Arctic Yearbook 2015 - Page 266

266 Arctic Yearbook 2015 its complex geopolitical links to other parts of the world have given rise to political destabilization in the region (Luedtke & Howkins 2012; Martin-Nielsen 2015). Recent developments in Ukraine further complicate the issue by altering the relations between several states with Arctic interests and the Russian Federation. In this context, states’ behaviour suggests that defining a new balance of power and devising an appropriate governance model has become increasingly urgent, while the challenge is to bring all of the relevant aspects into the frame and to develop a coherent and manageable balance. This paper takes a closer look at the references to commonality, which are a salient, albeit ambiguous feature of the current discussion on Arctic governance. It does so from a legal perspective and with the purpose to unveil a twofold divide in the discussion. Legal and political purposes intersect and they vary depending on whether they are made from an Arctic or a non-Arctic perspective. Despite similar rhetoric, intentions may differ greatly and it is not unusual that different players refer to the law in irreconcilable or controversial ways. In a first step, the variety of references to commonality is charted and the underlying rhetorical strategies are carved out. In a second step, the references’ legal accuracy and their conceptual contribution to the development of a legal framework for Arctic cooperation are analysed. This should enable a better understanding of the diverging intentions and strategies at play in the discussion and the difficulties to reach a common understanding of how to govern the Arctic region. Commonality in discourses on the Arctic With respect to the Arctic, commonality is referred to in many different fora, including in political statements, official policy papers and pleas made by diplomats in academic settings. Most of these references do not seek exclusively – if at all – to be convincing from a legal perspective, but they all strive to be politically compelling. And yet, they are often made in contexts where politics and law are inextricably intertwined and where the law is even expressly mentioned – albeit at times in ways that cast doubt on whether the law is correctly interpreted or understood. How is commonality referred to? What do these references reveal about the legal stances taken by states with regard to the Arctic and what messages do they convey? These are the main questions addressed in this first part. References to commonality… The following review of expressions recently used or reported is admittedly anecdotal and focuses on the clearest and therefore sometimes most contentious references. The purpose is to provide a good sense of the variety of references to commonality that may be encountered in the debate on Arctic governance, as they all potentially influence the legal framing of the region and Arctic cooperation. Different formulations notwithstanding, the references always correlate to either a perspective of regional Arctic commonality or a perspective of global commonality regarding Arctic issues. The distinctly Arctic perspective of commonality is characteristic of the Arctic states’ view. The Ottawa Declaration, which establishes the Arctic Council as a facilitator of cooperation among Arctic states “on common Arctic issues”, according to article 1 (a), is clearly based on the concept of a regional common. Rothwell (2008: 247) explains that the