The International Symposium, ‘Looking Beyond the International Polar Year: Emerging and Re-emerging Issues in International Law and Policy in the Polar Regions’ was held on 7-10 September 2008 at the University of Akureyri, Akureryi, Iceland. The Symposium was timed to coincide with the launch of the new postgraduate program in Polar Law offered by the University of Akureyri.
The purpose of the Symposium was to examine, in detail, the implications of the challenges faced by the Polar Regions for international law and policy as part of the legacy of the current International Polar Year and to make recommendations on appropriate actions by States, policy makers and other international actors to respond to these emerging and re-emerging challenges.
The Symposium brought together 67 internationally renowned experts on international law and policy and the Polar Regions from more than 20 countries, including academics, politicians, diplomats, representatives of intergovernmental organizations and processes, and civil society and students.
Six key questions were posed for the symposium participants: (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?
Recommendations contained in this report address the following key issues: climate change; human rights challenges; challenges of new commercial activities in the Polar Regions (such as the exploitation of offshore oil, gas and other minerals, shipping, fishing, bioprospecting and tourism); challenges posed by shipping and newly opening sea lanes; threats to specific species and assemblages of species; environmental governance in the Polar Regions; and the inadequate implementation of existing international law and domestic laws.
The report also contains a series of recommendations on further legal, scientific and other studies that should be undertaken in the immediate and near term future to better equip governments and policy makers to respond to these emerging issues.