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The gist of the ongoings at the Arctic and major issues.

Saudamini Sigdel

on 16 September 2013

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One of the most dubious regions of the twentieth century, the Arctic region is extremely sensitive, politically, as well as ecologically, as an indicator of the recent trend of global warming. The region is undergoing a steady militarization and with the gradual discovery of its prolific natural resources, the Arctic states are intent on increasing their sovereignty over these disputed waters.
The Current Situation

The Slowly-Melting Arctic
Agreement to UNCLOS
Under international law, no country currently ‘owns’ the North Pole or the region of the Arctic Ocean surrounding it. However, abiding by the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which manages Arctic territorial claims, are entitled to possession of an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of 200 nautical miles adjacent to their respective coasts.
Despite this provision, a number of nations including the United States of America have refused to sign the mandate, as they believe it is a threat to their economic interests and national sovereignty.
Arms Control and Disamament - Arctic WMDFZ
The increasing militarization of the Arctic has led to global concerns. With two nuclear powers within miles of each other, an armed conflict could spiral out of anyone‘s control. All of the Arctic powers have significant parts of their armed forces deployed in the Arctic. The quantity and quality of these Arctic armed forces is increasing.Therefore, there have been cries around the world for disarmament in the Arctic similar to that of the Antarctic (which was completely demilitarized in 1959).
The Arctic Council
The Arctic Council is a high-level intergovernmental forum that addresses primarily environmental protection and sustainable development issues in the Arctic region. The eight founding nations (Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, the US) of the 1991 Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy comprise the Member States of the Arctic Council.
However, the involvement as observer nations of many non-Arctic nations, including China, South Korea, India and the EU, has raised eyebrows in the international community. Several outside states have also maintained military presence and active interest in the mineral resources.
The Arctic is undergoing a period of significant changes due to climate change and excavation for oil exploration that affect all sectors of the circumpolar North. People in the Arctic are worried about contaminants, land use, climate, security and access in the form of rights to land and sea. The heavy equipment necessary for oil extraction leaves long-term impact on tundra soil and plants. Recovery and re- growth are especially slow in the cold arctic climate. Eventually, the survival of many groups as distinctive peoples is endangered. Additionally, housing, infrastructure and transport connections of coastal indigenous communities are seriously affected by climate changes, with rising maintenance costs and sometimes even the necessity of relocation.
The Inuits
UN Actions
The Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, organized under the UNCLOS, regulates continental shifts. The Agreement on Cooperation on Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue (SAR) in the Arctic deals with search and rescue of aeronautical and maritime vessels and passengers.The UN has also been working towards saving the biodiversity.
A Military Base in the Arctic
Members of the Indigenous Tribes
Major Issues
The competence for UNCLOS to serve as the single fragment of international legislation for the Arctic region
The status of the Arctic Ocean: international waters or divided territory
Arms limitations for countries vying for control over the region
Illegal Trafficking of Weapons
The creation of a NWFZ keeping in mind that the Arctic is full of SSBNs, bomber aircraft and other means of nuclear warfare
Establishment of peace, environmental stability, and security in the region for local population
Fair division of mineral resources and international cooperation without infringing on the sovereignty of Arctic nations.
A Presentation by- Saudamini Sigdel, The Delegate of the USA
Full transcript