The Arctic coastal states meet in Ottawa – again

Torsdag, 8. April 2010     0 kommentti(a)
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Internationell miljö- och naturresurspolitik forsknigsprogram

The five Arctic coastal states gathered in an Arctic Summit on March 29th in Ottawa, Canada. The meeting was arranged despite previous affirmations not to leave out Finland, Sweden and Iceland and the Arctic indigenous peoples, as was done in Ilulissat in 2008.

The coastal states – the U.S., Canada, Russia, Norway and Denmark-Greenland – had indeed some urgent issues to deal with. They reaffirmed commitment to the orderly resolution of any possible overlapping territorial claims in the seabed of the Arctic Ocean and willingness to continue to cooperate closely in the scientific and technical work that is needed to delineate the outer limits of their respective continental shelves.

The states underlined the importance of a legally binding Arctic search and rescue agreement and agreed to pursue a mandatory regime in the Arctic Ocean to make shipping safer. The coastal states also discussed the importance of scientific research to better understand the dynamics of the region, especially as it relates to natural resource development and fisheries, and recognized the huge resource potential of the Arctic Ocean that will contribute to regional economic and social development in the future.

It seems quite natural that the five states discuss hydrocarbon developments in a smaller group: energy reserves in the seabed of the Arctic Ocean will indeed be used by the coastal states, while the rest of the Arctic states, Finland, Sweden and Iceland do not have a say in this matter. However, it is interesting to note that the discussed issues also included topics normally dealt with in the Arctic Council such as search and rescue arrangements and scientific research.

The Ottawa summit seems to be strengthening a certain development trend in the Arctic Ocean, namely one in which the coastal states gradually take the lead in all the issues regarding the ocean and supplement the currently insufficient international governance regime by their own meetings. How cooperation between all the eight Arctic states and the indigenous peoples will develop in the future in the Arctic Council is still an open question.

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