Understanding The Arctic Council: A 'Sub-Regional' Perspective


  • Alyson J.K. Bailes University of Iceland


The peculiarities of the institutional framework in the Arctic place the Arctic Council, with its eight circumpolar member states, in a prominent and exposed position. It may most fairly be evaluated by comparing it with 'sub-regional' organizations that cover contiguous neighbour sets elsewhere, notably in Northern Europe. These turn out to share the AC's 'weaknesses', such as lack of military and legislative competence; but they also show similar strengths and, arguably, succeed by not constraining their members too closely. In institutional terms the AC is catching up on solutions already used by the North European groups, but handles indigenous peoples and the EU differently and must find its own answers for extra-regional (eg Chinese) interest.

Author Biography

Alyson J.K. Bailes, University of Iceland

Alyson JK Bailes is an Adjunct Professor at the University of Iceland in Reykjavik and Visiting Professor at the College of Europe in Bruges, specializing in international security studies. From 1969-2002 she was a British diplomat serving in such posts as Budapest, Bonn, Beijing, Oslo and Helsinki, but also took several career breaks to work for example at the British Ministry of Defence, the Western European Union, and various think-tanks. From 2002-7 she was Director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, SIPRI. Her long-term interests are European defence and security, Nordic affairs, and general security issues including arms control and the roles of non-state actors. More recently she has focussed on questions of Arctic security and governance and on 'small state' issues. She is Chair of the Scientific Board of the Flemish Peace Institute and a member of several other boards and committees.