The Arctic Circle is an area of the planet that has been turned to over the last two decades for resources and land. As we exist now, there is a continuous shortage of land-based materials across the planet, coupled with rising global temperatures. These are two major reasons that are attracting countries across the globe to the Arctic region for both natural resources and land. The Arctic Circle contains some of the world’s largest undiscovered reserves of both natural gas and oil reserves (30% and 13%, respectively). Although extraction of these resources is costly, improving technology and transportation is creating the opportunity for nations to exploit the Arctic region. Activity by a variety of countries has also opened up additional trade routes, thus creating further ways to access the Arctic from across the globe. Passed by the United Nations in 1982, the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) is the main legal policy in place to protect the Arctic and serve as a guideline for participating nations, however not all nations are bound to the terms set forth.
Although environmental concerns in the Arctic are a major portion of what this committee should discuss, it’s important to note territory disputes throughout the region. There are five states that currently have hold of territory in the Arctic Circle: United States, Russia, Canada, Norway, and Denmark. These countries are known as the Arctic Five (A5). This essentially splits all worldly nations into two groups: Arctic States and Non-Arctic States. The Arctic States include all the A5 nations plus Finland, Sweden, and Iceland. This is the group that makes up the Arctic Council which is the governing body that makes decisions regarding Arctic territory and how to balance the desires of the nations with the desires of Indigenous peoples in the area. Non-Arctic States include any remaining nation, and some of these nations are starting to take note of the benefits of Arctic exploitation. That being said the A5 nations view this interest as a threat to their current land claims in the region. These nations additionally want to split up any undiscovered reserves among the five included nations, thus laying claim to any further Arctic resources that are discovered. This thus creates conflict between the Arctic and Non-Arctic States, as well as setting up opportunities for dispute among the A5 nations themselves.
It is up to the Special Political committee to discuss Arctic exploitation in the realm of territory disputes and economic concerns. How should territory within the Arctic Circle be split up? Should nations be allowed to lay claim to Arctic land at all? When land disputes arise, how should those be handled and with what intervention? Additionally, this committee should discuss how to preserve the land so that the Arctic’s resources are not over-exploited. Lastly, how should nations take into account the wishes of Indigenous groups? It needs to be discussed how the Arctic Circle is to be taken care of and monitored to ensure the continued prosperity of the region.