Envisioning The Arctic Future – Eurasia Review

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Can rival nations put aside disagreements in other parts of the world to cooperate on critical Arctic policies? Will a “precautionary management” approach help minimize the negative consequences of a warming climate for the region’s biodiversity? How can indigenous Arctic peoples be included more centrally in decision-making about the region?

These are some of the issues raised in Voices of the Future, a new series of web essays by several emerging experts who participated in the fall 2020 virtual North Pacific Arctic Conference, or NPAC, as Fellows. The annual meeting is organized by the East-West Center and supported by the Korea Maritime Institute.

“Addressing the Arctic’s immense future challenges will demand the talents and dedication of a highly knowledgeable new generation of leaders,” said East-West Center Adjunct Senior Fellow Nancy Lewis, who spearheaded the NPAC Fellows program. “One of the main goals of our conference is to helping to develop a diverse and inclusive cadre of such future thought leaders, and this was the inspiration behind providing younger NPAC Fellows with this special forum.”

Since 2011, international officials, scholars, private sector executives, indigenous representatives and civil society leaders from a variety of countries have met annually at the East-West Center in Honolulu for wide-ranging discussions on Arctic issues, with a particular focus on the North Pacific region. This past year, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the tenth anniversary NPAC meeting to go virtual with a remote October conference on the theme “Will Great Power Politics Threaten Arctic Sustainability?” In sessions held at various times over several days, 45 participants from Northern Europe, North America, Russia, Korea, Japan, and China met online, despite sessions being held in the middle of the night in some locations.

Presentations and discussions that take place at each year’s NPAC meeting are published in a book-length volume as part of the Arctic in World Affairs series. But after the virtual 2020 conference, six of the participants also wrote special essays for the new NPAC Voices of the Future collection.

“These essays illustrate that in today’s world, ‘what happens in the Arctic does not stay in the Arctic,’” said former East-West Center President Charles E. Morrison, who chairs the NPAC Steering Committee. “Whether countries can work together to contain amplified polar climate change is of planetary significance, and the leadership must come from the North Pacific region whose countries are most responsible for greenhouse gas emissions and increased geopolitical tensions.” Topics covered in the series include:

Prospects for International Cooperation

In his article The Arctic Security Paradox, And What To Do About It, maritime dispute and resource-management expert Andreas Østhagen argues that the central question in Arctic regional relations over the last decade has been “to what degree developments in the north can be insulated from events and relationships elsewhere.” As “great-power politics,” such as the fallout from Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, have increasingly weighed on cooperative forums and venues in recent years, he writes, finding ways to address security concerns—and perhaps even develop codes of conduct—has become more urgent.

“Any Arctic security dialogue is fragile and risks being overshadowed by the increasingly tense NATO–Russia relationship in Europe at large,” Østhagen writes. “Paradoxically, it is precisely what such a dialogue would be intended to achieve—preventing the spillover of tensions from other parts of the world to the Arctic—that is the very reason why progress is difficult.”

There is no “quick fix” to security concerns in the Arctic, he concludes. Rather, “the solution is to continue to collaborate on ‘softer’ issues and recognize the complex web of arrangements that is…



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