Sunday, June 29, 2008

Treaty on Ice

As you may know, one of the goal of the Pax Arctica initiative will be to increase protection of the Arctic via new agreements and/or reinforcement of existing ones.

It is interesting (and sad) to see that the position of the US (explained below in a recent New York Times Op-Ed arcticle by an official from the US Secretary of State entourage) is that the US "should do nothing to advance a new comprehensive treaty for the region"... With "legal" advice of this kind, we should all be worried about the impact on Arctic populations, ecosystems and wildlife of the increased US interest for "one of the largest and most resource-rich continental shelves in the world"...

Full Arcticle below...

" Treaty on Ice

Published: June 23, 2008


WITH the Arctic ice melting, anticipated increases in Arctic shipping, tourism and economic activity, and Russia’s flag-planting at the North Pole last summer, there has been much talk in the press about a “race to the Arctic” and even some calls for a new treaty to govern the “lawless” Arctic region.

We should all cool down. While there may be a need to expand cooperation in some areas, like search and rescue, there is already an extensive legal framework governing the region. The five countries bordering the Arctic Ocean — the United States, Canada, Denmark, Norway and Russia — have made clear their commitment to observe these international legal rules. In fact, top officials from these nations met last month in Greenland to acknowledge their role in protecting the Arctic Ocean and to put to rest the notion that there is a Wild West-type rush to claim and plunder its natural resources.

Existing international law already provides a comprehensive set of rules governing use of the world’s oceans, including the Arctic. The law enshrines navigational rights and freedoms for military and commercial vessels. It also specifies the rights of coastal nations in offshore marine areas. Setting aside the unfortunate flag-planting on the North Pole (a stunt with no legal significance), Russia has been following international procedures for identifying the legal extent of its boundaries, including its continental shelf.

Other solid international rules also apply in the Arctic. In instances where the maritime claims of coastal nations overlap, international law sets forth principles for them to apply in resolving their disputes. As for protecting the marine environment, the law spells out both national and internationally agreed pollution control measures.

As one example, the United Nations’ International Maritime Organization has produced treaties that limit pollution from various sources, including ships and ocean dumping. It has also developed safety guidelines for ship operations in hard-to-navigate ice-covered areas. What’s more, the Arctic Council, an eight-nation diplomatic forum, is working to strengthen its already existing guidelines on oil and gas activities.

Some nongovernmental organizations and academics say that we need an “Arctic treaty” along the lines of the treaty system that governs Antarctica. Though it sounds nice, such a treaty would be unnecessary and inappropriate. The situations in the Arctic and the Antarctic are hardly analogous. The Antarctic Treaty, signed in 1959, governs a continent surrounded by oceans — a place where it was necessary to suspend claims to sovereignty in order to promote peace and scientific research. The Arctic, by contrast, is an ocean surrounded by continents. Its ocean is already subject to international rules, including rules related to marine scientific research, and its land has long been divided up, so there are few disputes over boundaries.

So what should the United States do about the Arctic? For starters, it should do nothing to advance a new comprehensive treaty for the region. Instead, it should take full advantage of the existing rules by joining the Law of the Sea Convention. The convention, now before the Senate, would codify and maximize international recognition of United States rights to one of the largest and most resource-rich continental shelves in the world — extending at least 600 miles off Alaska.

Canada, Denmark, Norway and Russia are parties to the convention and they are already acting to protect and maximize their rights. The United States should do the same. Signing on would do much more to protect American security and interests in the Arctic than pursuing the possibility of a treaty that we really don’t need.


John B. Bellinger is the legal adviser to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Departure date approaches...

July 5, we'll all meet in Ottawa. That's where we'll all assemble for a welcome dinner with John Coo, President of GreenCross Canada. The next day we'll be off to Iqaluit (southern Baffin), where we will meet Beth Idlout, our new (but yet unmet) Inuit friend.
Five days left and a million things to do. Always like that. Last year for Greenland, we did get the Park permit the day before departure (true)!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Wise Words...

“Anything else you're interested in is not going to happen if you can't breathe the air and drink the water. Don't sit this one out. Do something. You are by accident of fate alive at an absolutely critical moment in the history of our planet”
- Carl Sagan, Astrophysicist

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Canada Apologizes for Abuse of Natives...

After Australia... Canada Offers an Apology for Native Students’ Abuse...

OTTAWA — The government of Canada formally apologized on Wednesday to Native Canadians for forcing about 150,000 native children into government-financed residential schools where many suffered physical and sexual abuse.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Launch of the Pax Arctica Initiative

Paris, France - June 4th 2008, the Pax Arctica Initiative was launched during a kick off press conference. Among the participants of the event were Former Prime Minister of France Michel Rocard, expedition leaders Luc Hardy, Bertrand Charrier, and President of Green Cross France Yves Paccalet. Prime Minister Michel Rocard related the diplomatic mobilization that resulted in the adoption of the Protocol on Environmental Protection of the Antarctic Treaty in the early 1990s.

Expedition leaders Luc Hardy, Sebastian Copeland and Bertrand Charrier officially launch the Pax Arctica Initiative and announce the northern tip of the Canadian Arctic as the first destination in this series of Arctic missions. The Pax Arctica Initiative is a series of expeditions undertaken by environmental advocates in collaboration with Green Cross France and Global Green USA, designed to alert public opinion of critical environmental issues that endanger the Arctic region. Spanning a period of three years from July 2008 to 2010, Pax Arctica will emphasize focused research by ecological scientists and environmental advocates to explore and assess the ecological conditions and the geopolitical climate of the Arctic. The ultimate goal is to determine the steps needed to preserve the Arctic ecosystem for generations to come and to encourage the ratification of international policies to ensure the preservation of the Arctic habitat.

Friday, June 6, 2008

5 Arctic nations say they will obey U.N. rules...

... interesting to see if the US will really follow through on this commitment if the UN were to rule in favor of Russian claims for seabed under the north pole (Luc Hardy)

ILULISSAT, Greenland (Reuters) - Five Arctic coastal nations agreed on Wednesday to let the U.N. rule on conflicting territorial claims on the region's seabed, which may hold up to one fourth of the world's undiscovered hydrocarbon reserves.

"We affirmed our commitment to the orderly settlement of any possible overlapping claims," U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte told a news conference.

Ministers from Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia and the United States met in Greenland for a two-day summit to discuss sovereignty over the Arctic Ocean seabed.

Under the 1982 U.N. Law of the Sea Convention, coastal states own the seabed beyond existing 200-nautical mile (370-km) zones if it is part of a continental shelf of shallower waters. The rules aim to fix shelves' outer limits on a clear geological basis, but have created a tangle of overlapping Arctic claims.

The United States has not yet ratified the convention, but Negroponte urged Congress to do so as soon as possible.

The countries, most major oil exporters, agreed to settle conflicting territorial claims by the law until a U.N. body could rule on the disputes.

Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moller called the meeting in his country's self-governing province to try to end squabbling over ownership of huge tracts of the Arctic seabed, although it will be several decades before oil drilling in the deep Arctic sea is feasible.

Also attending were Greenland Premier Hans Enoksen, Russian and Norwegian Foreign Ministers Sergei Lavrov and Jonas Gahr Stoere and Canadian Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn.