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Press Release: 
Experts Consider Need for New Rules to Govern World’s Fragile Polar Regions

UNU-IAS Report:
Looking Beyond the International Polar Year

Looking beyond the International Polar Year: Emerging and Re-emerging issues in International Law and Policy in the Polar Regions

Report and Recommendations from an International Experts Symposium held at the University of Akureyri Iceland, 7-10 September 2008

The United Nations University-Institute of Advanced Studies (Japan) in conjunction with the University of Akureyri (Iceland), and with the involvement of Tilburg University (the Netherlands) and the Northern Institute for Environmental and Minority Law, Arctic Centre, University of Lapland (Finland) convened an international symposium titled Looking beyond the international Polar Year: Emerging and re-emerging issues in international law and policy in the polar regions which was held at the University of Akureyri, Iceland from Sunday 7th to Tuesday 9th of September, 2008. The symposium coincided with the launch of a new Masters Program on Polar Law at the University of Akureyri. The results and recommendations of the symposium will be published before the end of 2008 in a report, which will be made available online with a limited number of hard copies available for distribution. For more information, please contact unuias[at]

The Purpose of the Symposium
Symposium Themes
Accomodation (download .pdf)
Logistics and other information (download .pdf)
Key Dates
Symposium Program (download .pdf)
Speaker’s Biographies (download .pdf)
Further Details
Organising Committee
About Akureyri and Iceland
Press Release

The Purpose of the Symposium

The symposium is occurring towards the end of the International Polar Year. The purpose of the symposium is to bring together the world’s leading scholars in international law and policy to identify emerging and re-emerging issues in international law and policy that relate to the Polar Regions (Arctic and Antarctica), and to map out a research agenda for future research beyond the International Polar Year.


Internationally renowned experts on international law and policy and the Polar Regions will be invited to present papers on their views on the key emerging and re-emerging issues for the Polar Regions beyond the International Polar Year.

The main aim of the symposium is to address the following questions:

  1. What are the main emerging and re-emerging issues in international law and policy relating to the Polar Regions warranting international action?
  2. Are the current international legal and policy systems able to address these issues?
  3. What issues require immediate action by the international community?
  4. What issues will require action by the international community in the longer term?
  5. What steps should countries take to address these issues?
  6. Which of these issues warrant further detailed research by legal scholars and other disciplines?

Symposium Themes

Theme I: Challenges for the Protection of Biodiversity and Wilderness in the Polar Regions
. Possible topics for papers in this theme include:

  • Vulnerability and adaptation of polar biodiversity to climate change and the consequences for law and policy;
  • Marine protected areas in the Arctic and Antarctica (within and beyond national jurisdiction);
  • Terrestrial Area management in the polar regions (e.g., evaluating the success of the ASPA and/or ASMA instruments in Antarctica);
  • Regional and international fisheries conservation and management;
  • Alien invasive species (in the terrestrial and/or marine environment);
  • The role of law and policy in protecting the polar wilderness values.

Theme II: Sustainable Development and Human Rights. Possible topics for papers in this theme include:

  • Indigenous self-governance;
  • Changing polar environments: The impact on indigenous and other local communities and their adaptive capacity;
  • Indigenous rights to land and natural resources;
  • Capacity by indigenous and other local communities to influence climate Policy;
  • The potential values of indigenous traditional knowledge for the development of law and policy in the polar regions;
  •  Implementing sustainable development in the Arctic: What principles should guide environmental governance in traditional areas of indigenous peoples?
  •  Linkages between Multi-lateral environment agreements, trade agreements, Arctic indigenous peoples and human rights;
  • Oil and Gas exploitation in the Arctic: The role of law and Corporate Social Responsibility in protecting indigenous people rights and interests.
  • Cultural rights and cultural heritage;

Theme III: Environmental Governance in the Polar Regions. Possible topics for papers in this theme include:

  • Multilateral environment agreements and gaps in their coverage and implementation in the Arctic and Antarctica;
  • Is there a need for a framework environmental treaty for the Arctic?
  • Environmental governance and lessons to be learnt from one polar region of relevance to the other;
  • Management of marine pollution in Polar regions, especially in newly opening sea lanes;
  • Relationships between self regulations systems and polar law (e.g. tourism);
  • The contributions and role of NGOs and civil society in polar Governance.

Theme IV: Emergent and re-emerging jurisidictional issues in the Polar Regions. Possible topics for papers in this theme include:

  • Security and international security implications of climate change;
  • Retreating sea ice and jurisdictional issues;
  • Resolved and unresolved borders including continental shelf claims;
  • New economic challenges in the polar regions: source for international conflicts?
  • Bioprospecting in polar areas (i.e. both Arctic and Antarctica);
  • Implementing the Antarctic liability annex: jurisdictional questions;
  • The northwest and northeast passage and the Northern Sea route: jurisdictional issues.

The second day of the symposium will conclude with a workshop session which based on the papers delivered by key note speakers and panellists will seek to come up with answers to the key questions posed for the symposium.

The symposium therefore aims to act as a major scholarly event and also to come up with policy relevant recommendations for action by governments and other international actors


The symposium will result in two major publications. The first is a series of peer reviewed journal articles to be published in the first edition of a new scholarly Yearbook to be called the Yearbook of Polar Law to be published by Brill Publishing.

All papers to be submitted for publication in the Yearbook of Polar Law should comply with style guidelines issued by Brill Publishing. These can be downloaded from this link.

All manuscripts for submission to the Yearbook of Polar Law should be submitted by email to the Managing Editor of the Yearbook Agust Thor Arnason by email at agust[at]

A first draft of the manuscript must be submitted no later than 24th August 2008. After the symposium authors will have the opportunity to make revisions to their papers and the final paper ready for peer review and publication must be submitted by 30 October 2008.

In addition to the papers to be published in the Yearbook of Polar Law the United Nations University-Institute of Advanced Studies will publish a policy report outlining the key findings of the symposium which will be circulated to major national and international policy focal points for Polar Affairs for subsequent follow up and action.

Summary of Key dates and deadlines

Here are some key dates for the symposium you might like to take note of:

15 July 2008-deadline for advising the topic for presentations by speakers and panelists. This only needs to be a tentative title and can be changed later if need be.

24 August 2008- deadline for submitting draft manuscript for circulation to all symposium participants.

7 to 9 September: The symposium will be held from 7-9 September. A welcome reception will be hosted by the Mayor of Akureyri on the evening of Sunday 7 September. Further details on that will be advised closer to the date. The formal working sessions of the symposium will start on Monday 8 September.

10 September: Field trip. On 10 September we will be arranging a field trip to some of the most beautiful spots around Akureyri including to Godfoss and the Lake Myvatn area hopefully ending with a dip in a geothermal hot spring.

Please have this field trip in mind when making your travel plans. This is especially important for those of you who we are arranging flights for. If you have not already done so, if you want to change your flights to enable you to participate in the field trip could you please advise us immediately.

30 October 2008: After the symposium the deadline for submission of final manuscripts for peer review and publication is 30 October 2008. This allows you time to revise your manuscript in light of discussion at the symposium if need be.

Further Details

Further details on the symposium will be posted on this web site so please check for further details from time to time. Alternately for further information please contact Dr David Leary at the United Nations University-Institute of Advanced Studies email: leary[at]

Organising Committee

The Organising Committee for the Symposium includes:

About Akureyri and

The University of Akureyri (Háskólinn á Akureyri) is located in north Iceland and has served Akureyri and its rural surrounding since 1987. The university has built a reputation for academic excellence and good industrial relations. Located in the capital of north Iceland, Akureyri, the university has been instrumental in the areas economic growth and is central in the areas future planning as a knowledge based society. The university was founded in September 1987 with the establishment of faculties in health sciences and industrial management. The university is divided into four faculties; Faculty of Business and Science, Faculty of Education, Faculty of Health Sciences and Faculty of Law and Social Sciences. The number of students is around 1400 and members of staff are around 180.

For more information on Akureyri and Northern Iceland. Click Here.

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