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Climate change is causing Arctic ice to melt at an alarming rate. But rapid changes in the Arctic are also raising pressing challenges to the Arctic States’ collective management of the region, exercised through the Arctic Council. The first is a greater number of players entering the region, each with its own claims to a share of the Arctic’s newly accessible oil reserves or to various bits of land or to newly navigable cost-effective shipping routes. The second is that increased shipping traffic brings greater environmental risks to Arctic States’ coastlines, marine life, indigenous communities, and fishing stocks. These twin challenges are becoming linked by the ways in which regional and external actors are using environmental concerns to justify their actions in—or access to—the region. Contrary to growing fears of conflict in the Arctic, however, this Article argues that the Arctic Council framework, together with the widely-recognized international law of the sea, give the Arctic States functional tools to resolve conflict. This Article evaluates existing dispute settlement mechanisms—including the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea and the UNCLOS Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf—and recommends that the Arctic States, through the Arctic Council, rely on these mechanisms to strengthen inter-state dispute settlement. In creating a strategy for a stable Arctic, relying on existing mechanisms is in the Arctic States’ collective best interest because they are efficient—the Arctic Council’s structure enables it to implement relevant UN conventions—and carry international legitimacy as part of the framework of existing treaty regimes.

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