Scientific networks and new political opportunities

In Antarctica, the International Geophysical Year in 1957/58 led to formalized international research cooperation in the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research under the auspices of ICSU. At that time, similar research cooperation in the Arctic was prevented by the Cold-War tensions that had shifted the International Geophysical Year research focus from the Arctic to Antarctica. However, the wish for pan-Arctic research cooperation remained alive within the polar research community and among non-governmental scientific networks.154 Therefore, scientists with an Arctic interest were quick at picking up signals from the new political developments in the Soviet Union in the mid-1980s -President Mikhail Gorbachov's mission towards glasnost and perestroika. For example, in connection with a meeting in 1986, there were informal talks about these new signals and according to one interviewee's account; the participants agreed that it was time for the Arctic countries to start discussing such a possibility.155 Another account highlights a meeting in the United States as the start of the negotiations for Arctic research cooperation.156 Three scientists later prepared a report that laid the ground for further work towards a formal collaboration.157 Schram Stokke described the political circumstances in terms of softening national competitive interests in the area (especially military) that made it easier to take environmental concerns and a wish for scientific cooperation into consideration. Also, the lack of clear national interests provided room for entrepreneurial groups, such as the scientific networks around polar research, to manoeuvre.158 At the time, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, increasing bilateral cooperation among Arctic states included research and environmental cooperation as well as settling boundary i ■ 159


Politically, many writers have pointed to a symbolic turning point away from Cold War frostiness in pan-Arctic relations when Gorbachev gave a speech in Murmansk in

154 Interview Anders Karlqvist, June 21, 2005.

155 Interview Odd Rogne, April 14, 2004.

156 Young, Arctic Politics. Conflict and Cooperation in the Circumpolar North, 186.

157 Archer and Scrivener, "International Co-Operation in the Arctic Environment," 603.

158 Olav Schram Stokke, "The Northern Environment: Is Cooperation Coming?," Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 512, no. Nov 1990 (1990): 58, 62.

159 Young, Arctic Politics. Conflict and Cooperation in the Circumpolar North, 185.

October 1987.160 The direction of his speech was to establish a program of international cooperation that included resource development, scientific research, environmental protection, opening up of sea routes, and recognition of indigenous peoples' rights.161 Gorbachev also offered a new definition of the Arctic in which "[t]he Arctic is not only the Arctic Ocean but also the northern tips of three continents: Europe, Asia, and Russia ... where frontiers come close to each other and the interests of states belonging to mutually opposing military blocs and non-aligned ones cross."162 Keskitalo has analyzed this as a concession to allowing the non-rim states Finland, Iceland, and Sweden into an Arctic cooperation.163 Up until then Arctic countries were usually defined as Arctic rim states, i.e. countries bordering the Arctic Ocean (Canada, Denmark, Norway, the Soviet Union, and the United States). The Soviet Union, in particular, had insisted that Arctic affairs should be dealt with only by Arctic rim countries, but Canada also initially adopted an exclusionist stance.164 As the discussion about Arctic research cooperation was beginning to take shape, this was soon questioned by Swedish actors who did not want to be left out, and later also by Iceland. From a scientific point of view, there was also an interest in involving large polar research nations such as Great Britain, West Germany, and Poland. Norway also had an interest to get more small countries involved as a counterweight to the United States and the Soviet Union. Norway played a critical role as the mediators in the initial discussion to get the Soviet Union on board.

Many of the discussions about Arctic cooperation took place among research administrators, but an interview in this study also indicates that they acted with the backing of, and through consultations with, their respective departments of foreign affairs.165 The discussions, along with the new Soviet attitude, led to "increasingly politicised exchanges first at the scientific and then at diplomatic levels" and eventually the creation of the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC) in 1990.166

Although self-defined as a "non-governmental organisation whose aim is to encourage and facilitate cooperation in all aspects of arctic research, in all countries engaged in arctic research and in all areas of the arctic region scientific organization," IASC's link to political interests are clearer in its structure.167 Its Council consists of scientific organizations of the original eight members, plus those of other countries with significant Arctic research wishing to join; it also includes a Regional Board whose members are responsible for ensuring that IASC's activities are compatible with the interests of Arc

160 Young, Creating Regimes: Arctic Accords and International Governance, 32; Archer and Scrivener, "International Co-Operation in the Arctic Environment," 603; Heininen, "Circumpolar International Relations and Geopolitics," 208.

161 Young, Creating Regimes: Arctic Accords and International Governance, 32.

162 Gorbachev 1987, para 20 quoted in Carina Keskitalo, "Region-Building in the Arctic: Inefficient Insti-tutionalism? A Critical Perspective on International Region-Building in the 'Arctic'," ISANET, ISA Annual Convention, March 24-27, 2002 (Accessed 23 Oct. 2003).

163 Keskitalo, "Region-Building in the Arctic: Inefficient Institutionalism?" 4.

164 Stokke, "The Northern Environment: Is Cooperation Coming?," 63; Archer and Scrivener, "International Co-Operation in the Arctic Environment,", 604; Keskitalo, "Region-Building in the Arctic: Inefficient Institutionalism?"

165 Interview Odd Rogne, April 14, 2004.

166 Archer and Scrivener, "International Co-Operation in the Arctic Environment," 603.

167 IASC, (Accessed Jan. 2005).

tic states.168 The main aim of IASC has been to increase knowledge about Arctic processes. Judging from documents created in its early life as an organization, there was an emphasis on the global significance of changes in Arctic climate, weather, and ocean circulation.169 Here the image of the Arctic as a linchpin for global change appears. There were also collaborations with other international programs focusing on global change.170

IASC has mainly been geared towards the natural sciences, although there have been attempts at bringing in social sciences in connection with interdisciplinary projects. An early forum for social science collaboration was instead the International Arctic Social Science Association, which was founded in conjunction with the 7th Inuit Studies Conference in 1990 in Fairbanks, Alaska.

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