Handbook of the Politics of the Arctic
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Handbook of the Politics of the Arctic

Edited by Leif Christian Jensen and Geir Hønneland

The Arctic has again become one of the leading issues on the international foreign policy agenda, in a manner unseen since the Cold War. Drawing on the perspectives of geo-politics and international law, this Handbook offers fresh insights and perspectives on the most pressing issues, grouped under the headings of political ascendancy, climate and environmental issues, resources and energy, and the response and policies of affected countries.
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Chapter 15: The Arctic Council

Piotr Graczyk and Timo Koivurova

Extract

The international situation in the Arctic has changed fundamentally in the years that have passed since 1996, when the Arctic Council was established by the Ottawa Declaration. A dramatic environmental and geopolitical shift, induced by climate change and the diminishing Arctic Ocean icecap, has generated an unprecedented growth of interest in economic opportunities and hence governance in the region, coming from both Arctic and non-Arctic players. Thanks to the work of the Arctic Council we know much more about the phenomena occurring in northern latitudes. This knowledge, notably the 2004 Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA), has significantly contributed to today’s perception of the Arctic as an area undergoing profound changes (Koivurova 2010a). These developments have stirred experts and decision-makers to voice concerns that the Arctic Council in its current form may be inadequately equipped to handle the regional problems that may arise, and the eight Arctic states have started the process of adapting the forum to the changed natural and international circumstances (see Axworthy et al. 2012). With the eighth Arctic Council ministerial meeting in May 2013 in Kiruna, Sweden, the cycle of chairmanships was complete, and Canada took over its second term. At this symbolic juncture it is timely and relevant to review major accomplishments, momentous changes and trends in the development of this central institution for the Arctic.

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