Political Stability and Multi-Level Governance in the Arctic

In P.A. Berkman and A.N. Vylegzhanin (eds), Environmental Security in the Arctic Ocean. Berlin, Springer, 2013, pp. 297-312.

This chapter examines the interplay between regional institutions for governing the Arctic and broader institutions applicable there and elsewhere. Despite rapid environmental change in the Arctic, political stability remains high. One reason is that Arctic states have relatively few unsettled maritime boundary issues and manage the remaining ones in a cooperative manner. Another reason is that an international legal framework exists for governing economic use of the region. The framework is based on global, customary international law codified in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and obliges states to respond individually and jointly to the new challenges deriving from increasing economic activities. The chapter then examines the adequacy of regional means for strengthening the Arctic governance system, and finds that regional institutions like the Arctic Council have only partial roles to play – the Arctic Ocean needs multilevel governance. The fact that Arctic environmental challenges cannot be addressed without significant contributions from broader or global institutions raises the question of how the Arctic Council should deal with certain non-Arctic states wishing to participate in Council work. Important governance functions like generating knowledge on environmental risks and response options, obtaining Arctic-sensitive regulations in broader international fora, and mobilizing resources and legal competence to support rule implementation stand to benefit from greater involvement of other interested states. Providing effective and legitimate governance is the best basis for ensuring political stability in the Arctic.