Over the last three decades, the Arctic and the Arctic Council (AC) have experienced profound changes. Since its establishment in 1996, the AC has evolved significantly in reach and stature; it has expanded its portfolio of projects and instruments, and it has also substantially enhanced its administrative capacities. So far, most studies on the AC have focused on exogenous sources of its change. In contrast, drawing from the general literature on international environmental regimes and gradual institutional change, this paper examines the endogenous factors and properties of the AC and the role they play in enabling or constraining the AC’s institutional change. This reveals that the AC’s setup provides ample space for change agents who, if able to identify windows of opportunity and exploit the inherent openness of the Council’s rules, can establish new precedents that can ultimately influence the course of the AC’s evolution. As such, the analysis draws our attention to previously understudied questions of agency and endogenous sources in the processes of institutional change of the AC. Moreover, as a case study on an informal institution, it is a source of insight and a contribution to the general literature on international environmental regimes, which to date has focused almost exclusively on hard-law and treaty-based institutions.
The Ministerial Meeting of the Arctic Council in Kiruna, Sweden in May 2013 received unprecedented coverage in the worldwide media. The main reason behind that attention was triggered by the expected decision of the Council to grant observer status to applicants, including China and the European Union. However, not only countries and entities seeking access to the AC proceedings have been increasingly active in their approach towards the region. Also the ‘old’ observer states to the Council got spurred by recent developments and among them the United Kingdom and Germany were the first ones to set out their overall Arctic policies in fall 2013. This article looks at both documents to examine the vision for the Arctic that both countries bring and proposes to read the texts in light of the rules for observers’ participation in the Arctic Council, which were approved in Nuuk in 2011. It continues with setting them against a broader picture of the involvement of outside actors in the Arctic cooperation.
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.
Scientific presence and capacities are the foundation of China’s polar engagement and according to China’s White Paper on the Arctic, exploring and understanding the Arctic “serves as the priority and focus for China in its Arctic activities” (prc State Council, 2018). With that and China’s rise in terms of its global and polar science position in mind, the aim of this chapter is to cast light on the history, development and current state of China’s research engagement in the Arctic.
This chapter elaborates on China’s evolving strategy in the Arctic. For China, the Arctic is no longer about simply being an observer in the Arctic Council, but much more. The chapter will analyze mainly the specifics of China’s Arctic white paper and examine a pair of specific cases, namely China’s role in negotiating the Polar Code and the Arctic fisheries agreement. Special attention will be paid to the ways in which China’s national policy towards the Arctic has emerged and how it has been viewed by other actors and commentators following China’s role in the Arctic. As a sub-section, China’s policy towards the Arctic’s indigenous peoples will also be studied.