Icelandic subject is the willingness to follow the laws and choosing to be here despite COVID-related issues; however, my being an American subject stems from the cultural hegemony of America and the lasting impact it has created. In a sense this goes back to the German realist Morgenthau in which there is a “constant struggle for power”[31] and “that there was no harmony of interest among nations, that national objectives would be governed, as they always had been, by the dictates of self-interest.”[32] America continues to have a form of power, one of culture, rather than what Morgenthau sees as hard power, over its subject. This cultural hegemony is hard to overcome and has become a label, or even a stigma, in many arenas. Iceland does not have this same cultural power; thus, my two concepts subject under Foucault, one willing and unwilling, are imbalanced powers with the unwilling power dynamic being stronger. This instills what I call the Schrödinger’s American; in one sense I am and will always be American even if I actively involve myself in institutions that may not work for the benefit of America.

Is there a solution for this dilemma? I take comfort in the fact that my father finds that American exceptionalism is dead, yet that has become a matter of politics, which is outside the scope of this paper. I do also take comfort that I may be caught up in Iceland’s nascent search for “ontological security.” Under this rubric “states also engage in ontological security-seeking. Like the state’s need for physical security, the need for ontological security is extrapolated from the individual level. Ontological security refers to the need to experience oneself as a whole, continuous person in time — as being rather than constantly changing — in order to realize a sense of agency.”[33] While I only may be one individual, I found Iceland in a time of national ascent both from an extant, international point of view as the Arctic has become ascendant in geopolitics by other countries and at the latent, national level, given that Iceland is actively promoting its role within that space through domestic strategies and the Chairmanship of the Arctic Council. “Importantly, for theorists of ontological security individual identity is formed and sustained through relationships. Actors therefore achieve ontological security especially by routinizing their relations with significant others. Then, since continued agency requires the cognitive certainty these routines provide, actors get attached to these social relationships.”[34] My time in Iceland has not been long enough and have not developed the certainty of routines, although I do have them. By continuing these routines, I will achieve deeper social relationships and thus provide ontological security not only to myself in the form of human security/development but provide it to the State as well. In conclusion, it is hopefully only a matter of time before the crisis resolves itself.


In this piece I have analyzed myself within on three different layers:  the state, my work that contributes to the international system as well as the state, and the individual. At the state level, I find Iceland to be institutionalist rather than in the school of realism. Furthermore, Iceland, as a small state, has taken up the ideas of social constructivism by embracing its cultural identity of Nordicness in recent years after the United States withdrew from the base in Keflavik and did not provide financial support in 2008 during the financial crisis. In the second layer, I find myself contributing to institutionalist regimes, or as what Oran Young would call Regime Theory, yet going through these institutions may contribute to goals that some would define as realist; however, it is true that these schools are not mutually exclusive and may be used to complement one another. Finally, at the individual level, I find myself at an existential crossroads; torn between the power dynamics of an American hegemon and a small state with more limited capabilities which has made me subjects of two different state polities.

While this crisis is defined philosophically via Foucault, my crisis can be seen through the lens of international relations given that I am attempting to place myself within the ontological security paradigm of a state that is relatively new to the international scene. It is the powerful hegemon of the United States that continues to control my conscience and self-knowledge, yet my routines and social relationships will continue to develop in Iceland. As those social connections become more secure, my own ontological and human security will follow (both to myself and to the State), and I may be able to resolve my inner turmoil. I am a student of the Arctic, and I wish to continue to live in the Arctic. In doing so, I will have to overcome biases of culture that have been imprinted. It is a tough path to follow, but one I am excited to walk along.


[2] See generally Knudsen, Olav Fagelund, “Small States, Latent and Extant:  Towards a General Perspective,” Semantic Scholar, (2002), available at https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/%3E-Small-States-%2C-Latent-and-Extant-%3A-Towards-a-Knudsen/a2852b2275ecb4b4bf9bcd2befb29f47f390f9b3 (Last accessed May 22, 2020).

[2] Young, Oran, “Governing the Arctic:  From Cold War Theater to Mosaic of Cooperation,” Global Governance, Vol. 11, at pg. 9 (2005).

[3] See generally, Steele, Brent J., Ontological Security in International Relations:  Self-identity and the IR State, (Routledge:  New York and London) (2005).

[4] See Zeleny, Jeff, “Trump’s Angry Words to Georgia Governor Reverberate in State Capitals as Governors Move to Reopen States,” CNN Politics, (Apr. 27, 2020), available at https://edition.cnn.com/2020/04/27/politics/trump-kemp-georgia-governors-reopen/index.html (Last accessed May 22, 2020).

[5] Singer, David J., “The Level-of-Analysis Problem in International Relations,” World Politics, Vol. 14, No. 1, at pg. 78 (Oct. 1961).

[6] Mearshimer, John J., “A Tribute to Kenneth Waltz,” Zu Diesem Buch, at pg. 11 (no date given).

[7] Id.

[8] Zellen, Barry, “Tribe, State, and War Balancing the Subcomponents of World Order,” Culture and Conflict Review, Vol. 3, No. 3, at pg. 2 (Fall 2009).

[9] Mearshimer, John J., note 7 supra, at id.

[10] See generally, Oneal, John R., & Russett, Bruce, “The Kantian Peace:  The Pacific Benefits of Democracy, Interdependence, and International Organizations, 1885-1992,” World Politics, Vol. 52, No. 1, pp. 1-37, (Oct. 1999), available at https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/world-politics/article/kantian-peace-the-pacific-benefits-of-democracy-interdependence-and-international-organizations-18851992/0BBD01FABBCAC18888792829960BEDD6 (Last accessed May 24, 2020).

[11] Zellen, note 9 supra, at id.

[12] Bailes, Alyson, et al., “Iceland:  Small but Central,” in Perceptions and Strategies of Arcticness in sub-Arctic Europe, at pg. 77, (Eds. Andris Sprüds and Toms Rostoks) (Latvian Institute of International Affairs:  Latvia), (Jan. 2013), available at https://www.kas.de/c/document_library/get_file?uuid=e861e1f4-bc1f-0c38-efdd-be81f6aeda16&groupId=252038 (Last accessed May 24, 2020).

[13] See generally, Fisheries Jurisdiction (United Kingdom v. Iceland), Merits, Judgment, I.C.J. Reports 1974, p. 3., available at https://www.icj-cij.org/files/case-related/55/055-19740725-JUD-01-00-EN.pdf (Last accessed May 24, 2020).

[14] See id. at pg. 78.

[15] See Óskarsson, Ómar, “Left-Greens Reject NATO Project in Helguvík Harbor,” Iceland Monitor, (May 14, 2020), available at https://icelandmonitor.mbl.is/news/politics_and_society/2020/05/14/left_greens_reject_nato_project_in_helguvik_harbor/ (Last accessed May 24, 2020).

[16] The Arctic Council, “Icelandic Chairmanship,” The Arctic Council, available at https://arctic-council.org/en/about/chairmanship/ (Last accessed May 24, 2020) (emphasis added).

[17] Bailes, note 13 supra, at pg. 85.

[18] The term “Arctic window” is a term of art used within the EU Horizon scheme, and its definition and practicality are outside the scope of this paper.

[19] Id. at pg. 84.

[20] Neumann, Iver B., & Gstöhl, Sieglinde, “Lilliputians in Gulliver’s World?  Small States in International Relations,” Centre for Small State Studies, (Working Paper 1-2004), at pg. 12, (May 2004), available at http://ams.hi.is/wp-content/uploads/old/Lilliputians%20Endanlegt%202004.pdf (Last accessed May 24, 2020).

[21] See id. at pg. 13.

[22] Rieker, Pernille, “EU Security Policy:  Contrasting Rationalism and Social Constructivism,” Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, at pg. 6 (2004), available at https://nupi.brage.unit.no/nupi-xmlui/bitstream/handle/11250/2394641/WP_nr659_04_Rieker.pdf?sequence=3 (Last accessed May 24, 2020).

[23] See Bailes, note 13 supra, at pp. 80-81.

[24] Thorhallsson, Baldur, “Nordicness as a Shelter:  The Case of Iceland,” Global Affairs, at pg. 11 (Sept. 24, 2018), available at https://doi.org/10.1080/23340460.2018.1522507 (Last accessed May 24, 2020).

[25] Id.

[26] Bailes, note 13 supra, at pg. 86.

[27] Personal communication with Joan Nymand Larsen, “Description of JustNorth Project,” electronic mail (Jan. 31, 2020) (on file with author) (citing Nuttall note 29 infra).

[28] See Nuttall, Mark, “Zero-Tolerance, Uranium and Greenland’s Mining Future,” Polar Journal, Vol. 3, pp. 368-83 (2013).

[29] Young, Oran, “Regime Theory Thirty Years On:  Taking Stock, Moving Forward, International Organization, at pg. 4 (Sept. 18, 2012).

[30] Campbell-Thomson, Olga, “Foucault, Technologies of the Self and National Identity,” Working Paper presented at the British Educational research Association Annual Conference, at pg. 3, (London, United Kingdom) (Sept. 6-8 2011), available at http://www.leeds.ac.uk/educol/documents/204173.pdf (Last accessed May 24, 2020).

[31] Rosecrance, Richard, “The One World of Hans Morgenthau,” Social Research, Vol. 48, No. 4, at pg. 750 (Winter 1981).

[32] Id. at pg. 751.

[33] Mitzen, Jennifer, “Ontological Security in World Politics:  State Identity and the Security Dilemma,” European Journal of International Relations, Vol. 12, No. 3, at pg. 342 (2006), available at https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/1354066106067346 (Last accessed May 24, 2020).

[34] Id.

L.P. Hildebrand, L.W. Brigham, and T.M. Johansson (eds.), Sustainable Shipping in a Changing Arctic (WMU Studies in Maritime Affairs, 7) (Cham: Springer, 2018)

Sustainable shipping in a Changing Arctic is the 7th book in the series of World Maritime University (WMU) Studies in Maritime Affairs. WMU is a post-graduate maritime university funded in 1983 by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) the United Nations specialized agency with responsibility for the safety and security of shipping and the prevention of marine and atmospheric pollution by ship[1]. Previous books in the series address a diverse variety of shipping and maritime issues, including Piracy at Sea (2013), Maritime Women: Global Leadership (2015), and Shipping Operation Management (2017). The 7th book focuses in particular on the Arctic region and builds on the international conference Safe and Sustainable Shipping in a Changing Arctic Environment (ShipArc2015) held in Malmö (Sweden) in August 2015, convened by WMU, IMO, and the Arctic Council’s Working Group on the Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment (PAME).

 Sustainable shipping in a Changing Arctic brings together multiple perspectives – in a classical as pragmatic structure presenting key current issues, future challenges and next steps – to address matters concerning the development of a sustainable shipping industry in a changing Arctic environment. The Arctic environment is indeed changing, as highlighted throughout the book, in the sense that it is warming twice as fast as the rest of the World due to the effects of climate change. Its most tangible effects are seen on its sea-ice, including multiyear sea-ice, which is undergoing severe transformations regarding its extent, as vast areas once covered by sea-ice are now ice-free especially during warmer months, regarding its thickness, as sea-ice that still endures is often thinner and more easily breakable, and regarding its character, as first-year ice is now found in areas once covered by multiyear sea-ice. In addition, over the last two decades, scientists have recorded earlier break-up and later freeze-up, a trend that worsens every year, implying longer ice-free seasons in vast areas of region. Less, thinner, predominantly first-year ice and longer ice-free seasons also means that access to areas of the Arctic, hitherto inaccessible, become feasible and for prolonged periods, therefore increasing accessibility to technically recoverable natural resources, opening up maritime sea routes, and unveiling new opportunities for commercial sea-transportation. Understandably, interests in the development of such economic opportunities by Arctic and non-Arctic stakeholders is accelerating, and the pressure on the environment due to an expanding marine use is only expected to further increase.

This scenario calls, as the short but to the point blurb of the book anticipates, for the adoption of a forward-looking agenda that respects the fragile and changing Arctic frontier. As a matter of facts, and in the words of Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry,  WMU President  in the foreword, [t]he book series also serves as a platform for promoting and advancing the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the marine-related Sustainable Development Goals, particularly goal 14 on oceans as well as the interconnected Goals 4 (quality education), 5 (gender equality),  (affordable and clean energy), 9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure), 13 (climate action), and 1 (partnership)[2].

If you are in the academia dealing with Arctic maritime issues or in the maritime business sector with an eye on the Arctic region, this collection of 23 articles has been compiled especially for you (or so it is announced by the President in her foreword). The aim at becoming a one-stop read, or a comprehensive vademecum of essays and information on Arctic environmental protection and sustainable maritime business development is further underlined by the choice of enclosing in the Conclusions (part 7) full texts of Arctic and shipping relevant agreements and declarations, including the Ilulissat Declaration (2008) and the Agreement on enhancing International Arctic Scientific Cooperation (2017). Interestingly, this section also includes the Declaration concerning the Prevention of unregulated High Seas Fishing in the Central Arctic Ocean and the Chairman’s Statement on the Meeting on High Seas Fisheries in the Central Arctic Ocean (Reykjavík, Iceland, 15-18 March 2017), both document serving as most up-to date information anticipating the imminent end of the negotiations of the legally binding Agreement to Prevent Unregulated High Seas Fisheries in the Central Arctic Ocean, in fact signed in Ilulissat, Greenland, on October 3rd, on the same year of the publication of the book, i.e. 2018. Therefore, if you were eager to read a thorough analysis on prevention of commercial fishing in the high seas of the central Arctic Ocean, I am afraid you may need to wait for a possible updated of the book (or a new issue) or look somewhere else for the moment being.

The multiple perspectives anticipated in the introduction are presented in form of 23 articles, written by more than 40 experts in maritime issues and distributed in 7 thematic parts. The stage is set in Part I, where legal and regulatory frameworks relevant for Arctic marine operations and shipping are presented. As to be expected, the very first article in this part provides an insightful analysis of the International Code for Shipping Operating in Polar Waters, better known by its short name of “Polar Code”, adopted by IMO in 2014/5 (after many years of negotiations and discussions) and entered into force on January 2017. In addition to the analysis of the different requirements set by the Code, including safety, design, crew and environmental requirements, this part also presents key risk factors — including the uncertainty and the human factors — and encloses suggestions for future legal developments. Part II specifically gathers contributions addressing Arctic ship monitoring and tracking, highlighting the crucial role new technologies may play in accidents prevention in the poorly-charted areas of the Arctic. One of the contributions further support this point by presenting case studies of well-known accidents occurred in different parts of the globe, as for instance the M/V Exxon Valdez oil spill accident, M/V Rena, or the M/V Costa Concordia collision, and points out how they could have been possibly avoidable by implementing eg. virtual aids for navigation.

A completely different angle is tackled in Part III of the book. It introduces elements of Arctic Governance, including implications of the legal regime of marine insurance on safety and on the environment and a discussion on the legal status of the North-West passage. The accent is put on joint efforts for developing a sustainable shipping governance in the region, including also non-Arctic States and non-Arctic entities such as the EU. This part also introduces the readers to the following, part IV, which examines more in-depth issues regarding protection and response in the Arctic marine environment, and addresses issues as challenges in establishing Marine Protected Areas. This part includes an interesting discussion on the crucial and positive role of Traditional Knowledge in enhancing the understanding of the Arctic marine environment and the necessity of meaningfully involve  Arctic indigenous communities in the decision-making process regarding Arctic vessel traffic development in the Bering Strait region (Alaska).

Part V bring up the discussion on training and capacity building only hinted at the beginning of the book. Contributions tackle several issues as e.g. education, emergency management or the industry programme improving oil spill response in the Arctic, to name but a few. To the opposite, only one article addresses Sustainable Arctic Business Development (part VI) and provides a contribution on configuration and management of offshore oil and gas operations.

The book is indeed comprehensive and tackle a vast variety of Arctic maritime issues under different angles and perspectives, indeed accomplishing the goal of serving as a “textbook” for academic, practitioners, environmentalist and affected authorities in the shipping industry alike, as described in the blurb. Possibly not all contributions are as detailed and precise, but this has to be expected in collection of essays such as this one. However, the reader needs to arrive to the very end of the book, namely its Conclusion, in order to fully grasp what possibly is the correct reading key for this collection of essays. In fact, when I first got Sustainable shipping in a Changing Arctic in my hands, my mind associated it to the oxymoronic mantra of almost all Arctic policies and Arctic discussions, promoting a (sustainable) development combined with the protection of an environment, the Arctic, already dealing with catastrophic environmental transformations. In other word, my mind was expecting a book fully advocating for the development of the Arctic shipping industry. My initial luckily feeling was wrong.  In the words of Hildebrand and Brigham, two of the three editors of this book and authors of the conclusions, Hope remains. If we can apply this same precautionary approach [as the Agreement to Prevent Unregulated High Seas Fisheries in the Central Arctic Ocean, A/N] to Arctic oil and gas exploration and development, mining, tourism and, especially Arctic marine operations and shipping, we may indeed develop the Arctic in a sustainable way not seen in any of the world’s other oceans.



[1] IMO website, retrieved 27 February 2021, https://www.imo.org/en/About/Pages/Default.aspx

[2] Sustainable shipping in a Changing Arctic, Lawrence P. Hinlebrand et al. (ed.), page V.

Dawid Bunikowski and Alan D. Hemmings (eds.), Philosophies of Polar Law (New York: Routledge, 2021)

As laid out in their “Introduction” section, fully titled “Introduction—Emerging philosophies of polar law,” Bunikowski and Hemmings both point to the lack of writings that explore the philosophical underpinnings of the legal regimes governing the Arctic and Antarctic. The mere fact that they wish to engage in the Herculean task of explicitly elucidating the philosophy of such a rapidly growing area as polar law is a testament to the scope of this publication, despite its relatively contained length of 186 pages. The putting of pen to paper, so to speak, on this topic, begins with a framing of the issues and perspectives that have always been at the heart of the expert debates regarding the governance regimes of both poles. Such a task sometimes may put a discipline on a wrong track or stifle debate within the community. Fortunately, this publication serves as a delightful appetizer to (purposefully, in my view) only temporarily sate the academic cravings of those who are seeking knowledge of polar legal scholarship.

While these regions have international, domestic and/or Indigenous legal regimes controlling them, I regard as correct the editors’ choice of leaving the analysis of the specific philosophical perspectives underpinning each of these regimes to the various contributors in the four sections of this book. By doing so, not only do the editors avoid the task of having too heavy a hand in a forced narrative or perspective, but they also allow for “Polar Law Philosophy” to be inherently a science of critical thought. Rather than creating a tome of foundational principles in which the poles are viewed, such as the current status quo of predominantly Anglo/Western positivist or Enlightenment-based legal principles, the editors allow each author to expound on critiques, debates and/or forgotten perspectives on this status quo. Thus, this editorial choice gives the benefit of both advancing the philosophical study of polar law by way of schools of thought that may be applied on a global scale, such as Baruchello’s life-value onto-axiology to maximize the common good of the Arctic or Mancilla’s decolonization theory of Antarctica, and allowing new perspectives to take shape that are unique to the region, such as the Sámi Indigenous ontological beliefs regarding their sacred sites or the Chthonic Arctic legal tradition as stated by Husa (via Bunikowski).

By operating a conscientious choice of articles, the editors avoid overwhelming new readers with a high barrier to entry, while still giving seasoned academics something new to ponder and/or pontificate on in later articles. The editors also successfully advance the philosophy of polar law beyond an embryonic stage and into the realm of extensive critical thought through these careful choices, thus making follow-on contributions desirable insofar as the text reads as a “call to arms” on letting the field grow rather than claiming to be a definitive text on the subject.

The titles of the collection’s four sections, “Fundamental concepts of the philosophies of Polar law,” “Western legal framings,” “Indigenous and non-Western framings,” and “The environment,” help to narrow down and frame conceptually the ambitious scope of the work. The introductory articles, penned by the editors of the publication and with each of them writing on his pole of expertise, give a concise and solid background commentary on the contemporary legal structures of each region, while also priming the reader for critiques that are to come in the later articles. Bunikowski’s review of the Arctic reads as a bit more cerebral, but this is due to the fact that he has a much broader and ‘patchwork’ system of legal pluralism to discuss and make accessible to the reader. He also introduces what is perhaps the largest contributions to the field that this publication has to offer: Indigenous legal thought. As Bunikowski states:

Paradoxically and idiosyncratically, cosmology(ies), beliefs, art and shamanism matter greatly for philosophy of law in the Arctic. It is interesting that that, usually, philosophy of law in the West or elsewhere is not interested in such issues, but philosophy of law in the Arctic pays attention to them. (38).

Given that “cosmology and indigenous customary laws in the Arctic are very interconnected,” (Id.) it is no surprise that the strongest articles contribute heavily to this lesser explored philosophical grounding. Heinämäki et al.’s contribution on legal non-recognition of Sámi’s interconnectedness to the land in Finland and Svensson’s “contra cultural” piece regarding assimilation stand out as examples of what makes the Arctic a unique region to explore from a legal-philosophical viewpoint. Both articles from “The environment” section, which could easily be placed in the “Indigenous and non-Western framings” section, build on these works by further exploring Russian Indigenous people’s mental, physical, and spiritual struggles with an industrializing Russian Arctic, as well as the major impact Indigenous peoples have in preserving biodiversity and their well-spring of ideas that they can offer to the world at-large.

Although Baruchello’s article comes earlier in the contribution, given that it is indubitably a “Western framing” of sorts, it makes nonetheless a valiant attempt to reconcile the major problems of this legal pluralism in the Arctic through the legal instruments that are currently enacted thereby, as well as through the underlying philosophical criteria offered by life-value onto-axiology. “Life-value” is a value-maximizing binomial reflecting humanity’s universal vital needs as the foundation for the common good, which finds inspiration primarily in the works by Canadian philosopher John McMurty, but that can also be threaded through neo-Thomism, the works of St. Thomas Aquinas, and even the ancient musings of Aristotle.

My praise of the Arctic pole’s representation in this work is not meant to detract from the Antarctic contributions; it is merely the reality that the Antarctic remains devoid of many fundamental questions regarding indigeneity and its consequences that renders it far less multi-faceted. Despite this, Mancilla’s claim as to the continued colonization of Antarctica and the detriment of the developing world rings true. Coady et al.’s piece regarding the philosophy of science through the lens of whaling in the Southern Ocean not only provides an amazingly deep insight into the controversial “Whaling in the Antarctic” ICJ case, but also explores the question of “what is science?”—not only in the region but for the world at-large. Its analysis of this question, using the lens of the Antarctic, is the most solution-based article in the book and is a must-read for international law scholars.

The only criticism I have to offer, beyond perhaps some articles’ ordering and labeling, is that the book may have bitten off more than it can chew, though that may well be the point. By leaving its readers wanting more and knowing that the philosophy of polar law is a newly explored field, the target audience will surely want to contribute their own perspectives and thoughts. In all, the book serves as an academic lighthouse off in the distance, calling others to come in from the snow and build upon the solid the foundation put together in this kaleidoscopic buffet of a work.

Ecological Feedback Effects Affecting Arctic Biodiversity in Response to Glacial Melt

A changing Arctic

The Arctic is a geographic region situated in the northernmost part of earth. It marks the latitude above which the sun does not set on the summer solstice and does not rise on the winter solstice. The Arctic is considered an area within the Arctic Circle that draws an imaginary line that circles the globe at 66° 34′ N. The Arctic Circle region includes the Arctic Ocean basin and the northern parts of Scandinavia, Russia, Canada, Greenland, and the U.S. state of Alaska. This region is characterized by its distinctive polar conditions caused by the angle of the Earth to the Sun, which creates strong differences in climate and photoperiod between long, dark, cold winters and the short, cool summers with a period of continuous daylight.

The Arctic is made up of several different ecoregions that support different communities of plants and animals. These include permanently frozen tundra, grasslands, wetlands, boreal forest, and glaciers and ice sheets (AMAP, 2016). Even though most of the Arctic is covered by water, the Arctic Ocean is the world´s smallest ocean, accounting for just 1% of the world´s ocean water (AMAP, 2016). This is due to the fact that most of the water in the Arctic is freshwater. The Arctic accounts for about three-quarter of the world´s total freshwater resources and the majority of this water is found in a frozen state (Reinwarth & Stablein, 1972).

Arctic freshwater systems are undergoing abrupt changes associated with global warming. The responses to these variations are, in turn, interconnected with many other processes, producing a rebound effect that ultimately has consequences that affect the whole world as we know it.

In this paper, we will present an overview of the various environmental effects caused by climate change and how they interconnect, with the aim of raising awareness of the gravity of the consequences that follow these cross-related processes and the importance of maintaining the stability of the ecosystems.

Ice bodies in the Arctic and their formation

When we talk about the melting of ice, we are referring to all perennial surface ice on land, which includes ice sheets or continental glaciers, sea ice, ice shelves, glaciers, and ice caps (UNEP, 2008). Ten percent of the total world´s rivers flow into the Arctic Ocean. The high amount of freshwater flowing into this ocean forms a less saline water layer that sits on top of a denser saltwater layer. The surface layers freeze and, in this way, sea ice is formed (AMAP, 2016). There are also other types of freshwater bodies that have different formation processes, such as ice caps and ice sheets, cirque and alpine glaciers, or valley and piedmont glaciers.

A glacier is defined as a persistent large body of ice that moves slowly over land, propelled by its own weight. Glaciers can move down a slope or valley or they can spread outwards on a land surface. They are dynamic stores of water which vary greatly in size and are constantly exchanging mass and energy with the atmosphere, hydrosphere, and other parts of the earth system (Benn & Evans, 2010).

Glaciers are formed when the snowfall accumulation far exceeds the melting and sublimation in a certain area over a period of time. They begin as snowflakes that start to accumulate and gradually, as the snow becomes denser, the weight of the accumulated snow buries the older snow and compresses it. The seasonal snow gradually densifies and becomes more tightly packed. The dense grainy ice that has survived a one year melt cycle is called firn (Paterson, 1994). When the ice grows thick enough, the firn grains fuse and the interconnecting air passages between the grains are closed off, turning into a huge mass, called glacial ice (Paterson, 1994).

The fact that they are created by snowfall means glaciers are primarily composed of fresh water. Over 68% of the world’s freshwater is held in ice caps, ice sheets, and glaciers (Shiklomanov, 1993) and out of that percentage, 20% comes from glaciers and icebergs that are in the Arctic region (National Geographic Society, 2016).

Glaciers are not static despite their appearance. When the ice reaches a certain thickness, there are constant pressures acting on it and varying levels of heat, molecular actions, and movement are produced within the glacier (Paterson, 1994).

The ice mass flows under the influence of its own gravitational weight, chemical changes in the surroundings, and the Earth’s own natural movements. It moves to lower latitudes, where it undergoes extensive loss by melting; these areas are known as ablation areas (Benn & Evans, 2010). The total glacier mass evolves through time depending on the balance between accumulation and ablation, which depend on climate and local topographic factors (UNEP, 2008). Accumulation and ablation areas are separated by the equilibrium line, where the balance between gain and loss of mass is 0 (UNEP, 2018).

Arctic’s shrinking cryosphere

Some parts of the Arctic Ocean remain ice-covered all year-round, but the edges of the ice cover melt in summer, causing the ice to break off and float away with the ocean currents. Each year, Arctic sea ice follows a general trajectory, growing late September through April, and melting from April through mid-September (NSIDC, 2020). There is three times more ice in winter than in summer (Thomsen et al., 2016). However, recent years have experienced lower extents in all seasons, especially summer and early autumn, although the shape of the yearly trajectory has not changed. The most dramatic collapse in the satellite record occurred in September 2012, where the average extent for the entire month of September was 3.57 million square kilometres. This is a highly unusual drop from the previous years (NSIDC, 2020) and covers less than half the area that was occupied decades ago. In the 1970s, before the Arctic sea cover started to melt, it would average 8 million square kilometres a year (Raj & Singh, 2013).

The floating sea ice cover of the Arctic Ocean is, without a doubt, shrinking. Snow cover over land in the Arctic has decreased, notably in spring, and glaciers in Alaska, Greenland, and northern Canada are retreating. In addition, permanently frozen ground in the Arctic, known as permafrost, is warming and in many areas thawing (NSIDC, 2020).

Raj and Singh report in a new study that the radial decline in sea ice around the Arctic is at least 70% due to human-induced climate change. Climate change induces complex responses to the Earth’s cryosphere (Bamber & Payne, 2004) because there is a complex chain of processes linked to climate change; changes in atmospheric conditions, such as solar radiation, air temperature, precipitation, wind, cloudiness, etc. (Kuhn, 1981). This means that the increase in glacial melt is related to the fact that the earth’s average temperature has been increasing dramatically for more than a century. Since scientists first started to see evidence of changes in Arctic climate, the changes have only become more pronounced. Nowadays, glaciers and ice caps are used to act as indicators of climate change and global warming (UNEP, 2018).

The Arctic is changing faster than any other place on our planet. In fact, the global warming rising temperatures have been twice the global average over the past 30 years. This phenomenon is known as Arctic amplification (NSIDC, 2020; IPCC 2007). Most glaciers around the world are presently retreating; the ice is declining by more than 10% every 10 years (Dyurgerov & Meier, 2005). However, The Fifth IPCC Report (2013), shows that areas in the Arctic, such as Alaska and Northern Canada, are among the areas where glaciers have lost most ice mass over the past decade. Continued sea ice declines are expected and a seasonally ice-free Arctic is predicted to occur well before the end of this century (Kwok et al., 2009).

Glaciers play a huge role in Earth’s water cycle and condition in all Arctic ecosystems. As the ice cover shrinks, balance between all of the interconnected factors that make up the ecosystems is lost. All of the processes are cross-related and when they are subject to changes, they have repercussions on other processes that in turn cause responses on others, creating feedback loops that lead to further warming. This feedback is the reason climate change affects the Arctic more and faster as we move forward in time. As crucial biological and biogeochemical processes suffer variation, ecological regime shifts associated with possible losses of biodiversity are induced (Agustí & Duarte, 2010). The rapidly diminishing ice cover has also unlocked opportunities that set even more pressure on the biodiversity of the Arctic ecosystems, such as the exploitation of natural resources that were unreachable until now, increased tourism, as well as new transportation and shipping routes (Michel et al., 2012).

Glacier retreat compromises glacier ecosystems and the loss of a pool of genes adapted to the cold that live only in these ecosystems (Vincent, 2010). These changes are linked through different atmospheric, marine, and terrestrial systems and they cascade through the entire food chain, from small ice-associated species, such as microbes, to megafauna and marine mammals (ACIA, 2004; Mueter et al., 2009). It also affects terrestrial species and overall all ecosystems, landscapes and environmental systems because it brings climate feedbacks that cause major changes to the earth surface (Ims & Ehrich, 2013).

These changes impact processes that set the framework for the global climate system, influencing regions all over the world (White et al., 2010). Some of these changes are well understood, while there is a considerable uncertainty around other projected changes. The impacts it will have on human society range from the decrease of water that will be available for consumption and irrigation because of long-term loss of natural freshwater storage in frozen form, effects on hydroelectric energy generation capacity, to the emergence of new diseases, parasites and contaminants (Kutz et al., 2005; Sommaruga, 2014).

As climate change leads to glacial melt and feedback loops conducive to further warming are created, all ecosystems are being affected. In this paper the cross-related processers caused by climate change are linked to one another in order to explain the consequences this has on ecosystems and the biodiversity that we rely on. Biodiversity keeps the ecological system we live in working. Changes in the Arctic ecosystem affect our resources directly and indirectly, having an impact on our society as we know it. These ecosystems ultimately influence us by conditioning science, development, management, recreation, economy, religion, cultural heritage, and resources for the maintenance of human livelihoods.

The goal is to raise awareness about the importance of this biodiversity that is being destroyed and to gain consciousness on how important it is to cooperate in implementing a conservation management plan that relies on sustainability and makes ourselves responsible for the alterations to the earth that we are causing.

Biodiversity and Climate Change

Biodiversity in the arctic
The Arctic is made up of a number of different communities of plants and animals supported by specific ecoregions; permanently frozen tundra, boreal forests, grasslands, wetlands, and ice sheets and glaciers (AMAP, 2016). Arctic biomes are often defined by how water moves through or is stored within them because they are characterized by a variety of freshwater ecosystems. As the Arctic water cycle changes, the biomes and their ecosystems are changing as well.

Without taking into account the microorganisms, the Arctic ecosystems support more than 21,000 species of plants, fungi, and animals, or even endoparasites (Barry et al., 2013). This is without taking into account that many species remain yet undescribed or undiscovered (Bluhm et al., 2011). If we compare this to other areas, the Arctic has relatively few species, but even though they are less rich in species, the Arctic region contributes significantly to global biodiversity. This is because Arctic ecosystems are recognized for their highly adapted, extreme environment-resistant species that fill multiple unique ecological niches.

According to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the term “biodiversity” means the variability among living organisms from all sources including, inter alia, terrestrial, marine, and other aquatic ecosystems and ecological complexes of which they are a part. This includes diversity within species, between species, and of ecosystems.

Biodiversity is important because it refers to the variety of life on earth that keeps the ecological system we live in working. Each species has a unique niche or role to play in an ecosystem since living creatures depend on each other to survive. The strong interaction between species leads to cascading impacts from one species to another, which is why the loss of specific species greatly conditions the survival of others that benefit from the previous.

This polar region is recognized for its cold-adapted species that have developed genetic diversity, reflecting great adaptation. The pool of genes developed in the Arctic is therefore unique and contributes greatly to planet biodiversity. In addition to these distinctive genes, the Arctic ecosystems indirectly contribute to shaping global biodiversity because of the impact it causes on the rest of the Earth’s climate and ecosystems (Michel et al., 2012).

Glacial ecosystems
Anesio and Laybourn-Parry (2012), argue that the cryosphere is a biome even though it isn’t characterized as a biome in most textbooks. Although they haven’t always been given this credit, glaciers and ice sheets are Earth’s largest freshwater ecosystems and they comprise several biodiverse habitats. Glacier ecosystems occur on the ice, in the ice, and under the ice and they can be divided into supraglacial, englacial, and subglacial ecosystems (Hodson et al., 2008). The biome they form is very distinct from others and it is dominated by microorganisms, both autotrophs and heterotrophs (Hodson et al., 2008; Anesio & Laybourn-Parry, 2012).

Cold-adapted (psychrotrophs) and cold-loving (psychrophilic) microorganisms that are actively metabolizing on glaciers and ice sheets have a range of unique genes and adaptations. They have the ability to produce anti-freezing proteins, cold-active enzymes, and exopolymeric substances that provide cell protection against the damaging effects of the cold (Anesio & Laybourn-Parry, 2012). These microbial communities also play an interesting role in biogeochemical transformations (carbon fixation and respiration, iron cycling and methanogenesis) with implications that reach global scale (Hodson et al., 2008).

We have relatively little information about the functional diversity of glacial microbes, and their role in biogeochemical processes, but we are aware that they are valuable organisms able to adapt and thrive extreme habitats and, as explained in Green´s et al. (2008) paper, studying these organisms can offer us possible responses to climate change. Climate change compromises the survival of this pool of distinctive genes and conditions biodiversity as alterations to glaciers and ice sheets translate to surrounding ecosystems that, at the same time, have repercussions on the rest of the world. It is not just about the loss of the polar hemispheres, but about how this conditions the world as we know it.

Terrestrial Ecosystems
The Arctic terrestrial ecosystem is normally saturated with water as a consequence of always being covered in snow, excepting the warmer months of the year. Moreover, permafrost lies underneath the tundra, also helping to keep moisture, as well as nutrients, during the summer months (Callaghan et al., 2005).

Tundra plants survive by adapting to extreme conditions. In the winter, they are protected by the snow that covers them (Callaghan et al., 2005). In the spring, plants come alive by obtaining warmth from the soil, keeping moist and unexposed by growing in mats close to the ground.

The arctic terrestrial ecosystem is recognized for its low primary production and plant biomass (Schmidt et al., 2002). The low production is a consequence of the fact that the area of available tundra is small. In addition, there is a short growing season due to the temperatures, snow cover, permafrost, and the high proportion of photosynthetically less efficient cryptogams in the plant communities (Shaver & Jonasson, 2001).

There is an accumulation of organic matter, as a result of the higher production than decomposition rate, caused by the temperature dependence of microorganisms. This leads to a high food supply that diverse species, such as saprophagic arthropods as well as vertebrates, come to take advantage of (Jonasson et al., 1999). In addition, plants are generally nitrogen- and/or phosphorus-limited (Schmidt et al., 2002) and compete against microbes for nutrients, resulting in a high proportion of biogenic salts being microbially fixed (Jonasson et al., 1999; Shaver & Jonasson, 2001).

Marine Ecosystems
The Arctic Ocean is a young ocean with an evolutionary origin of seaweeds, marine invertebrates and mammals that dates back to 3.5 million years ago (Adey et al., 2008). The seasons without ice date to the last 10,000 years, which means that ecosystems belonging to Arctic coastal waters are even younger (Weslawski et al., 2010). The fact that it is a young ocean causes it to have lower biodiversity compared to marine ecosystems that are found at lower latitudes (Adey et al., 2008; Michel et al., 2012). Even though there appears to be a comparatively smaller number of species that support the marine food web, these species are of great complexity and diversity and they can be found in abundant biomasses. These species hold an immense ecological importance since they are essential to maintain diverse trophic pathways within Arctic marine ecosystems.

As stated in Michel’s et al. (2012) paper, the current biodiversity estimates suggest that, while there are many species yet to be discovered, the marine Arctic includes several thousand species of microbes and protists, over 2000 species of algae, and 5000 animal species, including hundreds of zooplankton taxa dominated by crustaceans and thousands of unicellular and multicellular benthic taxa.
The Arctic ecosystem is considered phagophyllic, which means it is associated with seasonal ice and the functioning of marine arctic ecosystems is linked to key physiographic and hydrographic features of the Arctic Ocean, which include temperature, salinity, stratification, connection to other oceans, etc. (Michel et al., 2012). Fluctuations in these features affect the organisms that are conditioned by them. The Arctic ecosystem is based around algae which is one of the most abundant organisms and depends on this sea ice and is at the bottom of the food chain, supporting all other species (Barnes & Tarling, 2017). These organisms are found in such considerable biomasses that they create clear, nutrient-free water in the winter months and intense blooms in the summer (Smetacek & Nicol, 2005; Barnes & Tarling, 2017). In the summer, production becomes high due to 24 hours of sunlight that allows continuous photosynthesis to be possible. There are also high near-surface nutrient concentrations due to vertical mixing through a combination of wind-mixing and upwelling. Diatoms, which are very efficient producers, are dominant in these conditions (Dunbar, 1982).

Marine organisms are distributed unevenly in the ocean because of the uneven mixing and the upwelling (Stempniewicz et al., 2007). Regions such as glacier fronts, marginal ice zones or estuaries, where different water masses mix, are often rich feeding sites (Dunbar, 1982). Continental shelves are highly dynamic environments where most of the biological production in the Arctic Ocean takes place and a broad range of biodiversity is found. They are habitats that support unique communities of organisms because there is a wide range of environmental conditions on these shelves. The conditions go from gradients in temperature, salinity, and nutrient concentrations to changes in the biogeochemical cycling of carbon caused by the influence of the annual sea ice (Steffens et al., 2006).

Climate change impact on the biodiversity in the Arctic

Effects on the different Arctic ecosystems
The ice that covers the poles has a high albedo, which means that it can reflect solar radiation, helping to cool the earth. As this ice cover shrinks, the albedo effect that cools the poles and essentially refrigerates the earth is being eliminated (IPCC, 2007) because snow and ice have a greater albedo effect than the bare or vegetated ground that is replacing it. Surfaces with a lower albedo that are getting exposed, absorb more heat, contributing to even more warming (Raj & Singh, 2013). Less sea ice covering the ocean exposes more of its surface to solar energy and also wind. This causes a higher evaporation which increases air moisture. The warmer the atmosphere, the more moisture it can hold, which implies a feedback effect. Water vapor is a greenhouse gas, therefore more moisture also contributes to rising temperatures, thus creating an additional feedback effect that leads back to the melting of ice. Higher winds caused by the lack of sea ice ‘’protecting’’ the water provide a rise in the mixing of surface layers with underlying waters. Because deep water in the Arctic is warmer than surface waters, heat is brought up from lower depths, which results in further water temperature variations (AMAP, 2011a).

Moisture in the atmosphere contributes to more precipitation in an increasing proportion as rain, which at the same time contributes to more defrost. In addition, climate change is also leading to the transport of more moisture from lower latitudes towards the pole (AMAP, 2016). Increased precipitation, river flow, and discharge from melting glaciers and ice sheets are all channeling growing volumes of freshwater into the Arctic Ocean. This also contributes to rising sea levels. According to NSIDC (2019), if all land ice melted away, the sea level would rise by almost 70 meters with the Greenland ice sheet contributing to a rise of about seven meters, and thus submerge many of the world’s greatest cities (IPCC, 2007).
Melted fresh water causes less dense water on the surface and an increased stratification, which results in higher surface water temperatures and lower biological activity because phytoplankton can be isolated from deeper layers that are richer in nutrients (Oliver et al., 2018). Warmer water in the surface absorbs less carbon dioxide which then stays in the atmosphere and further warms the earth (Oliver et al., 2018). Alternatively, a longer open water period can also be linked to increased primary production (Arrigo et al., 2008) due to the higher wind mixing rates that create favourable conditions for upwelling of nutrient-rich waters (Michel et al., 2012). In addition, phytoplankton receives more light in the open water (Arrigo et al., 2008). This means that, as explained in Oliver’s et al. (2018) paper, depending on local conditions, sea ice losses can enhance or reduce primary production.

The layer of permafrost covers approximately 25% of the land area in the Northern Hemisphere (Yang et al., 2010). It is a significant carbon store that contains remnants of plants and animals accumulated over thousands of years; by some estimates, it contains twice as much carbon as there is currently in the Earth’s entire atmosphere (AMAP, 2016). Observations and measurements show that the temperature in the permafrost has risen by up to 2-3°C in most places in the last 40 years (IPCC, 2007). The total area of the northern hemisphere with surface permafrost is expected to decrease as much as 80% by the end of this century (IPCC, 2007). Thawing permafrost contributes to the release of greenhouse gases (mainly methane) that are currently stored in the ground which leads to the previous effects and allows microbes to break down this organic matter, producing greenhouse gases. Furthermore, when permafrost thaws, water from small lakes and tarns is drained away, affecting the hydrological cycle in the area (AMAP, 2012). Permafrost melt allows plant growth but can also cause areas to experience perennially waterlogged conditions, suppressing forest growth (AMAP, 2016).

There are important warm ocean currents, such as the Gulf Stream that brings warm water from the Gulf of Mexico into the Arctic pole. In the North Atlantic the water brought from warmer lower latitudes will be cooled. As the warmer water flows in, colder, denser water sinks below and begins flowing outwards from the Arctic Ocean and moves south. These currents circulate within the Arctic marine system, and then flow southwards, having an important role in driving global ocean circulation. Increased flows of freshwater and changes in salinity could disrupt this mechanism that plays a key role in global climate regulation and is known as the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) (Palter, 2015). Disturbances in the Gulf Stream can dramatically impact the weather on land.

Ocean currents and rivers also play a big part in supplying nutrients that form the basis of marine food webs of global importance (Palter, 2015). For example, extensions of the Gulf Stream, such as the North Atlantic current, have branches that are warm-water currents that carry small calanoids that impact Spitsbergen. Other currents like the Sørkapp Current, influence Spitsbergen by bringing cold, Arctic water from the northeast with a zooplankton community (Stempniewicz et al., 2007).

The jet stream is a high-level airstream that circles the globe at mid-latitudes and affects the track of pressure systems and storms over North America, Europe, and Asia (Raj & Singh, 2013). It can also be influenced by glacial melt because it is driven by the difference in temperatures between cold Arctic air and warmer air from the south.

When the ice melts into freshwater and precipitations increase, there is plant growth (Callaghan, 2001). A surface covered by plants has a lower albedo and, therefore accentuates climate change and leads to some of the effects we explained previously. In the ocean, the lack of cover provided by the ice, will also result in new habitats available for seaweed colonisation in the ocean (Weslawski et al., 2011).
In both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, more plants mean more photosynthesis. This could be counterproductive due to an enrichment in nutrients and minerals from permafrost and the enhanced flow of water that could potentially support excess heterotrophic activity and cause eutrophication. As explained in Agustí et al. (2010), a transition towards an ecosystem with a reduction in export matter that causes an increased heterotrophy is taking place (Agustí et al., 2010). The shifting of the net metabolism of the Arctic Ocean from autotrophic to heterotrophic implies a change from a net sink to a source of CO2 (Agustí et al., 2010).

In terrestrial ecosystems, this can alter local food webs and the range of wildlife supported by an ecosystem (Zarnetske et al., 2012). It also leads to an abundance of commensal species impacting Arctic endemics, such as predators or competitors and outbreaks of insect herbivores and plant pathogens (Ims & Ehrich, 2013).

In aquatic ecosystems, this leads to blooms of algae that reduce water quality, crowd out other species, and are toxic for animals. Cloudiness can block the light needed for photosynthesis and potentially clog filter-feeding fauna (AMAP, 2016). The supply of clean water is also an important service provided by natural systems. Again, toxic algae blooms caused by excessive nutrient inputs can affect drinking water quality.

Other changes being experienced in the Arctic tundra are small variations in nitrogen (N) and phosphorous (P) The Arctic tundra is dominated by plants that have low nutrient requirements (Jonasson et al., 1999). Small variations in N and P cause a strong increase in plant productivity (Shaver & Jonasson, 2001), which is why changes in the cycling of nutrients will bring changes to the community structure (Stempniewicz et al., 2007).

As explained on the Arctic Biodiversity Assessment (Barry et al., 2013), changing landscapes and vegetation will bring loss of unique animal species from certain areas of the Arctic. Species rely on seasonal indicators that are changing, and they have different ecological responses to these variations. Changes in the sea ice or sea ice surface generates the direct loss of habitats. Fluctuations in stratification, light attenuation, and nutrient availability indirectly affect unique communities of organisms, such as pelagic and benthic communities. These communities support associated food webs having repercussions on higher trophic levels and also impact the reproduction and foraging success of ice-associated species (AMAP 2011; Michel et al., 2012).

While it is hard for specific species to adapt to these gradual changes in the timing of the seasons, new species from the south that are already accustomed to those parameters can expand their breeding ground and have access to places they could not before (Jensen et al., 2008). The pattern that will be most often repeated will be that milder environmental conditions in the pole may provide new habitats for temperate species that may outcompete polar species and disrupt the ecosystem (Michel et al., 2012). Replacement by subarctic species that have extended their distribution range northward have been observed in the last 30 years for different animal species (Michel et al., 2012). Increased human activity in the Arctic also contributes to bringing invasive species (Kortsch et al., 2015). There will also be alteration to the predator–prey interactions because of the change in habitat and seasonality. Many species depend on sea ice for their dispersal and access to feeding (Descamps et al., 2017). Although these species could have a short-term benefit because there will be higher prey densities gathered in smaller ice-covered areas, in the long term it will result in their extinction (Thomsen et al., 2016; Descamps et al., 2017).

Variations in diversity are taking place, with a trend towards a community of smaller cells, such as bacteria, small algae, and zooplankton. If these organisms, which are a strong determinant of trophic pathways and carbon fluxes in marine ecosystems, continue having a competitive advantage, it can lead to reduced biological production at higher trophic levels (Li et al., 2009). Changes in the size and energy content of key zooplankton prey affect energy transfer in the pelagic food web having important consequences for the animal species that tap into this food base (Weslawski et al., 2000).

An increase in bacterial respiration which is also supported by an increase in temperatures, increased inputs of carbon, and the strengthening of the pycnocline, also means a challenge for the capacity of the Arctic Ocean to act as a sink for CO2 (Cai et al., 2010). The dominant microbial loop in the upper water column will lead to decreased exports of biogenic material to the sea floor. This will again help the planktonic ecosystem shift from a CO2 sink to a CO2 (Agustí et al., 2010). Bacteria and other microorganisms will have a higher supply of organic matter that they can convert to carbon dioxide and the ocean can experience a reduction in calcium ions and higher ocean acidification generated by an increase in carbon dioxide. The ocean also absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere which will be at higher concentrations. This means more dissolved CO2 in the ocean which is a threat to calcareous organisms and may have cascading impacts on marine ecosystems, biodiversity, and fisheries. Calcium ions and carbonate are used to build shells and skeletons which species rely on (Barry et al., 2013; AMAP, 2016). Studies have detected an undersaturation in aragonite which is essential for the formation of the shell of an important plankton species in the Arctic caused by ice melt (Yamamoto-Kawai et al., 2009).


The Arctic is undergoing crucial changes in many of its elemental physical components. These alterations have important impacts on the chemical and biological processes, having repercussions that are coupled with many ecological feedback processes and will cause unpredictable reorganizations of ecosystems in the region and potentially on a global scale.

Loss of biodiversity is one of the effects we are already experiencing due through climate change and we need to be aware of why this is so severe. Biodiversity keeps the planet healthy since it keeps a balance. If there is a big change and functioning ecosystems disappear, then the earth might not be able to ever recover from this loss of balance. It is not just for the wellbeing of other organisms, but our own wellbeing is affected, too. They are just the first to experience it. It also impacts our lives in a direct way because less biodiversity compromises the resources that we take advantage of. Since we need these resources to survive, we must learn to take care of them. That is why it is of great importance that we combine our interests with sustainability, promoting an innovative and respectful society that is dependent on stability and well-functioning cooperation. There are ways to use our knowledge in technology, but the upcoming efforts to preserve Arctic biodiversity and resources must be as innovative and wide-ranging as the unknown stressors that are being experimented by Arctic ecosystems now. The impacts of climate change will give rise to coordination challenges among nations, as well as for regional levels of government.

The Arctic offers major opportunities for development with multiple sectors that have a great potential for economic growth and requires a management plan based on sustainability that takes account of environmental and social considerations. The fact that the Arctic is an unexplored source of unique resources joined with the current situation that demands solutions to remediate global warming, makes research related to new industries, such as marine bioprospecting, indispensable. Science plays a crucial role in the adaptation and mitigation of climate change since it has the ability to positively reduce the effects that have been explained. The upcoming efforts to preserve Arctic resources and ecosystems, as well as to study and understand them, must be as novel and expansive as the unknown challenges that are being experimented by the Arctic region now.

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Geir Hønneland, International Politics in the Arctic: Contested Borders, Natural Resources, and Russian Foreign Policy (London/New York: IB Tauris, 2017)

Geir Hønneland’s International Politics in the Arctic: Contested Borders, Natural Resources, and Russian Foreign Policy acts not only as a primer for political scientists interested in how politics emerge and change in Russia’s Arctic, but also makes an important argument that Russia’s foreign policy has a Janus face. The book brings together a selected collection of Hønneland’s writing from 1998 – 2016 on the study of how Russia tackles its relations with the outside world in the Arctic. Rather than take a broad and distant approach to Russian politics, Hønneland brings in his own experiences as a translator in the Norwegian Coast Guard, interview transcripts, and on-the-ground stories that add color and personality to Russian politics.

Hønneland uses the book to look at what the stories Russia tells itself about the Arctic and the identities – often contrasting – that are built both about the Arctic as well as Russia’s place within it. How do discourses, whether they surround environmental agreements, fisheries, or communicable diseases reveal underlying identities and narratives about Russia and the West? Throughout the seven parts, Hønneland argues that Russia has multiple, conflicting, and simultaneous narratives about its place in the Arctic, making up a Janus face which takes into account security concerns as well as pragmatic compliance (p. 5). The Arctic is a territory that Russia can use to regain its status as a great power while also being a place for rational international agreement making. The Arctic is both politically and economically neglected by the Russian state and is also Russia’s spiritual home. The Arctic is the face Russia presents to the world – a great power that can do what it wants irrespective of borders – while also a mirror to the real decay and neglect that Russia inflicts on itself (p. 322).

As the former director of Fridtjof Nansen Institute, Geir Hønneland is known for his work on international fisheries management, with a focus on compliance, as well as relations between Russia and the West. Presently, he is the Secretary General of the human rights organization the Norwegian Helsinki Committee and an adjunct professor at Fridtjof Nansen Institute.

Hønneland uses his experience and knowledge of Russian politics on the ground to bring together key insights into how Russia acts in the Arctic. He begins in Chapter 1, originally written in 1998, to make the point that identity is flexible and changeable – thus it matters who is creating identities and what narratives lie behind their creation when discussing the Barents Euro-Arctic region. In Part 2 (Chapters 2-3), originally written in 2003 and 2004, he discusses different environmental discourses used by Norway and Russia in the Arctic. By telling the story of the Joint Russian-Norwegian Fishing Commission, Hønneland explains that different discourses – such as ‘Pity the Russians’, Cold Peace, sustainability, and discourse from the seafaring community – provided opportunities for negotiation. He expands on this one story to talk more broadly about how Russians and Norwegians speak about the environment. While Russians tend to speak in techno-centric terms, Norwegians speak in eco-disaster discourse (p. 70). These different discourses can make it difficult for the two states to understand one another.

In Part III (Chapters 4-5), originally written in 2003 and 2005, Hønneland explains how discourses become embedded into how international environmental agreements are implemented in Russia. He argues that while Russia does work to build confidence and makes compromises in air pollution, fisheries, and nuclear safety, it does so while both admiring and despising the West. While in 1990s, Russia had will but not capacity to implement agreements, Hønneland proposes, in the 2000s, Russia has no will, but likely has the capacity (p. 122).

In Parts IV (Chapters 6-7), and V (Chapters 8-9), Hønneland uses a vast amount of interview data to look at Russian politics regarding communicable diseases in Northwest Russia and identities of Russian Northerners. In the wake of the Cold War when Western states tried to offer aid to Russia, antagonism grew in large part due to the discourses used. Hønneland uses interviews and stories to look at the case of DOTS, a Western tuberculosis treatment, and how Western discourse made the mistake of lumping Russia in with ‘developing’ countries and describing DOTS as a magic pill, affronting Russian pride in medical research in Part IV (p. 146). In Part V, originally written in 2010, he brings interviews and stories to ask how inhabitants of the Kola Peninsula think of themselves as Northerners and Russians. He concludes that there are competing stereotypes of the North as calm, competent and civilized while also being unnatural (p. 187). In many cases, old truths from the Soviet Union still form the basis of how Russians identify themselves in the North – particularly in the taming of the North wilderness – but new narratives are forming, forcing Russian Northerners to juggle multiple identities at once.

After showing how discourse and narratives matter when Russian Northerners are forming their identities and how they interact regarding Western aid, Hønneland looks at post-agreement bargaining in how Russia complied to fisheries agreements in the Barents Sea and the relationship between Russian fishers and the Norwegian Coast Guard in Part VI. When Norwegian negotiators treated non-compliance by Russia as a technical problem to be solved, it was easier to cooperate (p. 262). Hønneland also draws from his own experience as a translator for the Norwegian Coast Guard to contrast between the 1990s and the 2000s in meetings between the Coast Guard and Russian fishers. In the final Part VII (Chapter 12 and 13), originally written in 2016, Hønneland broadly asks what the stories are that Russia uses to define its relationship with the Arctic. He concludes that there are conflicting stories and identities that Russia uses to relate to the Arctic – security, pragmatism, national myth, Russia vs. the West, and homeland (p. 290). Using the example of the reactions to the Treaty on Maritime Declaration in 2010, Hønneland suggests that Russia produces its identity by othering the West in ever-changing ways.

What Hønneland does well in this definitive volume is offer examples over the past 20 years of how Russia’s foreign policy in the Arctic carries elements of both pragmatism and security. The combination of many different theoretical approaches as well as individual stories and interviews opens the door to a broader understanding of how Russia exists in the Arctic. In future editions of this book, a more comprehensive look at Russia’s participation in international organizations such as the Arctic Council, would benefit the reader, particularly to see examples of how Russia expresses its Janus face in the same forums over time.

Hønneland’s International Politics in the Arctic: Contested Borders, Natural Resources, and Russian Foreign Policy does what the introduction suggests: it argues that Russia’s perception of Western initiatives is characterized by conflicting narratives and identities. The book is an unarguably necessary read for any political scientist interested in how and why Russia operates in the Arctic.

Frédéric Lassere, Anne Choquet, and Camille Escudé-Joffres, Géopolitique des Pôles. Vers une appropriation des espaces polaires ? (Paris: Le Cavalier Bleu, 2021)

The book “Géopolitique des Pôles.” subtitled “Vers une appropriation des espaces polaires?” (“Polar geopolitics. Towards an appropriation of polar spaces?”, author’s translation) written by Frédéric Lasserre, Anne Choquet and Camille Escudé-Joffres is a general public book describing geopolitical polar dynamics, responding notably to the “Arctic Scramble” narratives and similar discourses of a war on resources at the poles. The book states very clearly and from the beginning that the authors consider the risk of conflict to be over-exaggerated, and even unrealistic. Drawing on the academic background of the authors, the book presents a geographical, political and legal overview of both the Arctic and Antarctic regimes of governance in layman’s language.

The book has a very clear focus, a very clear goal: to demonstrate that there is no “cold rush” or “Polar scramble” in either the Arctic or Antarctica. Five chapters support this demonstration: first, an outlining of what makes polar regions attractive to stakeholders today, covering climate change, scientific interests, existing and potential resources as well as common (Southern) polar imaginaries. A second chapter on the political and legal reality of polar space appropriation covers in a very pedagogical manner the basics of the Law of the Sea, the Antarctica land claims and the processes relevant to Arctic maritime territorial claims. Follows a chapter focused on regional governance regimes, covering the Antarctic Treaty System from a practical approach, Arctic governance through the Arctic Council, environmental protection in Antarctica and environmental protection in the Arctic. Then comes a chapter on the regulation of key activities, which has a section reminding the legal and practical frameworks discussed previously applied to mining and fishing, and then a section on maritime traffic, a section on tourism. The last chapter focuses on the potential sources of tension in the Arctic, starting with a section on existing tensions in the Arctic, insisting on their low intensity, nonetheless, followed by a section on dispute solving mechanisms in Antarctica, and lastly a section covering Asian Polar interests. Lastly, a final chapter wraps up the original question with the optimistic conclusion that the climatic and environmental challenges burdening the Polar regions call for cooperation rather than for conflict.

The authors present an optimist view of the state of Arctic cooperation today. Because of the clear focus it is easy to follow, and every subsection relates clearly to the main point made. However, that comes to the price of sometimes being repetitive, including in the chapter structure itself with some frequent overlap. Besides, it mainly presents State-focused issues that are also relevant to non-Arctic stakeholders, glossing over or simplifying certain issues, which can be seen in the overly optimistic portrait of Indigenous inclusion in the Arctic governance regime that is presented, for example. However, keeping in mind that the book is not an encyclopedic endeavour but intended for the general French-speaking audiences, this is a coherent editorial choice and prevents it from becoming too information-heavy.

Moreover, the text is very pedagogic and shows the benefits brought by the interdisciplinary background of the authors: every legal mechanism mentioned is carefully detailed in an accessible language, completed later by an overview of the practices. Another consistent theme is the worry about climate change and its consequences, which is weaved through the entire book beyond the original subsection dedicated to it. It also contains a relative abundance of maps and tables which ease comprehension.

The vast majority of the book is focused on governance mechanisms, both legal and customary, and thanks to the clear focus the topic is explored in depth, especially on the Arctic side, which is much more developed. Despite covering both Polar ends, the book underlines on several occasions the fundamental difference between the two that is the Arctic organic, permanent population of 4 million people. However, the “Arctic” itself is never explicitly defined: due to the attention given to maritime claims since we are mostly talking about the political Arctic, one would expect the authors to follow the political definition of the Arctic Council. However, one notices some surprising omissions, such as the absence of mention of Iceland in the section dedicated to tourism for example – while it is mentioned in fishing related sections, or the absence of any map giving one or several definitions of the geographical Arctic. This seems to indicate a somewhat confusing understanding of the Arctic: some clarification would have been welcome.

As it is not a scientific publication but a mainstream audience work, there is no reference in the text, but there are two bibliographies at the end. The first one, the list of references for the text itself is a bit short, and the large share of French speaking references is surprising, but it is recent and up to date. The second one, a bit longer, is a selected bibliographies of work from the authors, which presents no overlap with the first one while providing other sources relevant to the topic as well.

To conclude, this book gets its point across in a simple but effective manner, through very clear even though somewhat repetitive demonstrations. As a text directed towards French mainstream audiences, it definitely achieves its goal by providing pedagogical explanations on a wide array of topics that often arise in the general media. It is a valuable introduction to polar geopolitics, that could potentially be used as a starting point for higher education students as well.

Climate Change and Underwater Cultural Heritage. Utilizing international law to empower communities to protect their coastal sacred sites and sea-level rise

Sacred sites in the Arctic are under threat from a number of external factors. In addition to land uses such as mining, climate change poses a major threat. Already today, climate change is leading to the melting of permafrost, coastal erosion and sea-level rise. While parts of the European Arctic continue to experience post-glacial land uplift, coastal communities across most of the Arctic will have to consider the impacts of sea-level rise on their communities already today. This includes sacred sites. International law can be utilized to protect sacred sites that are or will be located under water as cultural heritage. Sea-level rise will make access to many coastal locations more difficult, but barring destructive effects of climate change, such as erosion, these sites will still exist as locations.

Cultural heritage sites, including in particular sacred sites, are locations valued by cultures and groups around the world and throughout history. This is reflected in the respect that is given to cultural sites even by persons who have not been affiliated with a specific culture. In sacred sites we see this in the protection that churches, mosques and other places of worship enjoy for example during times of armed conflict. Sacred sites are places for societies to come together, places where people connect to each other and to earlier generations.

Climate change also threatens sacred sites. Among the most notable consequences of human-made climate change are rising sea levels. Sea level rise is felt already today by coastal communities. Coastal erosion is a major challenge for the safety of coastal communities, for example along the northern coast of Alaska. Sacred sites that are located at coasts today might well be located under water within a few generations. A large portion of the human population lives along and nearby coasts and it seems likely that sacred sites of different cultures, indigenous and non-indigenous, will be threatened by sea level rise as a consequence of climate change. Local communities can utilize international law by and when making claims against their state with regard to the positive duty of the state to protect human rights.

Cultural rights are human rights that are protected through several international human rights treaties. International human rights law contains not only an obligation on the part of the state to refrain from taking actions that harm human rights, it also contains obligations of a positive nature, requiring States to take actions that are necessary to protect human rights. Cultural rights are usually realized step-by-step, over time, in accordance with the ability of the state. But this does not mean that there couldn’t also be a positive dimension to cultural rights. Looking at the intersection of international underwater cultural heritage law and international human rights law, in particular cultural rights, it will be shown that the positive dimension of human rights law can be made useful for the protection of underwater cultural heritage. In this presentation, two strands of international law that might seem distant from each other, but that at the end of the day are closely related, both serve the purpose of protecting rights of communities, and will be brought together and it will be shown how international law can be used locally to protect sacred sites that are threatened by climate change and sea level rise.

Adaption to climate change is becoming inevitable already while efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change continue. For affected communities, this can mean planning ahead for a future when sacred and cultural sites that are located at the coast and that cannot be moved will be under water. This presentation will give the audience first information on how to prepare for these futures, utilizing already existing legal tools.

Participation, Sharing, and Cooperation: The rights of indigenous peoples over natural resources in the Arctic


The indigenous population accounts for 5% of the global one. Despite its ephemeral population, indigenous communities manage 25% of the land and help preserve 80% of biodiversity and 40% of protected reserves. In Central America, this figure reaches up to 90%[1].

The management of natural resources, living and non-living, contributes to the conservation of ecosystems and the maintenance of local customs and traditions. Inadequate application of environmental policies causes the loss of cultural diversity and Traditional Knowledge (TK). Right of access to information, participation, and justice are the three pillars of Environmental Justice[2]. Environmental Justice refers to an equal sharing of environmental responsibilities, benefits, and burdens, which translates into unsafe food, poorer health outcomes, poor resource management, and environmental damage[3].

The UNECE Convention[4] gives people the right to get informed about what happens on their territory, and indeed, it finally raises the indigenous peoples as subjects of law[5]. For this reason, environmental justice plays a functional role in social justice, as it not only supports the equitable distribution of benefits and burdens but also provides the groundwork for the guaranteed protection of interests in the legal system.

The non-inclusion of traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) in the mitigation strategies of the effects of climate change has contributed to the complete exclusion of indigenous populations in decision-making processes. Although indigenous peoples are the greatest victims of environmental transformations, many green projects have allowed the violation of rights that have harmed indigenous territoriality. Many international agencies have finally recognized some powers of resolution of disputes in the ecological field alongside indigenous peoples[6].

1. Historical Excursus: From nationalization of Indigenous Land to Indigenous People as subject to International Law

This research additionally aims to demonstrate how the development of the deliberative processes of indigenous communities promotes the sustainable development of communities that share a colonial experience. To this purpose, the discussion begins with a historical excursus on how indigenous lands have been gradually nationalized, and how colonization and decolonization have negatively affected the full self-determination of indigenous peoples.

The inclusion of indigenous lands within national borders has centralized the management of natural resources, undermining the effectiveness of the self-determination principle.

The emergence of this principle took place through international law treaties. Despite dynamic jurisprudential and doctrinal evolution, its application remains ambiguous especially based on the subject of reference. Some academics prefer to speak of the “subjectivity” of indigenous peoples rather than the “subject” under international law. This term would, in fact, underline the collective dimension of indigenous rights as had already been addressed in the choice between “people” and “peoples” during the drafting of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People[7]. The International Court of Justice has recognized the erga omnes obligations of this principle, which are recognized as legally binding by all states.

The international community has thus identified the principle of self-determination as ius cojens, that is, a core of mandatory rules to protect fundamental values. Independence movements have made this principle take the form of a real “right to self-determination”, despite the already mentioned application problems. These applicative uncertainties unfold both from the subjective point of view and at the level of practice.

Regarding the first point, neither doctrine nor practice has managed to identify the target groups of the law, while it is still debated whether this right can also be recognized outside the colonial factor and can lead to the creation of new states.

In this regard, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted two important resolutions: Resolution 1541 (XV) and Resolution 2625 (XXV). Resolution XV crystallized a generalized opinio juris, followed by a subsequent practice that immediately recognizes the right to self-determination and leaves the people to decide on future relations with the administering state (association or integration). Resolution 2625 (XXV) concerns the principles of international law in friendly relations between states. In this resolution, the right to self-determination also extends to those scenarios of political and economic subjection from another dominant state.

This concept was also incorporated in Chapter II of the Helsinki Conference and in the Consultative Declaration of the Conference on Human Rights[8]. In 1962, the UNGA adopted Resolution 1803 which introduced the concept of the permanent sovereignty of peoples over natural resources[9]. The Resolution declared that people could enjoy their wealth without being influenced by the states’ obligations due to international cooperation.

Considering the non-binding legal nature of the Resolution, the concept was transferred to the first article of the two International Covenants on Human Rights, adopted by the UNGA on 16 December 1966 but entered into force in 1976. The Covenants reaffirm the right of peoples to self-determination and to autonomously manage their natural resources[10]. Applying a cosmopolitan perspective, nature, understood as environmental healthiness becomes a constitutive element of human rights. Environmental protection is linked to numerous human rights, including the right to life, the right to health, the right to water, the right to food, the right to family life, the right to information, the right to housing, and the right to an adequate standard of living[11]. Since the 1960s and 1970s, environmental movements have begun to include human rights within environmental law.

The first official international instrument was the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm in 1972, which adopted a human rights approach to environmental protection. The right to information and expression began to enter the paradigm of environmental justice with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (art.19), the Aarhus Convention, the International Pact on Civil and Political Rights (art.19) the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (art.10 on freedom of expression, art.2 on the right to life and art.8 on the right to respect for one’s private and family life)). Finally, the African Charter also recognizes the right of the parties involved to have access to environmental information.

At the European level, the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (Article 15) establishes the citizen’s right to access the documents of the EU institutions. Directive 90/313 of 1990 strengthens the methods of accessing public environmental information. Art. 7 of Directive 2003/4 outlines the obligation of the member state to provide information on the general state of the environment. Furthermore, Directive 2008/1 grants access to information on installations and programs to mitigate the negative effects of pollution.

2. Environmental Justice as a boost for Indigenous Rights protection

In the evolution of the Environmental Justice principle, it became clear that social groups did not have the same procedural means and the same rights regarding access to natural resources. Indigenous voices, for example, still struggle to play a determining role in political decisions and often do not have the right of veto during the licensing process of activities that concern the exploitation of the natural resources of their territories.

This situation is more complicated if a government fails to ratify important conventions, invalidating most of the effectiveness of other international instruments on the protection of indigenous land rights. The jeopardized implementation of international legal norms among the Nordic countries causes partial and inequitable protection of indigenous rights in the Arctic, even among similar ethnic groups (Sami community).

The multitude of parties involved, and the multidisciplinary nature of the matter has promoted the adoption of different approaches to define the concept of environmental justice. Holifield, Chakrabotyr and Walker envisaged four different approaches[12]:

Distributive environmental justice: This approach concerns the allocation scheme of natural resources between the parties.
Procedural environmental justice: Concerns the degree of fairness in the decision-making processes. An interesting analysis by Cesur and Altunel, analyzed the concept through the principle of public interest (benefit principle). There are cases in which the court has assessed the right to access information regarding the problem of pollution as a human right (Oneryildiz v. Turkey) (Mladenov; Avramovic).
Environmental justice of recognition: As an inclusion of the cultures and values ​​of the stakeholders.
Capability Environmental Justice: Analysis of the actual tools and opportunities that the parties involved enjoy accessing justice systems.

In particular, the Capability Environmental Justice approach is well suited to the needs of indigenous peoples. Above all, this definition analyzes the concrete means of these communities to defend their territory and the rights related to it, namely participation, information and ownership rights.

Considering the various dimensions of environmental justice, it is unsurprising that this concept can be a promoter of indigenous rights by outlining the standards of social justice, and hence non-discrimination, in the face of natural law.

Defining indigenous environmental rights, it is necessary to build a legal framework that includes the major international sources, which are divided into soft law instruments (such as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples) and legally binding sources (such as ILO n. 169). Among the most cited, environmental conventions such as the Convention on Biological Diversity stand out, but also the conventions on fundamental freedoms such as The African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, certainly play an essential role in the balance and inclusion of human rights and environmental health.

The analysis of these sources provides us with a primitive framework for reading on the definition of indigenous rights, in which consent is the basis of cooperation between the government and the indigenous community, and represents the principle of self-determination, definitively overcoming the colonial approach between the state and cultural minorities.

3. Consultation and Participation interplay

Defining consent is, therefore, important to allow adequate discernment between true participation and tokenistic mere consultation. Consensus is important in decision-making processes because indigenous peoples must be able to consciously accept the risks due to mega-projects, such as mines and forestry developments, which concern the exploitation of natural resources for reasons of public utility. By consenting, interested parties can agree on benefits and opportunities but also compensations, possible relocations, and land transfers in case of damage[13].

Consent is only possible with the fair participation of the interested parties. According to Pretty’s analysis, deliberative democracy has different forms. It goes from passive and merely informative participation to more interactive or self-mobilization through political representative bodies or UN institutions[14]. ILO Convention No. 169 also defines the elements of consent, specifying the importance that consent must be free, prior, and informed, but above all, it must be obtained through appropriate means.

Active participation can be done in various ways. Can be conducted: polls, hearings, publications, rules negotiation, and citizens’ committees[15]. In citizens’ committees, people who do not hold leadership positions are also given the opportunity to participate and ask for further information.

4. Legal aspects and best practices

Establishing a single legal system in the Arctic is a difficult undertaking and the mere thought that there could be an approved legal practice for natural resources borders on pure utopia. Natural resources represent a decisive vector for the self-determination of the indigenous peoples of the Arctic, as they represent a good engine for sustainable development. Sustainable development poses various challenges to states which are called to adapt to the evolution of international law, especially in the field of indigenous participatory rights.

The 2007 UNDRIP offered a new vision of indigenous participatory rights. If previously they were subject to the domestic legal fabric, UNDRIP has embarked on a difficult path for its legal recognition. With the emergence of new international instruments, UNDRIP has been qualified as international customary law and as a general principle of international law[16].

The inhomogeneity in the matter is given by a multitude of variables concerning the recognition of the different needs of the region, different legal systems, different relationships of interconnection and communication with indigenous peoples. The latter point must be analyzed under the lens of the economic and social advantages that are distinguished between the different Arctic communities. Many communities welcome the economic development resulting from energy exploitation, while others hardly support the impact that mining activities have on traditional activities. These variables determine the diversity of the most appropriate forms for consultation processes and influence the choice of best practices for promoting sustainability.

Below, the national legal instruments for each Arctic state are reported together with the consultative forms provided for by domestic legislation.

Table 1: Arctic states’ strategies on Consultative rights (click on the table to enlarge it)

As Table 1 shows, each Arctic state has adopted a different strategy with respect to its own legal order.

Alaska, part of the United States of America, provides for both the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, signed by President Nixon, and specific environmental statutes closer to local needs.

The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) was signed into law in 1980(Public Law 96-487, 94 Stat. 2371) and designates wilderness areas and activities such as subsistence management, transportation in and through parks, the use of cabins, mines, archaeological sites, scientific research studies. It still does not provide for legally binding consultation obligations[17]. The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) created on August 7, 1953, defines the OCS as all submerged lands that lie off state coastal waters (3 miles offshore) that are under the jurisdiction of the United States. Under the OCSLA, the Secretary grants leases and provides guidelines for the implementation of an OCS oil and gas exploration and development program[18]. Over the years, the Government of Alaska has promoted the development of districts with administrative powers capable of supporting regionalized consultation policies. These solutions are periodically evaluated by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), which assesses the degree of need for public hearings.

On the contrary, Canada alongside modern land claims agreements provides also constitutional provisions (Sec. 35/1982). The Canadian Arctic is divided into three territories: Nunavut, Northwest Territories (NWT) and Yukon. Each territory boasts one or more agreements with the government. In 1990, the Umbrella Final Agreement was signed, a non-legal document that groups together the various previous agreements and created a system for monitoring and receiving disputes that include land claims, compensation in money, and self-government[19].

Further east, Greenland gained full jurisdiction after the constitutional revision of 2009, which made self-government on the island possible. The first division of competencies between Denmark and Greenland had already been hypothesized in 1979, in which the Home Rule Act raised the right to natural resources for residents to a fundamental right (Section 8).

In practice, supremacy over the management of natural resources is severely limited by the residual competencies that the Danish government still holds. Indeed, Denmark retains the reins on foreign policy and the power to extend or limit the effects of international treaties to the two detached regions, unless these directly affect Greenlandic interests. The main source of Greenlandic legislation is the Mineral Resource Act of 2009 which designates the licensing structure and civil liability of mining companies[20]. The major diatribes are still directed at the uranium mine in southern Greenland, but the newly elected government seems to support the definitive ban on mining in that particular region of the country.

A more pragmatic situation exists in mainland Scandinavia, where the Sami population still feels excluded from major decision-making centers. Norway, Sweden, and Finland present a partially similar legal framework, but they offer a different picture in the area of Sami rights.

The region of Lapland, where the Sami population resides, stretches from the Kola Peninsula to Norway, crossing the northern coast of the three Nordic states. While in Russia the Sami Parliament is not legally recognized, in Norway the rights of the Sami are well established. In 2005, Norway adopted the Finmark Act which established the following:

  • There is an obligation to involve all interested parties in the licensing process.
  • The power of the Sami Parliament to issue opinions and recommendations with respect to the development of a project in the Lapland Region is recognized.

In 2005, it was proposed to collect all the statements in a single instrument, namely the Nordic Saami Convention which is divided into seven parts: general rights, governance, language and culture, livelihood, the Convention’s implementation, development, and final provisions[21].

Sweden has decided not to ratify ILO 169, the only legally binding instrument in the scenario of indigenous rights. Sweden explained that ILO 169 would go against Article 14 of their constitution, and parliament prefers to work on national law before ratification creates formal conflicts. In fact, the government established a commission in 1997 to point out the reasons why Sweden should have ratified it. In the conclusion of the so-called Heurgren Report of this commission, it is established that Sweden could ratify the Convention if it was able to solve some controversial issues about the right to land of the Sami.

According to the Report, Sweden should recognize Sami Rights and corollary priorities to sustain Sami people in exercising own traditional activities as reindeer husbandry[23]. Subsequently, two acts were issued: The Reindeer Husbandry Act and The Reindeer Grazing Act. In both acts, the land defined for use by Sami is discussed only in regards to maintaining reindeer grazing.

In 1991, the Swedish Parliament issued the Swedish Minerals Act (4 5/91), accompanied by the corollary law (285/92). Notwithstanding the subsequent amendments, the act does not present a reference to the law for grazing reindeer and Sami rights.

In 1998, the Swedish Environmental Code (808/1998) obliged extraction companies to draft Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) as a requirement for licensing.

In 2009, Sweden adopted the law on Ethnic Minority (2009/724) which assured the Sami the right to maintain and develop their own culture and the right to participate on issues that concern them. In 2018, Sweden implemented the European directives concerning water policies. The UN system, particularly the CERD, expressly criticized Sweden’s belief that the state’s not respecting the obligations accepted by the ratification or signature of the Conventions.

As regards the Finnish situation, Finland does not yet have any legally binding instruments with regard to the rights of the Saami. There is no provision for the obligation of the FPIC in decision-making processes. Worthy of note, the Climate Act Reform, scheduled for September 2021, with which the Finnish Parliament is supposed to have a provision to encourage greater participation of Sami people in climate change-related decision-making. Like Sweden, but unlike Norway, Finland has not ratified ILO 169, despite the Saami Council presenting a shadow report (2020) to the United Nations Human Rights Committee asking for the strengthening of the national legislative circuit in defense of Saami rights through the ratification of ILO Convention 169[24].

Still, the Sami way of life has been recognized since time immemorial. In 1751, the Lapp Codicil considered that the Government had to implement all the necessary measures so that the customs and the concept of Sami territoriality were protected[25]. At the constitutional level, the fundamental text includes respect for cultural and linguistic rights without specifying participatory rights. Furthermore, these rights also encounter application limits of a geographical nature. This legislative lacuna has been resolved with reference to the Sami Act of Finland, Article 1 of which specifies the rights to consultations and negotiations[26].

To complete the picture, Russia offers a new panorama on the indigenous rights front. The system of protection of indigenous rights is still unclear, also overlaid by the complex legislative system which includes federal laws and various regions with special status with minimum powers of an autonomous administrative nature. The federal government and all federal sub-structures have exclusive jurisdiction over the rights of indigenous peoples. Federal laws include the right to continue subsistence activities, valuation of environmental, social, and economic impacts of economic activities on the territory, but weak policies in support of sustainable development for IP[27].

5. Consultations and public hearings

Stakeholders can be involved in decision-making processes by taking different paths (Table 2). In many countries (such as Canada, Greenland, Norway, and Sweden), mandatory consultations are arranged with the indigenous communities of the territory at certain stages of issuing the license. In other regions (for example, in Alaska), public hearings are held in order to allow the dissemination of information to all parties involved in the process.

Table 2: Different ways of consultative processes (click on the table to enlarge it)

Although public hearings and consultations perform different tasks, they both pursue the same objectives:

  1. To obtain grants and further information on the draft regarding the project and license.
  2. Provide business agents, locals, and other interested parties with parties.
  3. Identify a wide range of public hearings.
  4. Give publicity, transparency, and legitimacy to the EIA and Strategic Impact Assessment (SIA), and the authorization process[28].

Consultative measures are also influenced by the political representation structure of the indigenous community under consideration. For example, the centers of Sami policymaking are Sami parliaments which carry out political leadership activities and communicate with national parliaments.

In this context, Sami parliaments may have the power to issue opinions, recommendations, or even guidelines on how to conduct consultations. Although the Sami parliaments are structured similarly, and the Sami priorities are rather homogeneous, the relations between local and national governments are very different. These discrepancies create a lot of inequality between the Sami themselves in the field of protection of their rights and in the degree of representation.

Finally, sometimes it is the national government that makes important choices for the good of indigenous communities, imposing bans on exploitation in certain areas inhabited by indigenous communities without, however, establishing legally binding consultation obligations, for example; Russia[29].

6. Bureaucratic complexity – The case of Sweden

On the occasion of a workshop in Troms[30], the author addressed the issue of deliberative democracy in the Lapland region, Sapmi, in relation to the management of natural resources in Sweden. The analysis began with a shortlist of the most important steps in the evolution of the mining law and the reasons for the failure to ratify ILO 169 in Sweden. In relation to this circumstance, the special commission elected by the Swedish Parliament in 1997, declared the possibility of ratification of the Convention only after overcoming some issues concerning the recognition of Sami rights and land rights. The discussion on the recognition of Sami rights is still relevant today, above all because national legislation still has gaps and lends itself to ambiguous interpretation. This legislative vaguery affects the current licensing system which, despite including the consultation of indigenous communities, does not set any guideline on the methods of acquiring consent by them. Furthermore, the failure to ratify ILO 169 affects the effectiveness of international instruments already adopted by Sweden, such as UNDRIP and ICCPR[31].

The analysis presented a focus on the situation in Kiruna, where the population is about to be progressively moved to a new area away from the iron mine. The author conducted on-the-spot questionnaires and interviews with members of the Swedish Saami community and Saami Parliament to establish the degree of active participation of the parties involved in the relocation of housing due to the environmental damage associated with the extraction activity.

Given that Sweden implemented the Aarhus Convention through European law, the author wanted to establish the degree of access to information, public participation, and access to environmental justice by the Saami people in Sweden[32].

As regards the right of access to information, Sweden has an effective digital case advertising system on official networks, accessible online. The right to participation of indigenous communities is included in UNDRIP and the Swedish Mineral Act (by drafting SIA), but the lack of specific rules on how to conduct the public hearing negatively impacts the monitoring of inclusion of populations and the effectiveness of these consultative activities. According to the Mineral Act, preliminary consultations are provided at the beginning of the licensing process. The company must go to the Mining Inspectorate to obtain the mining concession and the institution consults the local representations (Sameby) about the project[33]. The same local representations will be advised about the first EIA by the company[34]. However, considering that ILO 169 isn’t applied, the role of the SIA is not clear. The law doesn’t clarify if the SIA aims to achieve a high degree of active participation, to obtain the consent of the local community, or to negotiate an agreement between the Saami, companies, and government.

Concerning access to environmental justice, Sweden has a specific procedure for disputes concerning environmental hazards and land cases[35]. In addition, the administrative system provides for alternative conflict resolution solutions, such as mediation. NGOs and indigenous communities can be included in the process through the appeal phase[36]. The major limitation to the access to environmental justice is represented by the reservation of Sweden to the Aarhus Convention, which limits the review procedures by environmental organizations in specific circumstances[37]. However, it is important to specify that the Aarhus Convention does not include any indigenous or minority rights regarding consultation during licensing. To date, Swedish legislation does not provide for any right of veto by the Sami people to stop a mine opening.

Access to information Aarhus (reservation) UNDRIP
Right to Participation UNDRIP / Swedish mineral act (SIA)
Access to environmental justice Aarhus (reservation) Swedish Environmental Code

As previously mentioned, the author conducted interviews with Swedish Saami, and the data that emerged presented a moderate dissent from the Sami communities on the work of the Kiruna Parliament.

Even today, in fact, many members of the communities, especially those who live near the mines, complain about the lack of political inclusion in public consultation systems, in the final phase of the granting of the license, and in case of environmental damage. In fact, the Saami do not have a defined legal position as it is not clear whether they are interested parties or stakeholders in the negotiation phase of the extraction plans.

It is possible to paint the political position of the Swedish Saami, listing some points to solve:

  • Weak Saami political representation.
  • Insufficient inclusion of the community knows to me along the licensing path.
  • The ambiguity between right to consultation and right to consent (FPIC).

The solutions to these problems are to be found between politics and national legislation. As the Kiruna Parliament has expressed in its political standpoint[38], a first step would be the ratification of ILO 169 which would have the double effect of raising the community Saami as stakeholders and defining the goals of domestic mining legislation to reach a free, prior and informed consensus, thus going beyond the limit of mere consultation. Obviously, the need to obtain a consensus would strengthen the political position of the Saami which could still be resolved in an alternative way to ILO 169, by simply changing internal legislation and providing more opportunities for inclusion of the Saami in the natural resources sector. Offering training, working on tenders and consultancy planning are some potential routes. Current domestic legislation is not yet able to guarantee the complete protection of indigenous rights, limiting itself to allowing the use of land for grazing reindeer[39]. Agreeing that the right to self-determination does not necessarily imply a property right on land, the interpretation of the law on ethnic minorities is not yet clear, in so far as it establishes the right of indigenous peoples to maintain and develop their culture if, to the Saami culture closely linked to Nature, no right to enjoy the land is recognized but only a “right to specific use”. Finally, a further solution to the Saami’s political weakness could also be a strengthening of the collaboration between the Kiruna Parliament and the national one, still very compromised by political systems and parliamentary representation which are not yet fully inclusive.


First of all, the major issues related to indigenous participation in the sector must be addressed.

According to Sam Morley, many problems that hinder the full inclusion of indigenous peoples in decision-making procedures are to be found in the capacity for representation and coordination between central and decentralized political bodies[40]. In fact, in small communities with many needs particularly, there is insufficient coordination in the issuance of services and programs.

Often, indigenous communities and their representatives do not have sufficient power to propose effective action or policy plans that reflect the true priorities that affect the communities. This concerns the allocation of benefits from the exploitation of natural resources as other issues of social interest, such as gender equality or education.

Over the years, many diatribes have arisen around the possibility of strengthening the protection of human rights by ratifying treaties such as ILO 169 or designating international guidelines for companies to have guidance to enable greater dialogue with indigenous communities. This dialogue would not be limited only to consultations, but also to outline a training and development framework that is traced and would like to have more opportunities for study and work.

Another problem is the lack of transparency of the procedures that accompany the various stages of licensing, especially to determine how crucial the consultations were.

Obviously, all these proposals need an internal legislative change with the hope of greater developments that consider the indigenous communities in the area.


[1] RAYGORODETSKY B. “Indigenous peoples defend Earth’s biodiversity—but they’re in danger”,for National Geographic, 2018 (https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/article/can-indigenous-land-stewardship-protect-biodiversity- )

[2] Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (Aarhus, Denmark, 25 June 1998)

[3] MINISTERO PER LA TRANSIZIONE ECOLOGICA, “l’accesso alla giustizia in materia ambientale nella normativa italiana” (CF: https://www.minambiente.it/pagina/laccesso-alla-giustizia-materia-ambientale-nella-normativa-italiana), 2016 (Accessed by 17th May 2021)

[4] Known also as Aarhus Convention*

[5] LOUKACHEVA N., “The Arctic Promise: Legal and Political Autonomy of Greenland and Nunavut”,University of Toronto, Advanced Knowledge, 2017 (Available on  https://books.google.is/books?hl=it&lr=&id=HzPzwrUYdgkC&oi=fnd&pg=PP1&dq=greenland+and+international+relations&ots=J-zEBj-l1&sig=G47TfV0C7yb079f5Ay7f4BRzlVE&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q= greenland%20and%20international%20relations&f=false )

[6] Some dispute mechanisms able to received claims from IP: Independent Redress Mechanism (IRM; https://irm.greenclimate.fund/ ), Social and Environmental Compliance Unit (SECU; https://www.undp.org/accountability/audit/secu-srm/social-and-environmental-compliance-review ), Compliance Advisor Ombudsman (CAO; http://www.cao-ombudsman.org/ )

[7] MARTONE F.,” Cambiamenti climatici ed impatto sui diritti umani. Le analisi e le proposte della comunità internazionale e dei movimenti indigeni”  in I diritti dei popoli indigeni, ed. Fabio Marcelli, Aracne Editrice, 2009

[8] MILANO E., “ Autodeterminazione dei popoli”, in  Diritto on line, 2014 (available on https://www.treccani.it/enciclopedia/autodeterminazione-dei-popoli-dir-int_%28Diritto-on-line%29/  . Accessed in 15th July 2021)

[9] MILANO E., Ibid.

[10] CAMBOU, D. AND SMIS, S. “Permanent Sovereignty over Natural Resources from a Human Rights Perspective: Natural Resources Exploitation and Indigenous Peoples’ Rights in the Arctic”; Michigan State International Law Review 22 (1) 347-376 2328-3068, 2013

[11] OSSERVATORIO DEI DIRITTI, “Diritti umani e ambiente: cosa prevede il diritto internazionale”(CF:https://www.osservatoriodiritti.it/2018/03/24/diritti-umani-ambiente-diritto-internazionale-onu/)/ (Last accessed on 16th May 2021)

[12] SIMILÄ J, JOKINEN M., Governing Conflicts between Mining and Tourism in the Arctic, Arctic Review on Law and Politics Vol. 9, 2018, pp. 148–173

[13] GOVERNMENTAL OFFICE OF SWEDEN “Sweden’s Minerals Strategy For sustainable use of Sweden’s mineral resources that creates growth throughout the country “, Article no N2013.06 (CF: https://www.government.se/contentassets/78bb6c6324bf43158d7c153ebf2a4611/swedens-minerals-strategy.-for-sustainable-use-of-swedens-mineral-resources-that-creates-growth-throughout-the-country-complete-version ) (accessed by 17th May 2021)

[14] KILROY, WALT, “From Conflict to Ownership: Participatory Approaches to the Re-integration of Ex-Combatants in Sierra Leone. Irish Studies in International Affairs”, 22. 10.2307/41413197., 2011

[15] ITALIAN GOVERNMENT, “Le consultazioni dei cittadini e dei portatori di interesse”, 2017 http://www.senato.it/application/xmanager/projects/leg18/file/repository/UVI/27._CONSULTAZIONI_PUBBLICHE.pdf ()/(LAst accessed on 17th May 2021)

[16] MILANO, ibid

[17] The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) https://www.nps.gov/locations/alaska/anilca.htm

[18] The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) https://www.boem.gov/oil-gas-energy/leasing/ocs-lands-act-history

[19] Council of Yukon First Nations, Final Umbrella Agreement, 1990 (https://cyfn.ca/agreements/umbrella-final-agreement/ )

[20] FUSCO S. “The legal position of Inuit in the exploitation of natural resources in Greenland”, University of Akureyri, 2019,25-27 (http://hdl.handle.net/1946/33941 )

[21] KOIVUROVA T., “ The Draft Nordic Saami Convention: Nations Working Together”,  International Community Law Review 10 (2008) 279–293 (Available on https://www.arcticcentre.org/loader.aspx?id=1796863c-4dc1-4118-8c8b-2bfdf3eccdf8 , accessed on 28th July 2021)

[22] AIKIO A., ÅHRÉN M., “A reply to calls for an extension of the definition of Sámi in Finland” Arctic Review on Law and Politics, vol. 5, 1/2014 pp. 123–143. ISSN 1891-6252 (https://site.uit.no/arcticreview/files/2014/10/A-reply-to-calls-for-an-extension-of-the.pdf ). I suggest reading “ILO Convention No. 169 – A Solution for Land Disputes in the Nordic Countries?”by Tanja Joona (https://www.rha.is/static/files/NRF/OpenAssemblies/Oulu2006/project-legal_joona.pdf ) and MA thesis by G. Amatulli “The Legal Position of the Sami in the Exploitation of Mineral Resources in Finland, Norway and Sweden”, Abo University, 2015 (available on https://www.abo.fi/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/2015-Amatulli-The-legal-position-of-the-Sami-in-the-exploitation-of-mineral-resources.pdf )

[23] JOONA T., “ ILO Convention No. 169 – A Solution for Land Disputes in the Nordic Countries?”(https://www.rha.is/static/files/NRF/OpenAssemblies/Oulu2006/project-legal_joona.pdf ), 179-182

[24] HAETTA K., “Saami Council: Finland must repair the human rights violations and ratify ILO 169 Convention”, on official Website of Saami Council, April 2021 (https://www.saamicouncil.net/news-archive/finland-must-repair-the-human-rights-violations-and-ratify-ilo-169-convention ). I highly recommend also: ALLARD C., “The Rationale for the Duty to Consult Indigenous Peoples: Comparative Reflections from Nordic and Canadian Legal Contexts”, 2018 in Arctic Review on Law and Politics DOI: 10.23865/arctic.v8.723, in particular paragraph 3.2-3.3.1

[25] For further information about Lapp Codicil, I suggest the review of this article: SUONINEN I. E,”Court case between Swedish reindeer herders and the State of Norway: Trying the validity of “Lapp Codicil”, for Yle Sampi, 2018 (https://thebarentsobserver.com/en/arctic/2018/11/court-case-between-swedish-reindeer-herders-and-state-norway-trying-validity-lapp )

[26] Section 1 — Objective of the Act (1279/2002) (1) The Sámi, as an indigenous people, have linguistic and cultural autonomy in the Sámi homeland as provided in this Act and in other legislation. For the tasks relating to cultural autonomy the Sámi shall elect from among themselves a Sámi Parliament

[27] NEWMAN D., BIDDULPH M., BINNION l.,, Ibid. 124-128

[28] ANP, “Public Consultation and Public Hearing 9/2017 – Summary and decisions concerning the contributions received”, 2018(http://rodadas.anp.gov.br/en/14th-bidding-round/public-consultation-andpublic-hearing  last accessed on 25th March 2019)

[29] NEWMAN D., BIDDULPH M., BINNION l., “Arctic Energy Development And Best Practices On Consultation With Indigenous Peoples”, Newman Arctic Energy Development.Docx ,2014

[30] LARSEN R. K., “Implementing the State Duty to Consult in Land and Resource Decisions: Perspectives from Sami Communities and Swedish State Officials”Arctic Review on Law and Politics Vol. 10, 2019, pp. 4–23 (available onhttps://arcticreview.no/index.php/arctic/article/view/1323/3025 , accessed on 14th October 2020)

[31] UN General Assembly, United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples : resolution / adopted by the General Assembly, 2 October 2007, A/RES/61/295, available at: https://www.refworld.org/docid/471355a82.html (accessed 14 February 2020); UN General Assembly, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 16 December 1966, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 999, p. 171, available at: https://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6b3aa0.html (accessed 14 February 2020)

[32] EUROPEAN JUSTICE, “Access to justice in environmental matters – Sweden”, Last update: 31/05/2018 (accessed on 14th February 2020)

[33] The Swedish Environmental Code was adopted in 1998 and entered into force 1 January 1999.

[34] LAWRENCE R.; LARSEN R.K, “Fighting to be herd, Impacts of the proposed Boliden copper mine in Laver, Älvsbyn, Sweden for the Semisjaur Njarg Sami reindeer herding community” Sydney Environment Institute, University of Sydney, Stockholm Environment Institute, April 2019, pp.19-24 (https://www.sei.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/sei-report-fighting-to-be-herd-300419.pdf, last accessed 14th February 2020)

[35] Environmentally hazardous activities are condemned in Chapter 9 of the Swedish Environmental Code.

[36] HOJEM P. ,“Mining in the Nordic Countries :A comparative review of legislation and taxation”,Norden, Denmark, 2015 (https://norden.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:842595/FULLTEXT01.pdf, accessed on 14th February 2020)


[38] SAMEDIGGI, “Minerals and Mines in Sàmpi”, 2015 (https://www.sametinget.se/mining, last accessed on 14th February 2020)

[39] The Reindeer Husbandry Act and the Reindeer Grazing Act mention the “land use” only for reindeer grazing. In 1991, the Swedish Parliament issued the Swedish Minerals Act (4 5/91), accompanied by the corollary law (2 85/92). Notwithstanding the subsequent amendments, the act does not present a reference to the law for grazing reindeer and Sami rights. In 1998, the Swedish Environmental Code (808/1998) obliged the extraction companies to draft the EIAs as a requirement for licensing.In 2009, Sweden adopted the law on Ethnic Minority (2009/724) which assured the Sami the right to maintain and develop their own culture and the right to participate on issues that concern them.

[40] Morley S., “What works in effective Indigenous community-managed programs and organisations”, CFCA Paper No. 32 , May 2015 (https://aifs.gov.au/cfca/publications/what-works-effective-indigenous-community-managed-programs-and-organisations )

Günther Handl and Kristoffer Svendsen (eds.), Managing the Risk of Offshore Oil and Gas Accidents: The International Legal Dimension (Cheltenham: E. Elgar, 2020)

Managing the Risk of Offshore Oil and Gas Accidents: The International Legal Dimension is a book from the Edward Elgar’s New Horizons in Environmental and Energy Law Series. It is structured around the assessment of domestic and regional legal concepts regarding safety, liability and compensation for harm, and is divided in three Parts containing topics consisting of one or several Chapters.

Part I is on prevention and reduction of harm. Without restricting itself only to the offshore industry, Topic/Chapter 1 acknowledges the deficiencies of risk management by considering State and stakeholder involvement in corporate governance and concludes that transparency is one of the most important factors for improving it.

Topic 2 is on regulating the safety of offshore oil and gas operations. Chapter 2.1 is on promoting uniformity in international governance. This is achieved by discussing the prescriptive (Malaysia, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia) and performance-based regulatory approaches, and the tendency of moving towards hybrid control (USA, Norway, UK, Australia). The reasons for the latter – that government agencies are not well-suited to inspect the quality of the industry even though obliged to ‘audit the auditor’s auditor’ – are established in Chapter 2.2 using as role model the ongoing changes in the USA following the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) accident. Although international law has no provisions on promoting uniform health and safety standards and that the hybrid system allows for easy harmonisation, it is also possible in States promoting prescriptive regulation.

Topic/Chapter 3 discusses the need to amend treaty law on contingency planning and response (CPR) regarding transboundary pollution through reviewing the vertical levels of governance: treaty (UNCLOS and OPRC), regional (Arctic) and bilateral (Norwegian-Russian) legislation.

Unlike it, Topic 4 is on national and regional CPR – Chapter 4.1 reviews the amendments and implementation of EU law after DWH accident; Chapter 4.2 is on MOSPA  and the 1994 Russian-Norwegian Agreement in the Barents Sea; Chapter 4.3 is on national and interstate CPR of the Arctic by the USA, Canada and Greenland; Chapter 4.4 is chiefly on the Mediterranean, although also referring to the other marine areas – in Europe, the Arab peninsula, Africa, the Pacific, the North East Atlantic and the Caribbean.

The approaches in Topic 4 differ in depth of research. While some might be used for referencing (the regional agreements in Chapter 4.4), others describe the peculiarities of national governance (Greenland in Chapter 4.3). However, all are quite detailed in considering the impact on stakeholders and their authors agree on: the insufficiency in harmonisation, the extant high fragmentation, and the low levels of joint decision-making, thus urging continued cooperation.

Topic/Chapter 5 is on cooperation in marine delimitation and exploitation of transboundary deposits agreements (unitisation treaties, framework agreements and joint development agreements) for avoiding transboundary accidents. The review of several regional and bilateral agreements shows that it is impossible to categorise them. However, diversity also offers a range of options to choose from in order to meet States’ specific objectives.

Part II is on liability and compensation of loss. Chapter 6, describing the 2009 Montara and 2010 DWH accidents, shows the necessity of introducing a treaty law on transboundary losses. States prefer to channel liability to the operator which, unfortunately, is not a panacea, and additional measures for ameliorating the situation are proposed.

Topic 7 is on the most contentious losses that may occur following a pollution accident. Chapter 7.1 is on pure economic loss criticising the method for calculating DWH claims and an alternative is offered. Chapter 7.2 is on pure environmental damage. Unlike pure economic loss, it relates to collective rights and is also difficult to calculate. Treaty law is unclear about who is to be liable. However, certain US and EU laws could be used as a model in amending it.

Since the US are the place of greatest concern for risk managers in the offshore petroleum industry, Topic/Chapter 8 considers when punitive damages are granted. The conclusion is that that they are not quite popular among judges.

Topic/Chapter 9 is on liability insurance in the upstream operations – of the contractors, for well control, rigs and offshore vessels – and the issues of subrogation and business interruption insurance as developed by the London insurance market under English law. And although in 2015 the legislation was amended, the parties are still to be aware that renegotiating the standard terms might affect them negatively.

Part III is on claims processing. While Topic/Chapter 10 is on the role the CLC/FUND Conventions have in resolving pollution claims from carriage of petroleum by sea, Chapter 11.1 is on DWH litigation and Chapter 11.2 on compensation following the Montara accident. The CLC/FUND Conventions are unrelated to seabed petroleum extraction, whose solutions on liability may be completely different. The DWH proceedings describe the consolidation of claims and the distribution of the fund established by BP. Regardless of the procedural and substantive flaws, the settlement of claims has been substantially successful and its experience could be instructive for future oil spills. Unlike DWH, Montara looks from a broader perspective – against whom and where the transboundary and national victims could claim. Thus, the difficulties which the transboundary claimants have encountered when they brought their claim in the Australian court against the operator have been recognised.

Topic/Chapter 12 is on the development of mass tort litigation in Europe. After pinpointing the differences between the continental and US common law systems, the shared features of several European class action cases are discussed – the role of State institutions, preference for individual litigation, and the European (national and supranational) procedural laws. Thus, the authors show what amendments have been undertaken in order to make class litigation more attractive in Europe.

There is no way to disagree with the editors that this book seeks to provide a comprehensive analysis of the transnational dimension of the petroleum activities by looking at harm prevention and post-accident management of risk.  The lack of references in the table of contents for a particular law does not mean that scholarship has not considered it in detail or that its review has not been spread throughout the Chapters (e.g., MOSPA or the US law). Also, the missing acknowledgement of relevant existing legislation, such as the one pertaining to Danish-Canadian relations,[1] shaping as well the Greenlandic obligations due to its colonial past, does not decrease the quality of its research. In addition, the review of recent caselaw and the list of major accidents in Chapter 9 make it a good reference for legal academia at large. Furthermore, by encompassing different levels of governance, the book stresses that States and international organisations need to be more proactive in finding common solutions to the existing problems.

[1] Agreement for Cooperation between Denmark and Canada Relating to the Marine  Environment (Copenhagen, 26.08.1983)

Ken S. Coates and Carin Holroyd (eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of Arctic Policy and Politics (Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 2020)

The Palgrave Handbook of Arctic Policy and Politics is one of an increasing number of anthologies addressing Arctic governance from a variety of academic perspectives. The collection is organised into seven parts, each representing a different discipline although by the nature of the topic, these often overlap. These are: I Indigenous Peoples and Arctic Social Dynamics; II Economic Development; III Policies of Arctic Nations; IV The Arctic and International Relations; V Arctic Legal and Institutional Systems; Arctic Security; and VII Reflections on Future of the Arctic (emphasis in original).

In addition to the editors, the contributors include some very well-established scholars in their respective fields, such as Joan Larsen and Gail Fondhal (economics); Andrey Petrov (geography and economics); Timo Koivurova and Nigel Bankes (law); Timothy Heleniak (demographics); Lawson Brigham (shipping); and Heather Nicol and Whitney Lackenbauer (security).

The editors state the goal of the handbook is:
to address, as a top priority, the needs of the region and to ensure that the Southern and global actors understand their collective responsibility to reverse and correct the patterns and policies of the past. More than anything, the chapters collected here make it clear that there are policy and political options, many of them urgent, most of them expensive, and all requiring a collaborative approach with the peoples of the Arctic… [It also aims to] generate[s] public policy debate about a new and regionally controlled future for the Arctic (4).

It is not possible to review closely each of the thirty-three contributions so instead some overall remarks will be made regarding the volume with references to examples. The collection is fairly conservative (a term that is not intended to be read negatively). It is heavy on history; it prioritises market economies and emphasises market-based growth as the primary solution to Arctic challenges; it maintains a central focus on states ; it relies on positivist account of international law; and the contributors are not a particularly diverse group nor representative of Arctic populations.

Chapter 8, “Innovation, New Technologies, and the Future of the Circumpolar North” concentrates on marketable applications. Indigenous innovation, both historic and emerging, is largely overlooked except when it is in “community-government-university-industry collaboration” (124). Chapter 14, “Government, Policies, and Priorities in Kalaallit Nunaat (Greenland): Roads to Independence” “seeks to offer something approaching a Kalaallit perspective” (218) but this would have been more convincing with a Greenlandic co-author or at least more references to Greenlandic scholarship. The reference list includes a few Kalallissut newspaper articles (themselves by Danish authors and likely translated from Danish) and some Danish articles but no academic work, for example, by Mininnguaq Kleist who has written in both English and Danish on the evolving constitution of Greenland. (The author acknowledges his position as neither Danish nor Greenlandic.)

It is not until Part VII, and especially Chapter 32, that we come to “The Future of the Arctic,” by the co-editors, Coates and Holroyd, with most of the chapters that precede establishing the history that has led to the current dynamics. (This is, of course, an important role for any handbook. It is only with knowledge of the past that one can understand the present or envisage futures.) A few typos suggest that this chapter may have been written hurriedly but perhaps the editors can make corrections at least in the eBook version. It is heavily focused on economic challenges and the formal economy. Nevertheless, the authors provide an ambitious list of priorities for decision-makers in the Arctic, concentrating on local, contextualised solutions and involvement of Indigenous expertise (538-40).

Common to much political science scholarship, there are a few inaccuracies on points of law – such as conflating territory, the exclusive economic zone and the continental shelf (311) and a lengthy discussion of the Nordic Saami Convention as “one of the most important statements of Indigenous aspirations and accomplishments in recent decades” without noting that this treaty has not yet come into force (288-89). Fortunately, these matters are corrected by Bankes’ clear and careful exposition of the law of the sea (Chapter 23) and Newman’s good summary of the international law on Indigenous Peoples (Chapter 26) respectively.

A conservative collection done well – as this one is – certainly has its place in the burgeoning international scholarship of the Arctic. I envisage three contexts in which the Handbook will undoubtedly demonstrate its value. First of all, for scholars in any field seeking a primer on the Arctic. Second for experts in some Arctic-related disciplines, such as law or security studies, who seek to broaden their knowledge with a primer on other fields. Third, this anthology is a very good resource that I expect to turn to whenever I need an authoritative reference on some point or other. The searchable eBook version is particularly conducive for this.

Karen N. Scott and David L. VanderZwaag (eds.) Research Handbook on Polar Law (Cheltenham/Northampton: E. Elgar, 2020)

The Research Handbook on Polar Law by Edward Elgar Publishing is part of the series of Research Handbooks that the British publishing house offers as a research focus in different disciplines and properly indexed in particular themes. In the case of the Research Handbook in Polar Law, the collection of 22 articles attempts to offer a comprehensive view of what constitutes the dimension of Polar Law: biodiversity, culture, politics.

The tome is edited by Karen N. Scott and David L. VanderZwaag, who try in the introduction to invite readers to reflect on the existence of a Polar Law and on the need to have this legal exceptionalism. Polar Law arises from the need to accommodate the regional demands of a part of the Planet that historically responds to various natural, economic and cultural claims. For this reason, inserting the term of Polar Law in the nomenclature alone is very difficult, considering the multidisciplinary nature of the subject.

Although the Polar law recalls a rationalistic legal structure, the two Poles, Arctic and Antarctic, require a different treatment as they are two geologically and politically distinct areas. If in the Arctic speaking of cultural diversity is possible, research in Antarctica focuses more on the protection of nature and the correct management of human activities, such as research and tourism.

For this reason, the authors opened the analysis with a historical excursus on polar geology, explaining the effects of the Anthropocene and its developments in the era of climate change. As far as the Poles may seem far and remote areas, they are in fact strongly interconnected with the rest of the Globe. The high temperatures and the sudden melting of glaciers caused an unstoppable rise in sea levels and the sinking of lands and river deltas. But not only. It is interesting to discover how the disappearance of the glaciers has made the polar future increasingly dark, without solar reflection and greater absorption of radiation.

The effects of Climate Change also unfold on traditional and non-traditional human activities in the Arctic, bringing out new priorities and new actors in the political and administrative dimension of the polar areas. After Seck and MacLeod attempt to group the polar population based on activities, Nengye Liu analyses China’s emerging role in Arctic politics, comparing the Chinese situation to the presence and competence of the European Union in both the Arctic and Antarctic. Although Chinese influence is still minimal in Polar Law, China is increasingly present in issues such as fisheries, shipping and tourism, especially in the Southern Ocean.

In fact, fisheries and tourism activities in the Southern Ocean have increased dramatically in the last decade. In his article, Haward traces the salient points of the history of fishing in the Southern Ocean up to the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) part of the Antarctic Treaty System (ATS). Haward underlines the importance of conserving marine biodiversity, recalling when even the smallest element (krill) is indispensable for polar biodiversity. From the very beginning, CCAMLR has faced several resistances. Even today, it is hypothesized how this Convention can be integrated in the management of natural resources, especially in the policies regulating fishing.

A different approach is that explained by Hoel, who explains how fishing in the Arctic is managed, in particular by the Arctic Five, the five coastal Arctic states (Canada, United States of America (Alaska), Denmark (Greenland), Norway, Russia). Fishing in the Arctic has an additional meaning of sustenance for all the communities that live there. For this reason, the coastal Arctic countries have implemented tools to better manage this activity, such as moratoriums (US and Canada) and restrictive measures (Norway).

Natural resources are not just about flora and fauna. The Arctic is a region very rich in minerals and interest in developing these resources has grown over the years. The melting of the ice and the increasing number of fires in the Arctic has uncovered much of the covered land and has allowed further exploration.

Johnstone and Joblin talk about the limitations that Indigenous peoples still suffer in the enjoyment of territorial rights. Indigenous peoples, they points out, are not necessarily opposed to mining but would like to be able to participate more actively in decision-making processes involving the lands they have inhabited since time immemorial. Clearly, the connection sustainable development and extractive activities is not applicable in the Antarctic, as this continent is not permanently inhabited even if the growing presence of new actors (as previously argued by Liu).

Another important human activity in the Arctic and Antarctic is undoubtedly tourism. Again, global warming has opened up new avenues of communication, both by sea and by land, requiring greater controls and monitoring systems (Chapter 15; Chapter 16). Liggett and Stewart explore the regulatory framework of maritime tourism in the Arctic (Nunavut) and Antarctica, questioning whether this is sufficient to promote the diversification of the polar tourism sector. As pointed out by the authors, the non-ratification of some important international instruments (UNCLOS) and the difficult implementation of the International Code for Ships Operating in Polar Waters (Polar Code), has weakened the domestic legal system that guarantees the harmonization of international law on the matter. As everyone knows, the COVID-19 pandemic has had devastating effects on the tourism sector in general, causing a total shutdown in the polar areas. The cessation of maritime routes has considerably reduced the economic income of the local communities increasingly involved in the sector. The advent of COVID-19 has prompted governors and academics to reflect on the environment, society and the economy. Three strongly interconnected dimensions that make up the concept of sustainability, now at the centre of global policies.

During the pandemic, the media often referred to the “resurgence of Nature”, telling stories of how the fauna and flora have regained the spaces occupied by man. Nature that still struggles to be the holder of rights, but passively undergoes the rules imposed by man to manage itself in order not to be damaged by the environment that it manipulates and transforms. For these reasons, I think it is really interesting and important to read chapter 16, in which Warner traces the international principles of environmental law in both polar regimes, weaving a profound analysis on the precautionary principle and the importance of drafting Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) now implemented in many legal systems (thanks also to international influence and European directives in support of greater monitoring of human activities in the environment).

At the 26th UNFCCC Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow, global sustainability was one of the topics that drove the climate discussions. In fact, governments have talked about the policies to be adopted to lower the levels of carbon emissions, the primary cause of climate change. There continues to be some concern that the measures adopted, especially legal ones, do not take the vulnerability levels of the Poles seriously. In fact, the legal instruments are often of a soft-law nature such as the bodies that issue, albeit important, guidelines and policies in this regard (Arctic Council and containment measures for the levels of Mercury and POPs, especially in Antarctica). In addition, there is also a substantial inconsistency among polar regimes that tend to jeopardize policies relating to climate change (Chapters 16 and 20).

The same perplexities are shared by Suzanne Lalonde, regarding the establishment of marine protected areas (MPA) and other effective area-based conservation measures in both polar regimes. Despite the legal instruments on the matter, the Arctic and Antarctica encounter the same coordination problems. If in the Arctic we find eight countries that manage MPAs according to their own legal system, in the Antarctic there is experience of logistical and regulatory overlaps (ATCM and CCAMLR). The author suggests the strengthening of inspection and monitoring systems in the Arctic (beyond the legal areas of state competence) by supporting cooperation between agencies and local communities.

Since the 1990s, the Arctic Council (AC) has referred to a further consequence of climate change: the acidification of the waters, which affects both the Arctic Ocean and the Southern Ocean. After the Arctic Council states recognized the problem of water acidification in 2015, the Arctic Council immediately adopted pro-active initiatives to combat the damage and risk factors, such as the Enhanced Black Carbon and Methane Emissions Reduction Framework for Action (EBCME Framework), with the commitment of member states to reduce black carbon and methane emissions.

The approach to the South Pole, according to Stephens, would be completely different. If in the Arctic we can speak of regionalism, the problem of acidification of Antarctic waters is treated in a more conservative way. Although the members of the Antarctic Treaty System (ATS) are more numerous than those of the Arctic Council, the regulatory framework is based only on the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement and to date the ATS did not demonstrate the same dynamic response as the AC.

The volume ends with an examination of the position of Polar Law as a discipline, hypothesizing the factors that led to the creation of a branch of law. According to Rothwell and Hemmings, climate change, the effects of which are very evident in the polar regions, and the exploitation of resources are the main causes of the growing international interest. As mentioned previously, the polar legal framework is very complex and is the result of the first explorations and the first hypotheses of sovereignty of those lands. The fight against sovereignty and, consequently, the management of resources has resulted in conflicts and new theories that have spilled over into what we call “Polar governance” and the decision-making systems that affect the economy, society, and the polar environment. The purpose of Polar Law, as suggested by the authors, is to respond to geopolitical and environmental challenges (p.473), and for this reason it will continue to adapt in an uncertain future marked by climate change.

After this brief and general overview of the volume, I would like to conclude my review with some personal reflections. First of all, I I firmly believe editorial series of this kind are of absolute importance both for those who work in the sector and also for amateurs of Arctic themes. Sustainability and the environment were the two pillars of this book which constituted the common thread through all the articles. Also appreciated the references and postscriptum on COVID-19 which has been an undeniable unknown for the past two years. I really appreciated the variety of disciplines proposed and the themes that the authors selected. Excellent Arctic-Antarctic dichotomy in each contribution that allows the reader to compare the two polar regimes in each field. The only thing that I personally have not fully approved is the order of the articles, poorly organized by argument. I would have preferred to find the scientific and humanities articles in separate sections or in a different group. For these reasons, I invite those interested in Polar Law to read this volume, hoping not to wait too long for a new issue.


Little Italy: Seeking a Niche in International Arctic Relations

In December 2015, The Italian Ministry for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation published Verso una strategia italiana per l‘artico (Towards an Italian Strategy for the Arctic). In this article, the authors explain and evaluate the document in light of Italy’s connections to and interests in the Arctic, the Kiruna rules for observers at the Arctic Council, and the Arctic policies of other observers. They conclude that the intended audience for Verso una strategia is the Arctic States. Therefore, the document emphasises relevant Italian scientific efforts and promotes Italy’s oil and gas industry while downplaying the rights of indigenous peoples and avoiding issues of controversy. Publication of the document as a work in progress indicates the ministry’s willingness to listen to feedback and adapt its approaches as it develops a more comprehensive and nuanced strategy.

Continue reading Little Italy: Seeking a Niche in International Arctic Relations

Pävi Naskali, Marjaana Seppänen & Shahnaj Begum (eds.), Ageing, Wellbeing and Climate Change in the Arctic. An interdisciplinary analysis (London: Routledge, 2015)

The rationale behind this book is that little has been written and limited sources of information are currently available about ageing, wellbeing and climate change in the Arctic region. The Arctic is defined in political terms, not in terms of geographical, ecological, or climatic criteria. “The region is seen as both a direction and a location; the definition varies according to the describer’s position” (2). The editor’s also point out that men and women are not affected equally by climate change and there exists a knowledge gap on this issue of the ageing population (4). The book addresses this and explores three important main discussion areas: “first, various political issues that are currently affecting the Arctic, such as the social categorization of elderly people; second, the living conditions of the elderly in relation to Arctic climate change; and third, the wellbeing of elderly people in terms of traditional knowledge and lifestyles” (1).

Continue reading Pävi Naskali, Marjaana Seppänen & Shahnaj Begum (eds.), Ageing, Wellbeing and Climate Change in the Arctic. An interdisciplinary analysis (London: Routledge, 2015)

Leive Lund, Yang Jian & Iselin Stensdal (eds.), Asian Countries and the Arctic Future (Singapore: World Scientific, 2015)

The past few years Asian governments, companies and organizations, have showcased increased interest towards the Arctic region in terms of policy, science, climate, culture and economy. The most notable evidence was the acceptance of China, India, Japan, Singapore and South Korea as observers to the Arctic Council at its 2013 Ministerial Meeting in Kiruna, while Asian economic activity in the Arctic region is also on the rise in fields such as transportation and natural resource development. Asian stakeholders have a keen interest in climate change in the Arctic region, and its interlinks with middle/low-latitude areas, as well as running scientific programmes in the Arctic with explorations and research stations. The book, Asian Countries and the Arctic Future (2015), is a groundbreaking publication for dealing comprehensively with the rising importance of the Arctic within global affairs, in context with Asian perspectives.

Continue reading Leive Lund, Yang Jian & Iselin Stensdal (eds.), Asian Countries and the Arctic Future (Singapore: World Scientific, 2015)

Richard C. Powell & Klaus Dodds, Polar Geopolitics: Knowledges, Resources and Legal Regimes (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2014)

This edited collection brings together 18 scholars from different disciplines to discuss their latest insights into the Arctic and Antarctic regions. While the Antarctic has always been a distinct conceptual space in the World owing to its isolation from inhabited territories, the formation of the Arctic qua region has developed rapidly in the 21st Century. The editors, Richard Powell and Klaus Dodds, have asked the contributors to develop “critical polar geopolitics”, focusing on knowledges, resources and legal regimes. However, the book does not clearly follow these three priority areas but is in fact structured according to three parts: Global and Regional Frameworks; National Visions; and Indigenous and Northern Geopolitics.

Continue reading Richard C. Powell & Klaus Dodds, Polar Geopolitics: Knowledges, Resources and Legal Regimes (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2014)

Uttam Kumar Sinha & Jo Inge Bekkevold (eds.), Arctic: Commerce, Governance and Policy (New York: Routledge, 2015)

In the mid-2000s, the Arctic started to receive greater international attention given its growing importance in environmental, scientific, economic and political affairs. The acceptance of five Asian states – China, India, Japan, Singapore and South Korea – as Observers in the Arctic Council, the region’s preeminent intergovernmental forum, in 2013, became both representative of this trend and a consequence of it. This is the premise of Arctic: Commerce, Governance and Policy, which describes the interest and engagement of Asian states in Arctic affairs, and stems from papers presented at a conference on the topic of Arctic geopolitics held at New Delhi’s Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses in September 2013.

Continue reading Uttam Kumar Sinha & Jo Inge Bekkevold (eds.), Arctic: Commerce, Governance and Policy (New York: Routledge, 2015)

Klaus Dodds & Mark Nuttall, The Scramble for the Poles: The geopolitics of the Arctic and the Antarctic (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2016)

When I begin the writing process, I try to start with a title. I figure that if I get that right, then the rest will fall into place. When I saw the title of this new book by Klaus Dodds and Mark Nuttall, The Scramble for the Poles, my attention fixed on the word ‘scramble’, and it immediately resonated with me that this might be yet another polemic on the actions of polar states to shore up favourable access to polar resources in the future. And then I discovered that the authors actually devote a whole page in the Preface to explaining and justifying their use of this (and similar) terms, which was quite simply because they are in use in the everyday lexicon of polar commentary (p.xiii). So yes, in some respects this is yet another polemic – but at the same time, different.

Continue reading Klaus Dodds & Mark Nuttall, The Scramble for the Poles: The geopolitics of the Arctic and the Antarctic (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2016)

Rachael Lorna Johnstone, Offshore Oil and Gas Development in the Arctic under International Law: Risk and Responsibility (Leiden: Brill, 2015)

The Arctic is estimated to hold the world’s largest remaining untapped gas reserves and some of its largest undeveloped oil reserves. Developing these resources in the harsh Arctic environment will be complex and challenging and can have far-reaching consequences. Consequently, the prevention of offshore marine pollution from oil and gas development activities is amongst the more important issues that need to be discussed in this context.

Continue reading Rachael Lorna Johnstone, Offshore Oil and Gas Development in the Arctic under International Law: Risk and Responsibility (Leiden: Brill, 2015)

Douglas C Nord, The Arctic Council: Governance within the Far North (London: Routledge, 2016)

The Arctic Council: Governance within the Far North by the rather aptly named Douglas Nord is a succinct primer on the history and development of the leading intergovernmental forum in contemporary Arctic international relations. It is well-written and highly focused, making it an accessible read for students and an easy and quick read for busy academics.

Continue reading Douglas C Nord, The Arctic Council: Governance within the Far North (London: Routledge, 2016)

Marlene Laruelle, Russia’s Arctic Strategies and the Future of the Far North (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 2014).



Nevertheless, in scholarship on the Arctic, Russia is very often the weak link. The reasons for this are principally linguistic. While all other seven Arctic States routinely publish (or at least translate) major research initiatives, laws and policies in English, Russia does not. Nordic scholars can usually make their way around all the Scandinavian languages and Finland publishes all governmental regulations and documents in Swedish (an official language). Most Arctic scholars, the present reviewer included, are ashamedly at a loss in the face of the Russian language.


Marlene Laruelle has no such problem. Fortunately for the rest of the World‘s non-Russian speaking Arctic scholars, she has combined her linguistic skills with insightful, sensitive and clearly-expressed analysis in Russia‘s Arctic Strategies and the Future of the Far North. This book is long overdue and has no comparator.


The title already gives a clue to the subtlety of Laruelle‘s approach: the use of the plural “strategies” in lieu of the more common “strategy” indicates the complexity of Russian interests in the North and the competition between differing priorities at different times.


Russia’s Arctic Strategies and the Future of the Far North begins with a succinct introduction to the Arctic and its many players. Laruelle then devotes a chapter to each of the following topics: 1) Russia’s Arctic policy and its balance between domestic and international agenda; 2) The place of the Russian Arctic in Russian identity; 3) Demographics of the Russian Arctic; 4) the impacts of climate change; 5) Territorial disagreements and their resolution; 6) Military security; 7) Resource management; and 8) the Northern Sea Route. Laruelle concludes with a presentation of “four Russian Arctics”: the Murmansk-Arkhangel’sk Arctic (European transborder region); the Central Arctic (mineral and hydrocarbon rich); the Yakutia-Sakha Arctic; and the Bering Arctic (Chukotka and Kamchatka) (203-201).


In each of these chapters, Laruelle explains the historical development of the High North through Soviet times, the disastrous years for the people of the Russian Arctic following the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the renewal of interest in economic development in the 2000s. She is sensitive to the history and contemporary challenges facing the indigenous peoples of the Russian North and the difficult balance of power between indigenous communities and “Russian” leadership. In her examination of demographics, she describes Arctic Russia evocatively as “archipelagic”: there are population centres like islands surrounded by wilderness and almost entirely cut off from one another (48-51). Her historical account of the population shifts from Stalin, through Soviet times, and post-1990 is essential if a reader is to understand fully the challenges facing the contemporary North (51-60). Population blips over the 20th Century and collapse post-1990 (attributable not only to low birth rates but also high mortality rates) create intractable problems for Russian development; but Laruelle also notes that these are not uniform through a geographically enormous and ethnically diverse federal republic (54). The North, especially the Far-Eastern North, has been disproportionately affected by internal migration (Southwards): some regions of the Russian Arctic (e.g., Magadan and Chukotka) lost over half their populations, with entire settlements abandoned (57-58).


In the account of climate change, Laruelle explains Russian reluctance to commit to mitigation of climate change in light of the perceived advantages to Russia from increasing temperatures (68; 84-85). These advantages will not be equally shared and will be accompanied by many serious problems, not least the melting of the permafrost on which Arctic infrastructure is built, more extreme weather events, fires, invasion of alien species and the end of some ice-roads (77-80). Perhaps reflecting the American discourse by which she is surrounded, she grants a little too much credibility to the “climate change sceptics” and implies that there is a genuine dispute about the causes of climate change, when in fact, the climate science is quite clear about the anthropological contribution to global warming (69).


If there is a weakness in Laruelle’s analysis, it is one that is only likely to be evident to pedantic lawyers: sometimes the word choice is insufficiently precise, especially when dealing with law of the sea. For example, in her discussion of the Northern Sea Route, she talks of “international waters” (170) and the right of transit passage, but the technical term is “international strait”. This is important as “international waters” could also refer to the High Seas where there is complete freedom to sail, fish, and conduct research (in addition to “passage”).[1] She also suggests that some States might “bypass” the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea which seems remarkably unlikely given that it is accepted even by the United States (which is not a party) as defining customary international law in this area (198). Nevertheless, her general account and conclusions are convincing: the Northern Sea Route remains ultimately a Russian route for Russian vessels servicing Russian communities and resource developers. The melting of the ice does not necessarily make the route safer: ice is replaced by hazardous and unpredictable weather conditions (high winds and waves), there is still a major shortage in search and rescue and communication services; and harbour infrastructure (for repairs, safe haven in bad weather, etc.) is limited. Similarly, in analysing the respective rights to the outer continental shelf of Norway and Russia, she uses the term “claims” which international lawyers would avoid (99). (The shelf accedes automatically to the coast; it is not “claimed” like terra nullius.) More misleading is her use of “verdict”, “ruling” and “decision” with reference to the recommendations of the Commission of the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) (101-102). The CLCS is an advisory body composed of scientists. There are no lawyers on it. It is most pointedly not a judicial or quasi-judicial body and issues only “recommendations” and not “decisions”, “judgments”, “rulings” or “verdicts”. The CLCS will simply not consider a submission if any other State with a potentially overlapping area of shelf objects. The CLCS can advise on the outer limits of the CLCS; but it has no power to decide between competing States as to which a particular area of seabed pertains.


The book was published on the cusp of 2013-2014: just weeks before the dramatic events in Ukraine, Russian intervention and the consequences for Russian-European relations, Western investment (following the introduction of sanctions) and the manipulated collapse in the oil price which distorts the immediate prospects for offshore Arctic hydrocarbon development. The representatives at the Arctic Council have so far attempted to play down the impact of the Ukrainian situation but the speed at which Russian international relations have deteriorated is a warning that one should be relaxed, but not entirely complacent, regarding the peacefulness of the High North. Certainly, Professor Laruelle will not run out of research material over the next few years.


In conclusion, Russia‘s Arctic Strategies and the Future of the Far North is essential reading for all those working on Arctic international relations, law, politics and economies, as well as those interested in Russian governance more broadly. I expect to see it on graduate school reading lists around the World and recommend it without hesitation to all scholars interested in contemporary developments in the Arctic.



[1] See also, e.g., 198 (discussing two treaties that “have been ratified by the Arctic Council”). 

Beyond the Cold-War Reprise of the Arctic Super-Powers. Decoding the Structural Meaning of the Ukrainian Crisis



In fact, one more US-directed violent overthrow of an elected government has carved off the biggest country of Europe from next-door Russia. Yet Russia gets all the blame for “brute force” in reclaiming Crimea – although 96% of a voluntary turnout of 82% voted to rejoin its traditional mother country. While denounced as “violation of international law”, the Crimea referendum choice expresses the “self-determination” of a society guaranteed under Article 2 of the United Nations Charter. Ukraine’s coup government, in contrast, has prohibited any referendum on its rule – especially the Eastern regions where popular uprisings with no mass deaths or beatings (as in the Kiev coup) call for self-determination against illegal rule from Kiev.  


The uprising cities of East Ukraine – beginning with Donetsk, then Kharkiv, Luhansk, Slavyansk (the Slav has been removed from the Westernized Sloviansk),  Kramatorsk and other centers and villages – all demand a democratic referendum for their future status as equal citizens in a Ukraine federation. Integration with Russia is not favoured by Russia, but the dominant popular feeling unreported in the media is peaceful and pragmatic. Ukraine’s government has been broken by the US-led coup and cannot provide what people need in jobs, healthcare, income security and pensions. Certainly “the Greek model” planned for Ukraine is not in its people’s common life interests. Under the coup government of prime minister Arseniuy Yatsenyuk, a banker who is already prescribing mass dispossession by austerity programs, what will happen to Ukraine is foretold by has happened in Greece.   


The EU’s financial rule by banker mechanisms has already been almost as great a failure as the oligarch-marketization of Russia after 1990. It is a complex system of one-way powers of life deprivation and social ruin which I define in The Cancer Stage of Capitalism: From Crisis to Cure (1999, 2013). Elected governments lose all control to the new absolute and overriding imperative of European rule – to grow and multiply private transnational money sequences. In accord with the ruling formulae, the Greek economy has been slashed by 25 per cent, unemployment is an official 28 per cent excluding the unpaid, the public health system is dismantled to pay foreign banks, wages are cut by a quarter, the public sector is sacked and privatized, and jobless youth rises to 60 per cent even with mass emigration. These outcomes now await Ukraine.


Those in Ukraine who are not under the spell of its father cult, oligarch riches, and post-1991 dispossession know better. Outside of Kiev they have had enough, and that is why the election and presidency of the Party of Regions and its allies whose popular support lies outside Kiev have been repeatedly overturned. It is also why their decentralized federal alternative has been removed from the table. The murderous insurrection in Kiev and violent coup of elected government reveals how far the Kiev oligarchy and plotters are prepared to go backed by the US. Yet this time Russia has drawn a red line. With near-unanimous support of the Crimean people and the uprising of the Eastern cities and villages as I write, Russia has stopped the US-led transnational corporate-machine and NATO from further expansion for the first time in 25 years.


It is true that Ukraine – the biggest country and bread basket of Europe – has now been pried wide open for transnational Western banks, agribusiness, Big Oil and NATO to feed on. And it is true that all talk of “land grab” has been projected onto Russia even as US Greystone  and Blackwater mercenaries – now called “Academi” in the Big Lie lexicon – move on the ground in Ukraine as the US and NATO propagate ever more threats of force and embargo against “Russia’s aggression”.  Reverse blame is always the US geostrategic game. “Russia’s designs to take the whole of Ukraine” is again US projection of its own objective, as in the old days when “world rule plot” was attributed to the former USSR. Yet a line has been drawn at Crimea, and drawn again in Eastern Ukraine, and it is backed by a country that cannot be arm-twisted, propaganda invaded, or air-bombed with impunity. That is why the one-way threats never stop. It is the first line yet drawn by an historical power outside of China against the exponentially multiplying US-led private transnational money sequences devouring the world.  


People now have a chance to reflect on who is the aggressor and who stands for democratic choice as events unfold. They can observe the patterns of Orwellian distortion day to day. Never is the other side presented. The US and NATO alone continuously denounce, lie and threaten. Financial contracts and assets are violated by one side alone. Hate campaigns without evidence go one way. Uprisings have been mass murderous from the US-coup side and without harm from the resisting side. Russia is behind its own borders, and the US deploys threats, covert operations and mercenaries from thousands of miles away. But this time US-NATO-led corporate globalization cannot destroy nations at will. Sometimes history can happen as it should.



The Mechanisms of Reverse Blame to Justify Destroying Societies


Reversal of blame is always the US method of pretext and justification. This is why Russia is pervasively vilified in the mass media, and another significant Arctic actor, Canada’s big-oil regime, joins in along with the UK.   As always, denunciation rules without reasoned understanding. As always, the US-led financial and military forces of private money-power expansion move behind the abomination of designated enemies. Any nation or leader not serving transnational corporate control of resources and markets across borders is always the villain. This is the ruling meta program.


Thus too in Ukraine. When Europe tried to broker a peace deal between the opposition and elected government of Ukraine, the US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland continued to  court the neo-Nazi coup leaders to overthrow the state, instructing  “Yats” (appointed PM Yatsenyuk) to consult with the main putsch leader Oleh Tyahnybok “at least four times a week”.  When she is reminded of the EU peace talks and agreement to stop the bloodshed, her response is telling, “Fuck the EU”. The coup peaked after three days of murder by the neo-Nazi faction. When former “Orange revolutionary” and gas oligarch leader of the Fatherland Party, Yulia Tymoshenko, then got out of jail for criminal embezzlement of state property, she expressed the logic of power shared with the US regarding Russia. She says without denial of the words: “take up arms and go and wipe out these damn katsaps” [Russian minority] – – – so that not even scorched earth would be left of Russia.” Yet in every Western media of record, it is Russia who remains “the aggressor”, “the growing threat”, “the source of the rising crisis”, and “the out-of-control power that must be stopped”. 


There are exact thought governors at work throughout. I have analysed these structures of delusion in learned journals as ‘the ruling group-mind’ (collectively regulating assumptions that are false but taken for granted) and, sustaining it, the ‘argumentum ad adversarium’ (the diversion of all issues to a common adversary). The “escalating crisis in Ukraine” expresses these fallacious operations in paradigm form. So does the false claim of “Syrian use of chemical weapons” which almost led to US bombing of Syria’s civilian infrastructures a few months earlier. The mind mechanics at work form the inner logic of the lies which never stop. The grossest operations go back to the Reagan regime naming Nicaragua as “a clear and present danger to the United States” to justify US war crimes against it which in turn fed the ever- growing corporate-military complex and murderous covert operations. Always the mind-stopping mendacity and criminal aggressions are justified through the ruling group-mind and enemy-hate switch which form the deep grammar of this thought system.


At the most general level, the “Russian threat to Ukraine” diverts public attention from the really fatal problems of the world and their global causal mechanism – transnational money sequencing – which is metastasising further in Ukraine. The air, soil and water cumulatively degrade from its transnational corporate looting and polluting. The climates and oceans destabilize from the same cause at the same time. Species too become extinct at a spasm rate, and the world’s forests, meadows and fisheries are cumulatively destroyed. The global food system produces more and more disabling junk as commodity diseases multiply. The vocational future of the next generations is eliminated for a growing majority of people. All these trends and more are one-way, degenerate, and undeniable. All are driven by US-led private and transnational money-sequence multiplication which now moves into and through Ukraine. Without Russia’s past financial and energy assistance worth tens of billions of dollars and completely destabilized by the US-led violent coup, Ukraine verges towards collapse. That is where the Greek model comes in – the stripping of Ukraine to pay for what it has lost from Russia by the US-led coup which further enables military advance to Russia’s borders.



As usual, such geostrategic intervention is life destructive at every level of its consequences, but the underlying causal mechanism is unspeakable in official culture. From Africa to Europe to the Middle East to Latin America, the unspoken master trend is systematic society destruction. Look, for example, forward and backward from the last manufactured crises geared to enable US-led destabilization to bombing – the “weapons of mass destruction of Iraq”, the “genocidal plans of the dictator Gadaffi”, “Assad’s chemical weapons used on his own people”, or, across the ocean, Venezuela’s “despotism” which prioritizes the elimination of public education, healthcare and poverty elimination. Always the victim society has more developed social programs than its neighbours.  The ultimate enemy is social life bases themselves. 


Observe the common pattern of social destruction. It begins with US covert forces sponsoring opposition forces in the society featuring fascist and jihadist terrorists, mounting global media campaigns against the targeted leader, murders committed by snipers pretending to be state agents, growing civil division and hate towards civil war, and absolutely one-sided reporting of the US point of view, and reverse-moral justifications for what ends as society destruction.  The US bombing stage has not yet been reached in Syria because Russia led the alternative of UN chemical-weapons destruction, even though Syria had never used the weapon. Not long after destroying Iraq and Libya on known false pretexts, the US proclaimed again and again the mass-murderous gas used in Syria was by “Assad the war criminal” although the evidence kept disconfirming the big lie mega-phoned by John Kerry. It went all the way to a White House plan to bomb civilian infrastructures as in Iraq and Libya. In revealing contrast, Russia “the world bully” has never bombed a city. Yet US reverse projection rules. As for Assad’s “war crime”, the truth found by multiple analysis was that “kitchen sarin” manufactured in Turkey and crude-missile lobbed by the al Nusra jihadists allied with the US and funded by Saudi Arabia and Qatar was the source of the gas massacre (as Seymour Hersh has finally made public). 


Much the same generic script of engineered civil conflict and war combined with false threat and crimes of the constructed foreign enemy has been used over and over again against Iran and its “nuclear threat” with no evidence, while Israel has an illegal stockpile of them threatening to use them to stop Iran’s “nuclear threat”. In all, the reverse-projection tactic has become the signature of everything the US and its allies allege of others to ruin them. 



Ukraine in Motion as Another Paradigm Example of US-led Society Destruction


Serial false allegations and pretexts thus unfold again against Russia in regard to Ukraine. The US-led mayhem and violence varies widely, but the dots have not yet been joined on what is always achieved beneath the political-ideological shows – the tearing apart and dispossession of one society after another by US-led financial and armed means.  Here it is Ukraine and the set-up of Russia at once. Not only is the society decapitated, as in Ukraine or Libya or Iraq or as demanded in Syria. That is the official script. Much more deeply the society’s civil bonds are rent asunder, its productive base is sabotaged, its social life supports are stripped, its environment and resources looted and its future despoiled. Always. There is no objective fulfilled except social life-system destruction. But the connections still go unmade. As General Rick Hillier, commander of Canada’s forces helping to bomb Libya said afterwards: “We did it because we could”. As CIA executive director Buzzy Krongard acknowledges about the permanent US war, but still without the consequence named: “It will be won by forces you do not know about, in actions you will not see, and in ways you may not want to know about”. 


The supremely evil truth becomes testable by its continuous repetition. Dismantling or destroying society’s very life bases is the innermost meaning of US-led “freedom” and “globalization”.  It includes even US society itself by ever more monstrous misallocation of public resources away from what serves life bases to what deprives them. If one reviews the post-1980 trajectory of ruin of nations, the objectively evil pattern becomes clear. No other actually working goal has been achieved since the Reagan-Thatcher turn. It is the DNA of the global cancer system. Try to think of exception. Since the war-criminal destruction of poverty-ridden Nicaragua’s new schools and clinics by the signature method of covertly US funded and armed forces within, the society-destruction method has only grown and multiplied by terrorist as well as financial means. When Obama says “every society must chart its own course”, he follows the reverse moral syntax at work. The deliberate mass-diseasing of 500,000 children in the first manufactured crisis of Iraq as the nearby Soviet Union collapsed revealed what we could expect from the US without another superpower to contain it. In all cases, there has been one underlying principle of outcome – US-led civil disintegration of societies across the world. That is how a cancer works at the transnational level of life organization.


Engineering civil war is the favored method with effective genocide the long consequence. This is true not only in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Lebanon, and Syria, but Somalia, Sudan and the Congo. Direct US invasion may lose the war from Vietnam to Afghanistan, but its defeat is, more deeply, another US-led success at destroying another society. The Wall Street metastasis to EU banker-run Europe has worked without invasion or even proxy uprising, but society destruction is still achieved by the small print of corporate treaties and bank powers people never see. Greece, Spain and Italy are effectively ruined, and behind the dismantling of these and all victim societies is the same transnational corporate system multiplying itself through societies. Big Banks, Oil, Military Contracting, Big Agri-Food and Pharma are themselves only vehicles of the one underlying economic disease of transnational money sequences self-multiplying across all borders without life limits or functions. They feed on ruined societies as their carrion.  


Ukraine follows this macro pattern. It comes into the fold of the EU through a US-led fascist coup posing as “freedom” and “revolution”, but in fact hollowing out the society’s lifeblood and bases as the US-led coup and EU financial straitjacket suck it dry. This is the unseen law of transnational money-demand multiplication to the top. In Ukraine the method features similar tools – increasingly armed and destructive oppositional forces on the ground, US bankrolling and direction of the opposition’s factions in orchestrated destruction ($5 billion under aid guises, $20 million for the street reported by Secretary Nuland in a speech to business), and pervasive transnational corporate propaganda about the constructed civil war as a “struggle for Ukraine’s  freedom” – decoded, transnational corporate and bank freedom to loot and pollute. As always, inside allies include  fascist and terrorist forces – the Svoboda and Pravy Sektor factions in Ukraine which now have key executive posts in the coup government and trace their history back to the Ukraine Insurgent Army (UPA) led by their hero Stephen Bandera who allied with the Nazi invasion of Ukraine in 1941 and helped to round up Jews.


The worst is yet to come. Never is there any US building of the victim society’s economy and life support systems, and so too Ukraine. Again we might compare Russia here to the US in Afghanistan over 14 years. The self-multiplying corporate money sequences which reap all gains have no committed life function or obligation including to the imperial state itself. They pay ever fewer taxes to it, and bleed ever more public money and resources from it. There is only one pattern of consequence and Ukraine too is now almost occupied by its ruling mechanism to impoverish the people further to feed the rich. As always, society’s common life capital bases will be further defunded, privatized for profit, and saddled by unpayable transnational bank debts. The real economy will be flooded with more junk foods, media products and social-dumping commodities, and bred to a violence culture already hatched by the coup. Collective life capital bases will be further laid waste for multiplying private money fortunes across borders.



The Life-Blind Thought System Behind Global Society Destruction 


Since using the spectacular 9-11 event as pretext for the new PNAC plan of “full-spectrum domination”, falling on the anniversary of the destruction of Chile’s society in 1973, the U.S. has been on a non-stop crusade of destroying societies across the world. The hollowing out of social bonds and bases includes the US itself. Its impoverishment grows as non-productive riches multiply at the top, middle classes fall to ever new levels of debt, the growing majority of youth is without a future, public squalor spreads across the land, and over 2000 million dollars a day is spent on armed force threat and operations with no real enemy to justify them.


It all goes back to first principles. “There is no such thing as society” declared the fanatic Friedrich von Hayek who was mouth-pieced by his disciple Margaret Thatcher. “We owe our very lives to capitalism”. But deeper than words, the principle of no-society is built into the ruling economic paradigm. Without notice, every life coordinate is erased from account. There are no life needs, no environment, no society, no children, no relations with others, and no history in this life model. All unpriced life goods from water and sewer infrastructures and services to universal public education, culture and healthcare to social security support in age, unemployment, and disability are blinkered out except as “cost burdens”. The very terrestrial biosphere on which everything depends is ruled out of this moronic frame of reference. Demand itself is never people’s needs or necessity. It is private money demand minted by private banks without the legal tender to back it to indebt the great majority and to gamble on their future means of life. ‘Supply’ is not the life means people require. It is ever more priced commodities for profit promoting more human and ecological ill-being as far as corporate globalization extends.  Ukraine can look forward to this US-led thought system ruling over it from within the financialized European Union which is now as banker-run as America.


The ruling value mechanism can be crystallized into natural language equations:  Freedom = freedom for private money demand = in proportion to the amount controlled = ever less freedom for those with less of it = no right to life for those without it.  Even more generally, the underlying master equations of the globalizing system now moving to rule Ukraine into Russia can be defined as follows: Rationality = Self-Maximizing Choice = Always More Money-Value for Self is Good = Self-Multiplying Sequences of Ever More Money to the Top = All Else is Disposable Means to this Pathogenic Growth. This is the innermost value logic of the US-led global system and it has no limit of dispossession and ruin if not stopped. It is perhaps emblematic irony that the favorite for Ukraine’s post-coup President is a billionaire sugar-commodity maker producing no food value, but more and more obesity and diabetes.



World Empire or Globalizing Disease?


Left critics coalesce around “US imperialism” as the common cause of the global meltdown on organic, social and ecological levels. Yet it is strange to call a system an “empire” whose imperial center is increasingly hollowed out on every plane; whose interventions and wars destroy productive forces at every level; and whose outcome is not more amenities for the poor, as apologists like Leo Strauss claim, but ever more societies as black holes with life support systems cumulatively devoured.  “Sometimes I think they feel like they’re in a lab and they’re running experiments on rats and not understanding the consequences of what they are doing,” Vladimir Putin wonders in partial sense of the derangement at work.


More clearly, the states which the US planned to destroy in 2001 (as reported by General Wesley Clark in his memoirs) – Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Iran and Syria – are now in fact destroyed societies.  All but Iran are left with civil war and majority destitution where once they had been relatively prosperous and life secure. For example, before Western bombing of Iraq under the usual blame-the-enemy diversion to its leader (a paid CIA agent implanted in office by the US), Iraq led the Middle East in free public healthcare and higher education, and Libya provided free downpayments for young couples’ housing as well prior to its bombing. U.S.-led interventions and aerial bombing have destroyed the social life-organization of both nations without even the electricity and water back on. Syria was also a middle-income quasi-socialist nation, but was independent, friendly with Russia, and capable of fighting an expanding Israel. So Syria too was marked for destabilization. Its internal protests received US-Israel covert support, and turned quickly into civil war with US special operation forces and orchestrated funding of rival camps including jihadists still incinerating the country. As usual the national leader is blamed for everything. All the while, Iran is periodically threatened with annihilation while Venezuela across the ocean is subjected to US-led destabilization too as in Ukraine, Syria, and Libya.


While gas bombs have been thrown freely in Venezuela and Ukraine with US support against democratically elected states, Venezuela’s government serves the poor while Ukraine’s has been  oligarchic on both sides. Putin thus understands Ukraine’s protestors as “tired of seeing one set of crooks replacing another”. In contrast, no common life interest at all exists for the US. When bribes of officials, street gangs and press slander are not enough, US-led destabilization by financial system levers, covert operatives and civil war follow behind reverse-projection cover stories.  One can imagine if Molotov cocktails were thrown during the Wall Street uprising as in US-financed protests in Ukraine and Venezuela. “Violence-threatening protestors” is all they can say about peaceful demonstrations at home however just the cause. Concern about people’s lives, in short, never arises except as a media mask. This is why the US-led coup in Ukraine murdered people and usurped democratic process and legal warrant without a pause. It is also why it demanded the sieg-heiling violent thug Oleh Tyanybok of the Svoboda Party to be a chief advisor to the coup government although he blamed a “Muscovite/Jew mafia” for Ukraine’s problems and “Germans, Kikes and other scum” who want to “take away our Ukrainian state”. He is a symptom of the deep-structural derangement of US rule. In all cases – from Honduras to Paraguay, Egypt to Mali – covert funding, forces of destabilization and chaos are the modus operandi with US special operations leading the repertoire of financial destabilization, demonization of resistance, and armed civil-war training. Unlike classic imperialism, the system spreads by greed and fear, never by productive force development and universalizing rights and laws.   


Invasive war in 2014 is not so acceptable to the world after the obliteration of the societies and life infrastructures of Iraq and Libya. So drones, suitcases of money, special operations, propaganda campaigns and whatever else can sabotage resistance are deployed to pry societies open for competitively self-multiplying transnational corporations to exploit foreign resources, labor and forced markets. This is known as “the free movement of private capital and commodities”. Until 1991, the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was still the biggest block and resource treasure of all to US-led global financialization. Thus military encirclement, pervasive international slander, ruinous armaments races and illegal embargoes followed for 50 years. It eventually worked to cause the intended collapse of the Soviet Union by spending it bankrupt on the armaments race, and forcing repression by perpetual war threats from richer societies. But US market magic and miracles for the world’s biggest country and its neighbours did not work at all. So the GDP’s of the Soviet republics fell by 60%, and polls today show that 56% of Ukrainians would prefer to be governed as before. Social priorities and universal life necessities matter more to them than majority dispossession and glitz for the rich. But no Western journalist dares say it. And so the spectacularly failed global capitalist experiment has passed without a word of notice from “the free world”.  It remains unspeakable to name.


Yet reality catches up. The US-led empire was itself unravelling in historical time without recognition. Its most gigantic failure has come back to haunt it – running the once relatively well-off societies of the USSR into productive and cultural ruin. “Well and good”, one is taught to think. “The Soviet Union repressed free speech”. But like Cuba today, a state which is continuously threatened with war, plague, assassination and hate by richer states reverts to tight control. But if one considers all the universal sciences, arts, pensions, education, and health-care provision of the Union of Socialist Republics which have been systematically destroyed, the meaning takes on a different complexion. It remains unspeakable but lies at the heart of the Ukraine-Russia crisis today. Nothing is better but only worse in collective life capital evolution.  


Many prefer the language of the imperial past. In this way reality is categorized as familiar, not mutant, backward and chaotic. The repetitions are not from “tragedy” to “farce”, as Karl Marx memorably observed in the case of Louis Bonaparte III of France. Today there is nothing but tragedy. It may all seem to be about oil and imperialism, what opponents focus on. Yet possessing others’ oil and territory are comparatively rational objectives compared to the actual performance of metastasising destruction. Far more is spent on unproductive technologies of killing and terror than has been won in new oil and territory. Both land and energy sources have been largely despoiled and wasted. The oil produced in Iraq, for example, is not close to pre-1990 levels and the oil in Libya is the site of unending civil war. The pattern is destroying not producing through generational time.  Corruption and insecurity are universalized, not life as human. Ukraine’s coup now binds it in the pathological direction – more civil strife towards war, more mountains of bank debt, more lack of affordable energy, more ethnic hatred, more mass homicidal weapons, and more rot of dysfunctional wealth inequality.


Can this be an advance of empire? Or is it the next sign of morbid overreach, corruption and fall? An empire has a unified center, a state in control of its subjects and private enterprises, a productive capacity that leads the societies within its imperial reach, an historical civilization of architecture, art, and culture, and most of all enduring public infrastructures and great works across its domains of command. The US global system has ever less of any of these. Its imperial center is divided into gridlock, its productive powers have been increasingly exported or surpassed elsewhere, its architecture, arts and culture are increasingly mindless and violence-ridden, its capacities of civilization and public infrastructures are defunded and collapse at every turn. The US now leads only in monopoly of world currency issue, capacities to destroy life and life conditions, and mass propaganda methods. Its transnational corporations are no longer subservient to any imperial center or purpose but multiply their private money sequences on the back of monopolies of force and money-issue paid for by increasingly impoverished citizens.  


The collapsing US civilization cannot comprehend its derangement. Its money-party leaders can only see more opportunity for transnational corporate profits – the moral DNA of the cancer system. This is why the destruction of Russia has been long planned by the geostrategist Zbigniew Brzezinski – first in Afghanistan where he rallied the original jihadists to fight the Soviet Union along with tens of billions in US cash and weapons which developed into 9-11 and the 9-11 wars. In Ukraine the US continues the strategy. In Afghanistan the route to the ex-Soviet oilfields, the US funding was the beginning of the Taliban and al Qaeda forces whose US-manipulated function was and remains destroying societies by armed civil war to complement financial bleeding. This same method bled Yugoslavia and then the USSR dry and has worked from Afghanistan through Iraq and Serbian-Kosovo wars to Syria to Somalia, Mali and Nigeria under many names, but almost always it turns out the terror is manipulated by US money, arms and connections. Today Brzezinski has former Harvard graduate students who strategically game for the Obama administration to smash Russia into ungovernable pieces – the long game.


This is not an exaggerated sense of danger, but a long track record. Wrecking the society in crisis is the testable generalization of all US interventions. More exactly, the unseen law of the ruling system across borders including those of the US is: Ever more public money is hemorrhaged into private money sequences with ever more ruined societies the result.


Consider Ukraine with this diagnostic principle in mind. We can predict from this system law that only more disintegration of society and mutual life support systems will occur in Ukraine with more US-EU bank and corporate feeding on the post-coup remains. US and EU countries themselves will come apart more in the process, and the US will bleed vastly more public resources to keep metastasising the unrecognized fatal disorder while 90% of its own people and the world grow poorer, more malnourished and life insecure.  



US Script of Democracy and Freedom versus Facts of Violence and Society Destruction


To put the matter in one sentence, the collapse and overthrow of Ukraine’s elected government has been financed and directed by the U.S, cored in violence by the Nazi roots of the uprising linked with the US-selected coup leaders now in power, and after the swift take-back of Crimea by Russia fanned into hysteria by the corporate media. Revealingly, the Bandera-loving Nazis on the street leading the chaotic terror of Feb 22-24 caused the overthrow of the legitimate government exactly when the civil battle had already been won.   The elected President Yanukovych made concessions on everything – his PM was fired, the new protest laws against helmets, metal shields, and masks were revoked (even although banned everywhere else), with legitimate democratic turnover of government plainly in sight and further brokered by the EU in presidential succession. But there was no assurance of electoral victory of the US-allied Kiev forces. They had already lost two elections to the federalist Party of Regions and its alliance governments. It was then the US-led violent overthrow happened in bloodshed return of the Nazi past proclaimed as “freedom” and “revolution”. The violent coup was instantly validated by the US state, but the EU paused for days before diverting blame to Russia too.  No media of record appeared to notice that the US had criminally led the coup, and selected and instructed the new coup-government leaders with no vote, no election, and no public discussion. All the while the democratic referendum so abused in Crimea was never imagined for Ukraine by “the free press” and “leaders of the democratic world” even when eastern Ukraine popular uprisings demanded it.


The coup was precisely rushed ahead to avoid any election. The US-backed forces had already lost two in a row. No reports mentioned this in the Free World.  The track-switch of attention was instead to Russia. How could the strategy fail? If Putin draws the line at Crimea, he forwards the plan of blaming Russia. If he does not, the long game to dismantle Russia moves faster. If Putin calls a sudden referendum in Crimea to show its citizens’ overwhelming support, he can be ridiculed for “the farce”, “the region under military occupation”, “the gun to the head”. If almost all the people of Crimea want in fact to join the historic mother country in a peaceful vote, just keep repeating “Russia’s annexation of Crimea”, “brute force”, “Russian aggression”. The violent putsch in Ukraine is thus erased from view. It disappears into reverse projection. The most basic reality test is always blocked – Does the society rise or fall in life means available and produced, social life infrastructures and services, employment levels, youth life purpose, and ecological integrity after US-induced “regime change”. It always falls. Is there any exception?  


Crimea joining historic Russia again after it was won from the Ottoman Empire centuries ago revealingly goes the opposite way.  Bridges, roads and tunnels are promised and planned in immediately in the wake of the Olympic building spree. Pensions, minimum wages and healthcare are invested in to “raise life standards”. Exposure of the world to Crimea’s historical treasure begins. In contrast, the opposing US-led forces silence the EU agreement for presidential succession in Ukraine, lead coup of the elected government with neo-Nazi snipers and violent chaos, direct IMF austerity and social dispossession for the people’s collapsing life support systems, set the main languages, cultures and identifications of citizens into irreparable division and civil war footing, and proclaim virulently against Russia taking an opposite path.  


Dividing society from within with no common or productive goal but only more tearing apart is the generic meaning – as in Yugoslavia before it, Libya and Syria in between, Honduras, Paraguay, where does it stop?  Direct the destabilizing in the street with billions for the purpose, play on real and invented problems, insert special forces to lead the mounting violence, bribe the people with dollars and bananas, divide classes and cultures to the death, proclaim freedom and prosperity, and run the country into the ground with no life construction undertaken nor any life base any longer secure for 90% of the people. The special forces at work here incredibly included Israelis trained in Gaza allying with the legacy of Ukraine Nazism. But the stakes are large and undiscussed. Ukraine is the biggest land mass of Europe, a leading global grain producer, and home to newly found gas-reserves of possibly trillions of cubic feet. The US-led lockdown on all of it is clear in the new coup state.  A neo-liberal banker is Prime Minister, a violence script-writer and chief aide to the Fatherland Party is President, and various neo-fascists are in cabinet positions with none elected. To complete the destruction of democratic legitimacy of Ukraine took only a few hours. But public panic and appointing banker presidents has already been managed in Italy and Greece, why not here too? With no mass media noticing the growing reversal of democracy and freedom in their name, Putin-bashing is the corporate-press game.  



Media Censorship and the Violation of International Law


Crimea joining Russia was the lightning rod for the defining US operation of reverse projection, always blaming the other side for what one is doing oneself as the reason for attacking it. Since the Reagan regime made this the signature operation of US propaganda which is always repeated by the media as fact , an Orwellian rule of big lies has been normalized. Reverse projection combines with the earlier defined ad adversarium fallacy and ruling group-mind to overwhelm all reasoned understanding with cartoon-like masks of good (US) and evil (Them) where fact never interferes. Media-conditioned publics are in this way stampeded through one US-led war and civil war after another with official oppositions rationalizing the same belligerent stupefaction. With only the point of view of the US or its allies reported, only the US story line and point of view can be seen or heard by the great majority.


So too in “the Ukraine crisis”. That Russia “invaded Crimea and annexed it against international law” has been the basic story for global denunciation of Russia.  In fact over 80% of Crimeans voted, over three times the electorate participation in the US, and almost all of them for integration with Russia not “annexation by it”.  The striking fact is that given the accuracy of these figures which is not denied, it is far more than could enable Quebec to legally secede from Canada even with universal language rights lacking in Ukraine. By mathematical deduction, the referendum also included the great majority of the nearly 40% identified as Ukrainians and Tatars. How is it that all you ever heard or saw in the mass media were selected opposing voices from Ukrainian and Tatar minorities? This is the ruling censorship by unseen means – selecting out of public view all facts that are not consistent with the ruling script. More exactly, the corporate media select for public showing only what sells the transnational money-sequence system. This is why we never hear of the US placing itself above all international laws as it enforces this ruling program. Its entire record here is blinkered out a-priori. So blame of others easily enters the ruling group-mind internalized by mass media audiences


This point is worth pausing on because the US is the very “rogue state”, “international outlaw”, “criminal violator of human rights” and, above all, perpetrator of “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity” which it is always projecting onto other states. It has refused to ratify the International Criminal Court to uphold the law against war crimes and crimes against humanity, and publicly repudiated the Court’s right to investigate US criminal violations including the “supreme crime” of a war of aggression. While it is always invoking international laws to falsely blame others of violating them (e.g., Syria’s use of chemical weapons), the US has systematically undermined virtually all international laws to protect human life – treaties and conventions against landmines, against biological weapons, against international ballistic missiles, against small arms, against torture, against racism, against arbitrary seizure and imprisonment, against military weather distortions, against biodiversity loss, and against climate destabilization. Even international agreements on the rights of children and of women have been sabotaged. Yet this unrelenting profile of lawless US right to terror and destruction is nowhere published. This is how censorship by selection works without people knowing it.


What then are we to say about “Russia’s brutal invasion and seizure of Crimea”?  In fact the number of Russian soldiers in Crimea were fewer than agreed by contract with Ukraine long prior to the referendum.  Crimea is and was also an historic Russian port and strategic peninsula even under Ukraine’s interregnum, and its place in Ukraine occurred only by a 1954 decree of the now-defunct Soviet Union. All of these facts are selected out by corporate media and states which only repeat “Russian brute force”, “illegal seizure of territory”, “war of invasion”, and even “what Hitler did back in the 1930’s” (Hilary Clinton). There is no limit to the absurd hypocrisy of accusation. Thus attention is diverted again and again onto the latest enemy as lawless and the US as law-abiding in contradiction to the facts.


In reality, no injury occurred in the peaceful and overwhelmingly popular integration of Crimea with Russia. Ukrainian troops yielded in peaceful transition and were extended offers to stay. There was no bloodshed with one exception – a soldier in Sebastopol murdered by two men at night in masks and a getaway car tied back to the Ukraine coup leaders. They called it “the entry into the stage of military conflict” and the corporate media reported it without evidence or question. But the sniper murders of 21 people in the Kiev uprising by US-led coup agent was already diplomatically registered by March 4. Predictably, every detail was gagged in ‘the free press’ and the official ‘Free World’. Even the EU’s Foreign Minister Catherine Ashton to whom the facts of the mass murder were communicated by a fellow Foreign Minister, Urmas Paet of Estonia, remained silent. He reported that in fact the medical and forensic evidence proved all 21 murders were by “the same type of bullets” and from “the same handwriting” which could only be from “the new coalition” [of the coup government]. “The new coalition”, concluded Foreign Minister Paet in English, “don’t want to investigate what exactly happened. So that there is now stronger and stronger understanding that behind the snipers, it was not Yanukovich, but it was somebody from the new coalition.”


Such mass murder is grounds for prosecution of war crimes and crimes against humanity under international law and prosecution by the International Court. But due process of law and criminal prosecution are repressed at the same time as the known diplomatic evidence is silenced in the public sphere. Group-mind, reverse projection and blame-the-enemy operations have become so automatic that the most important historical facts and heinous crimes do no register through their prism. Thus Russia goes on being accused of the “violations of law” and “international law” with John Kerry bawling loudest against the evidence. That the violent coup itself was propelled by mass murder of protestors perpetrated by the US-led insurrection to blame on the elected government has thus never made the news. The murderous logic was again evident in microcosm when troops of the coup state opened fire on unarmed citizens approaching their barracks to talk on the Easter eve of the Geneva agreement to repudiate armed violence. The day after the Geneva accord a worse attack exploded in Slavyansk with gunmen (named as Right Sector, the fascist armed group behind the coup whose activities the accord banned)  racing up in jeeps to a checkpoint killing at least three people including a bus-driver before disappearing. As always the US-orchestrated government in Kiev projected all attacks onto Russia with no evidence.


All the while heavy Ukraine armed forces moved into eastern Ukraine blocked by citizens while Kiev’s own central street still remains occupied by coup forces. “Putin’s threats” continue to be manufactured along with “Russia’s forcible annexation of Crimea” despite the inhabitants voting peacefully and overwhelmingly for re-unification with Russia in affirmation of a relationship over two centuries old. Altogether erased from reports are the facts that the Supreme Council of Crimea referred to the United Nations Charter and “the right of nations to self-determination” (Article 2, Chapter 1), the very right Ukraine invoked in seceding from the USSR in 1991, and the same right invoked for the separation of Kosovo from Serbia. Also erased is the UN International Court ruling in July 2010 that “general international law contains no prohibition on declarations of independence” Once again we find on closer inspection that what is proclaimed as fact and law by US leaders and allied states is yet another level of a big lie system.





The Ukraine crisis is another variation on the great crisis of the world – the undeclared global war of transnational corporate money sequences to multiply themselves through human societies and life on earth in the diagnosable form of an invasive cancer. Yet what is different in Ukraine is that eastern Ukrainian citizens and the world’s largest nation have stood against the new metastasis across traditional borders and cultural regions. Activists with weapons and massive local support across Donetsk region hoist their own flag and demand referendum for constitutional independence from the fascist-led coup state. The elected Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, the equivalent of the US Congress, has given unanimous approval for defense of eastern Ukraine protestors against armed assault from the coup government, already underway with NATO flexing armed power all around. Yet this time the resistance cannot be just overrun or bombed. And this time the system DNA begins to be recognized – US-led destruction of societies to ensure their servile dependency and open borders for hollowing out.


The very words “Russia” and “Putin” may provoke ruling group-mind reactions pro or con, so analysis here sticks to track records, trends and policy directions – the defining past, present and future lines of system decision on both sides. What is clear now are set-point differences and shifts towards recognition of the society-destroying forces. The most visible shift has been set into motion by the overthrow of Ukraine’s elected government, big-lie pretexts and serial murders in another US-made civil chaos. But Russia has moved decisively to stop it in the historical process still unfolding. The never-named enemy behind the coup and behind the collapse of evolved social and natural life systems across the planet has been blocked on the ground. Neither Putin nor Russia are a model, but like Venezuela and much of Latin America, they now stand against the invasive disorder overrunning life bases and needs in every region. The deepest issue is the US money-cancer system. In murderously destabilizing and overthrowing Ukraine’s elected government and advancing towards Russia’s borders in the latest metastasis, the pathogenic forces are now confronted by the world’s largest country, the longest-tested army and once socialist superpower. All the lies in the world cannot overwhelm this resistance. Everywhere the US-led collapse of world life security is being decoded outside corporate states and media. The Ukraine crisis, perhaps linked to Russia-China movement from the US oil-dollar, could be a new turning point against the Great Sickness of our world.



N.B. This contribution is based largely on an essay by John McMurtry published previously on GlobalResearch.ca.

Natalia Loukacheva (ed.), Polar Law Textbook II (Copenhagen: Nordic Council of Ministers, 2013)

The publication is intimately related to the Master’s Programme in Polar Law (run by the University of Akureyri, Iceland), which had housed the initiative in 2012-2013, and the Polar Law Symposium, an annual conference which brings the major experts on Polar issues together and organized by the Polar Law Institute (also based in Akureyri).

Clearing forthwith the air, it must be first said that “Polar Law Textbook” may be a somewhat misleading title. Although the structure actually resembles a proper textbook specifically designed for students, with 15 chapters written in the form of intensive lectures (inclusive of suggestions for further reading and questions aimed to check on the understanding of the text), each contribution is an in-depth, up-to-date, and brilliant review of distinct Polar-Law-relevant issues, suitable therefore not only for students, but also for politicians, decision-makers, scientists and academics. Having said that, the reader must also know that the legal part, albeit being the main focus of the book, is here mostly explained in its social, environmental and historical perspectives, rather than being scrutinized in depth, making the reading feasible also for non-lawyers (just watch out for some “avoidable” difficulties, as for instance the alternation between “UNCLOS”, used by Loukacheva and Heininen (Chapter 1 and 2), and “LOS Convention”, used by McDorman (Chapter 5)).

Overall, the book is a wise balance between innovation and continuation of the first volume, published in 2010. The general concept broadly describing “Polar Law” used in the previous book is here re-proposed verbatim as “a developing field of law that deals with the international and domestic legal regimes that are applicable to the Arctic or the Antarctic, or both”, including also legally non-binding instruments, commonly referred to as “soft law” (e.g., various Memorandums of Understanding concluded by Arctic stakeholders; declarations of the Arctic Council, etc). Furthermore, it has also been re-confirmed that Polar Law as a developing discipline, educational and practical tool, not only cross-cuts distinct branches of Law, e.g. Human Rights Law, Law of the Sea, Environmental Law, Resources Law, Wildlife Law, to name but a few, but also draws upon several areas of the social sciences and humanities, e.g. international studies and politics. Polar Law is indeed a highly multidisciplinary approach to the Arctic and Antarctic legal issues, involving in the debate not only legal experts but also scientists, politicians, practitioners and the indigenous peoples of the Arctic.

Apparently, a concrete necessity for a second volume was already disclosed in the first book, which, despite its comprehensiveness, left enough room for further research (Chapter 1, Loukacheva, 2010). In fact, each relevant area in the field of Polar Law may include in turn many different topics.  For intance the discourse on indigenous people and governance has been here re-proposed, but focusing on the Sami of Norway and Nunavut instead of the Inuit of Alaska and Chuckotka’s indigenous people, while the common topic of Greenland has been analysed under the lens of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, instead of the legal processes leading to self-determination (2010).

An example of a refreshing new perspective on governance and autonomies in the Arctic is the captivating chapter on “Faroese Governance” (chapter 13, Kari a Rogvi). A seemingly unusual choice at first glance, considering the relevance commonly accorded to indigenous people and autonomy by academics and media alike, the study has revealed itself to be nevertheless essential to introduce the reader to the compelling issue, whilst little studied so far, of the struggles of “small states” in achieving a satisfactory but functional autonomy (missing in the first volume). The author of the chapter suggests as a major outcome that a study on Faroese governance may outline a realistic model for achieving a feasible but high-level degree of autonomy notwithstanding marginal conditions and limited capacities, hopefully serving also as a “workable paradigm for other polar or marginal polities than, say, either Greenland or Iceland”.

Understandably, an additional strong rationale for a new volume was the necessity to update the book with the newest developments occurred during the past three years. Indeed, all the articles were written between May 2012 and February 2013, and were requested to catch the most updated news and tendencies in both regions, as the case of the essay on “The International Legal Regime of the Continental Shelf with Special Reference to the Polar Regions” (Chapter 5, Ted L. McDorman). The author, anticipating that both Canada and Denmark will be submitting information to the Commission on its proposed continental shelf outer limit in the Arctic Ocean, respectively in December 2013 and sometime in 2014, has brilliantly contributed to tackling, with a realistic and expert insight in its legal features, a growing and rather alarmistic media attention on States’ claims.


Although the textbook is undoubtedly rich of cutting-edge research aimed to cover a wide range of topics, some of the editor’s choices may not please everybody. An awaited but unfortunately missing insight is probably an in-depth research on the role of non-Arctic States/actors in the rapidly evolving geopolitics of the Arctic. The topic was briefly hinted at in the first volume, while a brief mention is made also in the current one; however, nothing more is offered. Indeed, notwithstanding the fact that countries such as China, India and South Korea, among others, gained the observer status on the Arctic Council only ar the last Arctic Council Ministerial meeting (held in Kiruna, Finland, in May 2013), the speculation on their potential role started way before, while the attention of the media and the interests of scholars have been increasing accordingly.

To conclude, the book is a wide selection of updated Polar law articles dealing with several topics, written in a clear but not superficial language, and truly stimulating. What makes the book even more enjoyable, if anything else was needed,  is perhaps the fact that the possibility for its free download in electronic format has been maintained (as already done for the first volume, published in 2010). This is something that is highly appreciated considering the high level of each contribution and the often-prohibitive prices of Polar-issues related books. A hard copy can also be ordered on the same website for a reasonable price (338 DKK). Specifically, the volume can be downloaded in electronic format or/and ordered in hardcopy format at: http://www.norden.org/en/publications/publikationer/2013-535/




Ethical Challenges Facing Greenland in the Present Era of Globalization: Towards Global Responsibility



Introduction: Ethics and the Arctic

Recently, the developments of ethics and politics in the Arctic region have again become an issue for international discussion. One main issue is the problem of climate change and sustainability of the Arctic region. This problem is linked to the issue of exploitation of natural resources in the Arctic region, not at least in Greenland. Indeed, the general issue is how we should define ethics of the environment and sustainability as a general principle for the Arctic region. It is important to discuss what is at stake and how we define the problem in relation to the different participating stakeholders.

  Continue reading Ethical Challenges Facing Greenland in the Present Era of Globalization: Towards Global Responsibility

G. Alfredsson, T. Koivurova (eds. in chief), D. Leary, N. Loukacheva (spec. eds.), The Yearbook of Polar Law (Leiden: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 2010)


The symposium is now an established annual affair with the first three held in Akureyri and the fourth scheduled in September 2011 in Nuuk, Greenland. Although the symposia continue to provide rich fodder for the yearbook, submissions are encouraged from all scholars in pertinent areas of research. Submissions are subject to double-blind peer review.


The Yearbook has attracted some of the best known experts in their respective areas. A subjective selection of the most noted will always be unfair in such a distinguished field, but scholars of international law will recognise, besides the editors, established experts Malgosia Fitzmaurice, Nigel Bankes and  Asbjørn Eide.


The Yearbook of Polar Law responds to the growing strategic and economic importance of the Arctic and Antarctic regions. The Arctic is changing rapidly, not only geophysically in response to climate shifts but also geopolitically as human technology and security issues give it new social  meanings. Where the Yearbook departs from other Arctic and Antarctic scholarly publications is that it approaches the challenges of the polar regions principally from a legal standpoint. Nevertheless, studies in these areas require almost invariably an interdisciplinary approach: one cannot assess continental shelf claims under the Law of the Sea Convention without a basic grasp of geography; climate change governance without scientific evidence; nor indigenous peoples’ self-determination claims without anthropological and historical knowledge.


In contrast to the Polar Law Textbook which is intended as an introduction to Polar Law, the Yearbook is aimed at academics and policy makers already established in their respective areas of expertise.


The second volume includes a new “recent developments” section as well as relevant book reviews. What it lacks that was valuable in the first is an overall review of the symposium and the conclusions and recommendations of its participants. That overall review provided an excellent – and gentle – introduction to the sometimes highly technical and specialist papers that follow, in the manner of an introductory chapter in an edited collection of essays. In it, key general issues were identified, including climate change; human rights; new commercial activities at the Poles; shipping challenges; threats to native species; environmental governance; peace, security and dispute settlement. Then specific pressing issues were highlighted: management and protection of at-risk species; a more proactive approach by the International Maritime Organization in identified areas; the need, if any, for new laws, treaties and processes; and living marine resources management. States were advised of areas requiring immediate attention, such as: implementation of existing law; mitigation of, and adaptation to, climate change in cooperation with indigenous peoples of the North. Long-term issues were noted:  namely, climate change and environmental governance. Finally recommendations from the symposium’s participants were recorded, aimed towards academics vis á vis needed research and states vis á vis needed action. This summary gives context to the rest of the articles and allows the reader to go on to read any one of the individual contributions with the bigger picture in mind.     


While all the articles in the two published volumes could easily have found homes in alternative fora – specialist journals on the law of the sea, environmental law, natural resource law, dispute settlement, human rights, arctic studies as well as general international law and social science volumes – the Yearbook of Polar Law is, as its title indicates, the first journal to draw together all these fields with a specific focus on the Polar Regions. By tying together all these related fields in one publication, it gives scholars, policy makers and stakeholders the opportunity to form a more holistic view of the challenges facing the Polar Regions.


At 156 Euros per volume, the Yearbook is presumably aimed at institutional subscribers: law school libraries, governmental institutions and research facilities; principally those focussed on the Arctic and Antarctic. This is a little unfortunate as these perspectives from the Poles are informative not only to specialist researchers at the World’s ends, but for people all over the World facing challenges such as climate change, resource management, territorial disputes and indigenous claims. One can only hope that, price notwithstanding, the Yearbook’s contents will nevertheless reach the wide audience that they merit.

Natalia Loukacheva (ed.), Polar Law Textbook (Copenhagen: Nordic Council of Ministers, 2010)

In conjunction with the programme and with the financial support of the Nordic Council of Ministers, the programme director, Natalia Loukacheva, solicited and collated these articles from leading academics, practitioners, politicians and indigenous peoples working in associated disciplines to compile the first ever “textbook” in Polar Law. The four designated aims of the textbook are to promote interdisciplinary education; to disseminate current research and developments; to improve Nordic and Arctic cooperation; to facilitate long-distance education on Polar Law and to encourage Nordic and Arctic collaboration in education (Summary).


Polar Law as a concept requires some working definition, even if it is constantly evolving and taking on new fields of inquiry as it matures. This definition is provided by Loukacheva in the introduction who advises us that, “broadly speaking, ‘polar law’ is a developing field of law that deals with the international and domestic legal regimes that are applicable to the Arctic or the Antarctic or both” while also taking into account the normative force of “soft-law” instruments (13).

One immediate question that springs to mind is “why polar law?” What is special about the polar regions that justifies such specialized attention? And despite some superficial similarities between the Arctic and the Antarctic, geologically, politically, sociologically and economically they are, if one will pardon the expression, “poles apart.” Loukacheva raises these questions in her introduction, drawing attention to the most significant differences between the two regions as well as areas of common concern and lessons that one region might have for the other.

On reading the textbook, it becomes apparent that these areas are of ever increasing strategic and political importance and facing challenges of governance and deployment that have serious consequences in much more temperate climates. The focus on polar law suggests a preference for legal regulation to solve problems, but in reality, the approaches taken are all interdisciplinary to greater or lesser extents. Only the chapters on the law of the sea and on human rights and indigenous peoples rely principally on legal sources and even in these chapters, the law is explained in social and environmental context. In other words, whilst to some extent it is assumed that law is one useful tool to address the relevant issues, it is nowhere assumed that law is the only tool, nor even the preferred one.

Although marketed as a “textbook”, the essays do not provide a superficial account of the issues they each address. Instead, the book is packed with information, providing knowledge and analysis that will serve well scholars, scientists and policy-makers in, inter alia, international law, international relations, development, governance, natural resources law and climate change, whether or not they seek a specific focus on the polar regions. Where it shares a “textbook” approach is in the inclusion at the end of each chapter of suggested material for further reading (useful to researchers at all levels) and a pedagogically-focussed list of questions for reflection by the reader.

The content is weighted towards the Arctic, which can be understood to the extent that there is a necessary focus on the social sciences (e.g., economics, Arctic governance) and emphasis is rightly put on indigenous peoples (4 of 11 chapters). The human issues pertaining to the Arctic have no equivalent in Antarctica. There would be scope, however, for further development of Antarctic issues in a future volume, such as questions of governance of the South Pole, legal and political claims to territory, potential exploitation of non-living resources, and other economic interests.

The textbook taps into the most contemporary information available, containing numerous references to developments in 2010. However, the effort to publish the state of the art developments in polar law have come with some editorial costs that might be rectified in a second edition, or a future second volume with new essays dealing with yet to be identified topics. First of all, a non-specialist approaching this textbook may feel at times bombarded by acronyms and it can become difficult to keep these all in focus. Furthermore, the acronyms are not consistently used by different authors, for example, the Law of the Sea Convention is abbreviated to LOSC (45) and later as UNCLOS (214). The inclusion of a simple table of acronyms could make it much simpler for authors to use the same acronyms and for readers to check these quickly when memory fails. The styles of the questions also vary between chapters, with some being answerable by reflection of the contained text alone and others requiring further research. There are formatting inconsistencies, with most chapters listing questions at the end of the text, but chapter six including these after subsections within chapters, and some typographical and layout errors. Ultimately, however, the technical detractions of the textbook should not detract from its innovative content.

Finally mention should be made of the open-access nature of the project and the willingness to make this content available to as wide an audience as possible without the barrier of cost. The book is available for purchase in hard copy, but can be downloaded in its entirety in pdf form free of charge, something that cash-strapped students and universities in developed and developing countries alike will no doubt embrace enthusiastically.

* Online pdf version: