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Polar Law after the Invasion of Ukraine

Introduction[1], [2]

The Russian attack on Ukraine on 24th February 2022 sent shock-waves throughout Europe. The violence and occupation since that date have led to human, economic and cultural devastation, over 6 million refugees from an original population of around 41 million and another 6 million internally displaced persons.[3] Addressing the human suffering from this war must always be the first concern.

The sudden geopolitical shift that has followed the rightful condemnation of Russia’s conduct requires many seasoned academics, including the present author, to reconsider certain assumptions in their disciplines and reassess the viability of established pathways for cooperation and negotiation over differences. International lawyers, especially those of the liberal school of international law that believe in institutional cooperation for mutual benefit (in contrast to realist accounts of zero-sum games), must explain how and why international law still constrains the conduct of powerful States in a meaningful way.

Every war has its own unique and terrible features. But the Russian attack on Ukraine in 2022 presents a challenge to the international legal order that has not been seen since 1945. Although Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea in 2014 was equally unlawful, it was a more constrained mission to gain territory; it was not an attempt to eliminate an entire nation. Other States responded to Russia’s conduct at that time with sanctions (countermeasures) but cooperation on Arctic and Antarctic affairs mostly continued.[4] Other violations of the most fundamental norm of the post-war international order – the prohibition on the use of force[5] – have also been more limited in scope and ambition.[6]

The article which follows examines the discipline of polar law[7] in the shadow of the Russian aggression which has threatened more than thirty years of gradual trust-building and collaboration in human rights, Indigenous rights, scientific research, environmental protection and economics. It shows that while many fora for cooperation with Russia in the polar regions are suspended or diminished either formally or de facto, legal solutions to challenges and disputes still have a critical role to play – and are in fact supported by the Russian Federation. Differences regarding interpretation or perceived gaps in legal regulation in the polar regions have not changed significantly following the Russian conduct and they require legal experts (amongst others) to negotiate solutions.

The article begins with a discussion of the resilience of international law in general before addressing the problems that the Russian aggression poses in the field of polar law. Specific attention is then paid to the Arctic Council, legal mechanisms for cooperation in the Arctic, the Antarctic Treaty System and other legal regimes of importance in the polar regions. The focus in the article is primarily on public international law but private law is also important in the polar regions, even if this area has not been well covered in past academic literature under the polar law banner.[8] Private law is, however, beyond the scope of the current article.

The article demonstrates that the Russian Federation, notwithstanding its illegal conduct in Ukraine, is committed to legal solutions in important Arctic and Antarctic fora. Legal approaches to challenges and disputes in the polar regions remain of critical importance.

International Law is Resilient

Although the geopolitical context in which polar law operates is fundamentally altered by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the basic fabric of the legal order remains unchanged. In other words, the law is the same; the conditions are different. This might seem at once both self-evident and naive but is worth restating for the legal sceptics who point to one egregious breach and declare the whole system deceased. A simple analogy from domestic law will hopefully suffice to quieten those anxious that international law is finished, impotent or irrelevant since a powerful country can breach its most basic norm and remain in breach for over a year – indeed, over nine years when considering the occupation of Crimea.

The prohibition of murder is probably the most important norm of criminal law. The ability of individuals and families to go about their daily life and make plans for the future pivots upon it. Most people refrain from murder not because they are dissuaded by a possible sanction (in contrast to, e.g., parking or speeding offences) but because they have no particular incentive or passion to kill another. Nevertheless, sometimes there are murders. Extraneous circumstances such as the quality of governance, availability of weapons, demographics, poverty and economic inequality make these more or less frequent.

The response to cases of murder, even the most horrific – or perhaps especially the most horrific – is not to declare the futility of the criminal law and give up on it entirely. John’s having killed Martin yesterday is no defence to Jane’s killing of Fatima tomorrow. Furthermore, it is no justification for Jane’s stealing of Fatima’s car, driving it dangerously while texting on her phone and later parking in the spot reserved for the university rector (assuming Jane is not, in fact, the university rector).

International law, like criminal law, contract law, family law and administrative law, works most of the time; but is only noticeable in the breach. A breach of law, even an egregious breach of the most fundamental law, is not the end of law but the opportunity for law to show itself in the institutional reactions.

A more sophisticated account of the ongoing application of international law is presented in the International Law Commission Articles on State Responsibility which remind us:

The legal consequences of an internationally wrongful act under this Part do not affect the continued duty of the responsible State to perform the obligation breached.[9]

The State in breach must both cease its wrongful conduct and uphold its original obligation[10] – in the case of the Russia Federation, cease all acts of aggression in Ukraine and return all territory within the 2014 borders to Ukraine.

Other States are in certain circumstances entitled to suspend carefully selected obligations vis á vis the State in breach (countermeasures or measures[11]) and even to terminate treaties with the offending party,[12] but all this happens not in the absence of international law but specifically according to international law. The fundamental norms of international law (known in law as norms of ius cogens or peremptory norms) can never be suspended or terminated in response to the wrongful conduct of another State.[13]

While there are calls for suspension of political and scientific cooperation with the Russian Federation, no State is seeking the suspension of law. The States calling for the defence of Ukraine are instead demanding that international law be upheld, now more than ever. Although the UN Security Council is paralysed by the Russian veto (as it has been stymied in the past by Chinese, American and French vetoes), the General Assembly, the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court, the European Union, the European Court of Human Rights and dozens of individual States have swung into action with resolutions, rulings and countermeasures. Furthermore, as shall be shown below, in other important fora of importance to the polar regions, the Russian Federation is still following international law and international legal procedures to manage its interests and has even made (spurious and unsustainable) claims that its actions in Ukraine are legally justified.[14]

The Immediate Challenges to Polar Law

In 2023, Tanaka, Johnstone and Ulfbeck defined polar law according to three criteria: spatial scope (the polar regions); material scope (international, regional and domestic law); and temporal scope (polar law is constantly evolving).[15] They likewise identified three functions of polar law: coordination, cooperation and economic.[16] Polar law contains two distinct fields: law pertaining to the Antarctic and law pertaining to the Arctic; but common features identified by Tanaka, Johnstone and Ulfbeck include emphasis on environmental protection; scientific research; peaceful use; and international cooperation.[17] All of these features, which are intertwined, are challenged by Russia’s conduct and the obligations of all other States to respond in defence of the territorial integrity of Ukraine.[18]

The threat to peaceful use might be the most obvious although it is probably the least immediate of the above. It has become difficult to trust that the territorially largest Arctic State and original party to the Antarctic Treaty will respect the prohibition on the use of force to settle disputes. Its neighbours are seeking shelter in new ways (for example, the swift applications of Finland and Sweden to NATO membership) but there is no indication that Russia will use force in the polar regions per se. However, political, scientific and environmental cooperation have all been undermined.

The most visible suspension of international cooperation is in the work of the Arctic Council. This includes dozens of projects involving Russia’s vast Arctic, including environmental monitoring and disaster-prevention and preparedness activities. Beyond the Arctic Council itself, the sanctions-regimes imposed in response to the Russian aggression have thwarted dozens of international scientific projects as it is no longer possible to pay salaries and expenses from Western institutions to Russian scientists, to obtain visas for fieldwork or in-person meetings and to transfer equipment across borders. This affects environmental as well as educational and economic projects. The 2017 Arctic Science Agreement was designed precisely to simplify these processes. How it will be interpreted and applied in the event of a Russian scientist making an application to conduct research in the West or vice versa has yet to be seen.[19]

The forty-fourth Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM) took place in Berlin in May and June 2022 amidst a great deal of disquiet and the forty-fifth ATCM was held in Helsinki in June 2023.[20] The system is ultimately functioning about as well as normal which is to say slowly and at the great frustration of those who would like to see stronger measures to protect the seventh continent.

Non-State cooperation remains increasingly difficult, not least in the academic sector that is critical to the development of new insights to manage the regions peacefully and equitably. On 4th March 2022, the Russian Union of Rectors, on behalf of over 300 Russian universities, issued a statement supporting the Russian attack and the Putin government. It called for Russian universities ‘to conduct a continuous educational process, to instil patriotism in young people, the desire to help the Motherland’ as the ‘main duty’ of Russian universities.[21] On the same day, the Duma passed a law to criminalise any critique of the war in Ukraine with a potential jail sentence of up to fifteen years for anyone who called the war a war.[22] If partner universities were wavering on whether they could continue direct cooperation, the statement made it clear that academic freedom in Russia was over (temporarily, one hopes) and that Russian-based researchers would face personal risk were they to acknowledge the realities of the situation. The Arctic Circle Assembly in Reykjavík and the Arctic Frontiers Conference in Tromsø, interdisciplinary conferences that attract diplomatic, Indigenous, academic and business representatives, have gone ahead with very limited Russian participation.

The Arctic Council

Iceland concluded its chairship of the Arctic Council in 2021 with a celebration of the 25th anniversary of the forum before handing the chairship over to the Russian Federation. But pan-Arctic cooperation goes back to the late 1980s – indeed, it can be traced to the Reagan-Gorbachev Reykjavík Summit in 1986. Only a year later, Gorbachev called for cooperation on six themes: resource development; science; Indigenous Peoples; environmental protection; and – perhaps most striking today – a nuclear-weapons free zone; and restrictions on naval activities.[23] This led to the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy in 1991, to which the Arctic Council, founded in 1996, is a direct successor.[24]

On 3rd March 2022, the Arctic Council came to an abrupt halt as the seven western State members of the Arctic Council, in response to the invasion of Ukraine, ‘temporarily paused participation in all meetings of the council and its subsidiary bodies.’ They did, however, ‘remain convinced of the enduring value of the Arctic Council for circumpolar cooperation and reiterate[d] support for this institution and its work.’ They added, ‘We hold a responsibility to the people of the Arctic, including the indigenous peoples, who contribute to and benefit from the important work undertaken in the Council.’[25]

On 8th June 2022, the seven States declared a tentative resumption of some Arctic Council work on some projects that had been approved at the Reykjavík ministerial meeting in 2021, just before the chairship passed to Russia. Around 60-70 projects have resumed, out of a total of 130 – none of which involve Russian partners, territory or maritime zones.[26] Importantly, Russia has not withdrawn from the Arctic Council, nor has it objected to the limited activities of the other seven States under the Arctic Council banner. This indicates that it is not ready to abandon the Arctic Council infrastructure completely and that the other State members do not wish its expulsion (which would, in effect, dismember the Arctic Council entirely).

Amidst some geopolitical jitters, a low-profile, online only Arctic Council ministerial was held in May 2023 in which the chairship passed formally from Russia to Norway. Unsurprisingly, in the absence of any political negotiations for over twelve months, no Arctic Council Declaration was agreed, as is the norm at the highest-level, biennial event. Rather, a bland statement was issued with the quiet acceptance of all Arctic States.[27] The statement steers clear of commitments but recognises the ‘valuable work accomplished by the Arctic Council since the last Ministerial meeting’ and approves the ongoing work of the Council, including funding for the Arctic Council Secretariat and the Indigenous Peoples’ Secretariat through 2025.[28] The very fact that all eight States agreed this statement indicates a will for the revival of the Arctic Council. The chairs and secretariats of the six working groups and the Expert Group on Black Carbon, the Arctic Council Secretariat and the Indigenous Peoples’ Secretariat met the Norwegian Chair of the Senior Arctic Officials in Tromsø in June 2023 to examine how they might resume their activities, ‘supported by all eight Arctic States and six permanent participants.’[29]

But caution is required. On 21st February 2023, Russia released a revised Arctic policy paper in which it had replaced a reference to ‘cooperation within the Arctic Council’ with a new focus on ‘development of relations with foreign states on a bilateral basis… taking into account the national interests of the Russian Federation in the Arctic.’[30] This indicates that Russia will only turn to the Arctic Council to the extent that this is in its own interests. Otherwise, it will prioritise relations – economic, environmental and political – with States that are prepared to tolerate its conduct in Ukraine.

Indigenous Peoples of the Arctic were amongst the first to reach out across Cold War frontiers and their cross-border populations (bearing in mind that State frontiers were built across their territories). They may provide once again the impetus to rebuild trust in due course. Three of the cross-border Indigenous Permanent Participant organisations at the Arctic Council contain Russian members (Aleut International Association (AIA), Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC) and Saami Council (SC). Another, the Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North (RAIPON), represents forty Indigenous Peoples within the Russian Federation. This, especially in the light of the criminalisation of dissent in Russia, puts them all in extremely difficult positions. RAIPON, already emasculated following a temporary suspension and reestablishment under a new president favoured by the Putin government,[31] issued a statement in support of the Russian attacks on Ukraine.[32] However, other representatives of Indigenous Peoples in Russia have spoken out against the war.[33] ICC and SC have avoided direct condemnation of the war in Ukraine and called for cooperation to continue through the Arctic Council.[34] Nevertheless, SC has stopped its Russian members from taking part in its activities while expressing regret for their exclusion which it attributes directly to the war.[35] Some permanent participant representatives have expressed frustration at being sidelined by the State members of the Arctic Council in responding to the situation, being ‘informed’ of steps but not consulted in contrast to their habitual and structurally in-built participation at Arctic Council meetings themselves.[36]

The Arctic Council lives on – but it remains seriously weakened. Even if Russia retreats from Ukraine tomorrow, the trust and spirit of partnership that has been cultivated cautiously since Gorbachev’s historic speech at Murmansk in 1987 may take a similarly long time to rebuild. Regional cooperation through the Barents Euro-Arctic Council (BEAC), the Northern Dimension policy of the EU, Iceland, Norway and Russia, and the Council of Baltic Sea States (CBSS) looks more vulnerable. BEAC’s work involving Russia is paused following a declaration by the Nordic countries and the EU that they would ‘suspend activities involving Russia’ and all projects involving Russia or Belarus under the Northern Dimension are likewise suspended.[37] Russia’s retort to ‘these clearly unfriendly steps’ was that ‘without Russia, the existence of these bodies loses meaning.’[38] Ten State members and the High Representative of the European Commission effectively suspended Russia (and observer Belarus) from the forum’s ‘proceedings, work and projects’ to which Russia responded by declaring its withdrawal.[39]

International Law in the Arctic

Yet the Arctic Council is not the be all and end all of polar law. In fact, pedantically speaking, very little of what it does is law at all. At a purely academic level, the weakness of the Arctic Council may actually prove a blessing in disguise by forcing scholars, diplomats and advocates to move away from an over-emphasis on the Arctic Council as the fulcrum of Arctic cooperation and examine more closely and systematically other fora. This is particularly important in the legal arena which Koivurova and Shibata have argued is more resilient than ‘soft’ institutional cooperation.[40]

The Russian Federation, whilst in flagrant breach of the prohibition of the use of force, is quietly following international law and legal process in the polar regions. Unsurprisingly – ‘country following the law’ does not garner any more international headlines than ‘person does not commit murder’. A couple of illustrations should suffice to illustrate the point but more can be found in recent publications by Koivurova and Shibata,[41] and Koivurova and others.[42] These include reflections on the Svalbard Treaty, the Polar Bear Agreement and regional fisheries organisations.

The Delineation of the Continental Shelf

The UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) reviews State submissions on the extent of States’ continental shelves.[43] The CLCS distinguishes between the sections of the ocean floor over which States have exclusive resource rights (the continental shelf) and the bits left over which are common heritage of humankind (known in international law as the Area beyond national jurisdiction).[44] It does not adjudicate between overlapping submissions by different States. Its role, in part, is to protect the common heritage against overzealous submissions by States but not to intervene in disputes over the boundary lines between States.

On 6th February 2023, the CLCS accepted most of Russia’s data indicating which parts of the ocean floor were continental shelf and hence not common heritage of mankind. It did not (nor should it nor would it) determine which pertained to Russia, Greenland/Denmark or Canada. However, the CLCS (following the recommendations of the sub-Commission) found that there was insufficient evidence to support the Russian submission regarding one part – the Gakkel Ridge.[45]

Russia responded with a revised submission to the CLCS just ten days later[46] – suggesting that they anticipated the response of the CLCS and had a revised map and data already prepared. In the new submission, Russia implicitly accepted the advice from the CLCS, i.e., that the Gakkel Ridge does not constitute a part of the continental shelf and hence neither Russia nor any other State has exclusive rights to its resources.

This is an example of Russia abiding by both legal process and conclusions, where the legal result does not match Russia’s ambitions.

Arctic Ocean Fisheries

Russia – and other parties that have taken what can most generously be described as an ambiguous stance on Russian aggression – are likewise moving forward, albeit slowly, under the most recent (non-)fisheries agreement, the Central Arctic Ocean Fisheries Agreement (CAOFA).[47] The agreement came into force in 2021. It prohibits any commercial fishing in the High Seas area of the Central Arctic Ocean and calls for a cooperative scientific programme to identify the potential for sustainable fisheries in the zone. Commercial fisheries may only be established if the science shows that they can be managed sustainably and a regional fisheries management organisation is established for this purpose. There are ten parties: the United States, Canada, Kingdom of Denmark, Norway, Russia, Iceland, China, Japan, South Korea and the European Union (which represents Finland, Sweden and all other EU member States). Online meetings of the provisional scientific coordinating group (PSCG) were held in May and September 2022 and the first conference of the parties (COP) was held in South Korea in November.[48] Not only did all the parties send a delegation, they were able to agree by consensus the rules of procedure for the COP going forward as well as the mandate for the PSCG (tasked with developing a joint programme on scientific research and monitoring).[49] (A second COP was held in South Korea in June 2023 but the proceedings were not available at the time of writing.) Two observers were admitted to the first COP (the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea and the World Wildlife Fund for Nature Arctic Programme).[50] The CAOFA requires the integration of Indigenous and local knowledge in the scientific research and any decisions regarding the opening of fisheries operations[51] but Indigenous organisations are not parties to the CAOFA itself (a privilege extended only to select States and the European Union) and were represented at the meeting only through national delegations.[52]

The research programme is likely to be slow-moving and hindered in practice by the barriers to cooperation with the Russian Federation at this time. Russia is unlikely to permit marine scientific research in its EEZ (bordering on the Central Arctic Ocean and containing many of the stocks that might straddle the High Seas in due course) by States loudly protesting the war in Ukraine (whether under the CAOFA structures or otherwise). Meanwhile, Russian scientific programmes are unlikely to be able to work with partners in the EEZs of the other four littoral States.

The consequences, however, of inaction or sluggishness on the scientific programme are that commercial fishing in the Central Arctic Ocean remains even more unlikely, until at least, 2036. It was never in the interest of Russia or the other four littoral States to promote science that might identify the feasibility of commercial fishing in the zone as any stocks therein will straddle the EEZ of the littoral States.[53] To put it simply, any fish taken in the Arctic High Seas are fish that cannot be taken in the EEZ. On this, Russia’s interests align with the US, Canada, Norway and Greenland (Kingdom of Denmark) and are opposed to those of the other five parties who have no neighbouring EEZ and hence no (potentially) straddling stocks.

The ‘Arctic Council’ Treaties

Three treaties were agreed under the auspices of the Arctic Council but are formally independent of it.[54] The parties to each are exclusively the eight Arctic States. They cover Search and Rescue, Emergency Oil Spill Preparedness and Response, and Arctic Science.[55] While these treaties remain in force, there is little or no activity under them. All three remain difficult to implement as they depend on the functioning of the Arctic Council, especially the Emergency Prevention, Preparedness and Response Working Group, and related institutions such as the Arctic Coast Guard Forum.[56] The first two treaties create very little law (beyond which already exists in global treaties and international customary law[57]) but rather open the door to cooperation and practice exercises – which cannot take place without political cooperation and trust between military and coastguard teams on the frontline of rescue and oil-spill emergency responses. The Chair of the Arctic Council acts as convenor for the Arctic Science Agreement but it is understood that no requests for research access under the agreement had been received following the Russian invasion up to the transfer of the chairship to Norway in May 2023.[58]

The Rights of Indigenous Peoples and Decolonisation

Russia aside, the Western Arctic States have no shortage of legal issues to address, especially regarding their treatment of Indigenous Peoples. These examples are not intended to justify any form of whataboutery – that ‘the West’ so-called is also breaking international law so should not criticise Russia for its violations in Ukraine. Russia’s own Indigenous Peoples, including over forty national groups, are hardly better off and may indeed be literally at the frontline of the war.[59] Rather, these cases are a timely reminder that there is plenty work still to be done in polar law without Russian cooperation.

On 1st February 2019, the UN Human Rights Committee concluded that Finland was in breach of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights owing to its interference in the electoral roll for the Sámi Parliament in Finland.[60] Four years have now passed and the government’s latest attempt to revise the law, in February 2023, could not even get out of the parliamentary committee stage.[61]

Norway’s own Supreme Court declared the massive windfarm at Fosen unlawful on 21st October 2021 on the basis of the same convention.[62] Nevertheless, at the time of writing, the turbines still turn, cutting across Sápmi – the Saami homeland – disrupting the migrating reindeer and unlawfully interfering with Saami rights to their land and culture. The longer the windfarm operates, the harder it becomes for Saami to bring their herds back to the area and the larger the profits of the operator.[63]

Next door in Sweden, the Girjas Sami also won their court battle in 2020 when the Supreme Court declared that the Girjas Sami Village had exclusive rights to issue licences for hunting and fishing in their historic territory and that the Swedish State had no authority in this area.[64] In what appears a quite distinct area of law but in fact pivots on very similar questions around Indigenous sovereignty, the US Supreme Court in June 2023 upheld the Indian Child Welfare Act against a challenge from non-Indigenous parents, the State of Texas and a law firm working pro bono that is better known for representing oil firms.[65] The Act protects native Alaskan and American Indian children. The precedent is an important indication of the Supreme Court’s reluctance to interfere with tribal sovereignty though nothing can be taken for granted as the case pivots, in part, on the standing of the plaintiffs.

While all these cases are technical legal ‘wins,’ one is reminded of President Jackson’s famous remark (quite possibly fictional) on another case in which native American rights were upheld: ‘John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it.’[66] The Trail of Tears continued unabated for another eighteen years.

The Greenland Constitutional Commission unveiled a draft Constitution of Greenland in April 2023.[67] Although it will take many rounds of negotiation in numerous fora before such a text can be implemented, if at all, the draft points to yet one more step in Greenland’s decolonisation process. Originally asked in 2017 to prepare two drafts – one to function for Greenland within the Kingdom of Denmark and one in the case of independence as a sovereign State – the commission decided to deliver only on the latter.

Not all decolonisation efforts are strictly legal but a spate of inquiries into colonial history in the Arctic records abuses conducted through law and under the cover of law as well as raising questions about legal remedies. Canada continues to reckon with the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Report of 2017: to date, of 94 Calls to Action, only 10 have been fully implemented.[68]

A much smaller-scale reconciliation commission in Greenland reported in 2017 and its recommendations were not systematically followed-up or measured.[69] However, three new inquiries are now beginning: on involuntary contraception of Greenlandic women and girls in the 1960s and 1970s; the integration process of 1953; and on Danish post-war policies in Greenland.[70]

Norway’s Commission to Investigate the Norwegianisation Policy and Injustice against the Sámi and Kvens/Norwegian Finns delivered a 758-page report in June 2023.[71] Two commissions are currently underway in Sweden – one regarding Saami and the other on Tornedalians, Kvens and Lantalaiset.[72] Finland has a Truth and Reconciliation Commission Concerning the Sámi People.[73]

The United States has not even begun to reckon with its historic mistreatment of Native Americans and Alaska Natives in a systematic manner though calls for truth and reconciliation in the United States with a mandate to investigate taken native children and attempts to assimilate them in an abusive boarding school system are gaining ground.[74]

These cases, inquiries and outstanding issues do not depend on cooperation with Russian participants. A cooling of Arctic relations or increasing ‘securitisation’ of the discourse on Arctic cooperation must not be deployed as a smokescreen to conceal or deprioritise action on these matters. In short, polar law, including the law of Indigenous Peoples and decolonisation, still has much to do.

The Antarctic Treaty System

Notwithstanding the similarities of extreme (to humans) climate and environmental vulnerability, the legal orders of the polar regions are fundamentally different. In many, if not most respects, the Arctic legally is no different to any other geopolitical space to the extent that its governance is based on State sovereignty and the law of the sea. State sovereignty is being reconceived in new (or perhaps old?[75]) ways with the recognition that Indigenous sovereignty was never extinguished in the Arctic. Indigenous Peoples present similar claims based on the same legal principles in other regions, principally in Latin America.

The Antarctic, by contrast, is legally unique. It is the only terra firma in the world that is not governed according to territorial sovereignty, the claims of the seven claimant States being suspended in 1961 by the Antarctic Treaty which also prohibited the expansion of claims or the making of new claims as long as the treaty remains in force.[76] So far, it has endured for over sixty years.

Calls for an Antarctic-style treaty system in the Arctic in the 2010s were misplaced as they were based on superficial – and sometimes inaccurate – similarities and assumptions, such as that the polar regions were empty of human activity and should remain perpetually so.[77] They were resoundingly rebuffed by the Arctic States and Indigenous organisations who reminded the world of their long presence and leadership in the region.[78] The Antarctic system is not presented here as a model per se for Arctic governance but rather as a reminder that cooperation can withstand hostilities even between the most powerful parties. The Antarctic Treaty was negotiated at the height of the Cold War and agreed in 1959, entering into force two years later. It was not so much agreed despite the Cold War but because of it. The Antarctic Treaty is first and foremost a peace treaty, responding to a fear that the last unpopulated continent would become a playground for weapons testing, military exercises or even hostilities to secure prestigious title. The treaty demands in its first article that:

  1. Antarctica shall be used for peaceful purposes only. There shall be prohibited, inter alia, any measures of a military nature, such as the establishment of military bases and fortifications, the carrying out of military maneuvers, as well as the testing of any type of weapons.
  2. The present Treaty shall not prevent the use of military personnel or equipment for scientific research or for any other peaceful purpose.

Two related instruments, the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Seals and the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources were negotiated in the 1970s and 1980s respectively.[79]  These treaties have already withstood a war between two consultative parties – indeed, two States with overlapping territorial claims in the Antarctic – the United Kingdom and Argentina. A fourth treaty, on comprehensive environmental protection, the Madrid Protocol, was agreed in 1991 and came into force in 1998.[80]

If the Arctic Council System is a three-tier system with States, Permanent Participants and Observers, the Antarctic Treaty System is a three-tier system of Consultative Party States, other States Parties and Observers. (There is, of course, no Indigenous population in the Antarctic.) Only the Consultative Parties have decision-making power and they reach agreements, as in the Arctic Council, by consensus, primarily at the annual Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings (ATCMs) and at meetings of the Commission on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CAMLR Commission).[81]

Unease was evident in the run-up to the 44th ATCM in Berlin, not least because it was unclear whether Russian representatives would be able to secure the necessary visas to enter Germany at all. On this point, the aftermath of Covid-19 provided a face-saving option of virtual attendance. Four Russian representatives joined as ‘virtual audience’ with only three in-person representatives.[82] Meanwhile, Ukraine sent seven in-person delegates and Belarus five.[83]

The Consultative Parties to the ATCM include, as well as the Russian Federation and Ukraine, a number of States that have been more equivocal of Russian aggression in Ukraine, including Brazil, China, India and South Africa. Hence, the Russian Federation is less isolated in this arena. Nevertheless, twenty-five States (of which twenty-three are Consultative Parties) expressed their disapproval by leaving the meeting when the Russian representative took the floor, in an organised expression of support for Ukraine.[84]

The meeting progressed otherwise as anticipated, which is to say that very little of substance was agreed but nor were there any retrogressive steps on, e.g., principles of peaceful use, scientific cooperation and environmental protection.[85] In other words, the consensus-based decision-making system functioned – as much as it ever functions – despite the potential blocking powers of Ukraine, the Russian Federation and their various allies.

The meeting reports from the 45th ATCM in Helsinki, May 2023, have not yet been published but a few factors are notable from the material that is in the public domain at the time of writing. First of all, the virtual attendance option was repeated and around 1/5 of the five-hundred delegates joined online. This has potential not only to make access more equitable vis á vis States with fewer resources (including non-consultative Parties[86]) but may encourage States to send smaller in-person delegations with others joining virtually in order to reduce the climate impacts. Delegation-lists are not yet published from Helsinki but, already in Berlin, the United States included seven virtual audience members to complement fifteen in-person attendees.

The big news from the Finnish ATCM is the agreement of the historic Helsinki Declaration on Climate Change and the Antarctic.[87] The declaration emphasises science cooperation and science communication regarding climate change in Antarctica.[88] Although non-binding, it is significant that this declaration was reached at all, just four years after the Arctic Council failed to reach a declaration on anything because of US refusal to acknowledge climate change science.[89]

Tucked in at the end of the declaration is firm recommitment to the mining ban. The Consultative Parties and Members of the Committee on Environmental Protection:

Reaffirm our commitment to Article 7 of the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty, and stress that Antarctic mineral resource activities other than scientific research, including the extraction of fossil fuels, remains prohibited, in accordance with the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty, which does not have an expiry date.

The moratorium on mineral activities in the Antarctic is a robust provision of the Madrid Protocol that is, as indicated in the declaration, not time limited. It can be reviewed in 2048 at the request of one of the Consultative Parties but can only be lifted once a binding legal regime for mining activities has been negotiated. To come into force, any amendment to Article 7 requires a rigorous two-step process. First of all, the revision must have the support of three-quarters of the twenty-six Consultative Parties which held that status at the time the protocol was adopted, i.e., in 1991. Thereafter, the modification must be ratified by all of these twenty-six States as well as three-quarters of all Consultative Parties at the date of the modification.[90] The prohibition on mining in the Antarctic also has wider support from the United Nations General Assembly.[91]

Some have expressed concern that Russian scientific research activities on minerals in the Antarctic have crossed the threshold into (prohibited) prospecting though other State Parties have not made any formal protest.[92] The Russian Federation has (at least) acquiesced to the inclusion of this paragraph but the Consultative Parties may need to take a more pro-active approach to ensure that all parties respect the moratorium.

The Helsinki meeting also agreed that a long overdue framework on Antarctic tourism be developed and this is a key item for the 2024 meeting in India.[93] The devil remains, as always, in the detail and a framework does not necessarily mean that regulations on Antarctic tourism will become stricter.[94] Up until now, tourism in the Antarctic has been limited, not least through self-regulation by the operators themselves and by the refusal of any of the Parties to establish accommodation for tourists on the continent itself. However, numbers are rising rapidly and there is always a risk of new operators entering the market who do not follow the voluntary guidelines.[95]

Despite the difficulties presented by Russia’s attack on Ukraine, the aforementioned examples indicate that the parties are keen to see the Antarctic Treaty System operate in a relatively normal way – with all the limitations that ‘normal’ Antarctic governance implies.

However, on one important matter, the treaty provisions were ostensibly set to one side. Belarus and Canada both sought consultative party status. According to Article IX of the Antarctic Treaty, parties are entitled to consultative status either by virtue of being an original party (twelve, including the seven claimant States) or ‘during such time as that Contracting Party demonstrates its interest in Antarctica by conducting substantial scientific research activity there, such as the establishment of a scientific station or the despatch of a scientific expedition.’[96] Canada acceded to the Antarctic Treaty in 1998 and Belarus in 2006; they have since both conducted relevant scientific research activities on the continent. There are no additional requirements. Nevertheless, admission to the elite group requires consensus of existing Consultative Parties, including Ukraine (party since 1992 and Consultative Party since 2004). At the Helsinki meeting, Ukraine blocked Belarus’ application and Canada responded by postponing its application to 2024, anticipating that it would be vetoed by Russia and/or others in response.[97] Ukraine’s position, while eminently understandable, creates problems for the other parties who wish to see the Antarctic Treaty System continue relatively untroubled by the war in Ukraine.[98] If a precedent is set according to which any existing Consultative Party can block acceptance of a new State at the decision-making table, it politicises a longstanding arena of cooperation that has so far been isolated from the kind of political jostling that routinely troubles applications for membership of the United Nations. Furthermore, it creates yet another level of gatekeeping to Antarctic decision-making in addition to the already onerous requirement of breathtakingly expensive scientific research.[99]

Just a month after the Helsinki meeting, the CAMLR Commission held a special meeting in Santiago, Chile to discuss marine protected areas (MPAs) in the Antarctic.[100] The membership of the CAMLR Convention does not coincide perfectly with the ATS membership as not all Antarctic Treaty parties (consultative and otherwise) are members of CAMLR and the latter includes a number of States and the European Union with interests in fisheries in the Southern Ocean that are not Antarctic Treaty parties. The CAMLR Commission operates, amongst other things, as a regional fisheries management organisation for the Southern Ocean and in this respect, it plays a critical role in collating scientific data and regulating fisheries, including quota allocations. The CAMLR Commission also operates on a consensus basis, meaning that any single State Party can block agreement. Nowhere are the tensions between States prioritising environmental protection and those of a more extractive bent more apparent than in the negotiations of MPAs in the Southern Ocean. The environmental champions chalked up a significant win in 2016 with the agreement of a huge MPA in the Ross Sea but attempts to create additional MPAs are repeatedly thwarted.[101] China, usually followed by Russia, repeatedly rejects new MPAs under the cover of ‘science-based’ decision-making – insisting that no restrictions should be introduced until there is sufficient scientific evidence to prove their necessity in a rejection of a precautionary approach.[102] At the 2023 meeting, China and Russia once more blocked the creation of new MPAs, calling instead for more scientific research. Their position is longstanding and has no evident connection to Russia’s isolation over its conduct in Ukraine.[103]

The Antarctic Treaty System has proven resilient for six decades; its founding principles of peace and science are not facing any present danger, notwithstanding the armed attack of one Consultative Party on another. The original treaty precedes by over a decade the first global conference on the environment and the ‘birth’ of international environmental law as a discipline.[104] Innovations honed in the Antarctic such as environmental impact assessments and steps to reduce illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing have informed global practices.[105] The system faces many challenges adapting to pressures from increasing tourism, climate change, risks of over-fishing and IUU fishing, as well as the environmental footprint of the scientific expeditions so privileged under the treaty. Protected by both a geographic and geopolitical distance, the attack on Ukraine has not to date had a significant impact on the legal systems of the Antarctic, even if it has generated a distinct diplomatic chill.

Other key fora and instruments on polar law

Much of the law that governs the polar regions is global in nature but with regional effect. The Russian Federation remains governed by and an active participant in these institutions as it has through years of increasing tensions since its unlawful annexation of Crimea. The climate change framework and the law of the sea are the most obvious categories in this regard but so too are basic norms of sovereignty, human rights and trade law in the Arctic as well as environmental law at both Poles. Global instruments and fora govern polar shipping, use of resources on the deep seabed, MPAs and search and rescue. The Polar Code that applies to most commercial shipping (though not smaller cargo, fisheries or smaller tourist vessels) is a work in progress. Katsivela identifies a number of areas that require strengthening if the safety of seafarers and the vulnerable polar environment are to be adequately protected, including expansion of scope to cover other vessels, safety equipment, seafarer training, use of heavy fuel oil in the Arctic, black carbon emissions, noise pollution and biofouling.[106] This can only be achieved through negotiations at the International Maritime Organization (IMO). The IMO has, since 2019, been an observer at the Arctic Council and has been invited to send experts to ATCM meetings.[107] Neither the Arctic Council nor the ATCM have legal personality so neither can be represented in their own right at the IMO though of course the State members are all represented. However, ICC has been attending the IMO meetings for years and in November 2021 was granted provisional consultative status, in recognition of the importance of Inuit expertise in decision-making about shipping in their territories.[108] The Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition (ASOC), an NGO observer to the ATCM, also attends IMO meetings (through the Friends of the Earth International delegation) to lobby for shipping regulation in the Southern Ocean.[109] More general measures through the IMO to reduce carbon emissions from shipping (not currently included in the Paris Agreement targets[110]) could slow the rapid warming at the Poles.[111]

The milestone Agreement under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Marine Biological Diversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ Agreement), an implementing agreement under UNCLOS, provides for equitable use of marine genetic resources, area based management tools (including MPAs), environmental impact assessments, and capacity building and transfer of technology to developing countries in respect of the High Seas and deep seabed.[112] The reaching of an agreement does not ensure that the agreement enter into force with any great speed. Sixty ratifications are required and one should recall that the UNCLOS itself, after a decade of negotiations, took a further twelve years to enter into force.[113] The BBNJ Agreement is the first general instrument to govern fair and equitable use of marine genetic resources in areas beyond national jurisdiction (including the Central Arctic Ocean). It also enhances the available processes on environmental impact assessment and MPAs. For the first time in a global law of the sea instrument, it requires States Parties to integrate traditional knowledge of Indigenous and local communities and uphold their rights.[114]

Mining on the deep seabed in the Arctic may not be an immediately attractive prospect so long as mining in temperate zones has yet to be tested but the International Seabed Authority (ISA) regulates any exploitation of the seafloor beyond the limits of the continental shelf under the Arctic Ocean (albeit a relatively small Area that is very difficult to access).[115] The ISA has to date taken a cautious approach to the Area under the Southern Ocean. This reflects uncertainties regarding potential conflict with provisions of the Madrid Protocol (that bans mining activities south of the 60°S parallel at least under the jurisdiction of its Parties) and the regime for the deep seabed under the 1994 Agreement.[116] The issue is further complicated by doubts about whether the Antarctic continent can generate a continental shelf, given the lack of recognition of State territorial claims in Antarctica and the freezing of the same under Article IV.[117] Until a few years ago, an ISA-published map of deep seabed under its jurisdiction excluded all the ocean below the 60°S parallel but it has since been removed from the public domain.[118] The more recent map on the ISA website is cut off at the foot of Patagonia.[119]

These three examples of the ongoing operation and relevance of global fora – the IMO, the BBNJ Agreement and the ISA – demonstrate that international law still very much governs human activities in the polar regions. The regimes may not be as robust as some would desire in terms of environmental security but international cooperation through these fora offers one of the best opportunities to strengthen protections.


The distinct bodies of law in the Arctic and Antarctic as well as global law and institutions with specific impacts on the polar regions have so far proven hardy enough to withstand the Russian attack on Ukraine. Geopolitical alliances may be shifting (though that is nothing new), trust between neighbours undermined, and cooperation increasingly challenging for some years to come. ‘Soft’ fora for cooperation are particularly vulnerable but the legal institutions remain operative. The above examples indicate not only that international law is resilient and continues to govern human and State activities at the Poles but in many contexts is little affected by the Russian conduct. Moreover, while in blatant violation of the ius ad bellum in Ukraine, the Russian Federation is ostensibly committed to international law in the polar regions even when the results do not fully align with its ambitions. This is demonstrated in its most recent submission to the CLCS in respect of the Gakkel Ridge.

A commitment to legal solutions to disagreements and disputes remains critical to the stability of the international order. The onus is on all parties, States and non-State actors alike, to insist on legal norms and processes to ensure that the near eighty-year peace in the polar regions endures. Experts in polar law are required to identify and pursue solutions to the many outstanding challenges.

[1] Note on spelling: there is no single preferred spelling of Saami/Sámi/Sami as it depends on the Saami language being used. In this article, the spelling ‘Saami’ will be preferred as per Saami Council, unless in reference to another proper noun, e.g., Sámi Parliament of Finland, Girjas Sami Village, etc.

[2] The author thanks Timo Koivurova, Nikolas Sellheim, Marc Lanteigne and Jonathan Wood as well as the two anonymous reviewers for their excellent comments on an earlier draft of this paper. She also thanks Timo Koivurova and Akiho Shibata for sharing background documents. All errors are the responsibility of the author.

[3] ‘Ukraine Refugee Situation’ (UN Operational Data Portal, last updated 26 June 2023) <https://data2.unhcr.org/en/situations/ukraine> accessed 29 June 2023; ‘Country Profile: Ukraine’ (Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, last updated 24 May 2023) <https://www.internal-displacement.org/countries/ukraine> accessed 29 June 2023.

[4] Timo Koivurova and others, Arctic Cooperation in a New Situation: Analysis on the Impacts of the Russian War of Aggression: Government Report 2022:3 (Government of Finland, 2022), 33.

[5] Charter of the United Nations 1 UNTS XVI, Article 2(4).

[6] See, Rachael Lorna Johnstone, ‘Ukraine: Why this war is different’ (Polar Connection, 10 March 2022) <https://polarconnection.org/ukraine-war-different-2/> accessed 23 June 2023.

[7] On Polar law as an academic discipline, see Rachael Lorna Johnstone, Yoshifumi Tanaka and Vibe Ulfbeck, ‘Polar Law as a Burgeoning Discipline’ in Yoshifumi Tanaka, Rachael Lorna Johnstone and Vibe Ulfbeck (eds), Routledge Handbook of Polar Law (Routledge 2023) 3-6.

[8] See, ibid, 5.

[9] Articles on Responsibility of States for Internationally Wrongful Acts 2001 in Report of the International Law Commission on the Work of its Fifty-third Session, UN GAOR, UN Doc A/56/10 (2001) (ILC Articles on State Responsibility), article 29.

[10] See also, ibid, article 30.

[11] Ibid, articles 42 and 48-54.

[12] Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties 1969, 1155 UNTS 331 (VCLT) article 60.

[13] ILC Articles on State Responsibility (n 9) Articles 26 and 50.

[14] See, Johnstone (n 6) on Russia’s purported justifications and why they do not stand up to scrutiny.

[15] Yoshifumi Tanaka, Rachael Lorna Johnstone and Vibe Ulfbeck, ‘Polar Legal System’ in Routledge Handbook of Polar Law (n 7), 18-22.

[16] Ibid, 22-23.

[17] Ibid, 25-27.

[18] On the obligation of all States to uphold peremptory norms of international law, see ILC Articles on State Responsibility (n 9), Article 41(1).

[19] The Agreement on Enhancing International Arctic Scientific Cooperation, Fairbanks, May 11, 2017. Entered into force, 23 May 2018, <http://hdl.handle.net/11374/1916>.

[20] ATCM, ‘Final Report of the Forty-fourth Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting’ (23 May – 2 June 2022) Vol I (ATCM XLIV); ‘Helsinki Antarctic Meeting Culminates in Agreement on Climate Declaration,’ (Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, 14 June 2023) <https://um.fi/news/-/asset_publisher/GRSnUwaHDPv5/content/helsingin-etelamanner-kokous-huipentui-sopuun-ilmastojulistuksesta/35732> accessed 27 June 2023.

[21] https://web.archive.org/web/20220320105358/https://www.rsr-online.ru/news/2022-god/obrashchenie-rossiyskogo-soyuza-rektorov1/ translation by Jonathan Wood.

[22] Ekaterina Zmyvalova, ‘The Impact of the War in Ukraine on the Indigenous Small-numbered Peoples’ Rights in Russia’ (2022) 13 Arctic Review on Law and Politics, 407, 409-410.

[23] Mikhail Gorbachev, ‘Speech in Murmansk,’ (1 October 1987) <https://www.barentsinfo.fi/docs/Gorbachev_speech.pdf> accessed 26 June 2023.

[24] Declaration on the Establishment of the Arctic Council, September 19, 1996 (Ottawa Declaration), <https://oaarchive.arctic-council.org/handle/11374/85> accessed 26 June 2023.

[25] United States, Department of State of the United States of America, Joint Statement on Arctic Council Cooperation Following Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine (3 March 2022) <https://www.state.gov/joint-statement-on-arcticcouncil-cooperation-following-russias-invasion-of-ukraine> accessed 26 June 2023.

[26] United States, Department of State of the United States of America, Joint Statement on Limited Resumption of Arctic Council Cooperation (8 June 20223) <https://www.state.gov/joint-statement-on-limited-resumptionof-arctic-council-cooperation> accessed 26 June 2023; Timo Koivurova, ‘Russia’s War in Ukraine: What are the Consequences to the Cooperation in the Arctic Council?’ (Finnish Institute in Japan: Science Tuesday, 28 February 2023) <https://sciencetuesday0228.peatix.com> accessed 28 February 2023.

[27] ‘Joint Statement of the Arctic States and Indigenous Permanent Participants issued on the occasion of the 13th Meeting of the Arctic Council on 11 May 2023’ (Arctic Council, 11 May 2023) <https://oaarchive.arctic-council.org/handle/11374/3146> accessed 26 June 2023.

[28] Ibid.

[29] ‘Norwegian Chairship Hosts First Meeting with Working / Expert Group Chairs and Secretariats’ (Arctic Council, 15 June 2023) <https://arctic-council.org/news/norwegian-chairship-hosts-first-meeting-with-working-expert-group-chairs-and-secretariats/> accessed 29 June 2023.

[30] See, Malte Humpert, ‘Russia Amends Arctic Policy Prioritizing ‘National Interest’ and Removing Cooperation Within Arctic Council,’ High North News (Norway, 23 February 2023) <https://www.highnorthnews.com/en/russia-amends-arctic-policy-prioritizing-national-interest-and-removing-cooperation-within-arctic> accessed 23 June 2023.

[31] See, Mary Durfee and Rachael Lorna Johnstone, Arctic Governance in a Changing World (Rowman and Littlefield 2019) 67.

[32] Zmyvalova (n 22), 408.

[33] Ibid.

[34] Koivurova and others (n 4) 49.

[35] Saami Council, ‘Váhtjer Declaration 22nd Saami Conference’ (Saami Council, 11-14 August 2022), <https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5dfb35a66f00d54ab0729b75/t/6392e3f3069dea6ddeed9638/1670570996486/Va%CC%81htjer+declaration.pdf> accessed 29 June 2023.

[36] Koivurova and others (n 4) 50.

[37] Ibid, 8, 39- 42-44.

[38] ‘Comment by Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova on the Situation around the Northern Dimension and the Barents Euro-Arctic Council (BEAC)’ (The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, 11 March 2022) <https://mid.ru/ru/foreign_policy/news/1803807/?lang=en> accessed 29 June 2023.

[39] Timo Koivurova and Akiho Shibata, ‘After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022: Can

we still cooperate with Russia in the Arctic?’ (2023) 59(e12) Polar Record 1, 3-4.

[40] Ibid.

[41] Ibid.

[42] Koivurova and others (n 4).

[43] UN Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982, 1833 UNTS 397 (UNCLOS), Part XI, Section 4 and Annex II. See also, Durfee and Johnstone, 185-189 (for a simplified account of the process).

[44] The Area in this context is always, capitalized, see UNCLOS (n 43) article 1.

[45] Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, ‘ Recommendations of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf in regard to the Partial Revised Submission made by the Russian Federation in respect of the Arctic Ocean on 3 August 2015 with Addenda Submitted on 31 March 2021’ (6 February 2023), para 73; Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, ‘Progress of work in the Commission on the Limits of the

Continental Shelf, fifty-seventh session’ (23 January–10 March 2023) UN Doc CLCS/57/2, Item 5.

[46] Russian Federation, ‘Partial Revised Submission of the Russian Federation in respect of the Continental Shelf of the Russian Federation in the South-East Eurasia Basin in the Arctic Ocean: Executive Summary’ (14 February 2023) <https://www.un.org/depts/los/clcs_new/submissions_files/rus02_rev23/23rusrev2e.pdf> accessed June 26, 2023.

[47] Agreement to Prevent Unregulated High Seas Fisheries in the Central Arctic Ocean (adopted 3 October 2018, entered into force 25 June 2021) OJ L 73, 15.3.2019, 3–8 (CAOFA).

[48] Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Agreement to Prevent Unregulated High Seas Fisheries in the Central Arctic Ocean, ‘Report’ (23-25 November 2022) Doc CAOFA-2022-COP1-10. See also, paras 7 and Appendices 4 and 5.

[49] Ibid, Appendices 7 and 9.

[50] Ibid, para 3.

[51] CAOFA (n 47), Articles 4(4) and 5(1)(c).

[52] See, Inuit Circumpolar Council, ‘Inuit Delegates with Strong Presence at Central Arctic Ocean Fisheries Agreement Scientific Coordinating Group Meeting’ <https://www.inuitcircumpolar.com/news/inuit-delegates-with-strong-presence-at-central-arctic-ocean-fisheries-agreement-scientific-coordinating-group-meeting/> accessed 27 June 2023.

[53] See Erik J Molenaar, ‘Participation in the Central Arctic Ocean Fisheries Agreement” in Akiho Shibata, Leilei Zou, Nikolas Sellheim, and Marzia Scopelliti (eds), Emerging Legal Orders in the Arctic: The Role of Non-Arctic Actors (Routledge 2019) (explaining the straddling stocks issue).

[54] See also, Koivurova and others (n 4) 36-37.

[55] Agreement on Cooperation on Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue in the Arctic (adopted 12 May 2011, entered into force 19 January 2013) <https://oaarchive.arctic-council.org/handle/11374/531> accessed 27 June 2023; Agreement on Cooperation on Marine Oil Pollution Preparedness and Response in the Arctic (adopted 15 May 2013, entered into force 25 March 2016) <https://oaarchive.arctic-council.org/handle/11374/529> accessed 27 June 2023; Agreement on Enhancing International Arctic Scientific Cooperation (adopted 11 May 2017, entered into force 23 May 2018) <https://oaarchive.arctic-council.org/handle/11374/1916> accessed 27 June 2023.

[56] Koivurova and Shibata (n 39) 5-6.

[57] Durfee and Johnstone (n 31) 222.

[58] See also Koivurova and others (n 4) 37.

[59] Zmyvalova (n 22) 410-11; Amy Mackinnon, ‘Russia is Sending its Ethnic Minorities to the Meat Grinder,’ Foreign Policy (Washington DC, 23 September 2022) <https://foreignpolicy.com/2022/09/23/russia-partial-military-mobilization-ethnic-minorities/> accessed 27 June 2023.

[60] Sanila-Aikio v Finland (2018) UN Human Rights Committee, UN Doc CCPR/C/124/D/2668/2015.

[61] ‘Controversial Sámi Bill Runs Aground in Parliamentary Committee’ Yle News (Helsinki, 24 February 2023) <https://yle.fi/a/74-20019662> accessed 27 June 2023.

[62] HR-2021-1975-S, (case no. 20-143891SIV-HRET), (case no. 20-143892SIV-HRET) and

(case no. 20-143893SIV-HRET), Supreme Court of Norway, Judgment, 11 October 2021.

[63] See, ‘— Days of Human Rights Violations. Illegal Income Since the Supreme Court Verdict’, <https://fosenticker.github.io/Fosen/?fbclid=IwAR1YAP_wDMLYDMKNiadX-fH5TvAbQ0ok-Fx58d7QKOTgS8Uh0atNvu4hHeo> accessed 28 June 2023 (for a ticker counting the days since the verdict and estimating the profits of the energy firm).

[64] Office of the chancellor of justice v Girjas sameby, case no T 853-18, Supreme Court of Sweden, 23 January 2020.

[65] Haaland v Brackeen, Docket nos 21-376, 21-377, 21-378 and 21-380, Supreme Court of the United States, 15 June 2023.

[66] Edwin A Miles, ‘After John Marshall’s Decision: Worcester v. Georgia and the Nullification Crisis’ (1973) 39(4) The Journal of Southern History 519–544, 519.

[67] The Constitutional Commission of Greenland, ’Forfatningskommissionens Betænkning’ (The Constitutional Commission 2023).

[69] Grønlands Forsoningskommission, ’Vi forstår fortiden; Vi tager ansvar for nutiden; Vi arbejder sammen for en bedre fremtid’ (Office of the Prime Minister of Greenland 2017).

[70] Christine Hyldal, ‘Hele Inatsisartut er enig: Der skal laves en udredning om spiralkampagnen’ KNR (Nuuk, 25 May 2022) <https://knr.gl/da/nyheder/hele-inatsisartut-er-enig-der-skal-laves-en-udredning-om-spiralkampagnen> accessed 27 June 2023; see also, DR, ’Spiralkampagnen’ (podcast) (Copenhagen 6 May 2022) <https://www.dr.dk/lyd/p1/spiralkampagnen> accessed 28 June 2023 (which first unveiled the scale of the Danish measures); Helle Nørrelund Sørensen, ‘Politikerne er enige: Afkolonisering af Grønland skal undersøges’ KNR (Nuuk, 4 June 2022) <https://knr.gl/da/nyheder/politikerne-er-enige-afkolonisering-af-gr%C3%B8nland-skal-unders%C3%B8ges> accessed 27 June 2023;  [70] Office of the Prime Minister of Denmark, ‘Danmark og Grønland beslutter historisk udredning af de to landes forhold’ (9 June 2022) < https://www.stm.dk/presse/pressemeddelelser/danmark-og-groenland-beslutter-historisk-udredning-af-de-to-landes-forhold/> accessed 27 June 2023.

[71] Sannhets- og forsoningskommisjonen, ‘Sannhet og forsoning – grunnlag for et oppgjør med fornorskingspolitikk og urett. Rapport til Stortinget fra Sannhets- og forsoningskommisjonen’ (1 June 2023).

[72] Sanningskommissionen för det samiska folket, ‘Om kommissionen’ <https://sanningskommissionensamer.se/om-kommisionen/> accessed 24 May 2023; Kväner Lantalaiset Tornedalinger, ‘Truth and Reconciliation Commission for Tornedalians, Kvens and Lantalaiset’ <https://komisuuni.se/en/start-en/> accessed 24 May 2023.

[73] ‘Truth and Reconciliation Commission Concerning the Sámi People’ (Finland) <https://sdtsk.fi/en/home/> accessed 27 June 2023.

[74] United States Senator Lisa Murkowski, ‘Murkowski Joins 26 Senators to Reintroduce Bill Seeking Healing for Stolen Native Children and their Communities’ <https://www.murkowski.senate.gov/press/release/murkowski-joins-26-senators-to-reintroduce-bill-seeking-healing-for-stolen-native-children-and-their-communities> accessed 27 June 2023.

[75] See, Priyasha Saksena, ‘Jousting over Jurisdiction: Sovereignty and International Law in Late Nineteenth Century South Asia’ (2019) 38(2) Law and History Rev 419 (on divisible sovereignty in colonial South Asia of the 19th century).

[76] The Antarctic Treaty (adopted 1 December 1959, entered into force 23 June 1961) 402 UNTS 71, Article IV; see also Patrizia Vigni, ‘Territorial Claims to Antartica’ in Routledge Handbook of Polar Law (n 7), 33-46.

[77] EU Parliament, Resolution of 9th October 2008 on Arctic Governance (11 December 2008) OJ C 316 E 41, December 11, 2008; see also Greenpeace, ‘Protecting Lands: Creating an Arctic Sanctuary’ <https://www.greenpeace.org/usa/arctic/arctic-sanctuary/> accessed 27 June 2023.

[78] Foreign Ministers of Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia, and the US, ‘The Ilulissat Declaration’ (28 May 2008); Inuit Circumpolar Council, ‘A Circumpolar Inuit Declaration of Sovereignty in the Arctic’ (28 April 2009), <https://www.inuitcircumpolar.com/icc-international/circumpolar-inuit-declaration-on-arctic-sovereignty/> accessed 27 June 2023.

[79] Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Seals (adopted 1 June 1972, entered into force 11 March 1978 1080 UNTS 175 (CCAS); Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (adopted 20 May 1980, entered into force 7 April 1982) 1329 UNTS 47 (CAMLR Convention).

[80] Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty (adopted 4 October 1991, entered into force 14 January 1998) 2941 UNTS 1.

[81] On consensus decision-making, see Kees Bastmeijer, ‘Introduction: Madrid Protocol 1998 – 2018. The need to address ‘the Success Syndrome’ (2018) 8(2) The Polar Journal 230.

[82] ‘ATCM XLIV – CEP XXIV List of Participants,’ ATCM XLIV (n 20) Doc AD003. One of the ‘virtual audience’ for the main ATCM attended the CEP as the Russian representative. The Head of delegation and alternative both attended the CEP virtually as did the other three who had also joined the ATCM as virtual audience. The ATCM alternate for the Russian Federation did not attend the CEP.

[83] Ibid. Belarus had 4 ATCM delates, one of which was also a CEP delegate, plus one other CEP delegate. Ukraine had 7 ATCM delegates, of which two were also CEP delegates.

[84] ‘25 Antarctic countries supported Ukraine and staged a démarche to the representative of the Russian Federation during the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting’ (Ukraine State Institution National Antarctic Scientific Center, 24 May 2022) <http://uac.gov.ua/en/25-antarctic-countries-supported-ukraine-and-staged-a-demarche-to-the-representative-of-the-russian-federation-during-the-antarctic-treaty-consultative-meeting/> accessed 27 June 2023.

[85] ATCM XLIV (n 20).

[86] By definition and design, only well-resourced States can become new Consultative Parties as they must demonstrate scientific work in Antarctica to qualify for consultative status, see Antarctic Treaty, article IX.

[87] Helsinki Declaration on Climate Change and the Antarctic, Resolution E (2023) of the Forty-fifth Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting’ available from Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland (9 June 2023) <https://um.fi/current-affairs/-/asset_publisher/gc654PySnjTX/content/helsinki-declaration-on-climate-change-and-the-antarctic> accessed 27 June 2023.

[88] The ATCM would not be the appropriate forum in which to negotiate climate mitigation, adaption or financing obligations; rather that takes place – or does not take place as the case may be – at the globally representative UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of the Parties: ‘Conference of the Parties’ (United Nations Climate Change) < https://unfccc.int/process/bodies/supreme-bodies/conference-of-the-parties-cop> accessed 27 June 2023.

[89] Timo Soini, ‘Statement by the Chair on the Occasion of the Eleventh Ministerial Meeting of the Arctic Council’ (Rovaniemi, 6-7 May 2019) < https://um.fi/documents/35732/0/Rovaniemi-Statement-from-the-chair_FINAL_840AM-7MAY.pdf/8ae0c2a6-fe6a-43e2-2326-f145e8a536cf?t=1557218507134> accessed 27 June 2023; see also Timo Koivurova, ‘Lessons from Finland’s Chairmanship of the Arctic Council’ (2020) 12 Yearbook of Polar Law 197.

[90] See Alan D Hemmings and Timo Koivurova, ‘International Regulation of Mineral Resources Activities in the Polar Regions’ in Routledge Handbook of Polar Law (n 7) 310-13.

[91] Question of Antarctica, UNGA Res 47/57 (9 December 1992), para 9.

[92] See, Hemmings and Koivurova, 311-12.

[93] See, ‘Helsinki Antarctic Meeting Culminates in Agreement on Climate Declaration’ Statement by the Host Country (Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, 14 June 2023) <https://um.fi/current-affairs/article/-/asset_publisher/iYk2EknIlmNL/content/helsingin-etelamanner-kokous-huipentui-sopuun-ilmastojulistuksesta/35732?fbclid=IwAR2avMNIkXIm0dYS1ek6qclunf1a8xLPuDrdSj7cTTAv8SGDcw47_81sOxs> accessed 27 June 2023.

[94] See Kees Bastmeijer and others, ‘Regulating Antarctic Tourism: the Challenge of Consensus-Based Decision-Making’ (2023) AJIL doi: 10.1017/ajil.2023.34 (on the challenges of regulating tourism under consensus system).

[95] Ibid, 2-3.

[96] Antarctic Treaty (n 76), Article IX(2).

[97] Andrew Silver, ‘Ukraine Freezes Belarus Out of Antarctic Research Work’ (Research Professional News, 16 June 2023) <Ukraine freezes Belarus out of Antarctic research work – Research Professional News> accessed 29 June 2023.

[98] See Akiho Shibata, ‘Looking Towards 2026 ATCM (in Kobe?): Some Homework to Do’ (Kobe PCRC Antarctic Open Symposium Series 2022, 2 December 2022) <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZjCjojfqdqM> accessed 27 June 2023.

[99] See Rachael Lorna Johnstone, ‘Global Polar Law?’ in Kamrul Hossain (ed) Current Developments in Arctic Law X, 70, 72.

[100] CAMLR Commission, ‘Third Special meeting of the Commission’ (19-23 June 2023), <https://meetings.ccamlr.org/en/ccamlr-sm-iii> accessed 29 June 2023.

[101] See, e.g., ‘International Meeting on Antarctic Ocean Protection Ends with No Further Progress’ (Nature MCM/Martin CID Magazine, 25 June 2023) < https://martincid.com/en/2023/06/international-meeting-on-antarctic-ocean-protection-ends-with-no-further-progress/> accessed 27 June 2023.

[102] See Kees Bastmeijer and Rachael Lorna Johnstone, ‘Environmental Protection in the Antarctic and the Arctic: the Role of International Law’ in Malgosia Fitzmaurice and others (eds) Research Handbook of International Environmental Law (Edward Elgar 2021) 459, 470 (on science-based decision-making as a barrier to substantive action on Antarctic MPAs).

[103] See, Gastautor, ‘China and Russia are Blocking Creation of a Third Antarctic Marine Protected Area’ Polar Journal (Zurich, 19 June 2023) <https://polarjournal.ch/en/2023/06/19/china-and-russia-are-blocking-creation-of-a-third-antarctic-marine-protected-area/> accessed 27 June 2023.

[104] Stockholm Declaration on the Human Environment (1972) 11 ILM 1416.

[105] Madrid Protocol (n 80), Annex I; CCAMLR Secretariat, ‘Elimination of IUU Fishing and the World’s First Catch Document Scheme’ (CCAMLR, 7 October 2021) <https://40years.ccamlr.org/elimination-of-iuu-fishing-and-the-worlds-first-catch-document-scheme/> accessed 27 June 2023.

[106] Maria Katsivela, ‘The IMO and Outstanding Maritime Safety and Environmental Issues under the Polar Code’ in Routledge Handbook of Polar Law (n 7), 325, 332-341.

[107] ATCM XLIV (n 20), para 345.

[108] ‘Non-Governmental international Organizations which have been granted consultative status with IMO’ (International Maritime Organization) <https://www.imo.org/en/OurWork/ERO/Pages/NGOsInConsultativeStatus.aspx> accessed 27 June 2023.

[109] ASOC report to the ATCM, Agenda item ATCM 4 (22 April 2022) <https://www.asoc.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/ASOC-report-to-ATCM.pdf> accessed 27 June 2023.

[110] Paris Agreement (adopted 12 December 2015, entered into force 4 November 2016) 3156 UNTS

[111] Fiona Harvey, ‘Shipping Emissions could be Halved without Damaging Trade, Research Finds,’ The Guardian (London, 26 June 2023) <https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/jun/26/shipping-emissions-could-be-halved-without-damaging-trade-research-finds> accessed 27 June 2023.

[112] Draft Agreement under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Marine Biological Diversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction,’ UN Doc A/CONF.232/2023/L.3 (BBNJ Agreement).

[113] Ibid, Article 68.

[114] Ibid, Articles 7, 13, 19, 21, 24, 26, 31, 32, 35, 37, 41, 44, 48, 49, 51 & 52. See also Preamble.

[115] Edwin Egede, ‘The International Seabed Authority and the Polar Regions’ in Routledge Handbook of Polar Law (n 7) 342, 347-351.

[116] Ibid, 354-355.

[117] Ibid, 353-4.

[118] The map is reproduced in Donald R Rothwell and Tim Stephens, The International Law of the Sea (2nd ed. Bloomsbury 2016) 129.

[119] MarineRegions.org, GEBCO, NOAA, ‘Map of the Area’ (International Seabed Authority) <https://www.isa.org.jm/maps/map-of-the-area/> accessed 27 June 2023.

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.

Sacred Sites in the Arctic North and Beyond: The Challenges of Protecting Cultural Heritage and Living Traditions in a Multitude of Contexts and Cultures

Sacred sites are many and varied throughout the world (Verschuuren et al., 2012). They are repositories of knowledge and wisdom, and are predominantly aligned with local, present-day and historical cultures of peoples on whose lands or former lands they are located (Wild and McLeod, 2009). Sacred natural sites are sanctuaries for biocultural diversity (Metcalfe et al., 2009; Verschuuren et la., 2012). Sacred sites are closely tied to identity, and are crucial for the transmission of cultural memory and language, and maintenance of health and well-being (Maffi and Woodley, 2010; Quijada, 2019; Poelina, 2020). Remarkably, they are often the focus of cultural memory and, thus, linked with earlier ancestors and their lifeways as well as local spirits and powers of nature that are considered manifest, e.g., within forests (sacred groves), mountains, rivers, lakes, tundra, sun, moon and weather phenomena such as the aurora borealis (Verschuuren et al., 2012; Zannini et al., 2021). There are also sacred areas where churches, monasteries, mosques and various sorts of temples are situated that are man-made structures, which are cultural heritage sites that have value for pilgrims and adherents to certain faiths and religions (Blain and Wallis, 2004).

According to Samakov and Berkes (2017): “The sacredness of a particular site, related to local worldviews and beliefs, may be manifested in the form of tribute to ancestors, access to supernatural dimensions, and respect for spiritual entities that reside in the area” (p.425). Both historically and in the contemporary world, many sacred sites bear evidence of worship and reverence, and, among those naturally formed in the wilderness, there are locations where offerings have been given that are connected to knowledge and practices that are also secret and guarded (Helander-Renvall, 2010; Samakov and Berkes, 2017). Equally, and presently in some locations, evidence of new types of offerings is emerging (Joy, 2020) whereby at certain sites used, e.g., by reindeer and caribou herders, fishermen and hunters, these gestures reflect reciprocal relationships with the natural world and, playing a central function in practices connected with livelihoods (Helander-Renvall, 2010; Spangen and Äikäs, 2020). Such customs can illustrate how and why Indigenous peoples were persecuted for adhering to their traditional ways, but also provide evidence of new types of offerings and interactions at sacred sites that can be understood as examples of some of the ways in which the same peoples are now reclaiming their beliefs and practices, and a fortiori the freedom which was earlier restricted because spiritual principles of this ilk were forbidden (Kraft, 2020).

Certain in-dwelling powers at sacred sites are considered to protect ancestral lands and families (Helander-Renvall, 2010). Without exception, Indigenous and local communities have developed regulations, rules and norms to govern and protect sacred sites (Wild and McLeaod, 2009; Heinämäki and Xanthaki, 2017). Oral traditions are inextricably related to practices associated with sacred sites (Kim, 2021). Indigenous ways of managing sacred sites are often shaped by customary laws, taboos, guardian spirits and access restrictions or supernatural powers that reside, e.g., over sacred land and waters (Oviedo et al., 2005). Wild and McLeod (2009) highlights that: “in many societies, traditional sacred natural sites fulfill similar functions as legal protected areas. Due to the spiritual values attributed to these sites, restrictions on access and use often apply, and many such sites remain in a natural or near-natural condition. Here, human disturbance has been reduced or prevented, or careful management has taken place, often for long periods of time, with resulting high levels of biodiversity.” (p.5). In some places there exist community-instituted sacred-site guardians, i.e., people who volunteer to care after a site (Liljeblad and Verschuuren, 2019). When this is given further consideration, it is possible to comprehend how misuse and destruction of sacred sites threatens the very existence and fabric of the spiritual cultures and traditions of many Indigenous peoples.

Military conflicts (e.g., in the middle-east and now Ukraine), as well as the destruction and threats to local waters and lands resulting from extractive industries (e.g., oil and gas production, forestry and mining), and the development of an increasingly globalized world where tourism is one of the main forces shaping travel, sacred sites have been and continue to be destroyed, desecrated and eroded. Henceforth, one of the main research paradigms where concerns about the safety of sacred sites is clearly illustrated, due to multiple types of threats emerging from within sectors such as the tourism industry (Olsen, 2020). For example, tourism companies advertise sacred places as tourism destinations and locations for leisure activities, such as rock climbing and camping, and material objects of spiritual significance are commercialized as souvenirs (Joy 2019; Mathisen 2020).

Similarly, socio- environmental changes are affecting Indigenous Peoples’ local economies, which, for example, are linked with reindeer herding as well as hunting and fishing, and result in land use having to be reorganized and renegotiated. The principal reasons for these trends are: (1) in certain places inadequate laws are poorly implemented; and (2), in some cases, binding regulations are non-existent because commercial interests reign supreme in terms of business development.

In addition to the aforementioned, the creation of hydro-dams, deforestation and extractive industries such as mining, where sacred mountains have been blown-up for their mineral wealth, are all activities that have likewise contributed to the devastation of sacred sites and reduction of their value and uniqueness (Aulet and Duda, 2020). Furthermore, global warming has been causing fires, storms and flooding that can be added to the destructive factors of sacred sites and areas (Allison, 2015), some of which still remain vulnerable and under threat due to poor protection or missing recognition of their sacred status. Similar challenges are also experienced in areas beyond the Arctic regions and the Nordic countries.

One of the most visible consequences of what has been stated above may be observed locally in changes in the ways of life, implying, among other things, that the ways of knowledge transmission are also under danger. This, in turn, means a disruption in adherence to local beliefs and practices, as well as to the transmission of cultural heritage across generations, especially if adaptation to and/or mitigation of the ongoing changes is not possible (Drew, 2012).

In addition, because of persecution of Indigenous peoples in the context of originally colonial laws and policies, which were aimed at the eradication of their spiritual practices, beliefs and worldviews, these peoples have been excluded from decision-making processes by the governments of the Nation States under whose aegis they are situated, including development projects on the lands and waters where their sacred sites are located. According to the United Nations Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) Indigenous peoples hold the right to “maintain, protect, and have access in privacy to their religious and cultural sites” (UNDRIP, 2007: Art. 12(1)). Heinämäki and Hermann (2013) analyze the formal legal and policy recognition of sacred sites. Samakov and Berkes (2017) discuss sacred sites as ‘commons’. Despite progress in some areas, evidence suggests that there is still a long way to go in attaining adequate involvement of Indigenous peoples within decision-making processes (Liljeblad and Verschuuren, 2019).

As a way of taking steps to bring into focus and highlight different issues concerning sacred sites in connection with ongoing threats and vulnerabilities, nearly 80 sacred-site guardians of indigenous communities, Indigenous peoples’ organizations, scientists and policymakers gathered in Rovaniemi and Pyhätunturi (Finland) in 2013 for the international conference on Arctic sacred sites. The conference issued a statement on the safeguarding and recognition of northern and Arctic sacred sites (2013)[1] and the conference “succeeded to create the first Arctic platform to develop innovative political ideas and sent a very clear signal to establish a holistic, multidisciplinary approach to effectively tackle the multiple issues of sacred sites in the North.” (Heinämäki and Herrmann, 2013, p.23). In the following year, the Indigenous rights-holder workshop on Experiencing and Protecting Arctic Sacred Sites and Culturally Important Landscapes – Creating Partnerships with Mutual Respect was co-organized by the Sámi Educational Institute and the Saami museum SIIDA in June 2014 in Inari/Aanaar, Finland (Heinämäki, Herrmann and Raslich, 2015).

What have we achieved since the first gathering in Rovaniemi in 2013? Where do we stand today? And looking ahead: what are the critical steps to be taken in the next years?  To answer these questions, and to critically assess the current state and develop future actions, Indigenous and non-Indigenous scholars, IPOs, and practitioners involved in the protection of sacred natural sites initiatives between 2013 and 2015, have reconvened as of May 2021. Other scholars, whose research is connected with this topic, joined the consortium as well. Despite progress was made regarding the protection and management of sacred sites (Liljeblad & Verschuuren, 2019), legal recognition and some levels of adequate protection are still missing in many areas, and raising awareness about the threats of sacred sites in many parts of the North is still needed, while important ethical questions remain ambiguous and unanswered. Hence, we joined forces in order to create a further research project on the protection and recognition of sacred sites. A first step will be the organization of an two-day international workshop at the Conference of the Finnish Anthropological Society, in Rovaniemi, March 21-23, 2023.

The twelve extended abstracts presented here have been submitted by the participants of the upcoming workshop. They provide insights into the wide range of concerns, initiatives and works carried out by Indigenous and non-indigenous rights holder and researchers across the circumpolar North and further afield. These abstracts are hereby published in the Icelandic scholarly e-journal Nordicum Mediterraneum, whose editor-in-chief, Giorgio Barrichello, is a member of the project.

We also want to pay tribute to Leena Heinämäki and Thora Herrmann, who were the co-organizers of the 2013 international conference in Pyhätunturi, Rovaniemi, and the 2014 rights-holder workshop, and to Inari/Aanaar, whose tireless work has created a solid foundation for this new project and made continuity possible. Dolorés André, Dawid Bunikowski, Patrick Dillon, Thora Herrmann, Francis Joy, Stefan Kirchner, Roza Laptander, Florian Stammler, and Anna Stammler-Gossmann were all involved in the earlier initiatives.


Allison, E. A. (2015). The Spiritual Significance of Glaciers in an Age of Climate Change. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change6(5), 493-508.

Aulet, S., & Duda, T. (2020). Tourism Accessibility and its Impact on the Spiritual Sustainability of Sacred Sites. Sustainability12(22), 9695.

Blain, J., & Wallis, R. J. (2004). Sacred Sites, Contested Rites/Rights: Contemporary Pagan Engagements With the Past. Journal of Material Culture9(3), 237-261.

Drew, G. (2012). A Retreating Goddess? Conflicting Perceptions of Ecological Change Near the Gangotri-Gaumukh Glacier. Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature & Culture6(3). Doi: 10.1558/jsmc.v6i3.344

Dudley, N., Higgins-Zogib, L., & Mansourian, S. (2009). The Links Between Protected Areas, Faiths, and Sacred Natural Sites. Conservation Biology23(3), 568–577. http://www.jstor.org/stable/29738773

Heinämäki, L. & Herrmann, T. M. (2013). The Recognition of Sacred Natural Sites of Arctic Indigenous Peoples as a Part of Their Right to Cultural Integrity. Arctic Review of Law and Politics 4(2): 207–233.

Heinämäki, L. &Herrmann, T. M. (2013). Global Conference About Indigenous Sacred Sites in the Arctic Held in Rovaniemi Produced the First International Declaration on the Protection of Sacred Sites in the Arctic. In T. Koivurova and W. Hasanat (Eds.) Current Developments in Arctic Law, Vol 1 (pp.21-23). University of the Arctic Thematic Network on Arctic Law, The Northern Institute for Environmental and Minority Law (NIEM) Arctic Centre, University of Lapland, Rovaniemi, Finland ISBN 978-952-484-719-3.

Heinämäki, L., Herrmann, T., Raslich, N. A. (Eds.) (2015). Preserving Sacred Sites

Arctic Indigenous Peoples as Cultural Heritage Rights Holders. Juridica Laponica 39, Northern Institute for Environmental and Minority Law, Arctic Centre University of Lapland Printing Centre, Rovaniemi. 45p. ISBN 978-952-484-882-4

Heinämäki, L., & Herrmann, T. (2017). Experiencing and Protecting Sacred Natural Sites of Sámi and other Indigenous Peoples. Cham: Springer Polar Sciences. Springer.

Heinämäki, L., & Xanthaki, A. (2017). Indigenous Peoples’ Customary Laws, Sámi People and Sacred Sites. In L. Heinämäki and T.M.Herrmann (Eds.) Experiencing and Protecting Sacred Natural Sites of Sámi and Other Indigenous Peoples (pp. 65-82). Springer, Cham.

Helander-Renvall, E. (2010). Animism, Personhood and the Nature of Reality: Sami Perspectives. Polar Record, 46(1), 44-56. Doi:10.1017/S0032247409990040

Joy, F. (2019). Sámi Cultural Heritage and Tourism in Finland. In M. Tennberg, H., Lempinen, and S. Pirnes (Eds.) Resources, Social and Cultural Sustainabilities in the Arctic (pp.144-162). Routledge: New York, NY, USA

Joy, F. (2020). The Importance of the Sun Symbol in the Restoration of Sámi Spiritual Traditions and Healing Practice. Religions11(6), 270. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11060270

Kim, D. W. (Ed.). (2021). Sacred Sites and Sacred Stories Across Cultures: Transmission of Oral Tradition, Myth, and Religiosity. Springer Nature.

Kraft, S. E. (2020). Indigenous Religion (s)–in the Making and on the Move: Sámi Activism from Alta to Standing Rock. In S. E. Kraft, B. O. Tafjord, A. Longkumer , G. D. Alles and G. Johnson (Eds.) Indigenous Religion(s). Local Grounds, Global Networks. (pp. 59–88). London and New York: Routledge.

Liljeblad, J. & Verschuuren, B. (Eds.) (2019). Indigenous Perspectives on Sacred Natural Sites: Culture, Governance and Conservation.  Abingdon and New York, Routledge. 222 p.

Maffi, L. & Woodley, E. (2010). Biocultural Diversity Conservation: A Global Sourcebook. London and New York: Routledge.

Mathisen, S. R. (2020). Souvenirs and the Commodification of Sámi Spirituality in Tourism. Religions11(9), 429. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11090429

Metcalfe, K, French-Constant, R and Gordon, I (2009). Sacred Sites as Hotspots for Biodiversity: The Three Sisters Complex in Coastal Kenya. Oryx 44(1): 118–123. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0030605309990731.

Olsen, D. H. (2020). Pilgrimage, Religious Tourism, Biodiversity, and Natural Sacred Sites. In K.A. Shinde & D. H. Olsen (Eds.), Religious Tourism and the Environment (pp. 23-41). CAB International.

Oviedo, G., Jeanrenaud, S., & Otegui, M. (2005). Protecting Sacred Natural Sites of Indigenous and Traditional Peoples: An IUCN perspective. Gland, Switzerland. https://www.iucn.org/sites/dev/files/import/downloads/sp_protecting_sacred_natural_sites_indigenous.pdf

Poelina, A. (2020). A Coalition of Hope! A Regional Governance Approach to Indigenous Australian Cultural Wellbeing. In: A. Campbell, M. Duffy, and B. Edmondson (Eds.) Located Research. (pp 153–180) Palgrave Macmillan, Singapore. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-32-9694-7_10

Quijada, J. B. (2019). Buddhists, Shamans, and Soviets: Rituals of History in Post-Soviet Buryatia. Oxford University Press.

Samakov, A. & Berkes, F. (2017). Spiritual Commons: Sacred Sites as Core of Community-Conserved Areas in Kyrgyzstan. International Journal of the Commons11(1), 422–444. DOI: http://doi.org/10.18352/ijc.713

Schaaf, Th. & Lee, C. (2006) (Eds.) Conserving Cultural and Biological Diversity: The Role of Sacred Natural Sites and Cultural Landscapes. Proceedings of the international UNESCO- MAB symposium held 30 May – 2 June 2005, United Nations University, Tokyo, Japan. UNESCO, Paris, France. 342 pp. ISBN 9789231040450.

Spangen, M., & Äikäs, T. (2020). Sacred Nature. Diverging Use and Understanding of Old Sámi Offering Sites in Alta, Northern Norway. Religions11(7), 317. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11070317

Verschuuren,  B.  (2010) Integrating  Biocultural  Values  in  Nature  Conservation:  Perceptions  of  Cultural  Significant Sites and Species in Adaptive Management. In  Pungetti,  G.,  Oviedo,  G.  and  D.  Hooke  (Eds.), Sacred  Species  and  Sites,  Guardians  of  Biocultural Diversity (pp. 231-246). Cambridge University Press, Cambridge

Verschuuren, B., McNeely, J., Oviedo, G., & Wild, R. (Eds.). (2012). Sacred Natural Sites. Taylor & Francis.

Wild, R. and McLeod, C. (2008) ‘Sacred Natural Sites: Guidelines  for  Protected  Area  Managers’,  Best Practice Protected Area Guidelines Series No 16, IUCN, Gland, Switzerland

Zannini, P., Frascaroli, F., Nascimbene, J., Persico, A., Halley, J. M., Stara, K., & Chiarucci, A. (2021). Sacred Natural Sites and Biodiversity Conservation: A Systematic Review. Biodiversity and Conservation30(13), 3747-3762.


[1] The program from this extensive international event can be found here: https://www.arcticcentre.org/loader.aspx?id=68f90aab-5bab-4cc3-b6c9-403a0b363d9e. Likewise, the conference statement regarding recommendations for sacred natural sites can be found here: https://sacrednaturalsites.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Pyh%C3%A4tunturi-Statement-2013-Recognizing-Sacred-Sites-of-Indigenous-Peoples-in-Northern-Regions1.pdf

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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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.

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.

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.

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”?