Arctic Yearbook 2015 - Page 319

319 Arctic Yearbook 2015 state-level (see e.g. Neumann 2008). As Oran Young (2009: 431) explains in relation to Arctic governance: Although they do not prescribe detailed answers to specific questions about policy, the influence of such discourses is enormous. They often shape the way we formulate questions, and they can direct our thinking in ways that favour some answers and rule out others. As such, the discourses and conceptualisations of the Arctic region and own role therein held by state representatives hold a powerful potential to guide their approach thereto.3 Main findings Arctic statehood was for the majority of the Norwegian state officials primarily conceptualised as a result of geographically and geologically based provisions laid down in UNCLOS. Although a status as a so-called Arctic state is often derived from territory north of the Arctic Circle, oceanic rights clearly constructed an internal hierarchy among these, thereby granting Norway an elevated status even within the group. As a small state, this chimes well with Norway’s quest for international status and influence – a desire to be heard on the international stage (Carvalho & Neumann 2015). As one official explained: There is kind of an ‘A’ and a ‘B’ team in the AC, as there are five states that have borders to the Arctic Ocean, and Norway is one of those. [...] So that is, in a way, the ‘A’ team, those who have direct interests and territories in the Arctic Ocean, while the other states – with areas north of the Arctic Circle, but no border to the Ocean – they are kind of part of this game without participating to the same extent (G). Hence, the specific way in which the Arctic is defined becomes significant for relative status; in this case, emphasising the oceanic definition as it is of particular advantage. Interestingly, the officials’ understandings of (dis)similarity between the two terms ‘the Arctic’ and ‘the High North’ were highly inconsistent, showing the definitional malleability of the region depending on topical context and favoured political outcome (Skagestad 2010). Among the more reflexive comments on the utilisation of either term, one mused: “That sort of depends on who defines what things are; you often define things depending on your own interests” (F). In other words, UNCLOS grants Norway international status, also within the region itself; a status and particular interpretation of Arctic statehood that may advantageously be employed in certain contexts. Land territory north of the Arctic Circle, i.e. Norway’s three northernmost counties, was seen as a further legitimising factor of Arctic statehood, and instrumental in the privileged role as one of the A8. The phrase ‘region of opportunities’ (‘mulighetenes landsdel’) was repeated by many, highlighting the optimism tied to economic resource development in the northern areas benefitting the whole country. This particular focus on Northern Norway granted legitimacy not just abroad, but also among a domestic electorate; in turn necessitating specific political action to match the rhetoric in the form of investment in the northernmost counties: Medby