Svalbard and Antarctica: problems and solutions



Publication Details

S. Kaye, 'Svalbard and Antarctica: problems and solutions' in K. Dodds, A. D. Hemmings & P. Roberts(eds), Handbook on the Politics of Antarctica (2017) 453-467.


In the framing of any work on the law and politics of the Antarctic, there is always a great temptation on the part of an author to consider the other polar region, the Arctic, in any analysis. This stems not only from the similarities in climate, or the remote and wild nature of the geography of both regions. It is more fundamental, as the Antarctic's very name is itself derived from the Arctic, being literally the 'Anti-Arctic' by virtue of its location at the opposite end of the world. Similarly, there has been substantial participation by many Arctic states in Antarctic affairs, most notably by Norway, Russia and the United States as original parties to the Antarctic Treaty, but more recently by Finland and Sweden as full consultative parties, and Canada and Denmark as non-consultative parties. This chapter will consider some similarities and differences between law and governance in the Arctic and Antarctic. It will consider the Antarctic, as would be expected, through the prism of the Antarctic Treaty and some of its associated instruments, but the Arctic will be considered in more narrow terms. Since the Arctic is dominated by the sovereign states at the periphery of the region, surrounding the ocean at its centre, there are many profound differences with the governance of the Antarctic. One exception to this can be found in the arrangements dealing with Svalbard, the archipelago containing the northernmost permanent settlement in the world. Arrangements for Svalbard were, like those in the Antarctic, concluded by an international agreement, with the participation of a number of great powers. Further, many of the objectives espoused in the treaty documents for both regions were broadly congruent, and a number of difficulties experienced have also been similar. Svalbard therefore provides an interesting counterpoint to the Antarctic, and provides an exercise in comparative problem-solving across the generations, inter-war and post-1945.

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