Transnational Task Force on the Arctic

2009 Arctic Task Force

SIS 495 Arctic Sovereignty: The International Dispute Over Who Owns the North

Climate change is dramatically altering the foreign policy of Arctic countries. The polar regions are among the principle areas affected by global warming causing the eight Arctic nations (Russia, the United States, Canada, Denmark (Greenland), Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland) to move concerns previously on the “back burner” 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, may soon be passable. How are rights to resources lying under the sea determined, and is the Northwest Passage an “international strait” or “internal Canadian waters?” What of the Inuit claim on sea ice as additional territory? What about fishery resources that cross national boundaries in the Arctic? Up to now the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea was assumed adequate to guide most maritime disputes. But, it has become clear that such issues of national, and aboriginal, rights and ownership are not sufficiently covered. The urgency of the question is illustrated by a warning from a respected British think-tank that if the “race for the Arctic” in not resolved, a polar war is a real possibility.

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

Task force handbook
Pre-quarter readings
Arctic Sovereignty Websites


Task Force Instructors

Vincent GallucciVincent Gallucci is a professor in the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences; adjunct in the Jackson School and the School for Marine Affairs and is director of the Center for Quantitative Sciences in Forestry, Fisheries and Wildlife. His research focus is the management of fishery resources in developing countries and upon coldwater fisheries in the Bering/Arctic seas. He has experience in Russia and published in the Russian Fisheries Science literature. He will help develop the scientific / political aspects of the Russian Federation’s perspective in the Arctic debate. He has taught with a colleague a course on marine policy for over ten years For more information:

Nadine FabbiNadine Fabbi is the Associate Director of the Canadian Studies Center in the Jackson School of International Studies. Her research focuses on Canada’s Arctic in particular the history of contact between Inuit and explorers / outsiders and recent Inuit sovereignty efforts. Over the past two summers Nadine taught the course Aboriginal Peoples of the North for International Summer Programs, University of Alberta. For a listing of publications and academic activities see:



Expert Evaluator

huebertRob Huebert is an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Calgary. He is also the Associate Director of CMSS. Dr. Huebert has taught at Memorial University, Dalhousie University, and the University of Manitoba. His research interests include international relations, strategic studies, the Law of the Sea, maritime affairs, Canadian foreign and defence policy, and circumpolar relations. For more information:

Task Force Team

andreasenGustaf Andreasen
Major: International Studies
Minor: Geography Degree
I am interested in Arctic sovereignty because as climate change occurs in the Arctic there will be vast new resources available, as well as large amounts of new land. Already in the Arctic is a population of native Inuit people who view the Arctic in a different way than nation-state diplomacy and international law. The new available resources, Inuit people, and nation-state governance could potentially end up in an international dispute of epic proportions. I hope to contribute an understanding of the region before an international dispute leads to irreversible effects on our climate and the Inuit people.

epstenEmily J. Epsten
Major: International Studies
Minor: Human Rights
I am interested in this topic because it is such a new and urgent issue. The topic of oil and natural gas has been a key component of the national election this year, as well as the center of debate in the international sphere, which both show how pressing this issue is. Additionally, as a Human Rights Minor, I am very interested in the indigenous populations that will be affected by the melting ice caps.

Emily is now a graduate student at UCLA for Masters of Public Health in the Community Health Sciencs Department.

lennonPatrick I. L. Lennon
Major: International Studies
Minor: Human Rights
I am interested in this topic due to the monumental importance of the Arctic region in the near future; no one from any country can afford to ignore this issue. Given the proximity and close relationship between the United States and Canada, Americans especially need to be engaged with this topic. I am also interested in several subtopics that are part of the dispute: the human rights issues around aboriginal sovereignty, the effectiveness and implementation of international law, and national sovereignty versus the interests of the international community. I have many family members in Canada, so there is a personal interest as well!

mckayAlison McKay
Major: International Studies
Minor: Spanish
I am intrigued by the interaction between indigenous groups and the international community, an issue at the forefront of Arctic sovereignty. As the polar ice caps melt, opening trade routes and exposing new resources, tensions will certainly escalate between world powers concerning rights to this territory. While destructive effects on both indigenous peoples and global warming may be ignored in the rush for oil, I want to contribute my effort to ensure that these issues are not forgotten. Canada, with potentially threatened native communities, will play a key role in protecting these groups as the international community debates rights to the Arctic.

nishimuraApril G. Nishimura
Major: International Studies
I am interested in how traditionally separate perspectives, whether held by scientists, corporations, indigenous communities, or the state, have historically constructed notions of property and land use to support their interests. Is there overlap between these groups’ goals for the Arctic? Can these common interests be brought to the forefront in policy making? Specifically, I am interested in examining Arctic sovereignty through a historical lens that centers on the experience of indigenous people. What grassroots strategies have the Inuit developed and how has this organizing transformed their communities? What is the possibility for creating new alliances? I look forward to learning from all of you on these issues.

olsonKristen C. Olson
Major: International Studies: Environmental Studies
Minor: Russian Language
It is in the best interest of the international community to resolve areas of contested resource ownership, such as Arctic sovereignty, to avoid eco-based conflicts. The United States and Canada’s neighborly relationship can promote a forum for frank discussions of how to manage Arctic waters in the face of global natural resource scarcity. These two leading nations are home to important environmentalists, politicians, scientists, and indigenous leaders who all have innovative ideas concerning the future of the Arctic. I look forward to learning from Canadian leaders to create a balanced policy recommendation concerning one of the world’s most precious marine areas.

printzStephen Printz
Major: International Studies
Minor: Spanish
I am interested in this task force because I believe that the issue of Arctic sovereignty is going to be a legitimate concern of the future for many developed nations. I would like to analyze this issue and contribute towards a policy that could help avoid global disaster and build up Canada-US relations. This new dispute over the Arctic has the makings to be as powerful and historic as the Space Race. An issue with the potential to have such a significant impact on the future of global politics and economics is an issue I want to help resolve.

schwartzAndrew Schwartz
Major: International Studies
The Task Force on Arctic Sovereignty is an opportunity to investigate innovative ideas of the State. As Canada, the United States, and Russia posture for increased economic hegemony in the polar region, the international community must proactively respond to the territorial claims of new and traditional voices. It is very exciting to be part of this new and important academic pursuit!


schwendemanMarta Schwendeman
Major: International Studies
In my time as an undergraduate, I’ve become interested in the grey areas of international law and negotiations that contribute to the resolution of international conflicts. Last fall quarter I took Water and Security in the Middle East with Professor Lorenz, which focused on the allocation of water resources among several nations. Although the Arctic dispute differs in character, it encompasses similar political, environmental, and economic issues. The Arctic Sovereignty Task Force provides a great opportunity to research and collaborate with my peers and apply our knowledge practically during the fact-finding mission in Ottawa.

shefferNaama Sheffer
Major: International Studies
When considering current developments in the Arctic, I find the ramifications for international relations, international law, Northern countries’ security policies and capabilities, the reshaping of the global shipping system, Arctic development, etc. to be fascinating. These emerging issues and new ways of looking at the world are exciting to follow, and have potentially far-reaching implications. The changing and unpredictable nature of physical conditions in the Arctic only add to the need to make a variety of predictions—predictions that will be influencing government policies, business decisions, and the international structure in the coming decades.

shimonovRuben Shimonov
Major: International Studies; Near Eastern Languages and Civilization
The issue of Arctic sovereignty interests me because it encompasses a wide range of key social, legal, political, and economic issues in the contemporary world. It takes into account the pertinent topics of global climate change, growing tension between Russia and the West, petroleum scarcity, national proprietary rights, and the rights of indigenous ethnic groups. Thus, in order to engage in a discussion on the Arctic crisis, one must be cognizant of how all of these issues are encapsulated in the debate.


strobleJamie Stroble
Major: International Studies: Development; Environmental Studies
Minor: Geography; Diversity; Environmental Science &Resource Management
I am intrigued by the Arctic sovereignty issue as it represents a unique intersection of my interests. As a double major in International Studies and Environmental Studies, I am most interested in the ways that the environment figures into international policy. Within environmental policy, I am especially interested in the rights of indigenous peoples in the face of global warming. There is a critical need to evaluate the effects of global warming, and assess the implications for governments, commerce, and human rights worldwide. Both the United States and Canada are uniquely positioned to become leaders in this arena.

trouttJulia Troutt
Major: International Studies
Minor: Human Rights
The issue of Arctic sovereignty is interesting to me personally because of my focus in environmental studies and my interest in the rights of indigenous peoples. However, I wanted to become a part of this task force mostly because of the world-wide importance of this issue now and in the near future. This issue will not only affect the countries that are directly involved, but the United States and other nations as well, so being well-versed in the nuances of this problem will be of great value.