New Challenges Facing the Arctic Ocean and Other Fragile Seas

  • Elizabeth Kirk (Invited speaker)

    Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in conference


    Presented paper on "Scientific Understanding and Arctic Governance Institutions: A Close Relationship?"Effective governance of a fragile marine environment such as the Arctic Ocean requires a close relationship between science and governance institutions. (In this paper the term governance institutions covers relevant legal regimes, soft law and international organisations). Thus, for example, scientific understanding must feed into decision-making procedures relating to the development and implementation of law. One of the defining characteristics of the Arctic marine environment is that it is currently subject to quite rapid change as a result of global warming. This makes the requirement for a close working relationship between science and governance institutions more complex. If the environment is changing rapidly then so too may scientific understanding of the environment and of the appropriateness of some uses, or dangers of posed by the potential impacts other uses. The question then becomes how do or should institutions incorporate this changing scientific understanding? If for example the response of legal regimes is to provide for constant changes to decisions to incorporate rapid changes in scientific understanding, the regimes may lose their effectiveness. Actors may become disinclined to participate in such rapidly changing regimes. Similarly if the regimes do not respond to the changes in the environment or uses of it then they may become dated and lose efficacy as a result of that. This paper examined the way in which governance institutions in the Arctic address this question comparing Arctic approaches with approaches in other parts of the marine environment. Consideration will be given to: • the ways in which scientific information is acquired and feeds into decision making • the ability of governance institutions to seek and acquire new types of information; and • the ability of governance institutions to change either the decisions that they make or their constituent organisations in order to respond to changing scientific understanding or to the changing environment. For example, the Arctic Council has demonstrated an ability to respond to changing understandings by establishing new working groups and task forces as the need has arisen. It has also sought out new types of information, for example, drawing on monitoring data from local and traditional communities. Questions remain, however, about how far it may go in directing the development of new types of scientific understanding. As the Arctic Council is based in soft law, questions may also arise as to how representative it is in terms of the response of legal institutions to changing scientific understanding. Consideration is therefore given to the development of such understanding in some of the global binding legal regimes that are also applicable within the Arctic.
    Period20 Feb 2015
    Event typeConference
    LocationRovaniemi, FinlandShow on map