Arctic Yearbook 2014 - Page 380

  THE ARCTIC’S NEAREST NEIGHBOUR? AN EVALUATION OF THE UK’S 2013 ARCTIC POLICY DOCUMENT Alyson Bailes In October 2013 the United Kingdom became the first sovereign state not included among the Arctic Council's members to publish an official Arctic strategy document. The paper discusses the human, environmental, and commercial aspects of Arctic management in turn, and places a strong emphasis throughout on British scientific contributions. It seems to be trying to stress relevant UK competences, and keep the door open for UK firms to get their fair share in development, while assuring the Arctic powers proper that London respects their rights and will behave as a 'model' Arctic Council observer. Compared with other Arctic strategies, the UK document is rather light on security-related analysis, climate concerns and commercial facts, taking in fact a rather laisser-faire position on economic development. It says little on the European Union's role. It remains to be seen whether this presentation of the UK position is complete and compelling enough to secure the desired national influence in Arctic affairs. Much may depend on how other AC observers behave and react. Introduction and Aims The rapid progress of climate change and its impact on land and sea conditions in the circumpolar North has created new policy challenges for states both in the Arctic zone1 and beyond it. Between 2008 and 2012, the governments of all eight states who are members of the Arctic Council (AC)2 published documents described as ‘strategies’ (or the equivalent), analyzing the issues and spelling out their intentions for handling them.3 These strategies, like the ‘security strategies’ or other single-issue strategies issued both by nations and institutions in the post-Cold War period,4 typically serve a combination of purposes. In contrast to former times’ strategic planning carried out in secrecy, they offer a transparent declaration of intent, usually projecting a message of responsibility and readiness for international cooperation – though they may also warn of resolve to protect national interests. Domestically, they signal the government’s concern and competence and seek to coordinate the efforts of the various departments of state, as well as providing guidance for non-state actors. In countries that have been less involved hitherto in Alyson Bailes is Adjunct Professor at the University of Iceland in Reykjavik & a Visiting Professor at the College of Europe in Bruges.