By Andreas Kuersten
The Arctic Journal
As climate change opens the Arctic to human activity and the region steadily captures more international attention, a rich tapestry of Arctic international governance mechanisms has formed and propagated. From the sub-regional to the pan-Arctic, numerous forums now exist where Arctic and non-Arctic states and other entities interact to address the issues facing the roof of the world, but “[t]he Arctic Council has emerged as perhaps the most important of these,” according to Douglas C. Nord, author of The Arctic Council: Governance Within the Far North.
In recent years, however, another regional body has appeared on the scene: the Arctic Five. Many opine that this loose union of the five Arctic littoral states, that excludes other Arctic states and native organisations, is usurping the Arctic Council’s central position in northern governance. The Arctic Five, through its compression of regional decision making, is also charged with undermining the spirit of cooperation that the council has helped unfurl across Arctic international relations.
The aforementioned view is widespread, and certainly possesses a degree of truth. But the relationship that has developed and that could develop between the Arctic Five and Arctic Council is more nuanced than popularly put forth.
As such, this briefing aims to elaborate on how these two regional associations actually and potentially interact, both negatively and positively. While actions by the Arctic Five can detract from the work and regional position of the Arctic Council, the former is not the harbinger of the latter’s demise. Furthermore, these two groups can even complement one another to positively address Arctic issues.
Picture: U.S. Department of State [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons