The Recent Arctic Council Assessments: Influential Tools in Policy-Making in the Council and Beyond?

In: The Yearbook of Polar Law Online
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  • 1 Arctic Centre, University of Lapland
  • 2 Arctic Centre, University of Lapland
  • 3 Marine Research Centre, Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE)

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The scientific assessments of the Arctic Council (AC) have been widely regarded as the most effective products of the AC. Yet, so far comparatively little scholarly attention has been given to this primary area of the Council’s work. This paper examines the most recent assessment work within the Arctic Council. In order to do this, we build on the literature on global environmental assessments to analyze whether this work exhibits design features and is carried out in a way that enhances the potential for AC assessments to be effective. We understand the effectiveness of assessments to influence decision and policy-making in the Arctic Council itself, but we also look beyond its structures. This paper focuses on four case studies: Arctic Biodiversity Assessment (ABA), Arctic Human Development Report-II (ADHR-II), Arctic Resilience Report/Arctic Resilience Assessment (ARR/ARA) and Adaptation Actions for a Changing Arctic (AACA). Whereas detailed examination of such influence is at this point not possible due to either very short time from their completion (ABA, ADHR-II) or the fact that the projects are still ongoing (ARA, AACA), the analysis of those assessments through the lens of a series of their design features provides us with some guidance in relation to their expected effectiveness in bridging science with decision-making in the AC and beyond. The article finds that whereas different processes exhibit different individual characteristics, all the studied assessments rank from relatively high to very high in terms of how their design may affect their salience, credibility and legitimacy. However, their actual policy influence will depend first and foremost on the political will of those ordering the assessments and wielding decision-making power in the Arctic Council.

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