Arctic Ocean Governance

CMM47A Elective Course 4 ECTS
Period -
Instructor Dr. Bradley W. Barr


The Arctic is a vast region that encompasses eight national jurisdictions surrounding a large and remote high seas area. It is a sparsely populated place of largely Indigenous peoples with longstanding tenure rights, emerging governments, and greater aspirations for self-determination. It is also of significant interest to the global community for its many resources, including oil and gas, methane hydrates, hard minerals, fisheries and as a potentially important route for maritime transportation. It is also a place where great and rapid changes are occurring as a result of global climate change, making the Arctic more accessible for human use and development as the permanent ice sheet diminishes each year. Governance of such a place presents considerable challenges. The course will discuss the history of governance in the Arctic, both the governance of Arctic nations and the international collaborations that have been established to foster coordination among these nations. Specific contemporary governance mechanisms, such as the Arctic Council and more limited sub-regional collaborative bodies, will be discussed and analyzed. Potential future frameworks for Arctic governance will be introduced and evaluated, including establishing a regional seas agreement and international treaty agreements for the Arctic similar to that implemented for the Antarctic. The special role of Indigenous peoples of the Arctic in the governance of this region will be highlighted. The course will involve considerable background reading outside class, active participation in discussions, and individual presentations on key issues relevant to class session topics.

Part of the course is participating the conference Arctic Circle in Reykjavík. The University Centre will not pay for accommidation and travel.


At the conclusion of the class, the students will:

  • Understand the evolution of governance in the Arctic to the present,
  • Acquire a deeper understanding of the contemporary governance framework in the Arctic, including the key participants, their roles, rights and scope of their jurisdiction over Arctic resources and geography.
  • Understand and critically evaluate contemporary governance mechanisms established to foster collaboration,
  • Identify and critically evaluate challenges to achieving effective collaboration in the region, and Understand and be able to critically evaluate the potential future mechanisms that have been proposed for the Arctic to address and overcome these challenges.



Bradley W. Barr (USA) earned his BSc from the University of Maine and his MSc in Biology from the University of Massachusetts, and and a Ph.D. from the University of Alaska. He is a Senior Policy Advisor for NOAA/Office of National Marine Sanctuaries in Woods Hole, Massachusetts where he focuses on interagency coordination, maritime heritage in Alaska, ocean wilderness, seabed mapping, enhancing university partnerships, and international collaboration. He sits on the board of directors for several associations: Coastal Zone Canada Association, Science and Management of Protected Areas Association, and George Wright Society.