By Arild Moe, Senior Research Fellow, Fridtjof Nansen Institute
Svein Vigeland Rottem, Senior Research Fellow, Programme Director, Fridtjof Nansen Institute
Olav Schram Stokke, Research Professor, Fridtjof Nansen Institute
The Council’s strength is derived from its roles as a knowledge producer and agenda setter as well as from its ability to include, represent and empower relevant stakeholders. Its ability to form a platform for negotiating binding agreements between the member states has further increased its significance. These various roles and qualities must be maintained and elaborated as the world faces new challenges in a changing Arctic, and as the Council expands its scope of activities.
Four aspects of this process deserve particular attention.
Participation: The larger number of participants active in the Council’s work spurs broader expectations for influence as well as tangible results. The Council must ensure that it benefits from the aspirations of new participants and the resources they offer by improving conditions for their engagement. It should take a dynamic approach to the structuring of instruments and measures, including how it organizes and defines the responsibilities of the working groups, and enable the financing and co-financing of projects by non-members to a much larger extent than today.
Representation: By including a broader set of stakeholders in its work, the Council has responded to a growing need for integration between regional and global agendas. However, bringing in non-Arctic stakeholders is not enough. The Council should ensure that the Arctic dimension is properly represented in all relevant international conferences.
Information: The Council must develop a more coherent information strategy, exploiting the full potential of its secretariat. This strategy should ensure that scientific knowledge produced in the working groups and elsewhere is communicated in formats that maximize its relevance to the Council meetings, supporting the action-oriented policy debates. An information strategy should also target the international community with quality information in an accessible format, additional to the scientific reporting from the Council’s bodies.
Implementation: The Council needs to improve its efforts to stimulate the implementation of commitments taken on by members. This includes more meaningful reporting on how Arctic Council policy recommendations and guidelines, as well as agreements negotiated under the Council, have influenced the conduct of authorities, communities and industries. Procedures for such systematic follow-up of Council commitments can build on existing experiences, also at the working group level, with regular reporting on substantive implementation.
The Arctic has undergone a political renaissance with an emphasis on cooperation rather than conflict, which is why the Council is perceived as a highly relevant arena by all Arctic states, permanent participants, non-Arctic states and other stakeholders. To ensure that this position is maintained, its structures and procedures must constantly be perfected and adapted to changes in the region as well as to the aspirations of its stakeholders.