The Arctic as a model for resolving geopolitical disputes?

VIETNAM, Hanoi : Protesters hold up a Vietnamese flag (L) while others shout slogans during an anti-China demonstration in the center of Hanoi on August 5, 2012 amid tensions over territorial disputes in the South China Sea. Could the Arctic be a model for resolving such territorial conflicts? AFP PHOTO The geopolitical conflicts in the Arctic get more and more attention when climate change is discussed in the public sphere.

The discussions are often framed as: the more resources that are made available because of climate change, the more players will jockey for position and the more territorial disputes they’ll be to settle.

This week I came across an article on discussing the territorial dispute in the South China Sea between nations such as China, Indonesia, Vietnam and others. Near the end of it, the author discusses Arctic Europe as an example for Asia in resolving some of these issues.

He goes back to the 1920 Spitsbergen Treaty giving Norway sovereignty over the Spitsbergen archipelago to the 2010 Barents Sea resolution between Russia and Norway.

The author points out that the business impetus of oil producers Norway and Russia being able to export their product as quickly and efficiently as possible ended up trumping the long simmering territorial disputes. And that maybe China and the Southeastern maritime nations can learn something from the whole exercise.

Interesting to see the Arctic being referred to in this light instead of as a powder keg of potential conflict.

Write to Eilís Quinn at eilis.quinn(at)

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is an award-winning journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic news cooperation project. Eilís has reported from the Arctic regions of all eight circumpolar countries and has produced numerous documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the North.

Her investigative report "Death in the Arctic: A community grieves, a father fights for change," about the murder of Robert Adams, a 19-year-old Inuk man from Arctic Quebec, received the silver medal for “Best Investigative Article or Series” at the 2019 Canadian Online Publishing Awards. The project also received an honourable mention for excellence in reporting on trauma at the 2019 Dart Awards in New York City.

Her report “The Arctic Railway: Building a future or destroying a culture?” on the impact a multi-billion euro infrastructure project would have on Indigenous communities in Arctic Europe was a finalist at the 2019 Canadian Association of Journalists award in the online investigative category.

Her multimedia project on the health challenges in the Canadian Arctic, "Bridging the Divide," was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards.

Her work on climate change in the Arctic has also been featured on the TV science program Découverte, as well as Le Téléjournal, the French-Language CBC’s flagship news cast.

Eilís has worked for media organizations in Canada and the United States and as a TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China."

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