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2020 | OriginalPaper | Chapter

Cooperation in the Cold—The Arctic Search and Rescue Agreement

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Abstract

Arctic states cooperate on many issues in the region. Accounts of this behavior often take a rationalist approach where cooperation is explained by compatible national interests, interdependence, the work of regional institutions or the ‘low politics’ nature of those issues. These explanations are useful but this paper argues that such a discussion should also include the material properties of the Arctic space and human activities therein. I use a case study of the Arctic Search and Rescue (SAR) Agreement to illustrate this point. Negotiations towards the SAR Agreement went with noticeable smoothness and speed from 2009 to the signing in 2011. Since then, implementation has proceeded apace, with little disruption by deteriorating relations between Russia and the West in the post-Crimea phase. This highlights an unusual confluence of interests among state parties which were at least partly determined by the environmental and economic properties of the Arctic. Given the very limited SAR infrastructure in a vast, climatically harsh area which was projected to see a rapid increase in shipping and resource access, there was huge pressure on states to quickly agree on a cooperative framework so as not to impede the commercial exploitation of this economically underdeveloped region.

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Footnotes
1
It should be noted that this discourse tends to underestimate the inconvenient risks of sea ice becoming more dynamic as the polar icesheet breaks up (Shake et al. 2017)—another example how politically motivated framing ‘selects’ which material facts are incorporated into discourse and spatial constructions.
 
2
States showed considerable flexibility in the delimitation of SAR regions. The SAR regions established under the SAR Agreement (see the Agreement’s Annex) mostly conform to existing bilateral treaty lines (Wood-Donnelly 2013: 306). Crucially, Art. 3 (2) of the Agreement states that ‘[t]he delimitation of [SAR] regions is not related to and shall not prejudice the delimitation of any boundary between States or their sovereignty, sovereign rights or jurisdiction’. This allowed states to agree to SAR zones without prejudicing their maritime territorial claims, e.g. ‘in the Beaufort Sea the 141° W meridian is used to divide the Canadian and American SSRs all the way to the North Pole, notwithstanding the on-going dispute between the two countries as to the location of the maritime boundary, while the remote and nearly unpopulated Norwegian island of Jan Mayen is placed entirely within the Icelandic SSR’ (Byers 2013: 277, Fn. 154).
 
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Metadata
Title
Cooperation in the Cold—The Arctic Search and Rescue Agreement
Author
Daniel Lambach
Copyright Year
2020
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-45005-2_16

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