ENTERING ICY WATERS: THE ARCTIC AGENDA
H.E. Thordur Aegir Oskarsson
The considerably successful work of the Arctic Council since its launch in 1996 has increasingly
been characterized by the pragmatic cooperation among the eight Arctic state members in
The Arctic Council has enjoyed a solid political tailwind for almost two decades, resulting in a
robust institution that has moved away from being exclusively a policy shaping body into the
territory of pragmatic policy making reflected in two Arctic-wide agreements on search and
rescue and prevention of oil spills.
However, currently the Council is facing increasing challenges, not only rising from its agenda,
but more acutely from challenges stemming from events external to the Arctic region. Juha
Käpylä and Harri Mikkola, in a previously published briefing paper, have argued that “should an
interstate conflict surface in the Arctic, the source is most likely to be related to a complex global
dynamics that may spill over to the region and which cannot be addressed with existing Arctic
governance mechanisms.” The crisis in the Ukraine is a testament to this argument. Last
September the United States and the European Union introduced economic sanctions against
Russia that directly affect offshore hydrocarbon resource development in the Arctic. These
sanctions are not high on the political and economic risk scale, but they confirm that the Arctic
region is not absolutely immune from external events.
Apart from external effects on Arctic cooperation, it is irresponsible to disregard the possibility
of emerging tensions arising among the member states of the Arctic Council on Arctic specific
Thordur Aegir Oskarsson is the Ambassador of Iceland to the United Kingdom.