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Report urges U.S. leadership in Arctic cooperation



April 22, 2015
Wednesday PM

(SitNews) - As the United States prepares to assume the chairmanship of the Arctic Council this week, a new report from a group of international experts recommends cooperation, not conflict, in the Arctic.

The report, “Arctic Council Initiatives to Sustain Arctic Cooperation,” aims to address priorities for the Arctic Council. It was the result of meetings in 2014 and 2015 at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The meetings were held under the auspices of the University of the Arctic’s Institute of Arctic Policy, which is co-chaired by the University of Alaska Fairbanks and Dartmouth College.

jpg Report urges U.S. leadership in Arctic cooperation

The Arctic Ocean and Alaska's coastline.
Map courtesy National Atlas of the USA

The Arctic should be an area of political and military cooperation, sustainable development and scientific research, the report notes. It encourages United States leadership to address issues related to climate change, environmental dangers, shipping, commercial fishing, energy development, maritime infrastructure and indigenous rights, all of which are dependent on continued political cooperation in the Arctic. The report stresses that improving current geopolitical conditions, including tense relations between Russia and the West within and outside of the Arctic, is essential.

“We trust the input and recommendations found within the report will assist U.S. leaders, as well as the leaders of the other seven Arctic nations of the Arctic Council, to further build upon their commitment to address the important issues facing northern communities during a time of rapid and palpable change,” said Mike Sfraga, UAF vice chancellor and a co-author of the report. “The U.S. has a unique opportunity to lead this important body and, by doing so, set a positive, productive and actionable agenda for the Arctic for decades to come.”

Canada will hand the United States the two-year rotating chairmanship of the Arctic Council during a meeting in the Canadian territory of Nunavut on April 24. The council’s other member states include Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia and Sweden. It also includes six indigenous organizations with permanent status, as well as nations and interested organizations holding observer status.

Arctic Ocean Map - Click on the map for a larger image

The experts who met and made recommendations in the report agreed that the Arctic Council and the U.N. Convention on Law of the Sea, known as UNCLOS, should continue to be the primary mechanisms to ensure cooperation, engagement and transparency in the Arctic. The U.S. chairmanship program has set priorities in the following areas: Arctic Ocean safety, security and stewardship; economic and living conditions; and the impacts of climate change. The report supports these priorities and offers additional recommendations:

  • The United States should ratify UNCLOS to enhance U.S. authority on Arctic issues.
  • Develop improved communications, standardized procedures and multilateral training for search and rescue, military movements, natural disasters, maritime awareness, oil spill management, shipping infrastructure and oil, gas and mineral development.
  • The Arctic Council should lead in identifying priorities for scientific study.
  • Develop more small-scale and renewable energy projects to improve the economic future of small communities.
  • Improve individual and community health and food security.
  • Improve early warning systems for environmental change.
  • Adopt an international ban on commercial fishing in the offshore Arctic Ocean until an appropriate management plan is in place.
  • Increase indigenous peoples’ participation in and benefits from Arctic policies.

Report authors are retired Ambassador James F. Collins of the Carnegie Endowment, Sfraga, Ross Virginia of Dartmouth College, and retired Ambassador Kenneth S. Yalowitz of the Wilson Center.


On the Web:

Download the 4 Page Report: Arctic Council Initiatives to Sustain Arctic Cooperation

Arctic Virtual Forum

Institute for Arctic Policy - Dartmouth College

This article is provided as a public service by the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Arctic Research. Contact Marmian Grimes at

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