An Agreement on Enhancing International Arctic Scientific Cooperation: Only for the Eight Arctic States and Their Scientists?

In: The Yearbook of Polar Law Online
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  • 1 Polar Cooperation Research Centre (PCRC); Kobe University Graduate School of International Cooperation Studies (GSICS)
  • 2 Kobe University Graduate School of International Cooperation Studies (GSICS)

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At the Arctic Council’s Iqaluit Ministerial Meeting in April 2015, the eight Arctic States decided to extend the mandate of the Task Force on Enhancing Scientific Cooperation in the Arctic (SCTF) in order to work toward a legally binding agreement on scientific cooperation. Based on the Oslo Draft of February 2015, this paper finds that the Agreement may improve the legal environment for Arctic science beyond current international law, including the law of the sea. The Agreement would lower the hurdles heretofore identified in international Arctic scientific cooperation, for example, the difficulties in accessing research areas and research facilities; and, the delays in border crossing procedures for entry and exit of scientists and their equipment and materials. Such an agreement is a good idea and should be promoted. However, non-Arctic States and their scientists may have an issue because the improved legal environment that is sought may benefit only the eight Arctic States and their scientists. In effect, the Agreement may create a two-category system where non-Arctic States and their scientists do not benefit from such improved environment. This paper examines whether they have substantial interests recognized under international law or by the Arctic scientific community by which they can claim certain benefits of the Agreement. We argue that the degree of benefits to non-Arctic States and their scientists under the Agreement should be commensurate with the degree of substantial interests accorded them by international law and by the Arctic scientific community.

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