Session 4 – The Arctic, ocean conflicts, and pathways to sustainability

Submit your abstract here


Following the Rio + 20 UN conference in 2012, Blue Economy and Blue Growth have become increasingly popular concepts. Internationally, a number of strategies have been formulated to highlight and exploit the growth potential related to marine and coastal areas. While these emphasize sustainable development, the focus on Blue Growth seems to accelerate the long-term industrialization of the oceans, leading to increased political interest to extend ocean management and control. In the wake of this, conflicts tend to arise on many levels.

In the Arctic, there is already blue growth in another sense. Here, the sea ice is declining in extent and thickness, and during this century, nearly ice-free conditions and blue seas are expected at least during parts of the year. This will make the marine Arctic more accessible and contribute to greater activity and attention. As in other ocean areas, latent conflicts are very likely to escalate and new ones to emerge.

Ocean conflicts are multifaceted and can occur between different types of activity, between use and conservation, between local communities and external interests, between different states, and between different governance regimes. More specifically, conflicts can be about access to areas, rights to natural resources, terms of use or non-use, distribution of benefits and costs, political demands for recognition and co-determination, and geopolitics and territorial sovereignty. Many of these conflicts are already common to the Arctic coastal states, but they can be amplified in the Arctic, where new and cooperative solutions are required to ensure sustainability.

This session will analyze the Arctic in an international, comparative perspective and take a broader look at marine conflicts, conflict transformation, and pathways to sustainability. What are the biggest challenges in the Arctic? What lessons can be learned about the handling of conflicts both in the Arctic and from other parts of the world? How can conflicts and conflict resolution contribute to increased sustainability? We invite authors to submit abstracts addressing one or several of the following topics or issues:

  • Types of ocean conflicts
  • Causes, driving forces, and dynamics of ocean conflicts
  • The Arctic as a multi-level conflict zone
  • Different ways of handling and resolving ocean conflicts
  • Conditions for transforming conflicts into peaceful, equitable, and environmentally sustainable solutions

The session committee considers arranging a special issue or collection of articles in one of the thematic high-impact peer-reviewed journals (e.g., Marine policy, Ocean and Coastal Management, or Sustainability Science) in conjunction with the session. It will be possible to indicate whether presenters are interested in contributing to the special issue during the abstract submission process. More information about the special issue will be available after the abstract submission deadline in September 2021.


Confirmed keynote speakers

Suzanne Lalonde | University of Montreal, Canada


Session committee

Maaike Knol-Kauffman | University of Tromsø – The Arctic University of Norway (Lead)

Andreas Østhagen | Fridtjof Nansen Institute, Norway

Timo Koivurova | University of Lapland, Finland

Dmitriy Tulupov | St. Petersburg University, Russia

Emily Tsui | University of Toronto, Canada

Alina Bykova | The Arctic Institute


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Alexey Pavlov Photo: Lars Olav Sparboe

Alexey Pavlov

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