Arctic Yearbook 2015 - Page 450

450 Arctic Yearbook 2015 Polar Research’s August 2015 summer school in Svalbard: Arctic Ocean Governance as a Multifunctional Challenge. At first glance, the programme announcement looks oddly familiar: A circumpolar system of governance is in the making for the Arctic Ocean, both when it comes to regime and structure. Among the eight Arctic states there is broad agreement (Ilullisat-declaration of 28 May 2009) that the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 1982 (UNCLOS) and other global ocean conventions is to be applied as the basic regulatory foundation of the Arctic Ocean. At the same time, the fact is that the UNCLOS mostly was developed to regulate the challenges of “blue water” Oceans. Out of the 320 articles of the UNCLOS, only one - Article 234 - deals specifically with ice-covered waters. Issues specific to Arctic natural conditions, such as sea ice, environmental fragility/sensitivity, polar darkness etc. are not fully or sufficiently addressed in UNCLOS. (Norwegian Scientific Academy for Polar Research et al., 2015). A closer reading reveals, however, that this gathering will be very different from the Durham workshop. The Durham meeting sought to temporarily bracket practical political considerations so as to encourage ‘blue sky’ thinking regarding what the problems of regulating ice can tell us both about the Arctic and about the geophysical basis of the modern state. The Svalbard school, by contrast, is resolutely grounded in practical possibility. The focus will be on identifying and discussing soft law mechanisms that could fill the gaps left by UNCLOS’ ‘blue-water’ focus. These include mechanisms that have been already agreed to, such as the International Maritime Organisation’s Polar Code and the Arctic Council-negotiated Arctic Search and Rescue Coordination Agreement, and potential future mechanisms. The organisers of this gathering have identified specific problems and they are bringing together policy experts and engaged students in an effort to explore possible solutions. We find both efforts exciting. Both potentially could affect the livelihoods of Arctic residents as well as how the Arctic is perceived by outsiders. And yet we find the differences in the two meetings’ orientation intriguing as well, as they are indicative of a broader tension that has characterised the Ice Law / ICE LAW Project since its inception and that echo broader tensions within the discipline of Arctic studies: how can one merge the critical study of law and society with the imperative to develop workable solutions for a distinct region beset by a wide range of social, political, legal, and economic challenges, some of which are regionally unique? The different, but complementary approaches of the Durham and Svalbard groups demonstrates the exciting potential of the Arctic for generating new ways of thinking about global legal, political, and environmental challenges and the need to draw from a wide range of perspectives so as to develop practicable solutions for the region. We look forward to reading a report from Svalbard in next year’s Arctic Yearbook. Notes 1. For more information on the project, see its website, 2. The 13 participant reflections can be viewed at 3. The project’s four themes are detailed further at From Ice Law to ICE LAW