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About Arctic governance arrangements

The Arctic is not a blank slate with regard to governance. There is an impressive history in the region of successful efforts to devise innovative responses to complex and sometimes vexatious problems of governance.

For centuries, indigenous peoples operating in a variety of marine and terrestrial environments have developed social practices allowing them to use renewable resources in a sustainable manner and to adapt nimbly to major changes in the biophysical systems with which they interact. The regime created under the 1920 Treaty of Spitsbergen (still in force) involves an ingenious arrangement under which the parties recognize Norway’s sovereignty over the Svalbard Archipelago in return for commitments on Norway’s part to demilitarize the area, grant all parties equal access to the archipelago’s natural resources, and establish an equitable administrative system. Since the 1970s, Norway and Russia have operated a joint management regime for the fisheries of the Barents Sea, despite the existence of an unresolved jurisdictional dispute covering a sizable sector of the sea known as the grey zone. In 1987, Canada and the United States entered into an agreement creating a co-management regime featuring an international board intended to make management decisions relating to the migratory Porcupine Caribou Herd based on input from representatives of user communities as well as from government agencies. The Arctic Council, established in 1996 as a high-level international forum to address a range of issues of interest to the eight Arctic states, incorporates an innovative and largely unprecedented arrangement under which a number of Indigenous Peoples Organizations are recognized as Permanent Participants and have a voice in the activities of the council that is for all practical purposes equivalent to that of the member states. These and other successful efforts to devise innovative responses to problems of governance attest to the role of the Arctic as a governance compass or, in other words, an area that can help to provide direction for those endeavoring to meet the challenge of governance for sustainable development in the world today. 

More about existing innovate governance arrangements