Tag Archives: governance

Jérôme Duberry, Artificial Intelligence and Democracy: Risks and Promises of AI-Mediated Citizen–Government Relations (Cheltenham/Northampton: Edward Elgar, 2022)

The thirst for data generated by digital slaves

Artificial Intelligence and Democracy: Risks and Promises of AI-Mediated Citizen–Government Relations is a book by Jérôme Duberry, published in 2022 as the result of a research project funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation.

The book structurally and thematically spans across several important issues which AI as a digital technology brings into the citizen-government relations, methodologically relying on literature and policy review, workshops, focus groups and semi-structured interviews with authorities in citizen participation, online platforms and artificial intelligence. It begins with the conceptualization of AI and ends with the ramifications of civic tech as the technology used to increase citizens participation and civic engagement. In between, it explores the most common positive and negative effects which algorithms, automation and big data exert over citizen participation in policy making. In fact, given that the participation of citizens in policy-making is a direct expression of popular sovereignty and this participation is based on the assumption that citizens are (1) well informed (2) consulted and (3) included in the decision process, the author presents in separate chapters how the use of AI contributes to these assumptions. The findings, in brief, show that AI creates filter bubbles and echo chambers alongside the digital space allowed for people’s opinions and initiatives; AI assists in ‘digital listening’ and mass-surveillance of these practices not only for national security purposes, but for pure profit; and finally, it also capitalizes via digital advertising on people’s online presence, particularly by gearing their opinion with (individually optimized) propaganda.

A separate chapter is dedicated to the global context in which information is often weaponized to influence the (geo)political landscape. The chapter is limited only to the propaganda used by one country due to its ‘long history of information weaponization’ (cf p.164), and thereof the greater accessibility of the sources for analysis. We will leave it to the imagination and personal biases of the reader to guess the particular country at question whose operations abroad seek to reduce, so goes the framing narrative, the influence of liberal democracies and democratic values.

Rhetorically, the style of writing is restrained and agreeable rather than polemical in its almost impeccable juxtaposition of various referenced opinions. The book actually abounds in well-referenced considerations from multidisciplinary literature and relies heavily on institutional and international policy documents, recommendations and definitions. At points, this can cause and propagate a sense of losing the wood for the trees in the argument line (near to the impression one is left with after having read an EU-research policy document as such). The book is accompanied with an index of terms and names, simplifying the reader’s exploration of the topic. Brief insight is offered about the different ‘traps’ and failures to account for the interactions between technical systems and social worlds, about the voluntary ethical codes and guidelines developed around the world with regard to AI governance or the principles that should guide the adoption of AI. Handy AI taxonomies that take into account conceptual and research perspectives have been adapted from different sources and presented. The reader will also get a well-rounded presentation of the policy process given the accent the book places on citizens’ participation in policy-making. And while the task the author has taken upon himself is both commendable and timely, particularly given the relevance of the question of AI to the democratic project in terms of who is using this technology, for what purpose, how does the use of AI influence the trust of citizens in the democratic institutions and power relations in policy-making, the philosophical questioning within which it sets to answer these questions on occasions remains sketchy.

For instance, the author chooses to consider technology from the so called (co-)evolutionary innovation studies perspective, which basically claims that tech is simultaneously ‘a tool and an outcome’ of governance, a favourite and comfortable trope of the social science scholars of our time. In addition, the author considers the conceptual challenges of AI, starting from the Dartmouth Summer Research Project in 1956 and the historical change in its development from symbolic or conceptual AI in the period where researchers ambitiously aimed at configuring the ways to make machines use symbols, through the period of decline and disinterest in AI due to the failure to achieve that goal and the resulting disenchantment, until the last decade of the 20th century when computing power and data availability began to rise and statistical AI became reality. Now, even though AI is a set of algorithms geared operationally towards problem-solving, the author aims to define it less from a technical and more from a ‘social science perspective’ which for some reason seems to go hand in hand with substantiating AI, which is to say referencing algorithms as though AI is capable of observing its environment (cf. p21, my emphasis). What is questionable in this definitional concept is not so much the ‘relational/agential’ choice of words, but the very fact that such approach exempts non-reflectively the key agents – the human species – from the dynamical political trajectory they (might) create with their governments. Put differently, the risks and promises of AI (as an intermediary in the explored relation) are primarily and ultimately the risks and promises of the political will of those who create, select, implement, dismiss or favour one over other set of algorithms. This claim is perhaps ‘naïve’ from the systems theory philosophical framework overarching the co-evolutionary innovation studies perspective to which sides the author. Yet, by leaving untreated this theoretical space under which Duberry wants to subscribe his own research, he has missed the opportunity to challenge the reader along a bolder critical (critical in the sense of gr. κρίνειν, i.e. a discerning) line of thought that could set the tone for an in-depth treatment of his chosen topic. Epistemologically, we can never overestimate humans precisely because of their capacity for meta-representation of the lower-level constraints they use (which is actually their differentia specifica with regard to artificial ‘intelligence’). But politically, the awareness of the governing effect of software on social behaviour is far from sufficient. Moreover, not underestimating technology might quickly slip towards our bowing to yet another golden calf.

And we are left wondering, as digital slaves in solitude; how are we to counteract the imposed political constraints and risks rather than promises of the AI-mediated reality and citizen-government relations? If technology for Heidegger revealed the world as raw material, the case of AI reveals even more so emphatically the human subject as raw material, available for production and manipulation. Is the civil society autonomous and able to resist manipulation by the state and business interests?  Are the elite committed to democratic values such as popular sovereignty? Are they committed to employing all possible means to decrease the massive asymmetry of power between citizens and governments, rather than increase it? Do the political, business and intellectual elites value the lives of others as indispensable and sacred? If the answer is negative, then the political imaginary of liberal democracies will continue to erode, weighed by the hypocritical abyss and the non-coincidence of our proclaimed values vs. demonstrated social practices of heads of state, CEO’s, politicians, organizational leaders etc. Moreover, any further treatment of the role of AI as a political agent under, say, the co-evolutionary framework of emergence, non-linear dynamic etc. without treating properly the conditions necessary to effectuate change would be a lacklustre (even if fancy) avoidance of the deep muddy waters of any veritable political questioning.

This is not to say that the above mentioned non-coincidence will necessarily provoke a slip towards authoritarianism, as contradictions are far from rare in democracies (just consider our current decreased social cohesion due to less shared experiences, personalization of constructed realities, big data sets under exclusive control of global companies, individual profit maximization with no social responsibility, weakening of public-interest goals and social ordering ‘designed’ by  global IT companies effectuating societies dislodged from their national context), but what is certain is that if sovereignty of people continues to be deconsolidated as a major reference of the democratic imaginary, a new form of society will be created, one in which every questioning of coercion will be dismissed as malevolent or insane.

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.

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.

Emma Carmel, Katharina Lenner, Regine Paul (eds.), Handbook on the Governance and Politics of Migration (Cheltenham: E. Elgar, 2021)

The study of migration governance requires a global and interdisciplinary framework of analysis. The editors of the “Handbook of the Governance and Politics of Migration” bring together multifaceted perspectives to further understanding on how migration is governed and politicized today. This anthology is edited by Emma Carmel, an Associate Professors in the Department of Social and Policy Sciences at the University of Bath, UK, Katharina Lenner, Assistant Professor at the same department, and Regine Paul who is an Associate Professor of Comparative Policy Studies at the University of Bergen, Norway. The book is divided into six sections comprising “Conceptualising the Politics and Governance of Migration”, “The Politics of Categorising Migration”, “Institutions and Regimes of Migration Governance”, “Spaces of Migration Governance”, “Processes and Practices of Migration Governance”, and “Contesting Migration Governance”.

The handbook situates migration governance within three dualisms: “conceptual framing and material expression”, “global scope and relational practice”, and “structured form and dynamic changeability” (Carmel et al. 2021: 3). With migration and mobility becoming increasingly complex phenomena, the handbook provides readers with a rich perspective on migration governance on a global scale. Migration movements today become increasingly screwed and the number of sending countries increasing and the number of receiving countries decreasing, which can, if looked at through the lens of the receiving country, can lead to the impression that there is a significant increase in migrants (Czaika & de Haas, 2022). By bringing in different perspectives and local contexts, the editors accomplish to provide a more nuances perspective on migration governance.

One of the key contributions of this handbook is a critical reflection on how terms used to describe migrants are conceptualized and by whom. Boas and Wiegel criticise the use of the term “climate refugees” in migration research, arguing that this term reinforces fearsome ideas of an incoming flood of refugees (Boas and Wiegel, 2021). Similarly, Blakewell argues for a reconceptualization of the boundaries between forced and voluntary migration (Blakewell, 2021), emphasizing that those categories are not clear cut and Vicky Squire discusses how ‘illegality’ is a produced condition “which emerges in contextually specific ways across various regions and states” (Squire, 2021: 144).

The self-reflexivity of the researchers must be positively emphasized. This is especially of a field such migration studies where the area of research is in constant flux. For example, in their chapters, Boas and Wiegel reflect on their own use of the term ‘climate migrant’ in previous work (Boas and Wiegel, 2021). This can pose an encouraging example for early career researchers, who are likely to read handbooks to familiarize themselves with the terminology. Incorporating such self-critical reflections thorough the handbook can encourage self-reflection and openness to changing terms and methodologies.

A limitation of this publication is that the editors claim repeatedly that they aim to “diversify research perspectives and empirical applications beyond ‘Northern’ academia, as well as research settings” (Carmel et al, 2021: 9). However, the editors and most authors are based at Western institutions. This is acknowledged in the introduction where the editors state “all our contributors take this as a central task, acknowledging the situatedness of their critique, in, mostly, the ‘global North’, and in particular social science disciplines” (Carmel et al, 2021: 9). This handbook, which aims to provide a global scope on migration governance, would be strengthened by actively including more voices from institutions outside of ‘Northern’ academia instead of merely acknowledging that this is important, but most contributors are situated in the ‘global North’. Perspectives from other institutions are not addressed in sufficient detail in this publication which could be a potential avenue for future publications to explore for the contributors.

Overall, this handbook is an interesting and well-structured read for those wanting to become acquainted with the field of migration theory. Both experienced researchers and students at the beginning of their journey in the field of migration studies and adjacent disciplines can benefit from this publication. The chapters of this book provide insightful reading material for introduction courses about migration governance or migration more general.

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)

An Introductory Note

This special issue of Nordicum-Mediterraneum contains selected proceedings from three research circles within the Nordic Summer University (NSU): Human Rights and International RelationsUnderstanding Migration in Nordic and Baltic Countriesand Patterns of Dysfunction in Contemporary Democracies; Impact on Human Rights and Governance. The meetings took place in Saulkrasti, Latvia, from 29/7 to 2/8 2017 and in Copenhagen, Denmark, from 2/2 to 4/2 2018.

The program of the research circle, Human Rights and International Relations, ran from 2015 to 2017. This circle explored how human rights militancy and more generally the protection of human rights are affected by the international human rights regime and the way this regime enters state relations, and it also examined how the international human rights regime modifies the relations between states and how this is explained in international relations theory.

Understanding Migration in Nordic and Baltic Countries runs from 2017 to 2019. This circle addresses contemporary migration through the lens of representation. Interpreted broadly as various means of capturing, contextualizing, interpreting, and defining people, institutions, politics, and histories, representation should encompass both tangible renderings – such as photographs and films – and also a wide range of practices and processes whose representational forms serve in specific ways to produce the subject matter itself.

The study circle about the Patterns of Dysfunction in Contemporary Democracies; Impact on Human Rights and Governance runs from 2018 to 2020. This circle endeavours to study different patterns of dysfunction in contemporary democracies and in particular the insidious processes which undermine the traditional canons of liberal democracy, notably encapsulated in the rule of law and human rights. Many factors are involved in these insidious processes and the state of the various democracies can be seen as nodal points between different factors that are criss-crossing and thus creating a unique constellation: populism, nationalism, corruption, fear, social isolation, ignorance, poverty, luxury, injustice, rootlessness in its various forms are signs of unbalances within democracies on both the global, national and local levels.

The contributions from these circles evolve around the issues of human rights, democracy (including citizenship) and religion.

Jean-Pierre Cléro approaches democracy from the perspective of generational justice. Acquired pensions rights collide with the constraints of democracy and create dilemmas. Lucas L. O. Cardiell addresses other kinds of dilemmas when measures of citizen deprivation send the international protection of citizens’ rights on collision course with citizenship as the domaine réservé of states. Eyassu Gayim studies the contentious issues behind and between democracy and human rights and considers the possible conflicts involved in using the Human Rights-Based Approach to measure democracy.

Julio Jensen examines the origins of human rights and points at the important work of Bartolomé de las Casas and Francisco de Vitoria as initiators of a certain kind of resistance against state power. Marianna Barchuk-Halyk approach human rights from the increasingly important notion of human security and the new UN doctrine about the Responsibility to Protect. Magdalena Tabernacka examines the human right of freedom of religion, and emphasizes the discrepancy found in Poland between the formal adoption of relevant legal measures and the effective protection of the right.

Giorgio Baruchello addresses religious and philosophical beliefs about abortion and their relation to claims about human rights, and how possible conflicts spell out in various social contexts. Welfare provisions and positive attitudes to pregnancy tend to make abortion less necessary. Magdalena Tabernacka discusses the implementation of religious freedom  in Poland and how circumstances and will impact the effective implementation of this freedom. Julio Jensen considers how an egalitarian tradition within Judeo-Christian thinking has inspired resistance against state power.

The special issue contains the following papers

Jean-Pierre Cléro

University of Rouen, France

Democracy Put to the Test of Age

A Case Study Concerning the Dysfunction of Modern Democracy

Abstract:  After having defined with some degree of precision the concept of a dysfunction which has a very particular meaning within politics, since a regime – be it democratic – can bring forth situations which over time will not be sustainable, we will analyse the case of the retirement pension system in which the generation at work takes care of the generation not working any more. This care meets with some particular difficulties linked to inequalities in what regards economy, politics (resulting from demography), health and social conditions. Certainly, these inequalities can be covered up for some time by a play of fictions which is partly analysed here. A situation seemingly without future considering the age pyramid is strangely enough viable in fact as certain sociological studies have shown, and we endeavour to find a clue to this fact in a dialogue between two persons, who separated by about forty years cross their points of view on how contemporary relations between generations play out. However, we are not quite sure that this play between fictions is a full substitute for the economic realities. We outline here some first steps in an area rich with contradictions, which we endeavour to illuminate by some elements of a theory of fictions.

Julio Jensen

University of Copenhagen, Denmark

A Note on the Origins of Human Rights:

Bartolomé de las Casas and Francisco de Vitoria

Abstract: In the wake of the Spanish arrival in America, a controversy arose with respect to the legitimacy of the conquest and the colonial rule. This debate was started by the Dominicans in the New World, who denounced the oppression of the native population. The most renowned participants in these discussions were Bartolomé de las Casas and Francisco de Vitoria. The former received the title of “Defender of the Indians”, while the latter is remembered as a central figure in the foundation of international law. Through the debates concerning the conquest of America, one precondition – noted by Habermas – for the emergence of human rights is explored namely resistance against state power on the basis of the egalitarian tradition belonging to Judeo-Christian thinking.

Lucas L. O. Cardiell

Migration Institute of Finland

Citizenship Deprivation: A Violation of Human Rights?

Abstract: In the past few years, the issue of citizenship deprivation has risen considerably on the agenda of the international community following the recent terrorist attacks in many States. Many citizens have been deprived of their nationality based on involvement in terrorist activities or possibly on the ground of national security. In consequence, an increasing body of legal and political discourse on citizenship deprivation has been added to the literature and the academic discussions on the topic at hand. This paper argues that despite the progress in IL/IHRL, which usually creates limitations in the attribution and deprivation of citizenship, the right to citizenship falls within the domaine réservé of states. It also argues that even though there are certain legal instruments that prohibit nationality deprivation resulting in statelessness, as of the 1961 statelessness convention, the issue of nationality deprivation most likely creates a legal vacuum for individuals concerned when the acquisition of other rights is necessarily linked to nationality.

Magdalena Tabernacka

Uniwersytet Wrocławski, Poland

The Human Right to Freedom of Religion in the Polish Education System

Abstract: Teaching religion in public schools has a significant bearing on the implementation of the individual’s right to freedom of religion and belief. Even if the state outlines a model for teaching religion that is compliant with the standards for the protection of human rights, an infringement of these rights may occur due to faulty execution of the existing provisions.  The fact that a given belief system obtains the status of a majority religion does not exempt the state from its obligation to ensure the effective protection of the rights of non-believers and members of minority religions.

Marianna Barchuk-Halyk

Precarpathian National University named after

Vasyl Stefanyk, city of Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine

Human Rights as a Part of the Human Security of Ukraine

Abstract. The paper is dedicated to questions of human security, the importance of which grows in international relations, yet its legal and political meanings remain ambiguous. The human security concept is about the protection of a human being or a minority group conceived as the responsibility of the states, or the international community, when the national governments cannot guarantee this security or when they consciously violate these rights. The concept of Responsibility to Protect is connected with human security. The concept is about the state’s duty to ensure the security of a person.

Giorgio Baruchello

University of Akureyri, Iceland

Religious Belief, Human Rights, and Social Democracy: Catholic Reflections on Abortion in Iceland

Terms such as “pro-life” and “pro-choice” evoke animated responses in the Anglophone world and can even win, or lose, major elections to political parties, candidates and movements. In the Nordic countries, however, the same terms and related responses are generally perceived as academic, at best, or as American, at worst. The issue of abortion seems to have been settled long ago in the Nordic context, both legally and, above all, socially. Does it mean that it has also been settled ethically? I argue that this is far from being the case and present an Iceland-based approach to the issue that, while leaving women’s rights and freedoms untouched, can accommodate to a worthy extent the defence of Scandinavian-style social democracy as well as  the traditional Catholic opposition to abortion.

Eyassu Gayim

University of Gothenburg, Sweden

Democracy, Human Rights and the UN Human Rights-Based Approach

Although democracy and human rights are universally shared values, their content has always been contested. The controversy concerns the nature of the human being, how the self relates to the community and the state, and how social and political relations should be formed. The UN followed its own political philosophy regarding this when the international regime of human rights was developed by acknowledging individual and people’s rights and democracy. This study highlights the core contentious issues behind democracy and human rights, how these concepts are intertwined and what the implications of using the Human Rights-Based Approach is to measure democracy.”

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)

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)

Christian Joerges and Ernst-Ulrich Petersmann (eds.), Constitutionalism: Multilevel Trade Governance and International Economic Law (Hart Publishing: Studies in International Trade Law, 2011)

The overarching approach, as pioneered by the two editors, Christian Joerges and Ernst-Ulrich Petersmann, is to examine the practices of States and other international actors (principally the WTO) and explores these within the political and legal theory of constitutionalism. Where this work differs from much of the comparable scholarship on international economic law is the central place reserved for the individual as a key player (and beneficiary) of international economic relations. Much scholarship exists on international trade from States’ perspectives; and much has been devoted to exploring the contradictions and tensions between international economic law, individual rights and sustainable development. Recognizing that “human rights law and international trade law evolved as separate legal regimes” (p. 17) Constitutionalism, Multilevel Trade Governance and International Economic Law makes a positive case for interpreting international economic law and international human rights as complimentary systems that ought to be brought closer together; indeed, to form a single, coherent system of law. It is an implicit response to concerns about the fragmentation of international law and reflects the classical principle of interpretation of treaties as codified in the Vienna Convention in the Law of Treaties 1969 that: “There shall be taken into account, together with the context, any relevant rules of international law applicable in the relations between the parties” (article 31(3)(c)). With this in mind, international economic law is viewed as a tool to serve human interests, as opposed to the interests of States and multi-national corporations. Responding to the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ call for a “human-rights approach to trade,” (p. 22) the book provides both an account of the normative basis that would legitimise such an approach by the WTO and makes proposals for how that process might evolve.

The introductory chapter (Petersmann) provides a theoretical framework for what follows, examining different forms of constitutions and constitutional ideas (democratic constitutionalism, rights-based constitutions, national and international constitutionalism, international constitutional democracy and federal and con-federal constitutions) (p7-8). Petersmann also distinguishes process-based constitutional democracies (most common law models) and substantive rights-based constitutional democracies (the continental approach) which provides the setting for much of what follows (pp. 13, 16).

The later edition contains 4 new chapters exploring conflicts-law as constitutional forum and the role that various doctrines in international private law might play in dispute settlement in international economic law (Christian Joerges); the World Trade Organisation and global administrative law (Richard Stewart and Michelle Ratton Sanchez Badin); the interrelationships between different layers of domestic and international governance as a “Five-Storey House” (Thomas Cottier); and a research agenda on the future developments of international economic law (Petersmann).

Petersmann concludes with four propositions based on the contributions as well as his own research. First, the legitimacy of international economic law pivots on its congruence with international human rights standards (p. 539). Second, there is a need for constitutional constraints on international institutions as there is within domestic States based upon “constitutional pluralism,” meaning that there is a range of acceptable constitutional arrangements and no single system that should be required of all players (p. 540). Third, in order to protect global public goods, such as the atmosphere and climate, a “paradigm shift” is required and this involves moving from a system of industry actors to the centralization of human subjects and Petersmann points to the European Union for leadership to this end (pp. 571-2). Fourth, international constitutionalism is necessary to guarantee global public goods in the same way that domestic constitutions have protected supply of public goods on a national scale. The international constitutional system must be rights-based, participatory and democratic (p. 575).

When the first edition of this text was published in 2006, mainstream commentators were not yet ready to question the bases of the international economic order and the priority of trade liberalism. Two years later, the rapid declines of the Nordic and Mediterranean economies of Iceland, Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain were met with attacks on human rights and human security. Both the original crisis and the responses of international institutions to the same have led to much soul searching about the principles and priorities of international trade and this volume is a welcome contribution to that debate, sometimes controversial and always challenging. On the other hand, recent events within the Eurozone raise some questions regarding to the extent to which the European Union can be considered a model of international, constitutional, democratic, rights-based governance (compare p. 21) especially if one considers the means by which Iceland (outside of the European Union) has crawled back to economic growth while attempting to protect its most vulnerable residents compared with the demands placed on the Eurozone economies. Something more seems to be needed even within an international organization that positions fundamental individual rights at the heart of its formal constitution. Perhaps the answers are to be found in multilevel trade governance; perhaps they await further research, and one can only hope that the scholars involved in this project continue to devote their considerable talents to challenging the paradoxes and contradictions of the current international structures to develop a regime that remembers it is an instrument for human development, instead of viewing human beings as instruments for its own development.

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.