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The Internationalization of the Circumpolar North: Charting a Course for the 21st Century
by Oran R. Young
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A Cacophony Of International Initiatives
  It would be wrong to conclude that there is no history of international cooperation in the Circumpolar North. In fact, three striking cases involving efforts to devise effective governance systems to deal with well-defined issues arose in the Arctic during the first seventy-five years of this century [4]. In 1911, Great Britain (on behalf of Canada), Japan, Russia, and the United States signed the North Pacific Sealing Convention establishing a cooperative management regime designed to restore the health of northern fur seal stocks breeding on islands in the Bering Sea. The resultant regime not only defused an intense international conflict but it was also widely regarded as a successful effort in wildlife conservation before it fell victim to preservationist preferences during the 1980s [5].
  During the course of the post-WW I peace negotiations, a group of states signed the 1920 Treaty of Spitsbergen, an agreement creating a regime for the Svalbard Archipelago that remains in operation today. In essence, this regime awards sovereignty over the archipelago to Norway but then proceeds to impose a variety of restrictions designed to accommodate the interests of the other signatories [6]. The demilitarization provisions of this regime are often regarded as one of the sources of similar provisions incorporated into the Antarctic Treaty og 1959. Perhaps more surprisingly, five states, including both the Soviet Union and the United States, joined together in 1973 during the midst of the Cold War to sign an Agreement on the Conservation of Polar Bears. This innovative agreement remains in force today having survived not only dramatic political changes but also far-reaching changes dealing with the legal regime applicable to marine areas [7].
  Significant as they are, however, these cases of international cooperation in the Arctic seem few and far between when compared with the number and variety of new initiatives launched over the last ten to fifteen years. The Arctic has become in recent years an extremely active arena for the development of international initiatives falling into a variety of categories. Some of these initiatives feature the formation of regimes or institutions in the sense of sets of rules of the game that give rise to social practices; others center on the establishment of organizations in the sense of material entities possessing offices, personnel, and budgets [8]. The fisheries regimes for the Bering and Barents Seas and the joint development zone for the area lying between Iceland and Jan Mayen, for instance, are all institutional arrangements or what are generally know to students of international affairs as regimes. The Northern Forum and the Inuit Circumpolar Conference, by contrast, are organizations that figure as actors seeking to advance the causes of their constituents in a variety of policy arenas.
  Although some recent Arctic initiatives are regionwide in scope, it is interesting to note that the Circumpolar North has become an active zone for subregional initiatives involving only two states in some cases but emerging as multilateral initiatives in other instances. No doubt, the premier example of regionwide cooperation in recent years has been the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy (AEPS) launched in 1991 and now subsumed as a component of the overarching Arctic Council (AC) established in 1996 [9]. This largely programmatic arrangement has clearly played a role of some significance in raising consciousness about the Arctic as a distinct region as well as in determining the magnitude of a variety of environmental concerns in the Arctic region [10]. Yet the emergence of other arrangements, such as the Barents Euro-Arctic Region (BEAR) whose core members are Norway, Sweden, Finland and the Russian Federation [11] and the North Atlantic Marine Mammals Commission (NAMMCO) whose principal members are Iceland, Norway, Greenland, and the Faroe Islands [12] makes it clear that there is considerable interest in creating multilateral arrangements that are subregional in scope to deal with a range of Arctic issues.
  A particularly striking feature of the recent surge in international initiatives in the Arctic is the prominent role accorded to subnational units of government and nonstate actors in many of the resultant arrangements. The ICC and the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC) are nongovernmental organizations that not only pursue their own agendas but that have also emerged as significant players in various arenas featuring interstate cooperation. The Northern Forum is an association of states, counties, provinces, territories, oblasts, and other entities representing the interests of subnational units of government within a number of northern countries. Much of the work of the BEAR is carried out by a regional council composed of representatives of counties and oblasts in contrast to the Barents Council in which representatives of national governments meet from time to time. One of the most interesting developments in this realm involves the establishment of the category of Permanent Participants in the Arctic Council. Although the organizations belonging to this category - currently the ICC, the Sami Council, the Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North (RAIPON), and the Aleut International Association - are not listed as formal members of the Arctic Council, they are accorded virtually all the rights and privileges enjoyed by member states.
  Beyond this, it is worth noting the important links between efforts to promote international cooperation in the Arctic and a number of broader, often global initiatives. Sometimes this is a matter of nesting Arctic provisions into overarching agreements as in the case of Article 234 of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) which deals explicitly with the management of ice-covered areas [13]. In other cases, it is a matter of finding ways to bring global regimes (e.g. the biodiversity regime) to bear on specific issues arising in the high northern latitudes. Perhaps even more important are those cases in which actions taken in other parts of the world are producing particularly severe impacts in the high latitudes. Cases in point include the effects of climate change on Arctic systems, the thinning of stratospheric ozone over the poles, and especially the migration of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) to high northern latitudes along with the subsequent bioaccumulation and biomagnification of these contaminants at higher levels of the food chain. Increasingly, therefore, the links between global processes and Arctic systems demand attention in efforts to come to grips with environmental problems in international society.
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The Internationalization of the Circumpolar North: Charting a Course for the 21st Century,
by Oran R. Young.
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