• IGMS was present at UNIS Seminar/Svalbard-Norway

    11903921_10153513083778360_400899859002263767_nIGMS GrC and its executive member Mr.Ktenas Panagiotis were present at this year seminar for arctic issues that took place in Svalbard-Norway, 2nd – 9th August 2015. This was as close as it gets to the North Pole, a seminar that it was organized by University of Svalbard, in cooperation with The Norwegian Scientific Academy for Polar Research (NVP), and The Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Center (NERSC). The topic of the seminar under question had to do with “Arctic Ocean Governance as a Multifunctional Challenge”.

    In general, a governance system consists of two features: a regime, defining the “rules of the game” – the regulations – and a structure, defining the actors and their interactions – the decision-making apparatus. As such, a governance system is a practical political construct drawing on the insights of the social sciences. To be effective, a governance system also has to reflect and respond to the natural characteristics of the region of application. As such it has to address the natural peculiarities of the respective region drawing on the insights of the natural sciences. In this broad definition, a governance system is a complex entity spanning the gap between the natural and social sciences (interdisciplinarity) as well as the gap between academic (university) and stakeholder knowledge as expressed in government and societal organizations (transdisciplinarity). A circumpolar system of governance is in the making for the Arctic Ocean, both when it comes to regime and structure. Among the eight Arctic states there is broad agreement (Ilullisat-declaration of 28 May 2009) that the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 1982 (UNCLOS) and other global ocean conventions is to be applied as the basic regulatory foundation of the Arctic Ocean. At the same time, the fact is that the UNCLOS mostly was developed to regulate the challenges of “blue water” Oceans. Out of the 320 articles of the UNCLOS, only one – Article 234 – deals specifically with ice-covered waters. Issues specific to Arctic natural conditions, such as sea ice, environmental fragility/ sensitivity, polar darkness etc. are not fully or sufficiently addressed in UNCLOS. To make the existing regime fit the operational needs under polar conditions, supplementary regulatory measures may/ will be developed to fill in on those applicable from UNCLOS and other global conventions. This process is already underway and has manifested in the international endeavours to reach agreement on a Polar Code and on the Search and Rescue Agreement of Aeronautical and Maritime Vessels and Passenger of 12 May, 2011 of the Arctic Council. These supplementary measures are not likely to be the last. Among other things, concerns for the polar environment have been voiced in need of more adequate regulations. Thus, there are still voids of open spaces in the existing regime before a fully developed governance system for the Arctic Ocean has been established.

    The same applies to the existing governance structure of the region. The focus here is on the Arctic Council, which is the only intergovernmental forum in the region for handling circumpolar concerns among all the Arctic states. As of the present, the Arctic Council is basically a soft law, consensus-based forum between its eight members, addressing a restricted number of issue areas. Multiple states have expressed a wish to gradually develop the Council into an international entity dealing with a broader scope of issue areas and a strengthened decision-making structure – to move it closer to a multilateral organization. This drive towards change has manifested in the establishment of a permanent Arctic Council Secretariat in the city of Tromsø in Norway. The likelihood is that moves in a similar direction will be on the international agenda to further improve the effectiveness of the Council in the future. The existing governance system of the Arctic Ocean is still an object of change and improvement, both when it comes to regime and structure. To help out, the summer school has invited societal stakeholders from shipping, oil and gas, fisheries, environment etc., as well as from governments to identify what supplementary Arctic-specific amendments are necessary to make the governance system of the region suitable to handle respective interests in a sustainable and effective way.