Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Conference: Challenges of Sustainable Development and Sovereignty in the Arctic

The Université Laval's Faculty of Law will host a conference on "Challenges of Sustainable Development and Sovereignty in the Arctic," May 17-18, 2010. The program is here. Here's the idea:

The arctic question, in many ways, is a strategic one that covers a group of particularly complex realities involving a multitude of environmental, social, cultural, and economic facets that can sometimes appear to be difficult to reconcile.

Particularly affected by climate change, the arctic environment is undergoing major transformations brought on by the ice melt, among other issues. This situation creates extremely attractive economic exploitation opportunities (e.g. new lines of communication and access to mineral resources), the consequences of which are all the more threatening for arctic life (e.g. destruction of wildlife habitat and interference with Inuit culture).

Due to these upheavals, it is of utmost importance to observe and analyze all the various interests through a common "prism", thus making it possible to grasp all of the elements which make the Arctic a unique and vulnerable space. This "prism" is that of sustainable development, an approach whose flexibility and encompassing nature permits such a perspective. As a result of its normative and conceptual evolution, sustainable development requires a redefinition of the issues around multiple axes, favours an integrated approach of the sectors involved, and can lead to the reevaluation of the dominant models currently in use. Furthermore, the underlying principles of this approach present a certain number of challenges regarding the conditions of the expression of sovereignty particularly by modifying the parameters of state governance of the territory as well as imposing a larger responsibility on the national population.

By gathering researchers and specialists from different fields of study who hold a common concern for this transforming arctic space, this symposium hopes to provide to the university community, political decision makers, as well as members of the general public interested in the arctic question, a platform for discussion capable of offering a rich and diversified analysis of the current situation. This presentation will also provide an opportunity to take a multi-faceted look at upcoming challenges.

In order to achieve this objective, discussions will be structured around four large themes. First, the current architecture of international law and, its keystone, state sovereignty will be examined using the principles of sustainable development. The second section will be devoted to the dual logic of exploitation and preservation of natural resources. The third will focus on the input of the rights of arctic populations and their cultures into the renewal of the dominant models. Finally, discussions will come to a close over favorable conditions for sustainable economic and social development in the arctic.