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The Arctic in Play: Governance in a Time of Rapid Change

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The current wave of interest in Arctic affairs has struck with startling speed and remarkable force. Fueled by the writings of pundits asking provocative questions (e.g., “who owns the Arctic?”), this wave has now captured the attention of policymakers and begun to trigger policy responses (e.g., the May 2008 Ilulissat Declaration from the five Arctic coastal states). This article examines these developments from the perspective of governance, raising questions about underlying drivers, the identity of relevant stakeholders, the framing of issues for consideration in policy settings, and the extent to which a new regime for the Arctic Ocean or an even more ambitious legally binding convention or treaty for the whole Arctic region is needed. The general conclusion is that many proposals on offer in this realm are simplistic but that there is a strong case for taking a number of pragmatic steps to address specific problems of governance in the far North during an era of rapid change.

Affiliations: 1: Professor, Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, University of California at Santa Barbara, USA, Chair, Scientific Committee of the International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change

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