SCIENCE DIPLOMACY IN THE ARCTIC

Center for International Maritime Security published an article titled, “Science Diplomacy in the Arctic.” The article reads in part as follows;

“As icecaps melt and access to natural gas and oil reserves increase, the Arctic rises in importance on the geopolitical stage. In addition to the various groups of indigenous people who reside in the Arctic, eight countries Russia, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Denmark, Canada, and the United States have claimed interest in the Arctic. Diplomacy between the different groups is required for cooperation and organization in the complicated region. Due to its importance in environmental security, sizable natural resource reserves, and remote location, the Arctic incentivizes cooperation through science diplomacy.

Science diplomacy is defined by the Royal Society and American Association for the Advancement of Science as threefold: ‘Informing foreign policy objectives with scientific advice, facilitating international science cooperation, [and] using science cooperation to improve international relations between countries’. Science diplomacy has accomplished much in the past, both between allied nations, and in situations when traditional lines of cooperation were fraught. For example, the warming of relations with China during the Nixon administration and cooperation in the International Space Station both resulted, or were sustained in part due to science diplomacy. It should be noted, however, that there are barriers to science diplomacy. Policymakers and scientists alike can be confused about how this type of diplomacy is different from general scientific cooperation and additionally, ‘after generations of colonialism and geopolitical maneuvering, developing nations may be wary of science engagement with the North’. The Arctic region has existing channels of successful science diplomacy, which hopefully can be sustained into the future.

In 1909 Robert Peary, and American explorer, reached the North Pole and claimed it for the President of the United States. Since then, Russia, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Denmark, and Canada have all made claims or asserted influence in the region. The first international agreement regarding the Arctic came from the United Nations Convention on the Continental Shelf, which was signed in 1958 and allowed for coastal states to explore resources on their continental shelf. It was superseded by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which ‘grants coastal states a 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone and allows them to assert control over territory beyond that limit if they can prove, geologically, that the seabed is an extension of their continental shelf’. However, it is notable that the United States did not sign the agreement until 2013 and still has yet to ratify it.”

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