The ministerial conference that followed the September 1989 meeting in Rovaniemi represented a breakthrough in the development of international cooperation for the protection of the Arctic and led to the adoption of the Declaration in 1991.
The Declaration adopted a joint action plan of the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy (AEPS). The objectives of the strategy were designed as follows: to cooperate in scientific research and to include indigenous peoples and their organizations to study the effects of pollution, in particular, oil acidification, persistent organic contaminants, radioactivity, and heavy metals; to assess the potential environmental impacts of development activities; and to consider and implement further measures to control pollutants and reduce their adverse effects on the Arctic environment.
In adopting the Declaration on the Protection of the Arctic environment, the governments of the eight circumpolar countries formally recognized the importance of including representatives of indigenous peoples of the north as active participants in the process. The signatory states also committed to implement the following measures of the strategy: Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP) would monitor the levels and assess the effects of anthropogenic pollutants in the Arctic environment; Protection of the Marine Environment in the Arctic (PAME) was directed to take preventive and other measures directly or through competent international organizations regarding marine pollution in the Arctic irrespective of origin; Emergency Prevention, Preparedness and Response in the Arctic (EPPR) would provide a framework for future cooperation in responding to the threat of environmental emergencies; and Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF) would facilitate the exchange of information and coordination of research on species and habitats of flora and fauna.The Declaration on the Protection of the Arctic Environment was adopted in June 1992 by Canada, Denmark/Greenland, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the United States.
Certain pollutants that exist in the Arctic originate to a large extent from outside the territory of the Arctic states. Persistent organic contaminants also pose a serious threat to the Arctic environment, although there are no major sources of these contaminants in the Arctic. Contaminants reach the Arctic environment via long-range transport by rivers, the atmosphere, and ocean currents from industrialized countries in Asia, Europe, and North America. With the source of the pollution originating outside the jurisdiction of the signatory states, the challenge is to require non-Arctic states to adopt stricter emission standards than are internationally accepted at present.
The Arctic Council, founded in 1996, is an intergovernmental forum administering a broad program including all dimensions of sustainable development. The Arctic Council has subsumed the activities and working groups of the AEPS. Active participation of international indigenous organizations makes it possible for the Council to benefit from traditional knowledge in addition to conventional scientific research.
Since its inception, the Arctic Council has encountered national policies that seem in conflict when applied to the Arctic region. For instance, the United States, in a mid-1994 interagency review of Arctic policy, listed environmental protection as the top priority. Yet the US government simultaneously downgraded national security and defense considerations, but freedom of navigation remained the strategic military interest of the US Navy in Arctic waters, particularly for submarine operations. Some national institutions were reluctant to provide the necessary raw data for research on grounds of national security.
Another challenge has been that for most states, Arctic issues tend to be peripheral to domestic politics and economy. The result has been an inability or unwillingness to be overly concerned with the problems of the Arctic and its environment, matters that also create funding challenges. As yet, there is no agreement on funding at the international level.
See also Arctic Council; Contaminants; International Arctic Science Committee (IASC); Murmansk Speech (1987)
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US Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee, "Declaration on the Protection of the Arctic Environment and Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy." Arctic Research of the United States, Volume 5, pp. 29-35 Vanderzwaag, D., "International law and Arctic marine conservation and protection: a slushy, shifting seascape." Georgetown International Environmental Law Review, 9(2) (1997): 303-345 Vidas, D. (editor), Protecting the Polar Marine Environment: Law and Policy for Pollution Prevention, Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000 Vukas, B., "United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the polar marine environment." In Protecting the Polar Marine Environment, edited by D. Vidas, Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press 34-56
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