￼Arctic states have committed to cooperation under existing UNCLOS regime in the Ilullisatt and Ottawa declarations
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So far, the goal of the Arctic states seems to be cooperation in protecting the environment while encouraging investment in hydrocarbon development. This goal is reflected in both regional and country-specific documents. At a regional level, Arctic states have repeatedly declared goals for cooperation. For example, the Ottawa Declaration established the Arctic Council—the main regional coordinating body of Arctic states—in 1996 with the following mission statement:
[T]o provide a means for promoting cooperation, coordination and interaction among the Arctic States, with the involvement of the Arctic Indigenous communities and other Arctic inhabitants on common Arctic issues; in particular, issues of28 sustainable development and environmental protection in the Arctic.
More recently in 2008, five key Arctic states—Canada, Denmark, Norway, the Russian Federation, and the United States—adopted the Ilulissat Declaration, claiming a set of unified policy goals.29 The Ilulissat Declaration captured the following regional policies of the Arctic States:
- commitment to the current legal framework and an observation that there is “no need to develop a new comprehensive international legal regime to govern the Arctic Ocean;”30
- recognition of the role of the Arctic States in protecting the unique Arctic ecosystem; and
- commitment to a cooperative approach to making Arctic development a sustainable undertaking.31
UNCLOS represents the consensus of decades of debate on how best to govern shared ocean resources and to handle disputes over border conflicts. The Arctic nations have settled on UNCLOS, adopting it in their laws and subsequent agreements, and it forms the basis for governance of the Arctic region.