30 March 2010

Question for the blogosphere?

There is a little known IGO known as the Arctic Council, which is pretty unique because it brings in indigenous groups on a level equal to states on decision-making. Every country with territory north of the Arctic Circle is represented, along with self-governing territories (like the Faroes and Greenland) and officially recognized indigenous groups, like the Saami and the Inuit. It's the logical place for all matters arctic. (For the record, any country that is closer to the Arctic Circle than the Equator can have observer status.)

So, why did Canada have a big meeting of just 5 of the countries from the Arctic Council to discuss shipping issues in the region? Sweden, Finland, and Iceland were all excluded on the basis that it was about shipping in the Arctic Ocean and the territorial claims made by the five invited groups, rather than an issue affecting the Arctic region in general.

On the one hand, it strikes me as a bad idea to bypass the one successful forum for these very issues. On the other, I know that I don't know much about the Arctic Council beyond what I've written here. Anyone have any thoughts?

1 comment:

  1. I think I can comment intelligently about this. Canada and all the other countries along the Arctic Circle are jockeying to establish territorial claims in the Arctic Ocean so they can have access to any mineral resources or shipping lanes that become available due to receding glaciers (or new technology that makes these recources more accessible). Canada didn't invite Sweden, Finland or Iceland to the meeting because none of them can make territorial claims on the ocean or on the continental shelf. The rules governing where and how a state can claim territorial waters are all in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (probably one of the finest and most comprehensive pieces of international law ever devised). This map should help illustrate what's going on: http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/islands_oceans_poles/arctic_russian_claims_2008.jpg