The Arctic: An Opportunity to Cooperate and Demonstrate Statesmanship

The Article discusses in four distinct parts disputes relating to maritime boundaries in the Arctic; “gaps” in the legal regime in the Arctic; environmental and security concerns; and the administration of the Arctic.

Regarding the first item, the Article maintains that the point of departure is that the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea applies also in the Arctic. Overlapping claims by the coastal states are perfectly legitimate and thus should not be dramatized.  What matters is how such differences are resolved.

Referring to suggestions that there are “gaps” in the Arctic legal regime and that a new regime is needed, the Article asserts that this argumentation is misleading as UNCLOS already applies. However, the regime needs strengthening.

Several conclusions are presented concerning the environment and security, partly based on experiences from a conference organized by the Nordic Council of Ministers on September 9–10, 2008 at Ilulissat in Greenland: “Common Concern for the Arctic.”

With respect to the administration of the Arctic, the Article maintains that the Arctic Council should be maintained and further developed as an indispensable tool for the coordination of policy decisions.

The Article concludes by suggesting that the Arctic actually offers an opportunity for states concerned and in particular the Arctic coastal states to demonstrate that they are able to cooperate actively in a constructive manner. One way of ascertaining that added political impetus is injected into the process would be to organize the 2011 Arctic Council meeting at the level of heads of state and government.

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