Arctic Connectivity for Sustainable Development: Major Actors, Policies, and Approaches

Arctic Connectivity for Sustainable Development: Major Actors, Policies, and Approaches

Vasilii Erokhin (Harbin Engineering University, China)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-6954-1.ch002


The Arctic possesses about one-quarter of the world's untapped energy resources and abundant deposits of minerals. The region has always been in the focus of geopolitical interests of the USA, Russia, countries of Northern Europe, and Canada. However, with an opening of the previously ice-jammed waterways, new potential sites with vast resources have been identified and explored. Diversified transportation routes are of paramount importance to the economic and energy security of energy importing countries, particularly non-Arctic ones. As the Arctic becomes a focus of interest of many regional and non-regional actors, it is crucial to identify the dangers such a boom may bring. This chapter reviews the history of the Arctic policies of major actors in the region, overviews the contemporary approaches to the development of the Arctic, and discusses how varying interests and policies can be translated into the effective international regulations for the benefit of the entire Arctic region, its people, environment, and sustainable development.
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The Arctic’s total land area consists of the northernmost territories of the eight Arctic states: Canada, Finland, Greenland (an autonomous territory under Denmark), Iceland, Norway Russia, Sweden, and the United States. Russia and Canada account for nearly 80% of the land; countries of Northern Europe – 16%; and the United States – 4%. The Arctic Ocean occupies about one-third of the region (Figure 1).

Figure 1.

Arctic territories of the eight Nordic countries


Institutional framework for international collaboration in the Arctic consists of two interrelated organizational clusters: sub-regional and international. The former one comprises a network of intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations oriented on the development of integration and expansion of transborder collaboration in Northern Europe. The international cluster is an integrity of international bodies involved in the collaboration on the global problems of the Arctic zone. The cluster has two core organizational centers: the Arctic Council and the Nordic Council.

The Nordic Council is a geo-political inter-parliamentary forum for cooperation between Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden (Figure 2).

The five countries as well as the Faroe Islands, Greenland, and the Aland Islands collaborate in the spheres of environmental protection, ensurance of sustainable development, rational use of natural resources, and promotion of economic cooperation between countries. The Council does not have any formal power on its own and provides recommendations, suggestions, and declarations to the governments of the member countries (or one particular country) or to the Nordic Council of Ministers (intergovernmental body for the coordination of Nordic collaboration). Following on from the recommendations, each government is free to implement any decisions through its national legislature.

The Arctic Council is an intergovernmental forum of eight countries with circumpolar territories under their jurisdiction: Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the United States. Observer status in the Arctic Council is open to non-Arctic states, along with inter-governmental, inter-parliamentary, global, regional, and non-governmental organizations. So far, thirteen non-Arctic states have been approved as observers to the Arctic Council: China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Spain, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom (Figure 3).

Figure 3.

Arctic Council: member states and observers


Key Terms in this Chapter

Nordic Council: A geo-political inter-parliamentary forum for cooperation between five Nordic countries (i.e., Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden).

International Collaboration in the Arctic: A system of bilateral and multilateral relations between various actors (countries, intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations, and international bodies) in the Arctic involved in the collaboration on the global problems of the Arctic zone. Major spheres of collaboration include sustainable development, security, environmental protection, research, regional development, infrastructure, transport and shipping, economic development and extraction of natural resources, fishing, and tourism.

Arctic Council: A high-level intergovernmental forum comprised of eight countries with sovereignty over the lands within the Arctic Circle (i.e., Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the USA).

Northern Sea Route: A historical Russia’s national transport route running in the polar waters through the Kara, Laptev, East Siberian, and Chukchi seas.

Arctic Countries: Eight member countries of the Arctic Council (Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the United States) which possess territories in the High North within the Arctic Circle, have strategic interests in the Arctic, and elaborated strategies for the development of the region.

Non-Arctic Countries: The countries geographically located apart from the Arctic region, but those that consider the Arctic as a region of their strategic interests and assert that their participation in international cooperation in the Arctic is as useful as it is warranted and legitimate. Most of them are now observers in the Arctic Council.

United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea: A fundamental framework for the governance of Arctic marine navigation, transportation, and logistics. It defines the rights and responsibilities of nations with respect to their use of the world's oceans, establishing guidelines for businesses, environment, and management of marine natural resources.

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