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Colloquium Brief: Kingston Conference on International Security (KCIS-2011): The Changing Arctic: Sovereignty, Resources, and Security

August 26, 2011 | Dru Lauzon

A Partnership Between
   Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College,
      Centre for International and Defence Policy, Queen's University,
         Chair of Defence Management Studies, Queen's University, and
            Land Force Doctrine and Training System of the Canadian Forces

Key Insights.

  • The threat of military conflict in the Arctic is low, while the challenges associated with resource management, conducting search and rescue operations, and illegal activities represent issues of concern to all states with interests in the region.
  • The principal security issue that will concern Arctic states in the coming years will arise from conflicting maritime claims, and these challenges will only become more acute as climatic changes make the region more accessible to outside influence.
  • Given the large quantities of unexploited natural resources in the North, the question at this point is not whether development will occur, but the form which that development will take. It is therefore important that local communities are closely involved in the development process in order to control the impact of commercial activities on their communities.
  • A key element of future strategies for the development of the North must include the fostering of a renewed partnership between national governments and various nonstate actors, as this will allow for a more effective allocation of both human and institutional expertise.


Kingston LogoThe sixth annual Kingston Conference on International Security (KCIS-2011), on “The Changing Arctic: Sovereignty, Resources, and Security,” was held June 13-15, 2011, in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. The conference was organized by the Centre for International and Defence Policy, Queen's University; and the Chair of Defence Management Studies, School of Policy Studies, Queen's University; the Strategic Studies Institute (SSI) of the U.S. Army War College; and the Land Force Doctrine and Training System of the Canadian Forces. It was designed to outline strategies for coping with the rapid climatic changes that have taken place in the Arctic in recent years, and to discuss both the challenges and the opportunities that will arise as a result of the opening of this vast region to more intensive research and development. This conference was attended by more than 200 government officials, experts from universities and think tanks, and U.S. and Canadian military personnel; it featured a wide range of presentations that sought to outline the factors that will shape the interaction of key stakeholders in the Arctic in the years to come.

Landforce logoTraditionally, the Arctic has been relatively isolated from the various countries that own Arctic lands. Harsh climatic conditions make it difficult to access the vast reserves of oil and gas that lie under its frozen oceans. However, for a variety of reasons, this period of isolation is drawing to a close. The rapid warming of the North has sparked renewed interest in the region, and has touched off a debate on how best to manage an area that has long had only sparse large-scale commercial activity. Previously closed waterways, such as the Northwest Passage (NWP), have become less ice-covered and may soon become viable routes for commercial shipping, while fish stocks now rendered inaccessible may soon be harvested by commercial fishing fleets. States along the periphery of this region have taken note of these developments and have instituted a variety of measures in response. Yet, as the geopolitical importance of the Arctic increases, difficult questions have come to the fore. How should this vast region be managed? While many states have extensive territorial claims in the Arctic, considerable debate still exists about the basis on which these claims rest. Are straits such as the Northwest Passage and the Northern Sea Route (NSR) international waterways, or do they fall under the jurisdiction of national governments? Can new resources be tapped in a manner that does not irreparably damage the ecosystem of this fragile environment, or negatively impact the flora and fauna Defense Management Studies logothat is already struggling to adapt to an environment that is undergoing rapid change? Should the governance of the Arctic be dictated by national preferences, or should multilateral regimes such as the Arctic Council play a role? Perhaps most importantly, what is the most effective way to ensure that the indigenous inhabitants of this region benefit from the exploitation of resources located in their traditional lands? It was the aim of KCIS-2011 to explore these questions in greater detail, and suggest a way forward in a region that will undergo rapid and irreversible changes in the coming decades. As the importance of the North will only increase in the coming years, this conference represented a valuable opportunity to discuss Arctic policy with a range of experts, observers, and stakeholders, both from the region and beyond.

The Keynote Addresses.

While the bulk of KCIS-2011 was dedicated to a series of discussion panels, there were a number of keynote speakers that addressed particular topics related to the opening of the Arctic. The keynote speakers included: (1) Tony Penikett, head of Penikett Negotiations and former Premier of the Yukon; (2) Commodore John Newton of the Maritime Staff of the Canadian Forces; (3) Rear Admiral David Titley, Oceanographer of the Navy for the United States Navy (USN), whose address was entitled “Arctic Security and the U.S. Navy”; and, (4) Prof. Lawson Brigham of the University of Alaska, whose keynote was entitled “Uncertainties, Scenarios and Wild Cards: AMSA and Plausible Futures for Arctic Ocean Use.”

In contrast to the other keynote speakers, Mr. Penikett did not address the issue of Arctic security from an operational standpoint. Instead, he sought to outline the profound changes that have taken place in the Arctic, and highlight the opportunities that these transformations have provided to stakeholders in the region. Drawing on his extensive experience in the North, Penikett presented a narrative that underscored the evolutionary nature of Arctic policy in areas as diverse as governance, climate, law, institutions, and identity. In little more than 2 decades, the North has been transformed from an isolated region that was inaccessible for much of the year to a place of great opportunity and increasing importance, most notably for its natural resources. Previously dispossessed peoples, such as the Inuit, have been accorded greater control of their own lives, while multilateral organizations have been crafted to provide a forum for contentious issues. Even the nature of the threat to the North has changed in recent years; from a Cold War-era focus on security to the contemporary concerns regarding threats resulting from climate change. Nevertheless, while Penikett believed that these changes were largely positive, his presentation also underscored the need for further action, particularly in the area of native governance. Recent multilateral initiatives have excluded stakeholders in the Inuit community, and not all of the agreements made between aboriginal groups and national governments have been honored. As a consequence, further steps must be taken to empower local stakeholders to ensure that the development process addresses the needs of Northern communities, as well as those of national governments.

While the first speaker drew upon his experience as a politician and advocate to discuss the factors that have driven evolution in the North, the next two speakers approached the issue of Arctic security from the perspective of military operations in the region. For Commodore Newton, there is no doubt that climatic changes in the Arctic will make that region more attractive to the states on its periphery, with engagement being driven by a combination of economic growth, technological innovation, and increased capabilities that allow for a more expansive presence in the North. However, while a number of “push” factors exist, the extent to which states can operate in the High North will remain limited by a range of variables, the most important of which include the vast distances involved, a climate that is still relatively inhospitable, and the costs associated with developing appropriate capabilities for the region. For Canada, an enhanced presence in the Arctic will necessitate investment in maritime assets capable of coping with its harsh environment, particularly if the opening of the NWP results in increased shipping in Northern latitudes.

Moreover, as Rear Admiral Titley pointed out, it will also require the creation of new initiatives that are capable of addressing the increasing strategic importance of this region. Speaking on behalf of the U.S. Navy, Titley sought to highlight the challenges inherent in conducting military deployments in the North, while at the same time outlining America's strategy for dealing with the constraints imposed by the Arctic weather and geography. Indeed, as a leading figure on America's “Task Force Climate Change,” Titley was deeply familiar with the factors that shape U.S. policy in the Arctic Ocean. He divided American priorities in the region into short-term goals, such as fostering partnership opportunities with other Arctic nations, and medium-term objectives, including the ability to provide humanitarian assistance in response to natural disasters in the region. Like Newton, Titley argued that traditional security concerns are unlikely to dictate the relationship between stakeholders in the region, and stressed the value of multilateral agreements for resolving outstanding issues between Arctic nations. As a result, the principal aim of America's Arctic policy is to contribute to regional stability and ensure that U.S. interests and infrastructure are safeguarded, a goal that it has in common with its Canadian neighbor.

While the first presenter put forward a roadmap for increased consultation with local stakeholders and the second and third speakers addressed the logistical aspects of Arctic operations, the final keynote address was concerned with the development of institutional assets for Northern governance. For Professor Brigham, the question of whether the Arctic Council can construct a viable regulatory regime for the North depends on a number of factors, which in turn were laid out in the Arctic Maritime Shipping Assessment (AMSA). Commissioned by the Arctic nations, AMSA explored different scenarios for Northern development, ranging from investment flooding into the region in a “gold rush” atmosphere of minimal regulation and limited governance, to the creation of a “polar preserve” that emphasizes the protection of existing ways of life. It is interesting to note that Brigham believed that climate change would not be the only factor dictating policy outcomes in the North; issues such as concerns over sustainability, the price of oil and natural gas, the expansion of eco-tourism, and the evolution of new technologies would also shape the nature and scope of development in the region. While it is clear that the Arctic will play an increasingly important role in the global economy in the coming decades, its potential for economic exploitation remains linked to a number of factors beyond the simple fact that Northern latitudes are getting warmer. The question, therefore, is whether the Arctic Council can provide the necessary structure to ensure that the Arctic is developed in a reasoned and sustainable fashion, even as factors that extend well beyond the region shape the kind of development that is taking place.

While each of the keynote speakers emphasized a different facet of Arctic engagement, the common theme in each of the presentations lies in the shared belief that profound changes are taking place in the region. Whether in the area of aboriginal governance, the deployment of resources, or the construction of durable multilateral regimes, the manner in which Northern states operate in the Arctic is rapidly evolving as climatic conditions become less of a deterrent to the development of economic and military assets. While the region is unlikely to witness a considerable increase in commercial shipping before 2030, countries with claims to territory in the Arctic have already begun to contemplate the most effective approach to safeguarding their national interests in the North. From a security perspective, the threat of conflict in the Arctic remains slight and, as a result, multilateral engagement has been the preferred method for resolving disputes among states in the region. At the same time, the countries involved with Arctic development have stressed the importance of human security and the need to ensure that the inhabitants of the region benefit from any economic growth that occurs as a result of the intensified interest in the region. As a result, both military and civil officials have stressed the need for an enhanced dialogue with Northern communities, as well as with other actors at both the state and sub-national levels. By doing so, Arctic countries hope to ensure that the opening of the Arctic remains a relatively harmonious process and one that is marked by cooperation rather than conflict.

Panel I: Conflict and Cooperation: The Geo-Politics of the Arctic.

The first panel addressed the nature of the cooperation that is taking place in the Arctic, as well as the factors that shape how states interact in the region. Panel members and their presentations included: (1) Professor Stéphane Roussel of l'Université du Québec à Montréal, “Geopolitics of the Arctic: Competing Models of Governance”; (2) Caitlyn Antrim of the U.S. Rule of Law Committee for the Oceans, “Sovereignty, Prosperity and Cooperation in the Anti-Meridianal Arctic”; and, (3) Dr. Suzanne Lalonde of l'Université de Montréal, “International Law: A Stabilizing Force in the Arctic?”

For the first two panelists, the combination of short- and long-term objectives shared by the principal actors in the Arctic makes multilateral cooperation an attractive alternative to other forms of behavior. For Roussel, security in the Arctic is indivisible, meaning that the benefits derived from cooperation by one state cannot be separated from those gained by all of the actors present in the region. The threat of military conflict is low, while the challenges associated with limiting pollution, conducting search and rescue operations, and preventing infiltration by terrorists or organized crime elements embody issues of concern to all states with interests in the North. As a result, Roussel argued that the multilateral forum provided by the Arctic Council represents the future of cooperation in the region, despite its lack of a military component. Although bilateral arrangements, such as a more expansive NORAD, may supplement the role played by the Arctic Council, the need for an inclusive organization was emphasized, as this will ensure that the perspectives of a diverse collection of stakeholders are taken into consideration during the policy formation process.

Antrim's presentation reinforced this line of argument, although she argued that future cooperation may take on a bilateral, or even a trilateral, character if states elect to pursue their goals outside of existing regimes. By comparing the Arctic security strategies of Canada, the United States, and Russia, Antrim demonstrated that each of these states possess very similar objectives in the Arctic, even if outstanding conflicts do exist between the three. Each state has emphasized the importance of sovereignty, environmental sustainability, and economic development in their Arctic policies, and agree that there is minimal risks associated with military conflict. Like Roussel, Antrim contended that the potential for collaboration existed in a number of fields, including the policing of coastal waters, the management of fisheries, and environmental protection, but she was less convinced that the Arctic Council would be the principal venue used to resolve these issues.

While Roussel and Antrim emphasized the benefits inherent in multilateral cooperation in the North, Lalonde's presentation exposed the shortcomings of the legal framework that forms the basis for cooperation in the region, an issue that has proven particularly problematic in the adjudication of territorial claims. Although most stakeholders in the Arctic have pledged to abide by existing laws regarding the demarcation of territorial waters, there is still confusion over what legal rules should be applied when a claim is made. Different states apply different standards when claiming portions of the continental shelf, and this has led to a fragmented legal regime that encourages conflicting claims across the expanse of the Arctic Ocean. According to Lalonde, the piecemeal approach that is currently driving the formation of international law has failed to address these concerns, creating the need for a shift toward a more comprehensive legal regime in the North. In the absence of such a regime, national jurisdiction over territorial waters will continue to be disputed — which will, in turn, make it more difficult to properly manage the development of the Arctic in a sustainable way. It is therefore necessary to augment existing legal frameworks in the coming years, as this will result in a common definition of what constitutes territorial waters that can be applied to the claims made by states in the Arctic Ocean.

A common theme in each presentation was the conviction that multilateralism would form the basis of future interstate cooperation in the High North. For Roussel and Antrim, the priorities of states in the region were largely confined to ensuring human security, encouraging economic development, and protecting the environment (as well as local communities) from both natural and manmade disasters. Since the challenges facing states in this region are too large to tackle alone, there will be a need for cooperation between all of the countries that border the Arctic, whether, as Roussel suggests, through existing international organizations or, as Antrim contends, on a bi- or trilateral basis. The key point is that states cannot resolve these challenges alone and, as such, some degree of cooperation is inevitable, even if, as Lalonde observes, the legal regime that will form the basis for that cooperation remains incomplete.

Panel II: Sovereignty: Borders and Security.

Expanding on the first panel's themes, the second group of presenters discussed the issue of borders and security in the Arctic region, with an emphasis on the military aspect of national security. Panel members and their presentations included: (1) Dr. Rob Huebert of the University of Calgary, “The Resolution of Boundary Issues in the Arctic Is only the Beginning...”; (2) Dr. Pavel Baev of the International Peace Research Institute in Oslo, “Arctic Realpolitick Russian-style: Sovereignty Matters”; (3) Niklas Granholm of the Swedish Defence Research Agency, “Sovereignty, Borders and Security in a New Arctic”; and, (4) Dr. Lassi Heininen from the University of Lapland in Finland, “Changes on Northern Geopolitics: From Frontier (of Confrontation) to Region of Peace.”

While he did not downplay the hard power component of sovereignty in the High North, Rob Huebert argued that the challenges facing states in the region extended well beyond the issue of national boundaries. According to this perspective, the principal issue that will concern Arctic states in the coming years will arise from conflicting maritime claims, and these challenges will only become more acute as climatic changes make the region more accessible to outside influence. Existing disagreements regarding the status of the NWP or the NSR remain unsettled, and actors that have traditionally had little influence in the region, such as the European Union, are developing a stake in the resolution of these questions. Other outstanding issues include the status of Hans Island, claimed by both Denmark and Canada; the Canadian-American boundary in the Beaufort Sea; and the extent of national jurisdiction over the continental shelf. The resulting debate will soon evolve from one primarily concerned with national boundaries, which has been the main focus of Canadian policy, to a wider discussion of the rights and responsibilities of states in the Arctic Ocean as a whole. The resolution of these disputes is closely linked to a range of factors, including fishing rights, native land claims, and law enforcement, and Huebert believes that this will require an examination of topics that extend well beyond the question of who owns what in the North.

Unlike Huebert, who placed a particular emphasis on the challenges facing Canada in the North, Pavel Baev was primarily concerned with the factors that drive Russian attitudes toward the High North. For Baev, Moscow's approach toward its Arctic territories has been inconsistent since the end of the Cold War, oscillating between confrontation, cooperation, and indifference. Early efforts to challenge the claims made by Western countries with invasive flyovers and other provocative gestures soon gave way to a conciliatory attitude after post-Soviet cuts in military spending underscored the limits of Russia's capabilities in the region. After the difficulties inherent in extracting Arctic resources became obvious, Moscow shifted toward an attitude of indifference that has only now begun to reverse following Vladimir Putin's decision to publicly champion Northern development. Baev believes that Russian attitudes toward the Arctic can be influenced to an extent by outside actors, provided that countries such as Canada and the U.S. are willing to address Russian concerns regarding the role of NATO in the region and to resolve some of their own outstanding disputes. Nevertheless, Baev emphasized that Russia's attitude toward the Arctic is still largely a product of its domestic politics. Outside actors may be able to shape Moscow's attitude toward international cooperation by adopting certain policies, but the Russian stance on Arctic issues will still be shaped by factors that originate within that state, rather than outside it.

Having discussed the security concerns of Canada, the U.S., and Russia, the panel then shifted to an examination of the challenges facing Nordic countries in the Arctic, with a particular emphasis on the Swedish perspective. Like the other presenters, Niklas Granholm believes that the risk of military conflict in the Arctic is slight. However, he also observed that states in the region are enhancing their military capabilities to allow them to project force more effectively in the Arctic Ocean. Although this trend is most pronounced in the case of Russia, all the Nordic states except Iceland have been boosting their capacities in the region, as well as developing security strategies that place a renewed emphasis on the Arctic as a whole. In Granholm's opinion, this new interest in the Arctic is indicative of the greater importance the region will have in the coming decades, which means that issues affecting security in the North can no longer be considered in isolation. While multilateral regimes such as the Arctic Council and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) traditionally have been used to resolve disputes as they arise, the concern is that these frameworks will become overburdened and weaken over time as additional challenges arise that are beyond the scope of existing agreements. In particular, the limited mandate of the Arctic Council means that no venue exists to discuss security concerns among states in the region, although Granholm maintained that even if friction between states becomes more acute, it is unlikely to lead armed conflict.

In contrast to the other members of the panel, Lassi Heininen focused less on the threat of conflict in the Arctic and more on the likelihood of peaceful interaction between states in the region. For Heininen, the post-Cold War period has witnessed a number of positive trends in the Arctic, including increasing levels of cooperation between aboriginal organizations and various levels of government, the construction of regional organizations and the development of a more intensive relationship between the North and the outside world. Heininen believes that this increased interest is driven by factors related to globalization, and that it has taken the form of multilateral cooperation rather than military conflict. He traces this shift from the conciliatory stance toward Arctic development put forward by Mikhail Gorbachev in the final years of the Soviet Union, and argues that it has laid the basis for a “zone of peace” in the North. As a result, the emphasis of Heininen's presentation was on the potential for increased cooperation in the region, rather than the likelihood of competition between rival states. The core of his argument was that the problems facing states in the Arctic necessitate a multilateral solution rather than a national one, a position that is consistent with the claims made by a number of other presenters.

While all of the presenters conceded that the likelihood of open military conflict in the Arctic was remote, there were concerns regarding the conflicting claims of states in the region. For Huebert, boundary issues were only the first in a series of issues that will have to be resolved in the coming years, ranging from the status of the NWP and the NSR to the extent of Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) in the Arctic Ocean. Baev pointed out that Russian engagement in the Arctic is the product of a complex series of factors, many of which are unique to Russia and its tenuous geopolitical position. Granholm's observation that Arctic states are boosting their military capabilities in the region provided added emphasis to these concerns, even if the panelists agreed that armed conflict in the region remains unlikely. In that sense, Heininen's predication that the Arctic would remain a “zone of peace” characterized by multilateralism and nonviolent conflict resolution represented the most optimistic assessment of the future of Arctic policy, even if certain aspects of his position were embraced by all four presenters.

Panel III: The Rush for Resources: Costs and Benefits.

The third panel addressed the issue of resource extraction in the Arctic, and explored the effects that economic developments are likely to have on an already fragile environment. Panel members and their topics included: (1) Mr. Peter Slaiby from Shell Oil Alaska Venture, “Shell and Its Energy Future in the Arctic: Past and Present”; (2) Professor Marianne Douglas from the Canadian Circumpolar Institute at the University of Alberta, “The Rush for Resources: Did Berger and Norway Get It Right?” and, (3) Captain James Fisher from the Office of Emerging Policy of the United States Coast Guard (USCG), discussed the role played by the USCG in facilitating commercial and noncommercial shipping in the High North.

Peter Slaiby discussed economic development in the Arctic from the perspective of the private sector. As vice-president of Shell's Alaska Venture, Slaiby was intimately familiar with the difficulties associated with economic investment in the High North, and much of his presentation was devoted to outlining the challenges that corporations faced when operating in such a forbidding environment. Although a number of themes were addressed, the two most important concerned the need to establish a strong working relationship with local communities and the scale of the investment required to operate in a region with minimal infrastructure. Since so many of the considerable oil and gas deposits in the High North cannot be accessed without the cooperation of local groups, Slaiby argued that corporations must engage in a sustained effort to minimize the impact of their operations on traditional ways of life. For Shell, this has meant limiting development in environmentally sensitive areas and focusing on accommodation, rather than confrontation, with Northern communities. At the same time, the limited infrastructure present in the Arctic has forced companies such as Shell to dedicate considerable assets to crisis response tasks, since many national governments lack the capabilities to rapidly react to natural or manmade disasters in such a remote region. The general theme of this presentation concerned the need for a sustainable approach to development, with the caveat that increasing demographic, economic, and energy pressures will lead to some degree of resource extraction in the Arctic regardless of other factors.

While Slaiby approached the issue of resource extraction from the perspective of the oil industry, Marianne Douglas's presentation was more concerned with the ramifications that Northern development will have on those inhabiting the region. As a researcher studying climate change in the Arctic, Douglas sought to demonstrate the effects of rapid warming on the biosphere of the High North. In particular, she felt that there was a need for further research into the biology of the Arctic Ocean, since the effect of development on this relatively pristine ecosystem is still not fully understood. Of course, Douglas stressed that she was not arguing that development should not take place, on the contrary, she remained convinced that the wealth of resources in the Arctic means that exploitation will occur and, that at this point, the concern should be to ensure that development is both sustainable and beneficial to the local communities in the region. To illustrate this point, she contrasted the regulatory regime adopted by Norway with those of Canada and Australia, with the former being lauded as an example of transparency and accountability, and the latter two falling short in those areas. Overall, Douglas shared Slaiby's concern with involving local stakeholders in the development process in order to mitigate the effects extensive economic development will have on traditional ways of life in the region.

While the first two presenters focused on the nature and scope of the commercial activity that is projected to take place in the Arctic, Captain James Fisher sought to outline the difficulties associated with providing services in such a vast and remote region. Like previous presenters, Fisher highlighted the need for sustainable development in the North, as well as the increased maritime traffic that is expected in the Arctic Ocean in the coming decades. However, he also observed that while the Arctic region constitutes an area of intense interest for nations such as Russia and Canada, the United States does not attach the same degree of importance to its operations in the North. Despite its mandate to monitor and protect coastal waters, the USCG lacks the capabilities to respond quickly to disasters in the region. This issue is of particular concern in light of BP's Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, though Alaskan coastal drilling would be in shallower waters. Fisher noted that ships often fail to notify the proper authorities when transiting waterways such as the NWP, while the lack of infrastructure makes it difficult to deploy resources effectively in the High North. In order to address these shortcomings, there is a need for enhanced cooperation between states in the region, a theme that was echoed in a number of other presentations.

Although each of the presenters emphasized a different aspect of resource extraction in the Arctic, there was agreement that some form of development in the region was inevitable. Given the quantities of natural resources in the North, the question at this point is not whether development will occur, but the form which that development will take. As a result, all of the panelists emphasized the need to involve local communities in the development process, both to ensure that the concerns of these groups are addressed but also to guarantee that these communities obtain some of the benefits that are derived from the extraction of local resources. Operating in such a harsh environment poses serious logistical challenges for both public and private stakeholders, and there was consensus on the need for enhanced dialogue between government and business leaders, as well as with local stakeholders affected by the influx of new actors into the region. Such dialogue would address such important issues as cost sharing, rational redundancy, procedural interface maturity, and burden sharing, all while keeping in mind the principals of economic justice and cultural sensitivity.

Panel IV: Stepping into the Future.

The fourth panel looked ahead to issues that may arise in this region in the coming decades. Panel members and their presentations included: (1) Professor Peter J. V. C. De Groot from Queen's University, “Polar Bears and Sovereignty: A Case Study of a Unique Research and Military Collaboration”; (2) Dr. Andrea Charron from Carleton University, “2013 and Beyond: North America and the Arctic Council”; and, (3) Udloriak Hanson from the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, “Sovereignty, Resource Development and Security: An Inuit Perspective.”

Approaching the issue of enhanced cooperation between scientists and governments from the perspective of a researcher engaged in the study of local wildlife, Peter De Groot sought to demonstrate the advantages that could be gained from collaboration with actors at both the local and the state level. He outlined the research that he has conducted in the High North, which revolved around tracking the size, range, and selected behaviors of the polar bear population in a portion of Canada's Nunavut territory. While the challenges associated with climate and distance posed serious obstacles to research in this area, De Groot's research was made possible with the assistance of the Canadian Rangers, a reserve component of the Canadian Forces drawn from local communities. With funding provided by the Canadian Federal Government, De Groot was able to develop a more effective method for tracking the polar bear population in region, an effort that was facilitated by the expertise of the local Ranger detachments. His presentation underscored the value of local knowledge in conducting research in the Arctic, as well as the manner in which public-private partnerships can facilitate work in this area. In that sense, his experience may serve as a template for future initiatives of this nature, as it constituted a successful effort to conduct scientific research using resources provided by various levels of government.

While De Groot provided insight into the interplay between government and public institutions on the local level, Charron outlined the factors that she believes will shape multilateral cooperation in the years to come. For Charron, the Arctic Council will continue to represent the most viable regime for Arctic governance for the foreseeable future. However, while this organization has certain strengths, not least its emphasis on regulatory rather than military matters, it also has a number of flaws. In contrast to more visible organizations such as the UN or the EU, the Arctic Council lacks a public image, and is essentially unknown among the population at large. In addition, it suffers from a lack of funding, and the frequent turnover of personnel has resulted in an uncertain structure that has hindered the development of an institutional memory. Accordingly, Charron argues that an effort must be made to correct these shortcomings, which she believes could be accomplished if Canada and the U.S. were willing to dedicate their upcoming presidencies of the Council to the resolution of these issues. If they did so, she argues, it should be possible to construct a stronger multilateral regime in the region, which will in turn facilitate multilateral governance in the Arctic in decades to come.

Udloriak Hanson provided the wrap-up to KCIS-2011 by outlining the Inuit position on Northern development. Above all, Hanson highlighted the need for human security to flow from economic development in the Arctic. In this vein, she put forward a number of recommendations that she believed should guide development in the North. These included recognizing the centrality of Inuit land use in the Arctic, the development of a sustained partnership between aboriginal communities and the Canadian government to formulate policy in the Arctic, an emphasis on following through on existing agreements, and a focus on social development to enhance Canadian legitimacy in its Northern territories. In addition, Hanson called for a national framework to implement the international agreements of which Canada is a signatory, and asserted that “sovereignty begins at home,” meaning that a country that seeks to enhance its influence in the Arctic must be willing to foster development in its Northern territories. Hanson's presentation underscored the importance of indigenous groups to policymaking in the Arctic, since the resources that will drive development in the region are present on land traditionally occupied by these groups. As a result, the perspectives of these groups should be taken into account when issues related to the Arctic are discussed, but as a partner in the process rather than as observers. Although the primary concerns of these groups relate to issues of social development, as opposed to the traditional focus on military security, local communities should play a role in the policy formation process in order to ensure that they benefit from extraction of resources on their lands.

Although the presentations on this panel discussed issues as divergent as scientific exploration, multilateral governance, and human security, the common theme shared by all three concerned the need for improved dialogue between various stakeholders in the Arctic. For De Groot, his scientific research would not have been possible without the support of various levels of government, while for Charron, the Arctic Council cannot reach its full potential as a multilateral regime in the absence of a renewed commitment on the part of national governments. At the same time, the bulk of Hanson's presentation was devoted to demonstrating the need for increased consultation with local communities to ensure that groups such as the Inuit are accorded a role in the policymaking process in the Arctic. In the absence of these initiatives, progress on the local, regional, and national level will be hindered, and the voices of local stakeholders will go unheard. As a consequence, one key element of future strategies for the North should include the development of a renewed partnership between government and various nonstate actors in the region, as this will allow for a more effective allocation of both human and institutional expertise.

Conclusions: The Future of Arctic Security.

The Arctic is a region of vast potential and its strategic and economic importance will only increase in the coming decades. Whether in the area of commercial shipping, resource extraction, or the development of new fisheries, the warming of the North will result in substantial economic opportunities for all of the states on its periphery and for some that are more distant. However, while the changes that are occurring in the Arctic will prove beneficial for many regional actors, significant challenges must be overcome to ensure that development in the North takes place in a reasoned and sustainable manner. In his closing remarks, Professor Douglas Lovelace, Director of the Strategic Studies Institute, identified several common themes that emerged in the presentations at KCIS-2011. The first theme concerned the scale and scope of the changes that are taking place in the North. In a matter of decades, the opening of previously closed waterways such as the NWP have the potential to revolutionize commercial shipping routes, with the resulting challenges associated with providing services in such a remote region of the globe. The second theme concerned the nature of state interaction in the Arctic, which has thus far been marked by cooperation rather than conflict, with multilateral solutions proving to be the rule, rather than the exception, in the resolution of outstanding disputes. The third theme was the belief that Northern development is inevitable — the question facing policymakers is not whether development will take place, but the kind of development that states should seek to foster in the coming years. The final theme concerned the need for an enhanced dialogue between stakeholders in the region, to ensure that local communities are not negatively impacted by the intensified exploitation of Arctic resources.

Taken together, these observations provide insight into the future course of Arctic policy, which is likely to be dictated as much by factors outside of the North as those unique to it. As the need to resolve these issues will only become more essential as new innovations drive investment and development in the Arctic, KCIS-2011 provided a timely and relevant examination of the factors that will shape national policies in the North, and offered a glimpse into the future of a region currently undergoing a period of profound and irrevocable change.


The views expressed in this brief are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government. This colloquium brief is cleared for public release; distribution is unlimited.


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