Spreading Oil, Spreading Conflict? Institutions Regulating Arctic Oil and Gas Activities

Kathrin Keil

In order to assess whether the Arctic region is evolving into a region of cooperation or one of confrontation, a thorough understanding of the existing (and evolving) bilateral, regional and international institutional frameworks with relevant regulations for the Arctic and their adequacy for solving possible controversies is paramount. Disputes can flare up over various issues, as the Arctic has aptly demonstrated in recent years. Whether these disputes erupt into conflict or are handled cooperatively depends significantly on the rules and regulations that parties have put in place. While most of the literature deals with resource ownership, it is argued here that the more significant potential sources of controversy between Arctic states are issues of responsibility, liability, precaution and preparedness concerning possible transboundary environmental risks and dangers and, generally, protection of the fragile Arctic ecosystem.