Do we need a Law of Ice?
The Northern Institute for Environmental and Minority Law, located in the Arctic Centre, is organizing a workshop to address the question of how governance of the Arctic and other ice-covered regions could be facilitated by a new Law of Ice.
“Attention is increasingly turning to the Arctic as a region of
heightened incorporation into the global political economy, as evidenced
by intensifying resource extraction, trade flows, and the like. As this
is occurring, questions persist regarding the governance of a territory
whose geophysical properties are markedly different than those of the
temperate world that inspired the modern state system”, tells Research
Professor Timo Koivurova about the background of the workshop.
The prevalent system of territorial, land-based nation-states is based
on implicit assumptions about a binary, stable, and easily intelligible
geophysical division between land and water. Land is perceived as
consisting of points in which stable inhabitation occurs. Water is
legally constructed as an external space that exists to be crossed or
exploited so as to aid the development of the aforementioned land
territories. This division is codified in public international law,
including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and, more
broadly, the norms of state sovereignty.
“However, this idealized geophysical division of space that is
reproduced by the global legal regime does not easily translate to the
Arctic. In an ice-covered environment, frozen water can be a central
space of habitation. Conversely, frozen land, remote from southern
capitals, provides only limited opportunities for spatially-fixed
investment, development, and state control. The division between land
and water is often not readily apparent to individuals on the ground,
and it is further complicated by the variety of different water- and
land-covers. Additionally, the physical condition of both land and water
is highly variable over time, both seasonally and in the longer term
due to climate change and even geological change”, reminds Research
Professor Timo Koivurova.
To address these issues, the Arctic Centre at the University of Lapland
and Professor Phil Steinberg, Marie Curie Fellow at Royal Holloway,
University of London, are convening a workshop at the Arctic Centre on
3rd December 2012. This workshop will initiate what is intended to be a
multi-stage research programme that will ultimately produce a model law
of ice. The model law, by transcending the assumed land-sea binary that
underpins the modern state system, will explore new directions for the
future of ice-covered regions.
Research Professor Timo Koivurova, tel. +358 40 551 9522, timo.koivurova (at) ulapland.fi