In 2014, the Northern Institute of Environmental and Minority Law (NIEM, Arctic Centre) at the University of Lapland initiated a project to study and compare Arctic Law and Governance in Finland and in China, in cooperation with researchers from Wuhan University, China. The project identified similarities and differences between the positions of Finland (as an EU Member State) and China on Arctic law and governance.
In February 2017, a book titled Arctic Law and Governance: The Role of China and Finland was published as a result of the project. The book compares Finnish and Chinese legal and policy stances in specific policy areas of relevance for the Arctic, including maritime sovereignty, scientific research, marine protected areas, the Svalbard Treaty and Arctic Council co-operation. The book offers general conclusions on Finnish and Chinese approaches to Arctic governance and international law, as well as new theoretical insights on Arctic governance. “As an observer of Arctic Council, China shall play a greater and more responsible role in protecting the Arctic and promoting cooperation with Arctic countries,” Qin Tianbao, main Chinese partner of the Project and editor of the newly published book, concludes.
Mr. Qin is a Luojia Professor of Law, Director of the Research Institute of Environmental Law, Professor of the China Institute of Boundary and Ocean Studies and the European Studies Centre at Wuhan University, and Co-Editor-in-Chief of the Chinese Journal of Environmental Law. “One of my research fields is Arctic law and policy. Considering the esteemed reputation of our Finnish colleagues and our existing cooperation, we reached agreement to conduct comparative study.” Mr. Qin is planning to continue conducting comparative research between China and Finland in the future as well, in the field of marine environmental issues in the Arctic. “This project was very successful, and we hope to continue such cooperation.”
Timo Koivurova is the Principal Investigator for the project, is a Research Professor and the Director of the Arctic Centre of University of Lapland, Finland. We ask him about the key findings of the project. “China, while a global great power, is not a principle actor in the Arctic region specifically. At the same time, actors like Finland play above (and more than) their global weight in Arctic governance. As a consequence, a variety of Arctic-focused cooperative linkages have been established between small Nordic states and the global great power. China and Finland appear in fact to share a number of perspectives on Arctic affairs, despite asymmetry in country’s positions and different pathways to their interests in the Arctic region and Arctic cooperation. That includes interest in Arctic economic development, consequences of climate change in the Arctic, as well as countries’ Arctic expertise. In terms of political rhetoric, the discourses on economic possibilities and environmental vulnerability are visible in both countries. In turn, China and EU (and Finland) may diverge on the conservation of marine biodiversity in Arctic high seas.”
Mr. Koivurova has specialized in various aspects of international law applicable in the Arctic and Antarctic region. His research work addresses the interplay between different levels of environmental law, legal status of indigenous peoples, law of the sea in the Arctic waters, integrated maritime policy in the EU, the role of law in mitigating/adapting to climate change, the function and role of the Arctic Council in view of its future challenges and the possibilities for an Arctic treaty. He has been involved as an expert in several international processes globally and in the Arctic region and has published on the above-mentioned topics extensively. This newly-published book adds one more to the list. We had a privilege to interview Mr. Koivurova about the highlights and main findings of the project. Read the full interview here.
Author: Cristina D. Juola