Research project

Science and Business in Arctic Environmental Governance (POLGOV)

2016 - 2019 (Completed)

We know little about the role of science and business actors in contemporary Arctic governance. This project seeks to address this gap.

When we think about international relations, we tend to consider first the power of states and states’ representatives. Many accounts of Arctic governance, however, acknowledge that non-state actors have exercised important influence at critical junctures in regional politics. However, we know little about the role of science and business actors in shaping outcomes in contemporary Arctic governance, despite the high visibility of these two sets of actors.

POLGOV seeks to address this gap with two main research tasks. First, we will systematically assess how and why science and business actors' knowledge claims have gained purchase (or failed to do so) in two Arctic policy fields. Looking at policy developments in regional biodiversity politics and the development of oil spill prevention/response mechanisms, we trace change in how the policy problems have been understood over time (process tracing) and seek to map and understand relationships between policy field ‘players’ (network analysis). This work package (WP1) is carried out by researchers at the Fridtjof Nansen Institute.

Secondly, POLGOV's work acknowledges that there will likely remain enduring 'governance gaps' in circumpolar environmental governance due to a lack of regulation or failure to implement existing international agreements and national regulation. Noting that concerns for reputation and positive recognition have facilitated 'races to the top' in reaching high standards in several other sectors, POLGOV's ranking exercise - 'the Arctic Corporate Responsibility Index' (ACRI)- takes up the challenge forwarded in the POLARPROG call to produce new tools for Arctic regulation. The innovative cooperation between business and expert actors needed to produce the ACRI also provides us with one further opportunity to reflect on and analyze the potential role of non-state actors in Arctic environmental governance.

POLGOV researchers are still in an active fieldwork stage, with most of the academic publications from the project appearing in 2018 and 2019. In the meantime, our opinion and policy pieces thus far are available below, as well as write-ups of some of the events where the POLGOV team has been sharing early research results.

Opinion pieces/policy notes

Event write-ups

  • Leif Jensen, Christian Prip and Svein Vigeland Rottem presented their early research findings at the Arctic Circle Assembly in Reykjavik, October 2017.
  • Elana Wilson Rowe argued at Arctic Frontiers (January 2017) that the biggest risk for the Arctic is not conflict, but too little political cooperation - and funding- for the challenges that matter most for the region (in High North News in English and Norwegian).
  • Svein Vigeland Rottem presented challenges and options for Arctic Council reform at a celebration of Finland's 100th anniversary at the Norwegian Parliament.

Related events:

POLGOV experimental governance effort – the Arctic Environment Reputation Index – discussed in London

Russia and Arctic Governance: Cooperation in Conflict

Launch event for Elana Wilson Rowe's book on Arctic governance at the Stimson Center, 12 September 2018

High North Center for Business and Governance's anniversary seminar (in Norwegian):

Funding program