How the Arctic Council Sets the Tone for International Cooperation

World Policy Blog published an article titled, “How the Arctic Council Sets the Tone for International Cooperation.” The article reads in part as follows;

This week, Arctic Yearbook managing editor Joël Plouffe interviews Camille Escudé, a Ph.D. candidate in international relations at Sciences Po-CERI, France, and author of “The Strength of Flexibility: The Arctic Council in the Arctic Norm-Setting Process.” Escudé explores the central role of the Arctic Council in Arctic norm setting by examining the instruments of and documents produced under the Council, international agreements, and scholarly work on the Council in regional and international affairs. Her findings are also based on a series of interviews with members and Working Groups of the Council, as well as individuals working at the Council’s Secretariat in Tromsø.   

The Arctic Council is often viewed as politically ineffective because of its lack of legal authority. But despite its many limitations it has proven otherwise since its establishment 20 years ago, playing a central role in Arctic norm-setting since the thaw of East-West relations in the 1990s, which has led to deeper cooperation and uninterrupted stability in the Arctic. A patchwork of intersecting soft law standards produced by the Council has helped circumpolar states and other key actors to overcome past tensions and sit around the same table to address common and pressing regional issues. 

JOËL PLOUFFE: Your article looks at how the Arctic Council as a body produces norms that shape international affairs in the region. Specifically, how have these norms been articulated over the last two decades since the establishment of the Council in the mid-1990s?

CAMILLE ESCUDÉ: The Arctic Council is the most prominent intergovernmental organization in the region and has been the principal producer of norms since its establishment in 1996 as a high-level forum. It’s important to mention that the Council’s role as norm-creator is mostly limited to environmental protection and sustainable development issues—the two pillars of the Council’s mandate—and of course excludes questions relating to hard power security that were also exempt from the Ottawa Declaration that founded the Council. The type of cooperation that emerged in the early post-Cold War years was aimed at strengthening multilateral relations between Arctic states and indigenous organizations at the civil level, not on the level of the military.”

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