The Arctic Council at 10 Years: Retrospect and Prospects

David VanderZwaag


The article provides a 10th anniversary assessment of the Arctic Council’s work, regional ocean governance arrangements, and challenges facing the Arctic Council through a two-part analysis. First, a retrospective look highlights the two phases of region-wide cooperation in the Arctic: the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy’s creation and development, followed by the founding of the Arctic Council and the implementation of its programs and projects. Second, a prospective view is provided, in which two future realities facing the Arctic Council are discussed: ‘soft sleddings’ and ‘hard’ questions. ‘Soft sleddings’ are likely to continue at least in the near term, with the Council continuing its track as a discussional and catalytic forum rather than a regulatory or decision-making entity. Hard questions will increasingly face the Council and its constituents — questions regarding whether a treaty framework is needed to strengthen regional cooperation and, if so, a determination of the type of treaty arrangements and provisions that are most appropriate for the Arctic.

This paper was co-authored with Timo Koivurova, University of Lapland (


Environmental Law

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