The Arctic in International Law: Time for a New Regime?

16 Pages Posted: 11 Dec 2008 Last revised: 20 Dec 2008

Date Written: December 10, 2008


Long neglected in terms of international governance and management, the Arctic is slowly attracting greater attention as a region in need of an effective regime. Whilst the Arctic is not plagued by unresolved territorial disputes, there is the spectre of rising tension over yet to be asserted maritime claims over the vast Arctic Ocean. When this issue is added to the growing alarm over the impact of climate change upon the Arctic, which brings with it not only associated significant environmental change but also increased access within the region, it becomes clear that a region which for all of the Twentieth Century was pushed to the side when it came to the regulation of international affairs has the potential to take centre stage as state interests are awoken and global concerns advance. This paper reviews some of these recent developments with a particular focus upon outer continental shelf claims to the Arctic Ocean, navigational rights and freedoms within the Northeast and Northwest Passage, and the development of the Arctic Council. It argues that the circumstances are ripe for the development of an Arctic Treaty, borrowing from some of the concepts and principles which have been adopted in Antarctica.

Keywords: Arctic, International Law, Arctic Treaty, Outer Continental Shelf, Navigation

Suggested Citation

Rothwell, Donald R., The Arctic in International Law: Time for a New Regime? (December 10, 2008). ANU College of Law Research Paper No. 08-37, Available at SSRN: or

Donald R. Rothwell (Contact Author)

ANU College of Law ( email )

Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 0200

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