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Arctic scientists praise new international agreement as a win for diplomacy

Antarctic Iceberg

Antarctic IcebergA group of Arctic scientists is praising a recently signed international agreement, saying the Agreement on Enhancing International Arctic Scientific Cooperation is not only good for Arctic science, the environment and commerce but it’s also a shining example of successful international diplomacy during these tough times on the geopolitical front.

Diplomatic relations have been charting through some troubled waters as of late, with conflicts in places such as the Ukraine and Syria raising the stakes between Russia and Western nations, for example, including Canada, which has recently provoked the ire of Russian president Vladimir Putin by setting up sanctions against Russian nationals suspected of human rights crimes.

Russia’s response to Canada’s passing of a so-called Magnitsky Law has been to play a bit of tit for tat, by yesterday announcing a further group of Canadians who are now said to be barred from entry into Russia. “We can confirm that a large number of Canadian political actors pursuing a toxic Russophobic agenda were blacklisted,” said Kirill Kalinin, a spokesman for the Russian embassy in Ottawa to Global News.

Into this tense situation comes the International Arctic Science Committee which just completed a two-day meeting in Moscow “to discuss obstacles of research in the Russian Arctic” and what the international scientific community can do to help.

A lot, says a group of scientists from the US, Norway, Iceland and Russia who together penned a recent commentary in the journal Science underscoring the importance of the Agreement on Enhancing International Arctic Scientific Cooperation, signed this past May by the eight countries with Arctic sovereignty claims, as a symbol of successful international diplomacy in action.

“This Arctic Science Agreement is a strong signal reaffirming the global relevance of science as a tool of diplomacy, reflecting a common interest to promote scientific cooperation even when diplomatic channels among nations are unstable,” say the authors.

A result of negotiations between the eight nations in consultation with six Indigenous Permanent Participant organizations of the Arctic Council, the agreement sets a legally binding agenda for scientific cooperation, facilitating access and collaboration between scientists across national borders.

“The Agreement will reinforce Canada’s role as a leader in Arctic science and help attract international researchers to the Canadian Arctic,” said Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland at the signing in May. “It will also facilitate Arctic scientific cooperation, which will help us make better decisions for Northerners and all Canadians.”

And with global warming helping to open up the Arctic to further commerce and trade, Arctic science is all the more needed to gauge the environmental risks that expanded economic activity in the Arctic may impose.

“Researchers can and should invoke the Arctic Science Agreement as a research-facilitation tool to build partnerships, conduct fieldwork, access data, and begin to answer previously unanswerable scientific questions, especially with pan-Arctic dimensions,” say the authors, who say that the agreement couldn’t have come at a better time in terms of international tensions.

“Historically, polar scientists have played important roles in building East-West cooperation,” the authors say.

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About The Author /

Jayson is a writer, researcher and educator with a PhD in political philosophy from the University of Ottawa. His interests range from bioethics and innovations in the health sciences to governance, social justice and the history of ideas.
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