Law, Science, and the Continental Shelf: The Russian Federation and the Promise of Arctic Cooperation

32 Pages Posted: 8 May 2010  

Betsy B. Baker

Vermont Law School; University of Washington School of Law

Date Written: Feb. 2, 2010

Abstract

The Arctic Ocean is the smallest and least understood ocean in the world, yet it contains more than one-quarter of the earth’s entire continental shelf. In recent years, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (“UNCLOS” or “Convention”) has emerged as a powerful driver for acquiring scientific data about the Arctic continental shelf and seafloor and for encouraging new forms of scientific and diplomatic cooperation in the wild, pristine and diminishingly icy but still dangerous seascape of the Arctic Ocean. This article demonstrates how UNCLOS has provided Russia and its Arctic neighbors with a legal framework for scientific and diplomatic cooperation that can extend beyond mapping the Arctic continental shelf. It also underlines the fundamental reliance of law on science in the continental shelf mapping process, showing how recent mapping efforts have contributed to the unprecedented availability of information about the nature and history of the Arctic Ocean. In doing so, it examines how lawyers and scientists approach the same treaty provisions from their respective disciplinary perspectives. The article concludes by considering how recent U.S. and Russian statements of national policy regarding the Arctic, and how nurturing joint scientific projects there, can strengthen science and international cooperation in the region.

Keywords: Arctic, Russian Federation, Commission on the Limits of Continental Shelf, (CLCS), Arctic Ocean, United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, United Nations, North Pole

Suggested Citation

Baker, Betsy B., Law, Science, and the Continental Shelf: The Russian Federation and the Promise of Arctic Cooperation (Feb. 2, 2010). American University International Law Review, Vol. 25, No. 2, 2010; Vermont Law School Research Paper No. 10-38. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1600210

Betsy B. Baker (Contact Author)

Vermont Law School ( email )

68 North Windsor Street
P.O. Box 60
South Royalton, VT 05068
United States
8028311270 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.vermontlaw.edu/directory/person?name=Baker,Betsy

University of Washington School of Law ( email )

c/o 510 L Street
Suite 500
Anchorage, AK 99517
United States
9077937046 (Phone)

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