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Fulbright Roundtable on the Arctic: Regulatory Processes & the Role of Canada’s Inuit in Shaping the Arctic Council

June 30, 2013

Above: From left, Consul General of Canada, Denis Stevens, and presenters Tony Penikett, Sari Graben, and Vincent Gallucci.

by Melissa Croce, Intern, Jackson School of International Studies

On May 30, scholars, students, and interested citizens gathered at the University Club, united by an interest in the increasingly complex topic of the Arctic. Organized by the Canadian Studies Center, the event discussed the Arctic in terms of scientific, legal and indigenous frameworks. Presenters included Sari Graben, 2012-13 Canada-US Fulbright Chair, Tom Axworthy, President and CEO of the Walter and Duncan Gordon Foundation, Toronto and respondents Tony Penikett, 2012-13 Jackson School Visiting Scholar, and Vincent Gallucci, Chair, Canadian Studies Center and professor in Aquatic and Fishery Sciences.The Canadian Studies Center, in collaboration with the Consulate General of Canada, Seattle, the Walter and Duncan Gordon Foundation, Toronto, the sponsors of the Canada-U.S. Fulbright Chair, and the UW Future of Ice initiative, hosted the annual Fulbright lecture and roundtable on current insights into decision-making in the Arctic.

Sari Graben focused on the increasing role of scientists when developing and implementing international law relating to the Arctic. “My research is focused in how the use of expertise affects law,” said Graben, “and how we understand how science affects international relations.” There are several nations that lay claim to areas of the Arctic – the United States, Canada, Russia, Greenland and Norway – each of which must submit proposals to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. Nation states are increasingly utilizing science to supplement their claims and strengthen their arguments for why they deserve more land. “The delineation of the Arctic shelf tells us something about when states are motivated to manage consensus and when they’re not. When they have this type of mutual beneficial interest in coming to a consensus, then they will exercise it,” said Graben. “They are looking for a common story that serves them all.”

While Graben focused on the legal and scientific relations of the Arctic, Tom Axworthy’s lecture focused on the political and indigenous frameworks of the Arctic, particularly concerning the Arctic Council. Established in 1996, the Arctic Council is an intergovernmental forum to promote coordination and cooperation among the Arctic states to help protect the Arctic and the indigenous communities who live there. Member states of the Arctic Council are Canada, Denmark (Greenland), Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the United States.

Using the Arctic Council as an example, Axworthy discussed the three steps, or, “lessons” as he called them, on how to induce change in the international system. In relation to the Arctic Council, Axworthy described its origins with Mikhail Gorbachev who recognized the need to discuss the Arctic as an environmental region of concern in international politics. Gorbachev referred to the Arctic as a “zone of peace” in his famous Murmansk Speech (1987

The Arctic Council, thanks to successful indigenous internationalism, is the first international fora to include indigenous peoples on almost equal par with nation-states. With the subject of the Arctic becoming increasingly prominent in today’s international society, the Council is more prominent, becoming more involved in international affairs and helping to negotiate treaties and laws to protect the Arctic.

This event was made possible, in part, by Title VI grant funding from the Office of Postsecondary Education, International Education Program Services, U.S. Department of Education; and, the Chapman Charitable Fund.

The UW Canada Fulbright Chair is sponsored by the UW Office of Global Affairs; Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies; Social Sciences Division, College of Arts and Sciences; Graduate Fund for Excellence & Innovation, Graduate School; and, the Foundation for Educational Exchange Between Canada and the United States.

For information on the event and copies of papers: