Last week, the Kingdom of Denmark (Denmark, Greenland and the Faroe Islands) released its Strategy for the Arctic. This marks a culmination of a three year period in which each of the circumpolar states – Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States, as well as the EU – established new Arctic policies in face of the region's rapidly evolving geopolitical situation. While this in itself is significant, the most startling thing is the level of consensus articulated in these nine Arctic policies. For all of the region's diversity of interests, values, resources and cultures, when it comes to Arctic policy everyone is saying pretty much the same things.
The Arctic consensus is a reflection of what states view as the most important issues in the Arctic. It is reassuring, for those who favour greater international cooperation, that the objectives are so closely aligned. It is also a reflection of the influence of the Arctic epistemic community. The Arctic consensus is really their consensus.
Releasing policies is not as good as fulfilling them. Inevitably, the intent of the policies will be watered down in practice. But it is another sign of how far regionalization has come in the Arctic in a short 25 years, and a hopeful sign that the Arctic states will find ways to jointly address regional challenges.
Heather Exner-Pirot is a PhD candidate in the Department of Political Science at the University of Calgary, interested in Arctic security, circumpolar relations and northern governance issues. She is a former program assistant with the University of the Arctic Undergraduate Office.
This analysis is posted on Alaska Dispatch as part of Eye on the Arctic, a collaborative partnership between public and private circumpolar media organizations. The views are the writer's own.