Network for social scientists interested in the high north
Category Archives: Research Themes
ARCTIC CHANGE AND GOVERNANCE
The Arctic is going through rapid transformations. Climate change is altering the foundation of ecosystems, infrastructures, and livelihoods in the area. At the same time, melting sea ice is making the marine Arctic more accessible, and there is an increasing interest in the region’s resource potential. In addition, the prospect of new shipping routes is bringing the region closer to the global market. The Arctic has thus become a hot issue in many circles, accommodating conflicting interests and concerns. The Arctic stands out as a region where new ideas related to governance, international cooperation and environmental protection are taking shape. This development is of central relevance for social scientific research. Three overall research themes require special attention in the near future:
Expansion of industrial activities
The Arctic is envisaged by both companies and states as a frontier region. A rise in petroleum activities, shipping, fisheries, mining and tourism is expected. This is not only due to the receding ice, but is spurred by new technology, increasing globalisation, and high demand for natural resources. According to many commentators, a race for the Arctic resources is taking place. Hence, it is important to map and analyse the development trends and the driving forces behind the expansion of industrial activities. What does it imply that the Arctic is becoming a site for large-scale resource exploration and exploitation? How is the circumpolar region integrated into the global economy? What are the regional spin-off effects of these processes?
Climate change and increasing industrial activities put pressure on the vulnerable Arctic environment. The Arctic is also affected by long range transport of pollution, and acts as a sink for many contaminants that are spread around the globe. This emphasises the need for management regimes that can protect and preserve the Arctic and promote sustainable use of resources. The ecosystem approach and the precautionary principle are laid down as milestones in international ocean governance. What characterise the Arctic regimes that are in operation? How are they developed? What kinds of knowledge and instruments do they rely upon? What are the outcomes of the attempts at regulating the activities and human footprints in the Arctic?
Actors, strategies and collaborative arrangements
A variety of different actors are interested in shaping the future of the Arctic. The changing Arctic can foster peaceful cooperation, but the increasing strategic significance of the region can also ignite tensions and conflicts. Governments, companies, business association, indigenous peoples, and NGOs are all pursuing their own agenda. However, a number of new policy arenas have evolved during the last decades, including among others the Arctic Council, the Euro-Arctic Barents Region, and the Northern Dimension. What are the potential for cooperation in the high north? Where do ambitions, interests and strategies collide? What determines government interests in the Arctic? What is the role of the Arctic Council and the other collaborative arrangements? Do they manage to bridge different and conflicting national interests, and consequently provide a common regulatory framework? How are the various institutions nested?
These three, broad areas of research will be given priority in the network of social scientists concerned about Arctic change and governance at the University of Tromsø.