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MUNDP 2017 – Commitment to Development – Research Report
Committee: UNSC
Agenda Item: Establishing framework for the demilitarization of the Arctic Circle
Student Officer & Role: Ceyhun Fırat, President
Basic Overview of the Issue
With the ever-growing effects of climate change, the Arctic region has become more
accessible. The melting of the glaciers has given rise to industries and resources such as fishing,
mining, fossil fuels, and shipping. Because of the improvements, Arctic states and non-Arctic states
alike have expressed their interest in the region and its resources. The militarization which has been
slow up until recent in the region therefore is under the threat of becoming faster and faster as nations
begin to claim more and more rights over the Arctic in attempts to gain economic, political, and
military gains.
Explanation of Important Terms
Arctic Circle
(Physical Geography) the imaginary circle round
the earth, parallel to the equator, at latitude 66° 32′ N; it
marks the northernmost point at which
the sun appears above the level of the horizon on the
winter solstice.
To deprive of military character;
free from militarism;
to forbid military use of (a border zone).
Global warming
Map of the Arctic Circle
An increase in the earth's average atmospheric
temperature that causes corresponding changes in climate and that may result from the greenhouse
Fossil fuel
Any combustible organic material, as oil, coal, or natural gas, derived from the remains of
former life.
Global sanctuary
An area where exploitation is banned internationally.
MUNDP 2017 – Commitment to Development
Arctic states
A term which includes Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, and the United
Detailed Background of the Issue
The Arctic region is located in the North Pole and contains territories belonging to the Arctic
states – Denmark, Russia, United States, Canada, Finland, Iceland and Norway. For a very long period
of time, that is before mid-20th century, the majority of the Arctic landmass was unusable and
inaccessible to industry. However, as more ice started to melt with industrialization reaching global
scales, the Arctic became more and more accessible, especially to states who own a portion of the
Cold War and the formation of the Arctic Circle
Although the spread of militarization was definitely hastened by many crises during the Cold
War on a global scale, a dispute between the United States and the USSR specifically affected the
Arctic Circle. Faced with the placement of missiles and other strategic weapons and the Soviet
exploitation of Arctic resources, the Ottawa declaration was formally signed, establishing the Arctic
Circle with the involvement of the above-mentioned states. Its aims were and still are to lessen the
tensions in the region and to promote cooperation, coordination, and interaction among the Arctic
Climate change and its effects on the region
The constant change in climate and its effects on the accessibility of the region are a major
factor in this issue. From the 1950s onwards, the ice of the Arctic has been reduced by fifty percent,
which has opened up many economic and political prospects for opportunistic nations. For example, in
2007, a passage between the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans was opened which gave way to new
transportation routes, which increased the value ıf certain territories dramatically.
Climate change has also dramatically affected the fossil fuel industry. Experts estimate that a
significant portion of undiscovered oil and natural gas reserves are hidden under the Arctic, which are
bound to be discovered sooner or later with the current rate of global warming and cause tensions to
increase. In addition to fossil fuels, climate change also causes other resources, such as marine life and
minerals to be open for exploitation by Arctic states.
MUNDP 2017 – Commitment to Development
Important disputes
There are a number of important disputes in the region, which can be shown as a threat to the
stability and peace in the Arctic Circle. These disputes are: between United States and Canada on the
status of the Northern Passage, about the Hans Island (Denmark and Canada), regarding the
Lomonosov Bridge between Canada, Denmark and Russia, and arguably most importantly regarding
the maritime boundary along the Bering Sea and the Antarctic landmass between the United States and
Russia. In addition to the Arctic states, which are all very much involved with disputes surrounding
the issue, the United Kingdom and China are also involved in the region through their claims on the
Svalbard archipelago.
Although the Commission on the Limits of Continental Shelf (CLCS) and the United Nations
Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), two frameworks that highlight the important
internationally accepted boundaries for maritime and continental borders, have been referred to
numerous times in attempts to solve these disputes, the issues still stand unresolved, which fails to
prevent nations from militarizing the region at a faster rate.
More recently: Militarization of the Arctic
In order to achieve their above-mentioned goals, the Arctic countries have been moving more
and more towards militarizing the region. Canada has expressed interest in facilitating more military
bases in the region, and the Norwegian officials have openly said that a military presence would be
necessary for the nation’s interests. Another Arctic country, United States, has also been guilty of
increasing military presence in the region. The United States, after approving the oil-drilling in
Alaskan Arctic, has accompanied its exploitative activities with its military in order not only to protect
its activities but also to assure its claims over the region are heard.
Russian activity is also very significant. More recently, since 2015, the Russian Federation has
been accelerating its militarization in the region through the establishment of new “military patrols”,
which include tens of thousands of servicemen, along with ships, submarines, and aircrafts. Recent
Russian activity is therefore very reminiscent of Soviet-era activity in the region when the tensions
were inflated.
MUNDP 2017 – Commitment to Development
Major Parties Involved
Arctic Council
The Arctic Council’s official website introduces the organization as follows.
“The Arctic Council is the leading intergovernmental forum promoting cooperation,
coordination and interaction among the Arctic States, Arctic indigenous communities and other Arctic
inhabitants on common Arctic issues, in particular on issues of sustainable development and
environmental protection in the Arctic.”
Canada is notable for being one of the nations that focus much of its national interest in the
Arctic. It is building and maintaining petrol vessels, which it aims to protect through diplomacy and
military. It is also involved in border disputes, such as the question of the Northern Passage and the
Beaufort and Lincoln Sea dispute.
Denmark also seemingly wants to increase its military presence in the Arctic through
Greenland in order to protect their national interests in the region. Although not a nuclear state,
Denmark aims to extract uranium from the region in addition to its intentions regarding the border
disputes: Lomonosov Ridge and the Hans Island.
Norway promotes peace in the Arctic regardless of their recent military presence in the region.
They believe that the existing international agreements such as the UNCLOS provide a sufficient
framework for the boundaries set forth by Arctic states. Their rationale for increasing their military
presence closely relates to Russia’s ever-growing presence in the region.
Russian Federation
A sustainable and economically powerful Arctic region is one of the key international goals of
the Russian Federation. The state aims to maintain peaceful relations with its Arctic neighbors,
however, as of recent with the accelerated military activity of the United States and Canada, the
MUNDP 2017 – Commitment to Development
Russian Federation has not fallen
Russia’s militarization of the Arctic
behind. In fact, they are one of the
Arctic states with the most military
personnel in the region. A
considerable portion of the Russian
economy depends on the Arctic and
the activities surrounding the
region, therefore Arctic is
significant for the economic
stability of the nation. This is why
Russia is very persistent when it
comes to border disputes. Russian
Federation is also notable for
planting a titanium Russian flag on the bottom of the Arctic ocean.
United States of America
The United States owns pipelines and oil-drills in the region, which are important for its
economic stability, much like that of Russia. The United States’ dependence on the resources from the
region are bound to grow as fossil fuel resources begin to decline elsewhere. Also, the Arctic is of
importance to the United States because of its strategic significance: through the region the United
States is able to detect and manage missiles and maintain its defense systems. It should be noted that
the United States has still not officially signed UNCLOS.
Although not an Arctic state, China has been persistent in its efforts to gain an observer status
in the Arctic Council. Chinese scientists are active in the region, working to find ways which could
benefit the Chinese government.
MUNDP 2017 – Commitment to Development
Relevant International Documents
- The Ottawa Declaration, 1996
- United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, 1982
- UN Habitat Resolution Sustainable development of Arctic human settlements, 20th April 2007
Past Attempts to Resolve the Issue
In the past, the treaties found under the “Relevant International Documents” have been tried to
be used in order to come to a conclusion regarding the border disputes between the countries;
however, since not every single Arctic state and non-Arctic state wholeheartedly and officially
recognize these agreements, they have failed to provide an ultimate answer to the border disputes at
Although many other treaties and agreements have been signed throughout the 20th and the 21st
century, these have failed to solve the issue at hand because very few of them are currently being
referred to when discussing the issue.
Solution Alternatives
A comprehensive and inclusive framework is essential for solving the many complicated issues
at hand. While discussing the issues surrounding the Arctic, the delegates must consider that the
conditions set forth in the framework must be agreed on by all Arctic states and non Arctic states who
have interest in the Arctic to avoid backlash and future conflicts of interest.
The issue should be addressed from different perspectives in order to ultimately decrease the
number of military troops, bases, weaponry and ships in the region. Firstly, the territorial questions
should be addressed. Which nation controls which parts of the region is an important question to ask
as it has been one that has been unaddressed for decades. Delegates can either choose to specifically
address border disputes or to form a general framework for what should be done about the territorial
disputes in the region. (It is also important to note that no one nation currently owns a significant part
of the Arctic, but rather smaller portions where research stations/military bases/locations significant
for transportation are present).
Secondly, the economic implications have to be considered. Since many nations are currently
dependent on the Arctic for their economic stability, it may be a good idea to avoid the economic
involvement of other states, as this may lead to more nations’ militaries being present in the Arctic. It
might also be a good idea to encourage nations to move away from the resources found in the Arctic
and towards renewable energy sources which would reduce their dependence on non-renewable fossil
fuels in the region and increase the Arctic states’ long-term economic stability, which is the main
concern for many states.
It is also important to encourage peace in all discussions and focus on feasible ways in which
military personnel can be reduced and eventually completely moved away from the region and
military bases can be shut down. It is important to ensure that all nations involved in the issue come
together in trust, cooperation, and peace, rather than mistrust, conspiracy, and self-interest.
MUNDP 2017 – Commitment to Development
"Arctic Circle." The Free Dictionary. Farlex, n.d. Web. 17 Jan. 2017.
Foizee, Bahauddin. "Growing Militarization in Arctic amid Increasing Disputes." Modern Diplomacy.
N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Jan. 2017.
"Demilitarize.", n.d. Web. 17 Jan. 2017.
"Fossil Fuel.", n.d. Web. 17 Jan. 2017.
"United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Annex 2, Article 4)". Retrieved 2007-07-26.
Useful Links
The official website of the Arctic Council
A presentation summarizing the on-goings at the Arctic.
MUNDP 2017 – Commitment to Development