Arctic Governance and the Relevance of History

  • Shelagh D. Grant
Part of the St Antony’s Series book series (STANTS)


In discussion of current issues, the relevance of history is too often ignored or disregarded as insignificant. Yet in the case of Arctic governance in North America, there are sufficient similarities to previous challenges to warrant closer examination. A cursory glance reveals a number of circumstances which precipitated changes in ownership or authority, such as an abrupt change in climate; wars and economic adversity; technological advances and increased demand for Arctic resources. In varying degrees, all are present today. History also reveals that the greatest threat to Arctic sovereignty was loss of control over the adjacent waters and major sea routes.1 Equally significant are differences in demography, cultural traditions, local economies, and political institutions which become self-evident when comparing the histories of Alaska, Arctic Canada, and Greenland. Admittedly, there are obvious similarities in climate, geography, marine life, flora, and fauna, but human factors are critical to understanding the need for tolerance and compromise in devising policies acceptable to all regions. Although cooperation among the Arctic countries has been enhanced by success of the Arctic Council, increasing competition for the region’s resources could become a divisive factor if accompanied by a threat to authority over adjacent waters.


International Maritime Organization Coast Guard Canadian Government Arctic Council Polar Imperative 
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© Shelagh D. Grant 2016

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  • Shelagh D. Grant

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