Protecting Canada's water. Empowering Canada's North.

Changing the Arctic Paradigm from Cold War to Cooperation

Changing the Arctic Paradigm from Cold War to Cooperation
Full Title: 
Changing the Arctic Paradigm from Cold War to Cooperation: How Canada’s Indigenous Leaders Shaped the Arctic Council
March 14, 2013
Download file (329.02 KB)application/pdf icon

Dr. Axworthy delivered this paper during the Fifth Polar Law Symposium at the Arctic Centre in Rovaniemi, Finland (September 6-8, 2012). It will also be included in the forthcoming Yearbook of Polar Law, Volume 5.

This paper is about a rarity in public policy – the successful implementation of a change strategy from 1987 to 1998 to create the Arctic Council, a new international forum. The Arctic Council is a case where eight states came together with civil society to replace an Arctic Cold War framework of non-engagement and military competition with one of multipolar co-operation through a collaborative agenda-setting forum. Three countries – Russia, Finland, and Canada – played the lead role in the creation of the Arctic Council. For Canada’s part, one of the most significant influences on that government was the activities of a generation of indigenous leaders, especially the Inuit, who played an active role in all phases of the Council’s creation. In 2007, the United Nations adopted a Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, a landmark for indigenous people around the globe. But 20 years before the passage of that declaration, indigenous citizens of the Arctic had created a precedent by winning international recognition of their right to participate in the operations and structure of the Arctic Council.