The Arctic Council

In September 1996, the AEPS was subsumed into the Arctic Council. Ideas about an Arctic Council had been presented in 1970 in Canada in the potential form of an Arctic Basin Treaty.192 By the end of the 1980s, they were again taken up by the Canadian government in an effort to energize the nascent AEPS and with impetus from a report by an Arctic Council Panel that included the Inuit Circumpolar Conference and two non-governmental organizations.193 The proposed structure was quite radical in relation to other international bodies. Although intergovernmental in nature, it also included positions as Permanent Participants for the indigenous peoples of the region. The proposed aims were wider than that of the AEPS, and in addition to environmental cooperation they included promoting sustainable economic development to empower Arctic aboriginal peoples and promote regional security.194

When Canada formally forwarded the idea of an Arctic Council at the 1991 Ro-vaniemi meeting, it was met with a sceptical attitude, especially from the United States, who argued that it would duplicate activities in other international fora. However, a change in US Arctic policy in 1994, to focusing more on environment and sustainable development and less on military security, later paved the way for intensified political negotiations. In spite of major disagreements surrounding the added focus on sustainable development, the negotiations resulted in the Ottawa Declaration that established the Arctic Council as a high level forum for cooperation. Although the declaration was silent on how countries were to be represented, the responsibility shifted from Departments of Environment to Departments of Foreign Affairs. Archer and Scrivener described this as foreign ministers seeing the Council as a mechanism to reassert their control over Arctic cooperation.195 In spite of the widened mandate, military issues are still explicitly excluded from the Arctic Council agenda.

The working groups established under the AEPS continued under the Arctic Council. A new working group on sustainable development was added, which had been created to address pressures from the Inuit Circumpolar Conference to broaden the agenda of

189 The Monitoring Programme for Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme, AMAP. AMAP Report 93:3, 4.

190 Tennberg, Arctic Environmental Cooperation: A Study in Governmentability, 71.

191 Tennberg, Arctic Environmental Cooperation: A Study in Governmentability, 60-61.

192 Cohen and Pharands as quoted in Keskitalo, "Region-Building in the Arctic: Inefficient Institutional-ism?"11.

193 Archer and Scrivener, "International Co-Operation in the Arctic Environment," 613; Heininen, "Circumpolar International Relations and Geopolitics," 212.

194 Archer and Scrivener, "International Co-Operation in the Arctic Environment," 613.

195 Archer and Scrivener, "International Co-Operation in the Arctic Environment," 615.

the Arctic Council to not only consider environmental damage and pollution.196 The concept of sustainable development has been controversial in the Arctic Council, with conflicts over how appropriate development strategies for the Arctic should be framed.197

The Arctic Council does not have any regulatory function and is thus a so-called soft law agreement. In some circles, there is still discussion about the need for a formal convention protecting the Arctic environment.198 There are also on-going discussions about the need to audit existing regimes relevant to the Arctic as a basis for discussing whether they need to be strengthened.199

Another line of concern is the Council's poorly defined role in relation to other international fora in the Arctic that are less focused on intergovernmental cooperation.200 One such arena is the interregional cooperation Northern Forum, established in 1991. This is a non-governmental organization with representatives from 19 different regions extending beyond the Arctic Eight. In contrast to the Arctic Council, indigenous peoples have a rather weak position in the Northern Forum. Their focus is more on concrete issues than foreign relations.201 There is also a formal collaboration among Arctic Parliamentarians, where representatives appointed by parliaments in the Arctic Eight and the European Parliament meet every other year. In these meetings, indigenous peoples, Permanent Participants in the Arctic Council, take part as observers. In addition, there is sub-regional international cooperation in the Barents Euro Arctic Region (BEAR), across the Bering Strait, and among the nations of the North Atlantic in the West-Nordic Council.

Although most international cooperation in today's Arctic in some way relates to the Arctic Council, these other organizations provide a contrast to the Council's intergovernmental nature. The contrast in some ways reflects an important historical structure of the region that is often described in terms of a predominance of core-periphery relations in the region.202 In the AEPS and later Arctic Council, the predominant interests were formulated in national capitals south of the Arctic,203 but this was also increasingly

196 Mark Nuttall, "Indigenous Peoples' Organisations and Arctic Environmental Cooperation," in The Arctic. Environment, People, Policy, eds. Mark Nuttall and Terry V. Callaghan, 621-637 (Amsterdam: Harwood Academic Publishers, 2000), 629.

197 Nuttall, "Indigenous Peoples' Organisations and Arctic Environmental Cooperation," 630; Keskitalo, "Region-Building in the Arctic: Inefficient Institutionalism?" 3, 12.

198 E.g. Linda Nowlan, Arctic Legal Regime for Environmental Protection (Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK, and Bonn, Germany: IUCN - The World Conservation Union and ICEL, 2001).

199 E.g. Conference Statement of the Parliamentarians of the Arctic Region, Kiruna, Sweden, 2-4 August 2006 item 28. See also several presentations at the conference available at (Accessed 12 Dec. 2006).

200 Oran R. Young, "The structure of Arctic cooperation: Solving problems/seizing opportunities. Paper prepared at the request of Finland in preparation for the Fourth Conference of Parliamentarians of the Arctic Region, Rovaniemi, 27-29 Aug 2000"; Heininen, "Circumpolar International Relations and Geopolitics," 215.

201 Heininen, "Circumpolar International Relations and Geopolitics," 211.

202 Young, Arctic Politics. Conflict and Cooperation in the Circumpolar North, 18; Young, Creating Regimes: Arctic Accords and International Governance, 31.

203 Young, Oran R. (1992 draft) "The Political Dynamics of International Regions: the Arctic as a Multiple Use Region" Prepared under the sponsonship of the Mac Arthus Foundations, as quoted in Keskitalo, "Region-Building in the Arctic: Inefficient Institutionalism?" 10.

moderated or challenged by concerns raised by Arctic indigenous peoples by means of their positions as Permanent Participants. An example of the increasingly strong indigenous voice is the statement made by the Permanent Participants calling for action at the beginning of an assessment of pollution in the Arctic that AMAP published in 2002.204

Is there a circumpolar Arctic regime? I argue that the intergovernmental collaboration in the Arctic Council incorporates principles and norms concerning circumpolar cooperation regarding environmental protection and sustainable development (see also Chapter 2 of this dissertation for a working definition of regimes). The Arctic Council decision-making procedures give indigenous peoples seats at the table as Permanent Participants, and both the founding document and many practices recognize their knowledge about the environment. This attests to norms that differ from many other intergovernmental fora. From a legal point of view, the Arctic Council cooperation is best described as a weak regime because it is not connected with any binding agreements. The collaboration has instead focused on producing scientific assessments about environmental challenges in the region. So far, the Arctic Council has lacked a strong organizational backing for coordinating its various activities.

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