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In the Arctic, the thaw of East-West relations in the 1990s led to deeper regional and sub-regional cooperation, and a strengthening of the stability of the region through the establishment of standards. This led in turn to the formation of a patchwork of standards that overlap and intersect: the proliferation of soft law standards was then the only way to put the states and other stakeholders around the table, in a region that has not yet been cleared of past tensions. Few observers would have predicted that a body which so many limitations would have reached such results in terms of norm-making, considering that the Arctic Council (AC) is only 20 years old. The AC has often been viewed as politically ineffective, with lots of talk but little action on issues relating to its mandates of environmental protection and sustainable development. The AC is very far from being a perfect forum but despite or thanks to its “soft” structure, it offers a large place for local voices, which ensures its legitimacy, and it can better adapt over time by facilitating compromise. This paper explores the central role of the AC in Arctic norm setting, stressing the specificities of the Council among the wide range of Arctic-norm producers, and demonstrating how its successes are linked to its soft law structure, as a major factor of legitimacy and socialization, and finally of normative power in the Arctic. It is the flexibility of the AC that contributes to its strength. Thus, despite the absence of any ‘hard’ power, the AC is the major norm setting instrument in the Arctic.

in Politique étrangère Publication date 2017-09
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Le Conseil de l’Arctique a été créé en 1996. Il permet aux huit États possédant des territoires au nord du cercle polaire de dialoguer et de développer des projets de coopération. Conçu comme une structure souple orientée vers les échanges scientifiques, il évolue progressivement vers une plus forte institutionnalisation et permet de désamorcer certaines tensions. Des sujets plus politiques y sont désormais abordés, et des normes juridiquement contraignantes y ont été adoptées.

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Arctic Yearbook managing editor Joël Plouffe interviews Camille Escudé, a Ph.D. candidate in international relations at Sciences Po-CERI, France, and author of “The Strength of Flexibility: The Arctic Council in the Arctic Norm-Setting Process.” Escudé explores the central role of the Arctic Council in Arctic norm setting by examining the instruments of and documents produced under the Council, international agreements, and scholarly work on the Council in regional and international affairs. Her findings are also based on a series of interviews with members and Working Groups of the Council, as well as individuals working at the Council’s Secretariat in Tromsø.

in Observatoire de l'Arctique Publication date 2017-11
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La région arctique se trouve au cœur de bouleversements inédits, entre défis environnementaux, changements économiques et ruptures géopolitiques. Le réchauffement des relations Est-Ouest dans les années 1990 a abouti à un renforcement de la stabilité de la région et de la coopération régionale grâce au développement de processus de dialogue et d’établissement conjoint de normes. Dans cette région si particulière et encore récemment exempte de tout arsenal normatif, les acteurs à l’origine de la création de normes disposent d’une préséance symbolique. La profusion de soft law en Arctique reflète donc cette recherche de légitimité en Arctique de la part d’acteurs qui n’ont pas la volonté ou la capacité de créer de la hard law.