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Arctic Governance - A process of engagement of Arctic and Non-Arctic Nations

Despite of the diffuse and imprecise concept of governance we can accept the interdisciplinary feature of governance and the constant search for efficiency in a completely fragmented, multidimensional and changeable reality. Another important element of the concept of governance is the plurality of the modes of control that can forge new models of politics, new economic systems, new models of development in order to deal with risks and opportunities at a larger scale.
When reflecting about governance and security in the 21st century and figuring out its new contours it is important to have in mind that this transition should have as a base, more inclusive, democratic and durable patterns of decision-making in order to realign and, in the long run, reshape the current governance model.

An innovative governance model should be an instrument of equality and efficiency more than an instrument of technological control, economic supremacy, or ‘extractivism’ and should address the gaps between the formal institutional order and the way it appears in reality.

Arctic governance in times of carbon constraint activities cannot be a laboratory for social and environmental experiences, it should be an assertive process of providing access to energy and resources at affordable prices and it should try to reduce the tension among different stakeholders’ interests with transparency and trust-building approach. It should also be an opportunity for institutions and entrepreneurs to innovate their business-as-usual practices considering the particular conditions of different regions under the aspiration of sustainability.

A good contribution to this necessary transformation would be to contextualize the study of governance in a more general framework of understanding the processes of institutionalization and of a shift toward poly-centred policies, politics and policy-making, but it is a matter of thinking and practicing governance as a state-centred or society-centred dynamic (Levi-Faur, 2012).

The root of the word governance relates to steering a boat, but a boat needs a clear destination. The Arctic political framework seems to be in need of a clear ‘destination’, clear targets, and clear implementation tools based on public transparency and trust-building approach among stakeholders from the Arctic and non-Arctic world.

Governance also implies some conception of accountability, so that the actors involved in setting goals and then in attempting to reach them, whether through public or private action, must be held accountable for their actions to society (Van Keersbergen and Van Waarden 2004). It is crucial to understand how Arctic and non-Arctic States will position themselves in terms of responsibility and compliance.

As governance involves collective action on collective goals and it is an essentially political concept, we believe that effective governance may be better provided with the involvement of the state actors and broader reflection of forms of public action (Levi-Faur, 2012).

The basic functions of the process of governance involve activities related to goal selection, coordination, implementation, and accountability. It involves designing the highest levels of responsible development. Goal selection and coordination requires acknowledgement and integration of goals across all levels of the system by establishing priorities. Implementation can be performed by state actors but also may involve social actors (Levi-Faur, 2012).

Accountability is an important mean for improving the quality of decision-making and enforcement system. Governance has a pronounced normative element, as well as the empirical element, which must be considered when analysing governance decisions not only for democratization reasons but as a legitimate instrument of democracy.

Processes of democratic governance try to create a space for reaching resolutions that can claim to be a legitimate expression of the voice of the people (Levi-Faur, 2012). A process of sharing ideas and values to build up a common view. It implies that good governance models are characterized by a shared-value approach.

One of the reasons that make governance a crucial concept and practice for the present and the future is that it carries the meaning of change. Presently, taking into account the main challenges of modern times it is essential to take governance more as an interactive process of steering and coordinating than as a static structure or framework.

The environmental changes visible in the Arctic will affect all nations that will need, at a certain point to position themselves about the components discussed above. As a researcher in the UK I can comment about the latest ‘Government Response to the House of Lords Select Committee Report HL 118 of Session 2014-15: Responding to a changing Arctic’ as one of the first documents showing the government position about the Arctic Policy Framework.

The UK Government, in this response, outlined concrete steps towards a more influential scientific and political role in the Arctic as an active player in many international scientific organizations, reinforcing the partnership with the Arctic Council, by building coordination across political and scientific bodies and other non-Arctic states to:

• improve our knowledge of Arctic methane and other gases released from various sources to determine their size and distribution and dependence on temperature;
• improve predictions of both the rates and consequences of permafrost thaw during the 21st century, including feedbacks to climate;
• quantify and understand the controls on carbon fluxes in permafrost environments, and on the implications for global radiative-forcing;
• quantify the melt-driven biogas production and nutrient export from Eurasian Arctic lowland permafrost;
• improve global scale climate models by helping to reduce uncertainties in the permafrost–climate feedback;
• determine the impact of climate on the carbon emissions and exports from Siberian inland waters;
• study terrestrial carbon transported to the Arctic shelf regions by rivers and coastal erosion and the effect of climate warming on this material;
• assess the impact of Arctic warming on seabed sediment stability and the potential threat posed to the UK through natural hazards;
• enhance UK’s representation in the Arctic Council;
• negotiate in international organizations such as International Maritime Organization, OSPAR and Convention on Biological Diversity;
• support further dialogue between the Arctic Council and its observers;
• show commitment to maintain peace, stability and cooperation in line with international law;
• develop UK understanding of relationships with non-Arctic states;
• understand the changes that are taking place in the Russian Arctic in order to understand the changes in the whole Arctic;
• recognize the important role of indigenous groups and promote their participation;
• demonstrate the UK’s commitment to sustainable development of Arctic Communities;
• look for mutually beneficial opportunities in the policy-making process;
• engage with the Arctic Economic Council and seek opportunities to influence best operating practices in the Arctic;
• facilitate compliance with local requirements to stimulate responsibility and engagement with and respect for local communities;
• comply with the Polar Code and stimulate rules-based negotiation;
• encourage Arctic States to engage in early open consultations regarding to fishing management;
• explore options for agreeing other agreements with Arctic and non-Arctic States.

Last but not least, the UK Government, through this response, exposed its position to seek opportunities to work with Arctic and non-Arctic partners to enhance convergence and knowledge-base on the Arctic challenges, demonstrating leadership and comprehension of the relevant role of Arctic governance framework for a common future of options in the long run.