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Document Type

Comment

Abstract

The melting of the polar ice caps in the Arctic region has resulted in an international battle over Arctic territory and its vast natural resources. Five Arctic nations are claiming rights to overlapping territory and there is no evident legal resolution to their competing interests. Four of these five states have ratified the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and are operating within its framework in their attempts to solidify their territorial claims. However, for some, their trust in that law seems limited, as evidenced by their more traditional approaches to claiming land. The fifth nation, the United States, has yet to ratify UNCLOS, thus excluding itself from the legal framework within which the other nations are operating. Yet, even were the United States to join the treaty, UNCLOS remains an imperfect framework for governance of the icy northern region. This Comment examines the jurisdictional claims made by each of the five Arctic States and the support for those claims. It then proposes an Arctic treaty, modeled in part after the Antarctic Treaty, as a resolution of the dispute in consideration of the objectives of each State and the Arctic’s unique environment. The remainder of Part I discusses the event triggering the international battle for the Arctic, the melting of the polar ice caps, and the consequent development of the region into one of increased global importance. Part II examines the perspectives of each State involved in the dispute, their factual and legal claims, and the policies underlying those claims. Finally, Part III offers suggestions for resolving the dispute through an Arctic treaty. The proposal of an Arctic treaty as the appropriate framework for governing the region has been debated among scholars, with some suggesting its vitalness and others concluding it is either unnecessary, undesirable, or impracticable. However, the debate has not yet led to an in-depth examination of what such a treaty must entail. After discussing the usefulness of the Antarctic Treaty as a model, this Comment proposes the necessary components of an Arctic treaty that meet the objectives of the States involved, while also addressing additional issues unique to this northernmost region.

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