Tag Archives: Polar law

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.

Ken S. Coates and Carin Holroyd (eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of Arctic Policy and Politics (Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 2020)

The Palgrave Handbook of Arctic Policy and Politics is one of an increasing number of anthologies addressing Arctic governance from a variety of academic perspectives. The collection is organised into seven parts, each representing a different discipline although by the nature of the topic, these often overlap. These are: I Indigenous Peoples and Arctic Social Dynamics; II Economic Development; III Policies of Arctic Nations; IV The Arctic and International Relations; V Arctic Legal and Institutional Systems; Arctic Security; and VII Reflections on Future of the Arctic (emphasis in original).

In addition to the editors, the contributors include some very well-established scholars in their respective fields, such as Joan Larsen and Gail Fondhal (economics); Andrey Petrov (geography and economics); Timo Koivurova and Nigel Bankes (law); Timothy Heleniak (demographics); Lawson Brigham (shipping); and Heather Nicol and Whitney Lackenbauer (security).

The editors state the goal of the handbook is:
to address, as a top priority, the needs of the region and to ensure that the Southern and global actors understand their collective responsibility to reverse and correct the patterns and policies of the past. More than anything, the chapters collected here make it clear that there are policy and political options, many of them urgent, most of them expensive, and all requiring a collaborative approach with the peoples of the Arctic… [It also aims to] generate[s] public policy debate about a new and regionally controlled future for the Arctic (4).

It is not possible to review closely each of the thirty-three contributions so instead some overall remarks will be made regarding the volume with references to examples. The collection is fairly conservative (a term that is not intended to be read negatively). It is heavy on history; it prioritises market economies and emphasises market-based growth as the primary solution to Arctic challenges; it maintains a central focus on states ; it relies on positivist account of international law; and the contributors are not a particularly diverse group nor representative of Arctic populations.

Chapter 8, “Innovation, New Technologies, and the Future of the Circumpolar North” concentrates on marketable applications. Indigenous innovation, both historic and emerging, is largely overlooked except when it is in “community-government-university-industry collaboration” (124). Chapter 14, “Government, Policies, and Priorities in Kalaallit Nunaat (Greenland): Roads to Independence” “seeks to offer something approaching a Kalaallit perspective” (218) but this would have been more convincing with a Greenlandic co-author or at least more references to Greenlandic scholarship. The reference list includes a few Kalallissut newspaper articles (themselves by Danish authors and likely translated from Danish) and some Danish articles but no academic work, for example, by Mininnguaq Kleist who has written in both English and Danish on the evolving constitution of Greenland. (The author acknowledges his position as neither Danish nor Greenlandic.)

It is not until Part VII, and especially Chapter 32, that we come to “The Future of the Arctic,” by the co-editors, Coates and Holroyd, with most of the chapters that precede establishing the history that has led to the current dynamics. (This is, of course, an important role for any handbook. It is only with knowledge of the past that one can understand the present or envisage futures.) A few typos suggest that this chapter may have been written hurriedly but perhaps the editors can make corrections at least in the eBook version. It is heavily focused on economic challenges and the formal economy. Nevertheless, the authors provide an ambitious list of priorities for decision-makers in the Arctic, concentrating on local, contextualised solutions and involvement of Indigenous expertise (538-40).

Common to much political science scholarship, there are a few inaccuracies on points of law – such as conflating territory, the exclusive economic zone and the continental shelf (311) and a lengthy discussion of the Nordic Saami Convention as “one of the most important statements of Indigenous aspirations and accomplishments in recent decades” without noting that this treaty has not yet come into force (288-89). Fortunately, these matters are corrected by Bankes’ clear and careful exposition of the law of the sea (Chapter 23) and Newman’s good summary of the international law on Indigenous Peoples (Chapter 26) respectively.

A conservative collection done well – as this one is – certainly has its place in the burgeoning international scholarship of the Arctic. I envisage three contexts in which the Handbook will undoubtedly demonstrate its value. First of all, for scholars in any field seeking a primer on the Arctic. Second for experts in some Arctic-related disciplines, such as law or security studies, who seek to broaden their knowledge with a primer on other fields. Third, this anthology is a very good resource that I expect to turn to whenever I need an authoritative reference on some point or other. The searchable eBook version is particularly conducive for this.

Karen N. Scott and David L. VanderZwaag (eds.) Research Handbook on Polar Law (Cheltenham/Northampton: E. Elgar, 2020)

The Research Handbook on Polar Law by Edward Elgar Publishing is part of the series of Research Handbooks that the British publishing house offers as a research focus in different disciplines and properly indexed in particular themes. In the case of the Research Handbook in Polar Law, the collection of 22 articles attempts to offer a comprehensive view of what constitutes the dimension of Polar Law: biodiversity, culture, politics.

The tome is edited by Karen N. Scott and David L. VanderZwaag, who try in the introduction to invite readers to reflect on the existence of a Polar Law and on the need to have this legal exceptionalism. Polar Law arises from the need to accommodate the regional demands of a part of the Planet that historically responds to various natural, economic and cultural claims. For this reason, inserting the term of Polar Law in the nomenclature alone is very difficult, considering the multidisciplinary nature of the subject.

Although the Polar law recalls a rationalistic legal structure, the two Poles, Arctic and Antarctic, require a different treatment as they are two geologically and politically distinct areas. If in the Arctic speaking of cultural diversity is possible, research in Antarctica focuses more on the protection of nature and the correct management of human activities, such as research and tourism.

For this reason, the authors opened the analysis with a historical excursus on polar geology, explaining the effects of the Anthropocene and its developments in the era of climate change. As far as the Poles may seem far and remote areas, they are in fact strongly interconnected with the rest of the Globe. The high temperatures and the sudden melting of glaciers caused an unstoppable rise in sea levels and the sinking of lands and river deltas. But not only. It is interesting to discover how the disappearance of the glaciers has made the polar future increasingly dark, without solar reflection and greater absorption of radiation.

The effects of Climate Change also unfold on traditional and non-traditional human activities in the Arctic, bringing out new priorities and new actors in the political and administrative dimension of the polar areas. After Seck and MacLeod attempt to group the polar population based on activities, Nengye Liu analyses China’s emerging role in Arctic politics, comparing the Chinese situation to the presence and competence of the European Union in both the Arctic and Antarctic. Although Chinese influence is still minimal in Polar Law, China is increasingly present in issues such as fisheries, shipping and tourism, especially in the Southern Ocean.

In fact, fisheries and tourism activities in the Southern Ocean have increased dramatically in the last decade. In his article, Haward traces the salient points of the history of fishing in the Southern Ocean up to the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) part of the Antarctic Treaty System (ATS). Haward underlines the importance of conserving marine biodiversity, recalling when even the smallest element (krill) is indispensable for polar biodiversity. From the very beginning, CCAMLR has faced several resistances. Even today, it is hypothesized how this Convention can be integrated in the management of natural resources, especially in the policies regulating fishing.

A different approach is that explained by Hoel, who explains how fishing in the Arctic is managed, in particular by the Arctic Five, the five coastal Arctic states (Canada, United States of America (Alaska), Denmark (Greenland), Norway, Russia). Fishing in the Arctic has an additional meaning of sustenance for all the communities that live there. For this reason, the coastal Arctic countries have implemented tools to better manage this activity, such as moratoriums (US and Canada) and restrictive measures (Norway).

Natural resources are not just about flora and fauna. The Arctic is a region very rich in minerals and interest in developing these resources has grown over the years. The melting of the ice and the increasing number of fires in the Arctic has uncovered much of the covered land and has allowed further exploration.

Johnstone and Joblin talk about the limitations that Indigenous peoples still suffer in the enjoyment of territorial rights. Indigenous peoples, they points out, are not necessarily opposed to mining but would like to be able to participate more actively in decision-making processes involving the lands they have inhabited since time immemorial. Clearly, the connection sustainable development and extractive activities is not applicable in the Antarctic, as this continent is not permanently inhabited even if the growing presence of new actors (as previously argued by Liu).

Another important human activity in the Arctic and Antarctic is undoubtedly tourism. Again, global warming has opened up new avenues of communication, both by sea and by land, requiring greater controls and monitoring systems (Chapter 15; Chapter 16). Liggett and Stewart explore the regulatory framework of maritime tourism in the Arctic (Nunavut) and Antarctica, questioning whether this is sufficient to promote the diversification of the polar tourism sector. As pointed out by the authors, the non-ratification of some important international instruments (UNCLOS) and the difficult implementation of the International Code for Ships Operating in Polar Waters (Polar Code), has weakened the domestic legal system that guarantees the harmonization of international law on the matter. As everyone knows, the COVID-19 pandemic has had devastating effects on the tourism sector in general, causing a total shutdown in the polar areas. The cessation of maritime routes has considerably reduced the economic income of the local communities increasingly involved in the sector. The advent of COVID-19 has prompted governors and academics to reflect on the environment, society and the economy. Three strongly interconnected dimensions that make up the concept of sustainability, now at the centre of global policies.

During the pandemic, the media often referred to the “resurgence of Nature”, telling stories of how the fauna and flora have regained the spaces occupied by man. Nature that still struggles to be the holder of rights, but passively undergoes the rules imposed by man to manage itself in order not to be damaged by the environment that it manipulates and transforms. For these reasons, I think it is really interesting and important to read chapter 16, in which Warner traces the international principles of environmental law in both polar regimes, weaving a profound analysis on the precautionary principle and the importance of drafting Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) now implemented in many legal systems (thanks also to international influence and European directives in support of greater monitoring of human activities in the environment).

At the 26th UNFCCC Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow, global sustainability was one of the topics that drove the climate discussions. In fact, governments have talked about the policies to be adopted to lower the levels of carbon emissions, the primary cause of climate change. There continues to be some concern that the measures adopted, especially legal ones, do not take the vulnerability levels of the Poles seriously. In fact, the legal instruments are often of a soft-law nature such as the bodies that issue, albeit important, guidelines and policies in this regard (Arctic Council and containment measures for the levels of Mercury and POPs, especially in Antarctica). In addition, there is also a substantial inconsistency among polar regimes that tend to jeopardize policies relating to climate change (Chapters 16 and 20).

The same perplexities are shared by Suzanne Lalonde, regarding the establishment of marine protected areas (MPA) and other effective area-based conservation measures in both polar regimes. Despite the legal instruments on the matter, the Arctic and Antarctica encounter the same coordination problems. If in the Arctic we find eight countries that manage MPAs according to their own legal system, in the Antarctic there is experience of logistical and regulatory overlaps (ATCM and CCAMLR). The author suggests the strengthening of inspection and monitoring systems in the Arctic (beyond the legal areas of state competence) by supporting cooperation between agencies and local communities.

Since the 1990s, the Arctic Council (AC) has referred to a further consequence of climate change: the acidification of the waters, which affects both the Arctic Ocean and the Southern Ocean. After the Arctic Council states recognized the problem of water acidification in 2015, the Arctic Council immediately adopted pro-active initiatives to combat the damage and risk factors, such as the Enhanced Black Carbon and Methane Emissions Reduction Framework for Action (EBCME Framework), with the commitment of member states to reduce black carbon and methane emissions.

The approach to the South Pole, according to Stephens, would be completely different. If in the Arctic we can speak of regionalism, the problem of acidification of Antarctic waters is treated in a more conservative way. Although the members of the Antarctic Treaty System (ATS) are more numerous than those of the Arctic Council, the regulatory framework is based only on the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement and to date the ATS did not demonstrate the same dynamic response as the AC.

The volume ends with an examination of the position of Polar Law as a discipline, hypothesizing the factors that led to the creation of a branch of law. According to Rothwell and Hemmings, climate change, the effects of which are very evident in the polar regions, and the exploitation of resources are the main causes of the growing international interest. As mentioned previously, the polar legal framework is very complex and is the result of the first explorations and the first hypotheses of sovereignty of those lands. The fight against sovereignty and, consequently, the management of resources has resulted in conflicts and new theories that have spilled over into what we call “Polar governance” and the decision-making systems that affect the economy, society, and the polar environment. The purpose of Polar Law, as suggested by the authors, is to respond to geopolitical and environmental challenges (p.473), and for this reason it will continue to adapt in an uncertain future marked by climate change.

After this brief and general overview of the volume, I would like to conclude my review with some personal reflections. First of all, I I firmly believe editorial series of this kind are of absolute importance both for those who work in the sector and also for amateurs of Arctic themes. Sustainability and the environment were the two pillars of this book which constituted the common thread through all the articles. Also appreciated the references and postscriptum on COVID-19 which has been an undeniable unknown for the past two years. I really appreciated the variety of disciplines proposed and the themes that the authors selected. Excellent Arctic-Antarctic dichotomy in each contribution that allows the reader to compare the two polar regimes in each field. The only thing that I personally have not fully approved is the order of the articles, poorly organized by argument. I would have preferred to find the scientific and humanities articles in separate sections or in a different group. For these reasons, I invite those interested in Polar Law to read this volume, hoping not to wait too long for a new issue.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Svein Vigeland Rottem, The Arctic Council: Between environmental protection and geopolitics (London: Palgrave Pivot, 2020)

In 1996, government officials of eight States, who would later be known as the “Arctic 8”, gathered in Ottawa alongside representatives of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference (now Council), the Saami Council and the Association of Indigenous Minorities of the North, Siberia and the Far East of the Russian Federation (now RAIPON) to sign the Ottawa Declaration on the establishment of the Arctic Council. To the few attentive observers and experts present at the time, the Arctic environment was already undergoing drastic physical changes. Arctic collaboration, however, was not high on the agenda. A forum bridging the gap between politics and Arctic scientific research was therefore regarded as a means to develop cooperation on environmental issues.

As the world of Arctic governance celebrates the council’s 25th anniversary, it does not come as a surprise to see an array of both monographs and edited volumes looking back at how this high-level intergovernmental forum has managed to put itself at the centre of Arctic affairs. Published last year (2020), Rottem’s The Arctic Council: Between Environmental Protection and Geopolitics gives a rather thorough overview of the history and work of the Arctic Council. It is a careful retelling of the Council’s well-documented journey from a body solely focused on environmental matters in the late 1990s and early 2000s to one that finds itself at the forefront of international cooperation in the Arctic. In the now typical style of Palgrave’s Pivot series, which often offers concise and to-the-point introductions to specific specialised topics in around a hundred pages, the book manages to explore the nuance and diversity of an organisation whose prime focus is the production of relevant Arctic knowledge.

The Arctic Council is, of course, only one element of Arctic governance. Many other more regional and subregional fora spring to mind when thinking of Arctic cooperation (e.g. Barents Euro Arctic Council, West Nordic Council, Arctic Military Environmental Cooperation Program, Northern Forum, etc). However, few have found themselves under so much spotlight as the Arctic Council has. Studies and publications about the council’s role in Arctic governance, such as The Arctic Council, have therefore become common occurrences. Across five different chapters, the book weaves Rottem’s own broad experience and knowledge of Arctic issues with the history and challenges facing regional cooperation.

Readers interested in the functioning of the Arctic Council will, without doubts, relish reaching Chapter 4 where Rottem advocates for ways in which the Arctic Council could be reformed to foster closer coordination. Of course, the conversation around reforming the Arctic Council is not a new one. For instance, a few years ago, Exner-Pirot et al.[1] and Smieszek[2] published their research assessing the Council’s strengths and weaknesses in light of the 2019 strategic plan. Acknowledging that both efficiency and effectiveness are key for the AC going forward, these recent publications suggested concrete recommendations to improve the Arctic Council’s form, function, and funding streams. In the same vein, Rottem’s The Arctic Council regards structural changes as key for the high-level intergovernmental forum to keep its place as the main venue for discussions around the future of Arctic governance (p.73).

Once again, rooting its analysis in calls for past reforms and ensuing reports, the book identifies some proposals to streamline the Council’s work. According to Rottem, the recurring challenges for the AC are the lack of clear long-term vision and strategy that could offer certainty and continuity to the Council’s work (p. 86). Amongst his suggestions, the author makes the case for appointing an expert panel tasked to overview potential structural changes, discuss and recommend steps to improve coordination, avoid overlaps between Working Groups and reorganise the Council’s structure. The idea of a clearer strategic vision is pivotal to Rottem’s book. His other suggestions, the creation of an Arctic Summit and holding SAO meetings in capital cities for relevant organisations to attend and partake in an “Arctic Week”, are both linked to give the Council’s a broader reach and better clarity going forward.

Beside chapter 4, which explores the above-mentioned recommendations, there is nothing significantly new about the book. Rather, it is an ode to the Arctic Council itself, as a platform navigating between the global and regional challenges of a changing region. Early in the book, Rottem expresses the hope that having read it, readers would have gained some understanding of the Arctic Council (p. 2). With The Arctic Council, not only does Rottem provides some understanding of the Council, but he also manages to brush a complex and nuanced portrait of its crucial role as a focal point for bringing a broad range of different stakeholders, not just indigenous representatives and state governments, to the same table, or at least to the same room. The Arctic Council provides a starting point for people interested in geopolitics, from seasoned academics to undergraduate students, who are looking to dive into the world of Arctic affairs.


1 Heather Exner-Pirot et al, “Form and Function: The Future of the Arctic Council”, The Arctic Institute (5 February 2019) Available online: https://www.thearcticinstitute.org/form-function-future-arctic-council/

2 Gosia Smieszek, “Costs and Reality of Reforming the Arctic Council”, The Arctic Institute (9 April 2019) Available online: https://www.thearcticinstitute.org/costs-reality-reforming-arctic-council/

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.

Elana Wilson Rowe, Arctic Governance: Power in cross-border cooperation (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2018)

Either described as a peaceful and stable region where a special type of governance has been instrumental in building trust among States or as a region prone to potential future conflicts over territory and resources, the Arctic is now at the centre of many studies and research in policy-making, governance and international relations about the changing post-Cold War  geopolitical world. In Arctic Governance: Power in cross-border cooperation, NUPI Research Professor and Adjunct Professor at Nord University in Norway, Elana Wilson Rowe, explores the contested but largely cooperative nature of Arctic governance in the post-Cold War period, and the ways in which power has shaped both cross-border cooperation and performance of diplomacy in the region. An important premise of the book is that, in global governance, power should not be viewed a zero-sum game but rather as a fluid performance between different actors. Rather than focusing on describing power as it is, the book uses different analytical frameworks from international relations to geography to understand how this performance of power plays out in practice.

Building on this idea of power, Wilson Rowe focuses on how Arctic cross-border cooperation is marked by power relations that are under constant re-enactment and renegotiation. She takes Russia’s role at the Arctic Council as an example to examine to what extent Arctic governance can be understood as a competition for the exercise of authority over certain places and certain audiences. Taking a multidisciplinary approach to governance, security and diplomacy in the Arctic, it calls for establishing more inclusive and situated ways of looking at the interplay all Arctic. Throughout the book, Wilson Rowe develops four key propositions to demonstrate how Arctic cross-border cooperation has been marked by these relations of power.

After an introduction and a first chapter where the book sets the contextual underpinnings and describes the five groups of actors at the centre of Arctic governance (i.e. Indigenous peoples, States, commercial actors, NGOs, and Scientists), Chapter 2 focuses on how power relations are manifested in and shaped by the definitions and representations of Arctic policy objects and the region more broadly. The Arctic as physical space is framed and understood through specific dichotomic narratives (e.g. the Arctic as region of peace or conflict; conservation and environment against sustainable development) and visual vocabularies. However, the complexities of Arctic governance cannot be analysed through simple binary frames. This chapter illustrates that such framing is not fixed and is often contested or used by actors to promote one narrative over another when performing Arctic diplomacy. She further argues that while framings are often regarded as an academic analytical tool, they are also actively used by the actors themselves to realise their preferred outcomes. Wilson Rowe narrows her analyses down to three discursive framings: 1) “the Arctic as a zone of peace”  and the challenges following Russia’s annexation of Crimea, 2) “the global Arctic versus the regional Arctic” the involvement of new Arctic Council Observer States, and 3) “business as a tool of pan-Arctic” and the establishment of the Arctic Economic Council in 2015. Experienced players in Arctic governance seem highly aware of these framings and the importance of what Wilson Rowe calls “geo-power”. Contestation and debate only arise when these narratives and framings are placed under pressure by changing circumstances or new considerations.

In Chapter 3, Wilson Rowe studies the proposition that as policy fields come together and endure, it is important to study how structured power relations work. Having a hierarchical outlook is a useful analytical tool in an Arctic context. Apart from the more obvious “Arctic States” (A8) and “Arctic Coastal States” (A5) clubs, Wilson Rowe illustrates this proposition with the examples of Russia and the United States. According to her, both countries are best understood as resting power in Arctic relations. In day-to-day Arctic diplomacy and interactions, the two countries act like any other A8 or A5 country, however, at critical, agenda-setting junctures, their participation is seen by other states as essential and their actions have long-lasting significance for the development of Arctic multilateralism. Norway is another good example of a State that was able to navigate predetermined hierarchical norms and position itself as a ‘knowledge power’ at the leading end of Arctic governance and politics, especially as a central actor in Russia-Western cooperation.

In Chapter 4, Wilson Rowe examines the role of informal norms and key social constraints characterizing Arctic cross-border cooperation. She uses Russia’s role at the Arctic Council between 1997 and 201 as an example to argue that countries are shaped by policy field norm constraints and seek to transform them. She concludes that between 1997 and 2007, Russia showed low levels of participation and had some successful “low-political” cooperation as the projects proposals only focused on the Russian Arctic without additional cooperation. As argued in the chapter, this challenges the expectation that all Arctic countries will participate in circumpolar governance. However, the second decade (2007-2017) saw Russia significantly invest in creating binding agreements and be a norm-making leader in the region.

Chapter 5 explores how different actors constantly work to refine or redefine power relations. Arctic governance is understood as a form of competition over who has authority and who can exercise this authority. Using negotiations at the ‘science–policy’ and ‘peoples–states’ interfaces at high-level Arctic Council meetings, Wilson Rowe uses the framework of “civic epistemology” to understand how authority is articulated or challenged. Her work examines the interplay between politics and authority in the performance of power.

Absorbing and well-written, the book conveys complex ideas and approaches in a simple way that allows readers to engage and connect with the text. Far from the conflict-driven narratives of more realist approaches to international relations, Wilson Rowe’s in-depth analysis of how power performances between multiple actors shaped relations in the Arctic provides a most-interesting perspective on the need to prioritise and expand pan-Arctic cooperation. Overall, Wilson Rowe’s book is a must-read for anyone interested in international relations and the Arctic. Published by Manchester University Press and available for open-access download, Arctic Governance: Power in Cross-Border Cooperation offers one of the most timely and refreshing takes on Arctic governance.

Simon Marsden, Protecting the Third Pole: Transplanting international law (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2019)

Protecting the Third Pole: Transplanting international law is Simon Marsden’s third and final book in an Edward Elgar series analysing the current and prospective regional and sub-regional legal framework and governance in Asia. Building on his two previous volumes, Transboundary Environmental Governance in Asia, co-authored with Elizabeth Brandon (2015), and Environmental Regimes in Asian Subregions (2017), Marsden offers a sharp and in-depth look at international environmental law and the law of international watercourses to protect the Himalayas.

While it might not be obvious at first why a review of Protecting the Third Pole might find its way into the present volume of Nordicum-Mediterraneum, Marsden’s comparison between the legal regimes in place in the first (the Arctic), the second (Antarctica) and the third pole (Himalaya-Hindu Kush mountain range and the Tibetan Plateau) seems to be a perfect match for this journal at a time where the academic focus on the polar regions is rapidly increasing. Whereas the three poles experience different ecological, social and legal realities, there are good management practices that could be learnt, and transplanting or adapting the legal framework of one pole to another can help developing better ecological governance in the region. The Third Pole, with its ice fields containing the largest reserve of fresh water outside the polar regions, is the source of ten major river systems that provide irrigation, power and drinking water for over 1.3 billion people in Asia.

Throughout his book, Marsden explores what legal frameworks can potentially guide the development of a comprehensive regime to protect the environment of the Third Pole. Following an introduction where the author sets his main methodological approach and discusses the environmental significance of the region, the second chapter gives a comparative law overview by focusing on legal transplants. The first part of this chapter centres around more theoretical questions linked to the overall feasibility of legal transplants and norms diffusion. The author lays down several approaches to international legal transplants while also stressing that contextual awareness is key from any transplant to be successful; in that this does not differ from the introduction of domestic law within the context of any other State.  Towards the end of the chapter Marsden analyses the potential to transplant the governance models of certain legal institutions (e.g. intergovernmental organisation) elsewhere. Marsden analyses the Arctic Council (AC) and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and asks whether the institutional arrangements of the AC and its focus on collaborative knowledge exchange (e.g. the negotiations of the Agreement on Enhancing International Arctic Scientific Cooperation)  and environmental protection (e.g. EIA guidelines) could be transplanted to the Third Pole through SAARC. He concludes that the mix of hard and soft law arrangements negotiated under the auspices of the AC demonstrates that there is no best single to protect the Third Pole.

Having laid robust theoretical underpinnings, the book examines the development of global protected areas in international law under the Wetlands Convention, the World Heritage Convention and the European Landscape Convention in chapter 3. Marsden suggests the possibility of the European Landscape Convention to be transplanted to the Third Pole as it could both enhance cooperation and enable public participation, and it would strengthen the provisions of the World Heritage Convention regarding landscapes. Mindful as always in his analysis, Marsden is conscious that there might be a greater possibility in some Third Pole States where the political climate is more incline to changes. Chapter 4 on connecting area and species protection considers the European Nature Convention and the Antarctic Environmental Protocol as clear candidates for connection area and species protection via the Ecosystem Approach (EA) for the integrated management of land, water and living resources and promote conservation and sustainable use in an equitable way.

In chapter 5, Marsden studies the applicable customary international related to environmental impact assessment (EIA) in light of several decisions by the International Court of Justice. As most scholars working in this field, the author highlights that while the procedural requirements of EIA have become customary, the lack of substantive process obligations limits the effectiveness of EIA as a customary norm. He thus recommends looking at the Espoo Convention on Transboundary Environmental Impact Assessment and its subsequent Kiev Strategic Environmental Assessment Protocol as potential legal transplant for the Third Pole. Given the practicalities and global contextual application of the Espoo Convention and the Kiev Protocol, this proposal seems like the most feasible for now. In the rest of the chapter, Marsden uses polar EIA mechanisms such as the EIA guidelines developed by the Arctic Council (soft law) and the three-level detailed regulations for EIA in the Antarctic described  Annex I of the Environmental Protocol to the Antarctic Treaty (hard law) to advocate for the creation of contextualised Third Pole EIA Guidelines or for an EIA treaty. Chapter 6 and 7 respectively analyse the evolution of protection regimes for international rivers (i.e. the 1997 ICJ Gabcikovo-Nagymaros Dams case, the UN Watercourse Convention, the UNECE Water Convention and the Mekong Agreement) and transfrontier mountains through the Alpine and Carpathian mountain regimes. In concluding his chapters, Marsden emphasizes the importance of creating cross-border solutions to protect the environment and make a genuine contribution to sustainable development – especially when it comes to energy production.

In sum, Marsden offers three potential solutions to answer the question of what international legal frameworks can help guide the development of a comprehensive regime to protect the the Third Pole environment. His first suggestion is to transplant existing international law that originated in either a European or a polar context to Asia’s Third Pole. The second suggestion is the transplant of a framework treaty based on the Alpine or Carpathian regimes. The European focus of option one and two might hinder their viability, and he recommends further research to test them. For the third option, Marsden suggests developing a new treaty involving all relevant regional stakeholders and public participation. With Protecting the Third Pole, Simon Marsden once again manages to publish an excellent contribution to the fields of international environmental and polar legal studies. His detailed, rigorous and comparative examination of relevant customary international law and treaty obligations helps better understand the connections between all the different environmental regimes at play. Protecting the Third Pole not only manages to describe the current legal regimes in place at the poles, it also distils complex legal theory and approaches into understandable analyses and conclusions. Marsden’s book will certainly delight environmental lawyers and is a must-read for any legal or policy scholars working on environmental issues.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Klaus Dodds, Alan D Hemmings and Peder Roberts (eds.), Handbook on the Politics of Antarctica (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2017)

Nordicum-Mediterraneum may not seem like the most obvious title in which to find a review of the Handbook on the Politics of Antarctica. Nevertheless, given the increasing focus on Arctic issues in this journal and the comparisons to the opposite pole that they invariably generate, a review of this large (both physically and figuratively) contribution to polar social science is fitting. Iceland became a party to the Antarctic Treaty in 2015 but Antarctica has long been constructed through the actions, discourse and interpretations of European states, in particular Norway by virtue of the explorations of Roald Amundsen and later as a claimant state.

The edited collection – containing an impressive thirty-seven chapters by leading scholars on Antarctic law, geopolitics, social science, and even art and literature, is one of the latest in an emerging trend of “handbooks” that bring together contributions from different perspectives on topics of wide academic interest. The usual approach is to mix a fairly descriptive account to aid newcomers to the field alongside cutting-edge analysis of contemporary and – for the brave – future developments. On these terms, the Handbook on the Politics of Antarctica does not disappoint.

The Antarctic regime is sui generis. In a certain sense, any region of the World can be considered sui generis to the extent that each will have unique features that are not replicated elsewhere. However, in the Antarctic, the very foundations of international relations since (at least) the Peace of Westphalia are turned on their head. While the rest of the World has been subjected to exclusive sovereignty claims (albeit, sometimes overlapping or contested), since 1959, the sovereignty claims in the Antarctic have been frozen. This is just the first and most obvious difference between the governance of the Poles. Nevertheless, Antarctic governance is not entirely separated from other legal regimes including the United Nations, the law of the sea, and international environmental law. Further, the international regime of the Antarctic cannot be kept entirely insulated from global changes and challenges, including the rise of the Asian states, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the renaissance of Russia, and, closer to the Antarctic continent, the festering sore of Las Malvinas/the Falkland Islands. The Handbook presents Antarctic issue areas in a global light – it is not a simple textbook on the Antarctic Treaty System, isolated from the external international relations that construct it.

Following an introduction that outlines the basics of the Antarctic system and summarises the contents, the book is presented in four parts. The first part, “Conceptualizing Antarctica” presents the Antarctic of the imagination, including political imaginations and constructions. Part Two, “Acting in and Beyond Antarctica,” explores events and participants – how are Antarctic politics performed? “Regulating Antarctica,” the third part, examines the frameworks for governing activities in the Antarctica, with emphasis on environmental norms (both hard and soft law), law of the sea (especially fisheries management), tourism, and heritage. The final part, ambitiously titled “Futures in Antarctica,” considers where current political imaginings of the Antarctica will lead, especially in light of global power shifts.

The Poles are generally imagined as the ends of the World – a vision that only makes sense if you start in the middle. The Antarctic is imagined as an uninhabited wilderness. If there are no people there, then perhaps there is no need for law, let alone political theory. However, this view only makes sense if you assume the Antarctic is a pre-defined natural space, not one constructed by law, politics, selective historic records, and literature. The emphasis on science as one of the tools to maintain the peace in Antarctica has led to an impressive body of natural scientific research in a notoriously hard-to-reach location. However, the extent of natural science, its existence in the first place, can only be understood using political science. Why does the treaty prioritise science and scientific cooperation? Answer: to maintain peaceful relations. Whyare so many countries sending scientific missions down there? Answer: to earn the right to partake in decision-making for the continent and, in some cases, to maintain territorial claims. Social science regarding the Antarctic is lagging behind natural science and this Handbook is a major contribution as well as proof that you do not need a generous fieldwork budget to study the Antarctic.

The Handbook would perhaps best be described as a collection of essays from different disciplines than as aninterdisciplinary work per se – the individual contributions are rarely themselves interdisciplinary. Not only do the contributors come from different disciplines and reflect the different assumptions at the bases of these, but they reach different conclusions. For example, political scientist Anne-Marie Brady portrays China as a threat to the stability of the Antarctic system and casts aspersions on Chinese motivations (Chapter nineteen). Meanwhile, lawyer Alan Hemmings critiques the “us and them” constructions of Antarctic activities and assumptions about the rightful place of peoples of European origin on the continent contrasted against concerns about new actors. “Science is international and value-free until it isn’t one of us doing it” (Chapter thirty-two). In this reviewer’s favourite chapter, Elizabeth Leane explores the implicit racism in Antarctic fiction that assumes the normality of the white, European, male presence and paints the Asians as the “other” (Chapter two).

Notwithstanding the diversity of approaches and views, some general themes emerge. Sovereignty may have been frozen but the original parties to the Antarctic Treaty (including only one Asian and one African state – and the African state at the time of signing being the white supremacist South Africa) still determine whose voices are heard. Colonialism and the image of the white male conqueror of a hostile frontier were and remain bases for contemporary legitimacy in Arctic politics. Science is a ticket to the decision-making table – something that keeps “troublemakers” from developing countries at bay (108). The “old” Antarctic states must find a careful balance between defending their hegemony and accommodating “new” actors so that the latter do not threaten to undermine the system.

It is perhaps harsh to criticise a text of over 600 pages for what is missing but this reviewer was surprised that the Whaling in the Antarctic case and the broader issue of whaling in the Antarctic was not more directly addressed. However, since the handbook’s publication, Japan has announced its decision to leave the International Whaling Commission and to cease taking whales in the Southern Ocean, changing the basic premises of the legal dispute. Tim Stephens’ chapter on the law of the sea left this reviewer wanting more: each of the subsections could have been the subject of an independent chapter. What is the role of the International Seabed Authority in the Southern Ocean? Does it have one? The tension – and snobbery – between science and tourism might have been explored in more depth (though Chapter twenty-three, by Christina Braun, Fritz Hertel and Hans-Ulrich Peter, presents the depressing reality of the impact of scientific missions and the inadequacy of implementation of environmental protection and implicitly argues that it is not the tourists that are the problem). Ruth Davis (Chapter thirty-five) touches briefly on the precautionary principle but the pre-eminence given to “science-based decision-making” in the Antarctic poses a major barrier to the application of a precautionary approach that could have been more explicitly explored. Some leading Antarctic experts such as Jill Barrett and Kees Bastmeister are also missing. These gaps should not be viewed as criticisms of the Handbookbut rather a reminder to interested readers to go beyond itas they continue their research.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Uttam Kumar Sinha & Jo Inge Bekkevold (eds.), Arctic: Commerce, Governance and Policy (New York: Routledge, 2015)

In the mid-2000s, the Arctic started to receive greater international attention given its growing importance in environmental, scientific, economic and political affairs. The acceptance of five Asian states – China, India, Japan, Singapore and South Korea – as Observers in the Arctic Council, the region’s preeminent intergovernmental forum, in 2013, became both representative of this trend and a consequence of it. This is the premise of Arctic: Commerce, Governance and Policy, which describes the interest and engagement of Asian states in Arctic affairs, and stems from papers presented at a conference on the topic of Arctic geopolitics held at New Delhi’s Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses in September 2013.

Continue reading Uttam Kumar Sinha & Jo Inge Bekkevold (eds.), Arctic: Commerce, Governance and Policy (New York: Routledge, 2015)

Richard C. Powell & Klaus Dodds, Polar Geopolitics: Knowledges, Resources and Legal Regimes (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2014)

This edited collection brings together 18 scholars from different disciplines to discuss their latest insights into the Arctic and Antarctic regions. While the Antarctic has always been a distinct conceptual space in the World owing to its isolation from inhabited territories, the formation of the Arctic qua region has developed rapidly in the 21st Century. The editors, Richard Powell and Klaus Dodds, have asked the contributors to develop “critical polar geopolitics”, focusing on knowledges, resources and legal regimes. However, the book does not clearly follow these three priority areas but is in fact structured according to three parts: Global and Regional Frameworks; National Visions; and Indigenous and Northern Geopolitics.

Continue reading Richard C. Powell & Klaus Dodds, Polar Geopolitics: Knowledges, Resources and Legal Regimes (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2014)

Peter Hough, International Politics of the Arctic: Coming in from the Cold (London: Routledge, 2015 pbk.)

Peter Hough’s contribution to the scholarship of Arctic international relations, International Politics of the Arctic: Coming in from the Cold, has now been made available in paperback. Given that the target audience is likely to consist of students and those with a general interest in the field, the paperback edition (and more accessible price) is most welcome.

Continue reading Peter Hough, International Politics of the Arctic: Coming in from the Cold (London: Routledge, 2015 pbk.)

Natalia Loukacheva (ed.), Polar Law Textbook (Copenhagen: Nordic Council of Ministers, 2010)

In conjunction with the programme and with the financial support of the Nordic Council of Ministers, the programme director, Natalia Loukacheva, solicited and collated these articles from leading academics, practitioners, politicians and indigenous peoples working in associated disciplines to compile the first ever “textbook” in Polar Law. The four designated aims of the textbook are to promote interdisciplinary education; to disseminate current research and developments; to improve Nordic and Arctic cooperation; to facilitate long-distance education on Polar Law and to encourage Nordic and Arctic collaboration in education (Summary).


Polar Law as a concept requires some working definition, even if it is constantly evolving and taking on new fields of inquiry as it matures. This definition is provided by Loukacheva in the introduction who advises us that, “broadly speaking, ‘polar law’ is a developing field of law that deals with the international and domestic legal regimes that are applicable to the Arctic or the Antarctic or both” while also taking into account the normative force of “soft-law” instruments (13).

One immediate question that springs to mind is “why polar law?” What is special about the polar regions that justifies such specialized attention? And despite some superficial similarities between the Arctic and the Antarctic, geologically, politically, sociologically and economically they are, if one will pardon the expression, “poles apart.” Loukacheva raises these questions in her introduction, drawing attention to the most significant differences between the two regions as well as areas of common concern and lessons that one region might have for the other.

On reading the textbook, it becomes apparent that these areas are of ever increasing strategic and political importance and facing challenges of governance and deployment that have serious consequences in much more temperate climates. The focus on polar law suggests a preference for legal regulation to solve problems, but in reality, the approaches taken are all interdisciplinary to greater or lesser extents. Only the chapters on the law of the sea and on human rights and indigenous peoples rely principally on legal sources and even in these chapters, the law is explained in social and environmental context. In other words, whilst to some extent it is assumed that law is one useful tool to address the relevant issues, it is nowhere assumed that law is the only tool, nor even the preferred one.

Although marketed as a “textbook”, the essays do not provide a superficial account of the issues they each address. Instead, the book is packed with information, providing knowledge and analysis that will serve well scholars, scientists and policy-makers in, inter alia, international law, international relations, development, governance, natural resources law and climate change, whether or not they seek a specific focus on the polar regions. Where it shares a “textbook” approach is in the inclusion at the end of each chapter of suggested material for further reading (useful to researchers at all levels) and a pedagogically-focussed list of questions for reflection by the reader.

The content is weighted towards the Arctic, which can be understood to the extent that there is a necessary focus on the social sciences (e.g., economics, Arctic governance) and emphasis is rightly put on indigenous peoples (4 of 11 chapters). The human issues pertaining to the Arctic have no equivalent in Antarctica. There would be scope, however, for further development of Antarctic issues in a future volume, such as questions of governance of the South Pole, legal and political claims to territory, potential exploitation of non-living resources, and other economic interests.

The textbook taps into the most contemporary information available, containing numerous references to developments in 2010. However, the effort to publish the state of the art developments in polar law have come with some editorial costs that might be rectified in a second edition, or a future second volume with new essays dealing with yet to be identified topics. First of all, a non-specialist approaching this textbook may feel at times bombarded by acronyms and it can become difficult to keep these all in focus. Furthermore, the acronyms are not consistently used by different authors, for example, the Law of the Sea Convention is abbreviated to LOSC (45) and later as UNCLOS (214). The inclusion of a simple table of acronyms could make it much simpler for authors to use the same acronyms and for readers to check these quickly when memory fails. The styles of the questions also vary between chapters, with some being answerable by reflection of the contained text alone and others requiring further research. There are formatting inconsistencies, with most chapters listing questions at the end of the text, but chapter six including these after subsections within chapters, and some typographical and layout errors. Ultimately, however, the technical detractions of the textbook should not detract from its innovative content.

Finally mention should be made of the open-access nature of the project and the willingness to make this content available to as wide an audience as possible without the barrier of cost. The book is available for purchase in hard copy, but can be downloaded in its entirety in pdf form free of charge, something that cash-strapped students and universities in developed and developing countries alike will no doubt embrace enthusiastically.

* Online pdf version: