Arctic Justice Project

Future scenarios of economic, environmental and social development in the Arctic

Background

The Arctic, a strategical geographic and political area, is becoming increasingly attractive for future economic and resource development projects. As a social space under internal and external pressures and as an environmental area already affected by climate change, it has been also increasingly attracting the attention of scholars, research institutions and policy makers.

Our Approach

We take justice for the Arctic to be a model in the making. We engage theories of justice and models of theory and practice in order to examine which of them are most suitable for the region. There is an inherent disjunction between the governance and the economic development of the Arctic; caught in between are the people and the environment this affects.

The fragility of the environment, the need for safe and sustainable development of resources is the language used in official discourse, but the reality is the economic development of many resources is anything but sustainable and it is often both environmentally risky and rarely equitable to the people of the circumpolar Arctic. If an antidote to the effects of anthropogenic climate change and the presence of inherent systemic inequalities is to be found, radical models should be envisaged if environmental, social and territorial justice is ever to be realised for the Arctic.

The future of prosperity and stability in the Artic territories is largely dependent on national land-use strategies and policy developed according to national and international environmental guidelines. Many of these ignore issues of sustainability and codes of good practice.

What We Are Doing

Research at the institute is addressing key questions on the growing appropriation of Arctic territories by the mining, energy and maritime commercial sectors from a variety of disciplinary approaches related to international relations, social dimension and sustainable development. Examples:

  • intensification of claims the geopolitical dynamics along state borders in the Arctic and the changing legal structures that frame these developments
  • the impact on indigenous and local communities and pre-shapes their place in a neoliberal system
  • the interplay between natural resources and human settlements from an ecologically niche perspective covering the period from the late 16th century up to modern times.

To protect the future of a prosperous Arctic there are challenges yet to be resolved and these issues are incorporated into our research:

  • Major disagreements in interpretations of the geological evolution of the Arctic, influenced by politics in the context of global climate change affecting the future relationship between the geopolitical order and the geological framework in the Arctic
  • Land use by indigenous peoples across the globe, where, there are legal rights to only a fraction of the lands they occupy and very little of this land is formally registered and documented. This makes community land vulnerable to governments, corporations and other commercial speculation
  • Industry hazards in the Arctic have a significant bearing on the environment, and ultimately, on the quality of human health
  • Need for policy initiatives to support the greening of the Arctic economy has inspired a new body of research at the interface between human society and nature in the North. It includes sustainable development and equitability, the role of indigenous knowledge and the concept of the social contract