Tag Archives: Arctic states

International Legal Regimes to Manage Indigenous Rights and Arctic Disputes from Climate Change (R. Snyder)


Robert Snyder


international law, indigenous rights, Arctic states, climate change, Arctic ice recedes


I. Introduction

Escalating tensions between the Arctic states – Russia, Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Canada, Sweden, Finland, and the United States – have caught indigenous people in the middle because as Arctic ice recedes, the Arctic states have positioned themselves to obtain control over the largest area of the Arctic Ocean possible. 1 The larger the maritime zones under an Arctic state’s control the more Arctic riches it controls. An often marginalized feature of this incipient struggle is that Arctic states’ delineation of the Exclusive Economic Zone (“EEZ”) poses great threats to the livelihood and survival of indigenous peoples. 2

A country’s EEZ lies just beyond its territorial waters and can extend up to 200 miles from the shore (and sometimes farther). 3 The 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea (“LOST”) 4 allows a state to govern the “resources and activities in the water column and ocean surface” 5 that lie within its EEZ. Historically, few territorial disputes have occurred in the Arctic, 6 and so the Arctic states have had little incentive to address common concerns or issues in the region. 7 But the first 1958 Geneva Convention on the Law of the Sea, 8 and later the 1982 LOST, changed the status quo. 9 These treaties legitimized more expansive maritime zones, creating conditions rife with potential for interstate disputes. 10

When Arctic states establish their EEZs, not only do they potentially antagonize adjacent states with competing claims; they also may infringe on traditional indigenous hunting …


(2011) 22 Colorado Journal of International Environmental Law and Policy 1


International Legal Regimes to Manage Indigenous Rights and Arctic Disputes from Climate Change