International Arctic Forum: Territory of Dialogue postponed until September

Even the Arctic has not emerged unscathed from the eruption of Eyjafjallajokull. A conference that was to be held in Moscow, Russia, called “The Arctic: Territory of Dialogue,” has been postponed until September due to the thousands of flight disruptions. The Russian Geographical Society will host the event, which is to supposed to mark the society’s revival.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Prince Albert of Monaco, who is the guest of honor, are scheduled to attend the forum. Prince Albert’s visit may seem a bit surprising, but he has actually been heavily involved in Arctic issues, having traveled numerous times to both poles. He was the guest of honor at the opening ceremonies for the 2007 International Polar Year (IPY), and will give the closing speech to the opening ceremonies of the upcoming IPY Oslo Science Conference in June, billed as “the largest polar science gathering ever.”

Representatives from research organizations, such as experts from the members of the Arctic Council and the European Polar Board will also be present. The EPB is Europe’s advisory board on science policy at both poles. Representatives from indigenous communities will also make appearances at the conference.

The Russian Geographical Society has an interesting set of materials available on its website, all in Russian. However, you can view them through Google Translate to read them in English, or most any other language of your choice. There is also a nicely designed English-language website with less information. I liked this set of maps the RGS provided in the “Legal Regime of the Arctic” section on different ways to divide up the Arctic:

Sectoral Method

sectoral

The sectoral method, the traditional way of carving the earth’s polar region, divides the Arctic using a country’s eastern and western borders and the North Pole to form a triangle.

Conventional Method

conventional

The so-called “conventional method” is based on principles of the Law of the Sea, namely that a country’s territorial waters extend 200 miles out from their coastline, but may extend up to 350 miles out depending on the edge of the continental shelf. This possible extension of the territorial sea, and with it, rights over resource exploitation, has led countries to invest millions of dollars in researching the Arctic sea floor. We can see that Russia would greatly benefit from using the sectoral method over the conventional method, but alas, it ratified UNCLOS in 1997. It will be interesting to see what discussions take place at this forum, once it finally takes place.

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