SIS 495 Arctic Sovereignty Task Force
Winter Quarter 2009

Tuesday and Fridays, 2:30-4:20 pm (to 5:30 on lecture-series days)
T - Mechanical Engineering 245 / F - Mechanical Engineering 250
Office Hours: After each Tuesday class and by appointment

Nadine C. Fabbi
Office: 503 Thomson Hall
Box 353650
Phone: 206-543-6269

Vincent Gallucci
Office: 204B Fisheries Science Building
Box 355020
Phone: 206-543-1701

Task Force Handbook

Pre-Quarter Readings


Detail on the Task Force Process

Weekly Schedule / Readings


Description of the Problem

Climate change is dramatically altering the globe's polar regions. The principle nations affected are the eight Arctic nations (Russia, the United States, Canada, Denmark (Greenland), Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland). As a consequence, concerns previously on the "back burner" are being moved to the top of their national agendas.

With the melting of the polar ice cap, significant undiscovered oil and gas reserves may soon be accessible. The Northwest Passage shipping route between Europe and Asia, 5,000 miles shorter than the Panama Canal route, will soon be passable. Who has rights to the resources lying under the seabed? Is the Northwest Passage an "international strait" or, as Canada claims, "internal waters?" What of the Inuit claim that sea ice constitutes traditional territory? A British think-tank recently warned that if the "race for the Arctic" is not resolved, a polar war is a real possibility.

Until recently it was assumed that the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea provides guidelines for all maritime disputes. However, it has become clear that issues of ownership of subsurface resources, fishing rights and vessel passage in the Arctic are not well defined by the Law of the Sea. Nor are aboriginal rights ranging from tourism to pollution covered.

Students will address this intensifying international debate, elucidate perspectives and make recommendations as to how competing claims might be resolved within the context of national agendas and aboriginal interests.

Fact-Finding Mission to Ottawa

This Task Force includes a one-week fact-finding mission to Ottawa, Canada's capital, to meet with scientists, lawyers, Foreign Affairs Canada, Inuit associations, and foreign embassies. The trip to Ottawa is scheduled from 24-31 January 2009.

Course Objectives

The whole concept of a task force carries certain objectives described below, including practice working as a team to produce a document that focuses on a topic or problem in need of resolution or elucidation. In addition, there are additional objectives we consider important. In particular, a major and unique part of this task force is the fact-finding mission to Ottawa, Canada's capital, and interviews with some very important people. We expect that students will develop the ability to think about and articulate important questions and, be able to respond to return questions with clear and erudite statements. There will be practice through out the class, before the trip and afterwards, in public speaking. Another objective is to provide an overview of a northern neighbor whose importance to the US will increase greatly in this century as issues of energy needs, climate change, passage between oceans, and many other topics arise. The objective of becoming far more knowledgeable about the consequences of climate change in the students' lifetimes is quite important. Finally, the overall objective of being able to reconcile conflicting and shaded differences in arguments often different only by nuance, in writing the report will be sharpened via class discussion.

Task Force Process

  1. Gain introductory knowledge of the subject (holiday break and first couple weeks of course lectures).
  2. Choose a specific topic for your research report (by end of second week of classes).
  3. Start writing!
  4. Make in-progress presentations to the class for discussion and comment.
  5. Develop policy recommendations on the basis of your research and class discussions.
  6. Assemble and edit the final Report to send to the Report evaluator (6 March).
  7. Prepare and present the oral defense to the Report evaluator (13 March).
  8. Enjoy the Task Force dinner to celebrate the team's achievement (13 March)!

Useful Insights Into the Task Force Process

A Task Force is intended to be a dynamic and challenging experience. It may be the most challenging experience of your undergraduate career. There is no easy guide to this process. In a very short amount of time you will have to indentify the crucial aspects of your topic, summarize that information, analyze it, and write up your findings. Major international policy issues have no easy solutions. Nonetheless you will attempt to come up with effective recommendations. You should be prepared to deal with confusion, floundering, intellectual struggle, being overwhelmed, and the frustration of intense group collaboration. And, you will also experience a sense of satisfaction after the Task Force's final evaluation and at the following celebratory dinner, unlike that in any undergrad experience you have had thus far.

The Task Force is "run" by the students. The instructors will prepare introductory lectures to provide a solid foundation of understanding for the topic, issues, and objectives. After that, our role is guidance but not leadership. You are required to take on much more responsibility than you would in a regular undergraduate class. You will be acting as a Presidential or Royal Commission - a group of professionals appointed for their expertise to take on a major international policy issue by providing relevant and useful recommendations to policy makers and negotiators.

To ensure success: be prepared, be part of a team and contribute, be patient and supportive of your colleagues, stick to the schedule. A well-written report will put at least equal time into research and preparation (writing, editing, re-writing). By early February, just after return from Ottawa, report writing should be well underway.

A Royal Commission on Arctic Sovereignty

Since funding comes from the UW Canadian Studies Program and the Canadian Government, you may consider this to be a Royal Commission report where the members are charged with providing an unbiased Task Force Report - rather than one presenting the Canadian case.

Since Confederation in 1867, Canada has had dozens of Royal Commissions to investigate specific problems and to make recommendations to the government. A Royal Commission is a panel of experts appointed to inquire into an issue of public importance. The Commission report is meant to be educationally significant and to contribute policy proposals.

Canada is the world's largest Arctic nation and it is therefore appropriate that it take a leadership role in international policy and relations with respect to the stewardship of the Arctic environment, its natural resources, and the welfare of Arctic peoples. Given your expertise and training as an IS student you are appointed to the Royal Commission on Arctic Sovereignty by the Canadian Studies Center and Foreign Affairs Canada. The Arctic is the world's last pristine environment - it is critical that it be protected and preserved. How the world relates to the Arctic and cooperates regarding its interests will define new directions in global justice and international foreign policy from a unique northern perspective.

Your mission is to define competing interests in Arctic resources, including that of the four million Arctic residents, and to provide a list of policy recommendations to resolve current and potential conflicts, as well as to attempt to define international decision-making from a uniquely circumpolar perspective.

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The Task Force Process

Most of the quarter will be taken up with researching, writing, editing and rewriting a report likely to be over several hundred pages. One of our first tasks will be to identify the mission or objective of the task force in such a way that it can be partitioned into sub-themes that cover the mission. Each sub-theme will be associated with a sub-group of students. Each member of a sub-group will also write an individual paper, presumably one that is integrated into the sub-group's report. There will also be a focus on articulate oral presentations.

Individual Research Reports

Students will select tentative individual research topics in the second week of classes after sub-themes have been identified. The goal of your individual research is to provide information to your sub-group to be used to provide context and support for any policy recommendations you make. Individual papers should begin with an introductory / context section and end with a listing of major conclusions. Whatever types of material you feel useful / relevant - maps, diagrams, images, graphs may be used - but be selective. All materials important to your argument, discussed in the text must be properly referenced. Remember that materials from the web, newspapers, magazines have not been peer-reviewed and may be biased. This is particularly true of government reports. Also remember that book contents are not peer reviewed.

Integration into Sub-group Reports and into the Mission Report

Assignments of specific roles will be volunteered so that the objective is achieved. For example, the following are common to other task force classes. Given the unique nature of this Task Force class additional roles will almost certainly be defined.




Grades are based on the following, in order of importance:

One Sample Organization of the Report

  1. Historical overview of the Arctic environment and peoples
  2. Climate change and its impact on natural resources and shipping opportunities in the Arctic, including a time scale
  3. Issues / opportunities
    a.  Shipping
    b.  Tourism
    c.  Fisheries
    d.  Gas / oili reserves
    e.  Other?
  4. National perspectives on Arctic stakeholders' foreign policy
    a.  Canada
    b.  Russian Federation
    c.  US
    d.  Denmark
    e.  Norway
    f.   European Union countries, as well as other nations internationally (China, Korea, etc.)
    g.  Recent important developments: European Commission recent position statement and Greenland's evolving interest in independence (end of colonialism)
    h.  Examination of possible future configurations in the Arctic aboriginal homeland, etc.
  5. Resolution of the conflict via
    a.  Law of the Sea
    b.  Arctic Council (diplomacy and negotiation)
    c.  Indigenous policy
    d.  Ilulissat Declaration
  6. Additional Considerations
    a.  Distance education
    b.  Role of the University of the Arctic

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Class Schedule

Each class will begin with a discussion of any new media reports or developments in Arctic sovereignty that have occurred since the prior class followed by the course focus for the day. Please note that readings are listed on the day they are due.

Tuesday, 6 January

Day's Focus


Friday, 9 January

Day's Focus


Tuesday, 13 January - CHAPTER TOPICS

Day's Focus


Friday, 16 January

Day's Focus



Day's Focus


Friday, 23 January

Day's Focus


Saturday, 24 January - 31 January

See Arctic Sovereignty Fact-Finding Mission to Ottawa Schedule

Tuesday, 3 February

Day's Focus - discussion of Ottawa findings and how to integrate into papers; Russia and the Arctic

Friday, 6 February - Burke Room, Burke Museum

Day's Focus - attendance at Arctic Sovereignty Lecture Series, visiting speaker European interests, Christine Ingebritsen, UW Scandinavian Studies


Tuesday, 10 February - FIRST DRAFT OF PAPERS

Day's Focus - discussion of papers; Arctic aboriginal governance

Readings - articles by Gary Wilson, University of Northern British Columbia (to be provided to class)

Friday, 13 February - University Club, Conference Room (downstairs)

Day's Focus - attendance at Arctic Sovereignty Lecture Series - Visiting lecturer, Barry Zellen, Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey


Tuesday, 17 February - FINAL DRAFT OF PAPERS

Day's Focus - discussion of integration of report

Friday, 20 February - Burke Room, Burke Museum

Day's Focus - attendance at Arctic Sovereignty Lecture Series - Visiting lecturer, "Russia's Northward Perspective: The Arctic Promise vs. the Siberian Curse," Mikhail Alexseev, San Diego State University



Final changes to paper


Final paper due and ready for publication

Tuesday, 3 March

Day's Focus - oral practice session for evaluation

Friday, 6 March - no formal class - PUBLISHED COPY OF REPORT

Tuesday, 10 March

Day's Focus - oral practice session for evaluation


Expert Evaluation by Dr. Rob Huebert, Associate Director, Centre for Military and Strategic Studies, Department of Political Science, University of Calgary

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