This paper aims to understand the Arctic through a political science perspective: by analyzing the current political and economic issues related to the Arctic, based on the understanding of the structure of the current Arctic governance. For this, the paper will first classify the Arctic governance structure to an international level and a regional level.
Second, it will analyze the conflicts surrounding various issues that have been continuously occurring in the Arctic, and have recently emerged. Finally, it will seek new ways of the Korean Arctic policy to involve in relation to development cooperation. I. Introduction In general, the Arctic refers to the Arctic Circle north of 66.33 latitude. (“National Snow and Ice Data Center”) However, it is difficult to define the Arctic Circle based only on the geographical boundaries because the Arctic Circle is widely dispersed and the geographical scope is not uniform.
Therefore, a consensus on the southern limit of the Arctic region has not yet been reached, and perhaps the most precise method to currently define the Arctic Circle would be to list its transcending countries: Denmark(Greenland) Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, the United States (Alaska), Canada, and Iceland. International interest in the Arctic is increasing due to the recent decrease of the sea ice resulting from rapid climate change. Climate change and global warming are changing not only the geography of the Arctic, but the ecosystem, people, ideas and capital- and the rate of change is accelerating. Various international efforts to preoccupy the Arctic are emerging due to improved access to natural resources buried in the Arctic and expectations for the availability of Arctic shipping routes. (“Arctic Human Development Report”, 2015) South Korea has also undertaken various activities related to the Arctic, as the strategic significance of the Arctic has increased.
As a result, it is anticipated that South Korea will have a greater impact on the establishment of the Arctic policies as it has been elected as formal observer of the Arctic Council in 2013. (Hong and Nuttall, 2014) However, rather than fulfilling this vague expectation, it is more crucial to analyze all the issues related to the Arctic based on the understanding of Arctic governance- to politically comprehend the Arctic. For this purpose, this study first seeks to understand the constituents and limitations of the current Arctic governance at both international and regional levels. It will then explore new ways for South Korea’s Arctic policies by analyzing various conflicts surrounding the Arctic and its recent emerging issues. II. The multi-level structure of Arctic governance: Arctic CouncilProcess of establishment After Gorbachev’s declaration of the Murmansk Initiative in 1987, which focused on transforming the Arctic to become an international zone of peace, the eight Arctic countries agreed that the environmental issues of the Arctic are a shared responsibility and have begun to discuss joint efforts to protect the marine environment of the Arctic Ocean. (Åtland, 2008) In 1991, the eight countries signed the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy (AEPS), which consisted of three main focal points.
First, they agreed to hold regular meetings, including the ministerial meetings every two years, for mutual cooperation between Arctic countries. The second was to invite the indigenous people to participate in the process. The third was the establishment of four working groups: Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP), Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF), Emergency Prevention, Preparedness and Response (EPPR), and Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment (PAME).
(Elferink, 2013) Currently, two more working groups have been established: Arctic Contaminants Action Program (ACAP) and Sustainable Development Working Group (SDWG). Since, the establishment of the Arctic Council as governance at the regional level to co-manage the Arctic has become increasingly concrete. While adopting the implementation of the AEPS through the Nuuk Declaration in Nuuk, Greenland, in 1993, the Arctic countries recognized the UN Convention on Biological Diversity and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, and required each countries to enact their environmental legislations for the sustainable development of the Arctic. (The Nuuk Declaration, 1993) In March 1996, the Inuvik Declaration announced that the Arctic countries will work together to form the Arctic Council, the intergovernmental group of eight countries of the Arctic Coast. (Inuvik Declaration, 1996) On September, 1996, the Arctic Council was established as a high level forum in the Ottawa Declaration. Since, the Arctic Council aims for the maintenance of biodiversity, including the protection of the Arctic ecosystem, the sustainable development and utilization of natural resources, the environmental and resident health of the Arctic region, the development of economic and social life, the recognition of cultural welfare, and the protection of local community traditions. (Arctic Council, 1996)Structure and operating system Currently, the Arctic Council consists of three actor types: Member States, Permanent Participants, and Observers. The Member States are the eight Arctic countries: Canada, Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Finland, Sweden, the United States, and Russia.
The Permanent Participants consists for six indigenous peoples organizations, and the non-Arctic countries, intergovernmental organizations, and NGOs can only participate as observers. (“Arctic Human Development Report”, 2015) Observers may participate in working groups or in the form of financial sponsorships of projects, regional cooperation, arctic research professionals, and so on. In the case of the ad hoc observers, the state may become a permanent observer when unanimously approved at the biannual Ministerial Meetings. (Arctic Council, 2013) South Korea has initially been recognized as an ad hoc observer in recognition of its Arctic scientific research and icebreakers, and in May 2013, along with China, Japan, Italy, India, and Singapore, it finally obtained its permanent observer status. (The Economist, 2013) Currently, the distinction between ad hoc observers and permanent observers has disappeared. The Arctic Council meetings are organized as Ministerial Meetings and Senior Arctic Officials (SAO).
The Ministerial Meeting is the highest decision-making body held every two years in the Chairman’s Office, appointed for a two year term, and ministers of foreign affairs of the eight countries participate and review the agendas presented at the SAO. The SAO is the body for discussing practical matters that recommends and integrates issues decided in the Ministerial Meeting and organizes declarations. Generally, SAOs are held every six months in the city of the host country, with the chairman of the foreign affairs department serving as the speaker. Here, the six working groups of the Arctic Council are required to review the current status and direction of work. (Axworthy, 2012) The Permanent Participants consist of six small indigenous peoples organizations living in the Arctic coastal area, and the IPS, the Indigenous Peoples Secretariat, is established to support them. The IPS has adopted the IPS Procedural Guidelines to support the indigenous people.
According to the Procedural Guidelines, IPS is responsible for helping the indigenous people present their causes to Ministerial Meetings and Working Groups. (Arctic Council, 2015) The six indigenous peoples organizations are the Arctic Athabaskan Council (AAC), the Gwich’in Council International (GCI), the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC), the Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North (RAIPON), and the Saami Council (SC). (“About IPS”)Limitations Despite the comprehensive purpose of the Arctic Council to represent the interests of the Arctic, there is still a limit to recognizing it as an organization that fully handles and manages the Arctic issues.
First, the Arctic Council is a council of Arctic countries, in which only Arctic countries can participate as member states. The activities open to the non-Arctic states are relatively limited. The non-Arctic countries that wish to participate have no other way to join than to become Observers and participate through Working Groups. Thus, the five Arctic coastal states (Canada, Norway, Denmark, Russia, and the United States) are intensifying their exclusiveness towards other countries of the Arctic Council that are not directly bordering the Arctic Ocean (Finland, Sweden, and Iceland).
In particular, the Ilulissat Declaration, drawn from the 2008 foreign ministerial meeting of the Arctic Five in Iluissat, Greenland, stated that the five countries opposed to the introduction of a new international law system, like that of the Antarctic region. The Declaration supported for the United Nation’s maritime law, which prescribes the expansion rights of the exclusive economics zones (EEZs). (The Ilulissat Declaration, 2008) Second, the Arctic Council is an intergovernmental organization, but not a formal international organization. The Declaration adopted at the Arctic Council is based on voluntary participation and cooperation of its members, and is merely declarative, where it is not legally binding. Therefore, the Arctic Council is mainly confined to issues that involve relatively little conflicts such as environmental conservation, scientific research, and indigenous people protection. There are limitations on issues such as sovereignty, maritime jurisdiction, and security issues.
(“What doesn’t it do?”) III. The multi-level structure of Arctic governance: Arctic CouncilMaritime territorial disputes: Ice Cold War By the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, the Arctic does not approve the sovereignty of the individual coastal states and only acknowledges the 200 nautical miles limit of the exclusive economic zone. However, if a state is able to prove that it is connected to the continental shelf of its own country, up to 350 nautical miles is approved, giving jurisdiction over oil, gas, and other minerals. (U.S.
Congress, 1994: Article 76) Therefore, as the political and economic value of the Arctic Ocean is rising due to climate change and technical developments, the geopolitical conflict between the Arctic countries is emerging in the form of continental shelf boundary settlement and territorial rights dispute. Particularly, as Russia planted their national flag on the seafloor at the North Pole in August 2007, the possibility of a new cold war arose, often referred to as the Ice Cold War. (Lovett, 2007) The competition for the continental shelf expansion became more concrete when the Russian government submitted a request to the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) to extend their 200 nautical mile limit in 2001. This was the first extension to be requested. In 2002, the UN did not approve the extension because of the lack of scientific evidence. (CLCS, 2009) As a result, Russia has been collecting geological evidence with their icebreakers to support that the Lomonosov Ridge and the Mendeleev Ridge are extensions of the Eurasian continent. (Zarakhovich, 2007) Norway also submitted a request for an extension of the continental shelf in 2006, and have proceeded through the CLCS process.
(Stephens and VanderZwaag, 2014) As a result, the competition for continental shelf expansion between the Arctic countries is intensifying and each countries are focusing on collected required data by the CLCS. Currently, the conflict between Denmark and Canada over the territorial sovereignty of the Hans Islands is ongoing. In 1973, Denmark and Canada signed an agreement that delimitates the continental shelf between Greenland and Canada and settled their territorial boundary, but their dispute over Hans Island has not been resolved.
Hans Island is a tiny island of 1.3 square kilometers, but it is geographically significant because it connects to the passage of the Northern Sea Route and determines the right to the oil reserves in the surrounding straits. This conflict is intensifying as Denmark conducted a military operation near Hans Island in 2005, planting a Danish flag along with schnapps, a Danish spirit. The Canadian petrols protested against it by planting a Canadian flag in place, and also leaving a Canadian Club.
A week later, as the Canadian Defense Minister Bill Graham visited the Hans Island in company with troops, and claimed that the island was a Canadian territory, the conflict between Denmark and Canada became a diplomatic dispute. In particular, Canada is especially strengthening its claim to Hans Island by referring to its significance in preserving Canada’s complete sovereignty over the Arctic islands. (Byers, 2014)Northern Sea Route The Northern Sea Route (NSR), originally owned and used solely by Russia, served as a transport route for the supply of natural resources to industrial and military areas in the North Pole. Since the 1970s, it was used as a supply route for the development of the Russian industrial area of petroleum gas. Therefore, Russia had forbidden other countries to use the NSR for security reasons. However, in 1987, Gorbachev declared the opening of the NSR through the Murmansk speech and in 1991, opened the NSR through the Regulations of Navigation on the Seaways of the Northern Sea Route. Today, the NSR is still under the Russian’s rule and is managed by the Russian Ministry of Transport since 2004. (Tolmatchev) The Arctic route is the shortest route between Northeast Asia and Europe, which reduces the navigational distance by about 40 percent compared to the existing route through the Suez Canal.
Fuel and navigation costs can be significantly reduced, even considering the deceleration due to the drifting ice. (Hong and Nuttall, 2014) In the case of Korea, the distance from Busan, the main port of Korea, to Port Rotterdam in the Netherlands is 7,000 kilometers shorter than the current route (20,000 kilometers) and can arrive ten days earlier in time. (Invest Korea) It is also expected that the distance from Busan to New York will be reduced by 5,000 kilometers from the current 18,000 kilometers, and the time will be reduced by 6 days. (Ju, 2013) Despite such economic benefits, few ships regularly crossed the NSR after its opening in 1991. Recently, however, due to melting of the ice caused by global warming, interest towards the possibility of shipping through the Arctic route is increasing.
In 2013, it was possible to sail in the Arctic ocean only for four months of the year. Now, it is expected to be able to sail all year round. (Marex, 2016) Especially after the first commercial operation of the German Beluga transit in 2009, usage of the NSR has been constantly rising. (Schøyen and Bråthen, 2010) As the usage of the NSR is increasing, problems related to the jurisdiction of the route are being raised.
Russia is claiming its formal jurisdiction over the Arctic route. Through the Regulations of Navigation on the Seaways of the NSR, Russia is regulating the navigation rules of foreign vessels and Russian vessels in the EEZ. (Tolmatchev) In other words, although Russia declared the opening of the Arctic route to foreign ships, in reality it still applies strict regulations.
Unlike most countries that more or less accept Russia’s jurisdiction over the NSR, the United States maintains its position against Russia over the legal issues of Arctic routes. They claim that the straits of the NSR are international straits in which ships of all nations should be able to freely transport through. The conflict between the United States and Russia has increased in 2009, when President Bush made a statement that a free passage system should be applied to the NSR, making efforts to strengthen the USA’s position in the Arctic Ocean. (Østreng, 2010)Resources Since 1970, Norway, Canada, Russia, and the United States have produced large quantities of oil and gas in their Arctic regions.
The access to the Arctic region is expanding due to the melting of the sea ice caused by global warming, and the price of oil is expected to continuously rise. (Keil and Knecht, 2016) According to the US Geological Survey, it is expected that the 13 percent of undiscovered oil, 30 percent of natural gas, and 20 percent of liquified natural gas are buried under the Arctic. The resources are mostly concentrated in a few areas in which 41 percent of the Arctic oil and 70 percent of the natural gas are buried under the Russian land. (Lindholt and Glomsrød, 2011) Thus, in 2010, Anatoly Perminov, general director of the Russian Federal Space Agency, announced that Russia will launch a satellite to manage the Arctic within three years. The priority of the satellites is to discover the oil and natural gas buried in the Arctic Ocean and protect the vessels navigating the sea. (Pettersen, 2010) This clearly shows that Russia is expressing its intention to strengthen its control over the Arctic region, including observation of all economic activities. IV.
New issues and international development cooperationAppearance of new Arctic governanceBarents Euro-Arctic Council: Horizontal expansion The Barents European Arctic Council (BEAC) was established in 1993 in Kirkenes, Norway. The BEAC is a regional cooperation between the EU and Russia that is mutually influential, and has a similar operating system to that of the Arctic Council. (“About Us”, BEAC) The BEAC has six countries in the Arctic region and the EU as its member states (Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Iceland, and Russia), and Canada, the United States, France, the Netherlands, Germany, Poland, the United Kingdom, Italy, and Japan are participating as observers. The BEAC is pursuing cooperation between regions and countries in various fields including indigenous people, infrastructure, trade and customs, culture, environment, tourism and energy.
Along with the forum for intergovernmental cooperation, the Barents Regional Council (BRC), which pursues cooperation among the 13 regions around the Barents Sea, is simultaneously operated. (Hasanat, 2010)Northern Forum: Vertical expansion The Northern Forum was first discussed in 1974 Japan, during a serious of international conferences on northern issues, but was suspended due to international political issues. It was formally established in 1991 as an intergovernmental forum involving Canada, Russia, Japan, Korea, Iceland, and so on. The purpose of the Northern Forum is to improve the quality of life of the people living in the Arctic Circle and to carry out research projects for the sustainable development of various fields such as economy, environment, community, and culture.
The Forum is ensuring that local and regional governments work closely together to resolve issued faced in the Arctic region. Thus, a number of non-regular partners are working together to respond to environmental and development issues to promote the power of the Arctic. The partners include NGOs, business partners, public interest groups and economic organizations. (Arctic Council, 2001)Expanding exchange with indigenous peoples The EU and the United States have recently announced various policies for expanding exchanges with the Arctic indigenous peoples.
Among the four million people currently living in the Arctic, the indigenous are 500,000, and they not only have the bargaining rights as Permanent Participants in the Arctic Council, but also have a powerful influence on the governments. Therefore, in order to improve a country’s influence in the Arctic, it is important to expand the exchange with the Arctic natives.The European Union The EU is currently participating in the Arctic Council as an observer.
It can only participate in meetings if invited by the board of directors, and are excluded from policy decisions. The EU strongly emphasized the role and participation of the indigenous people in its Communication of the Commission adopted in 2010. In particular, the ‘Arctic Dialogue Workshop’ was intended to provide a constructive communication between the indigenous peoples and stakeholders on the cooperation between the EU Commission and the Arctic natives. (U.S. Congress, 2012)The United States The United States also emphasizes the participation of Arctic indigenous groups in the local decision making process and holds it as one of the six Arctic policy goals. The 2009 Presidential Directive on the Arctic policies included that the Arctic Council is regarded as a forum for exchange with indigenous peoples.
By recognizing the opinions of the indigenous peoples as decision making factors, the United States is stating that it will strive for the sustainable development in the Arctic region to promote economic and energy security. (International Security, 2016) V. Conclusion The melting of the Arctic sea ice has heightened the strategic importance and international interest of the Arctic. As these climate and nature changes affect beyond the immediate impact on the Arctic coastal states and indigenous peoples to the entire world, the issue of development and environment of the Arctic is a world challenge. However, as seen through this paper, the governance of the Arctic still exists as an exclusive system centered on the Arctic Council and the development cooperation system of the Arctic is based on the bilateral consensus among the countries. Therefore, it is necessary to change from the current Arctic governance structure to the comprehensive and open governance system that participates even the observer states in the environmental and development issues, focusing on the sustainable development of the Arctic Ocean beyond individual countries.
Interest in the Arctic is rapidly increasing in Korea to secure resources and shipping routes. However, Korea’s interest is still limited to the expectation of the economic values of sea transport and resources. It is clearly a positive signal that Korea, at the Arctic Council meeting in 2013, has been unanimously approved as a formal observer and has gained the opportunity to attend the Arctic Council meetings and present our position. However, it should be made clear that acquiring the observer status of the Arctic Council does not necessarily mean that we have a stronger right to say over the sovereignty and jurisdiction. Only when Korea enjoys the rights entrusted with responsibilities as a formal observer can it be a true friend to the Arctic indigenous peoples, and the economic effect in the Arctic can be positively expected.