28 July 2016 - 29 July 2016
Research Center of Kobe University, Japan

AFI present at symposium hosted by the Polar Cooperation Research Center of Kobe University, Japan

Dreamstime © Norbert Buchholz

Dreamstime © Norbert Buchholz

The international symposium “The Future Design of the Arctic Ocean Legal Order" 28-29 July 2016 was hosted by Professor Dr. Akiho Shibata, Professor of International law at the Graduate School of International Cooperation Studies (GSICS) and Director of the Polar Cooperation Research Center (PCRC), Kobe University.

The GSICS is one of the institutes taking part in the Arctic Challenge for Sustainability (ArCS) Project, a 5-year (2015-20) research project of the Japanese government. Under this project, GSICS is responsible for research on the Arctic legal and policy issues, focusing on the Arctic international legal framework and institutions. The Polar Cooperation Research Centre was established on 1 October 2015 to implement and promote this research project within GSICS.  

Importantly, the material of the symposium included compilation of relevant background papers and international agreements; national Arctic policies from Japan and the Russian Federation; key documents from the Arctic Council; the 2015 co-chairs’ summary from the Arctic Council - Task Force on Arctic Marine Cooperation; meeting summaries and background documents regarding High Seas fisheries in the Central Arctic Ocean; meeting summaries from the Arctic Council - Task Force on Scientific Cooperation; and documents that relate to Arctic Marine Protected Areas. 

The seven priorities of the 2015 Japanese Arctic policy were introduced, providing context for the symposium on the international legal order in the Arctic, regarding: 

  • Arctic technology;
  • Arctic environment;
  • International cooperation in the Arctic;
  • Indigenous peoples of the Arctic;
  • Economic and social compatibility in the Arctic;
  • Arctic research and development; and
  • Sustainable use of the Arctic.

The meeting emphasized recent bi-lateral cooperation with Japan in the Arctic involving Finland, Norway, Canada, China and Korea. The event also highlighted the importance of international rulemaking through the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), especially in view of the Arctic Council with consideration of new agreements, including the ‘Polar Code’ through the International Maritime Organization. The roles for business and development of the Arctic Investment Protocol through the World Economic Forum were discussed. 

Amb. Hannu Halinen introduced the Arctic Futures Initiative and its international relevance. There was active discussion and questions in response to the presentation, with particular interested in the AFI decision-support process. There also were observations by Japanese colleagues about the relevance of AFI to the Arctic Challenge for Sustainability (ArCS) program by Japan.    

Following the symposium, Ambassador Hannu Halinen and Professor Paul Berkman met with Professor Akiho Shibata to further discuss collaboration with AFI and ArCS, all agreeing that there are excellent opportunities for productive engagement going forward.  


The meeting program included presentations and discussions of high interest, including presenters from Japan, Russia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, and the United States. 

  • “Russian Approaches to an Emerging Arctic Ocean Legal Order” highlighted the principle pairing of Japanese and Russian perspectives in this symposium, discussing ‘schools’ of legal thought in Russia (e.g., neo-liberalism and neo-realism) with some reference to Russian and international laws that apply to the Arctic Ocean. 
  •  ‘5+5’ dialogues on potential fisheries in the Central Arctic Ocean; discussion about Arctic relations to international research organizations, notably the International Council on the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) and North Pacific Marine Science Organization (PICES). 
  • Discussion on various articles of UNCLOS, including Article 197 that applies to regional fisheries, and in view of other international organizations with Arctic remits, including ICES, PICES and notably the North-East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC) as well as the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic (OSPAR).
  • Details of the Arctic Council - Task for Arctic Marine Cooperation were shared; questions about roles of the Arctic Council from “policy-shaping into policy-making” were discussed, as reference in the Kiruna Vision Statement from 2013.
  • The Arctic Marine Strategic Plan 2015-2025 in relation to this document that was produced by the Arctic Council working group on Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment (PAME).
  • Pending Agreement on Enhancing International Arctic Scientific Cooperation, which is anticipated to be signed at the May 2017 Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting hosted by the United States.
  • Large marine ecosystems, notably in relation to international agreements (e.g., Convention on Biological Diversity) with regard to biodiversity beyond national jurisdictions (BBNJ).


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Last edited: 26 June 2019


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