History Lessons for the Arctic

Developing an international normative framework for a new ocean

Remote Visualization

Maritime dispute settlement is slowly evolving away from classic power formulations toward innovative regional and international collaborative solutions to enhance marine environmental protection, foster sustainable economic development and to enhance safety in strategic transit routes in “the environmental commons.” The Arctic, an ice-covered ocean that is rapidly transforming into a new, “blue water” ocean, is becoming a critical testing ground where established international maritime norms and values meet and are subsequently challenged by a new climate phenomena.  How will state and non-state actors in the Arctic simultaneously seek to protect a fragile eco-system, pursue greater economic growth, project sovereignty, and develop safe shipping and response capabilities?  What lessons from historical maritime dispute resolutions (with unique geographic attributes attuned to existing and future Arctic challenges) can contribute to greater cooperative behavior in the Arctic?

Using three historical maritime dispute case studies that continue to be challenged by modern day applications, this project will seek to answer a number of critical questions on maritime governance in order to facilitate the construction of a robust legal regime for strategic waterways in the Arctic.  
The three case studies are:

  • An examination of the 1961 Antarctic Treaty and a current attempt to establish a marine protected area (MPA) in the Ross Sea.
  • An examination of the 1936 Montreux Convention and the challenge of adapting this instrument to modern maritime requirements amidst increased regional tensions in the Black and Eastern Mediterranean Seas.
  • An examination of the 1920 Spitsbergen Treaty and the increased economic engagement of non-Arctic states such as China in the Arctic as well as the implementation of the fisheries protection zone in the Svalbard Archipelago.  

Drawing on the findings of each of these cases, the project will identify major themes and normative developments in maritime governance that can be used to shape future policy work and fill the existing legal gaps in the Arctic.