Lessons from the Arctic: The Role of Regional Government in International Affairs

Dr. Thomas S. Axworthy, Sara French & Emily Tsui

Lessons from the Arctic: The Role of Regional Government in International Affairs

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The Arctic region is now a major concern not just for adjacent nation-states but also for many other countries. As the Arctic warms, its oceans and sea lanes are rapidly becoming key and high profile factors in world politics. The powers at large are all jockeying for influence in this region – Russia, China, the United States of America, the Scandinavian countries, and Canada. Many other countries as diverse as Switzerland, Mongolia, and Turkey have sought observer status at the Arctic Council as an expression of their Arctic interests. The polar region and the Arctic agenda is now a vital issue in the shaping of global politics for many nations and it is likely to become more intense in the near future. At the forefront of any decisions made for the Arctic regions are municipalities, territorial and state governments, Indigenous organizations, and governments. While discussions of development and climate change consume the agenda of most competing interests, we must also play close attention to the subnational actors and governments from within the Arctic. International diplomacy may well affect these players very deeply. The Arctic Council is often regarded as the main platform for international Arctic diplomacy. Yet, these subnational players and regional governments remain the vital structural components of the region. Lessons from the Arctic: The Role of Regional Government in International Affairs is a collection of articles written by twenty-six leading and emerging scholars from across the circumpolar region. Each author assesses and explores the processes of regional governance in the Arctic from an interdisciplinary perspective. The topics include Indigenous internationalism, paradiplomacy, federalism, global institution-building, and more.


Dr. Thomas S. Axworthy, O.C. has had a distinguished career in government, academia, and philanthropy. He served as the Principal Secretary to Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, and he was a key strategist on the repatriation of the Constitution and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Dr. Axworthy has served as President and CEO of The Gordon Foundation and, in 2011, was appointed Secretary-General of InterAction Council of Former Heads of State and Government. He is the author of numerous books and articles, including Towards a Just Society, co-authored with Pierre Trudeau. He is a regular contributor to the opinion pages of the Toronto Star, the Globe and Mail, and the National Post. He frequently appears as a commentator on public and national issues.


Sara French is a graduate of Queen’s University and currently serves as a Senior Negotiator with Aboriginal Relations within the Yukon government. Previously, she worked on behalf of a number of Indigenous groups across the Circumpolar Arctic on capacity-building, strategic planning, and policy development and as the Director of Northern Programs at The Gordon Foundation, leading the Jane Glassco Northern Fellowship. Sara has travelled extensively throughout the communities of the Circumpolar Arctic and resides in Whitehorse, Yukon.


Emily Tsui is a Juris Doctor/Master of Global Affairs Candidate at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law and Munk School of Global Affairs. She was a research assistant to Dr. Axworthy at the Gordon Foundation, where she assisted in organizing the 2015 conference at the Munk School. She has published briefing notes with the Arctic Yearbook on the Northern Forum and the Science Agreement.