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Comparing the robustness of Arctic and Antarctic governance through the continental shelf submission process

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-18, 08:06 authored by Weber, M
The processes undertaken by Arctic states and Antarctic claimant states to submit data to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) demonstrates the robustness of polar governance. The robustness of a governing system reflects its capacity to deal with emerging issues. For the purposes of this article, robustness comprises the effective protection of rights in the absence of prejudice and participant confidence. In the Arctic, unilateral assertion of continental shelf entitlement can proceed due to the nature of the CLCS process and recognition of sovereignty. Combined with the voluntary nature of Arctic governance, the process does not hamper cooperation in scientific research, boundary delimitation or engagement in initiatives such as the Arctic Council. In the Antarctic, a coordinated approach to continental shelf delimitation protected claimant states’ entitlement to a continental shelf and the right of other states not to recognise sovereignty. States demonstrated commitment to the Antarctic Treaty and acted according to accepted norms. Though different in structure, each polar governing system has its own characteristics of robustness. State authority drives participant confidence and regional cooperation in the Arctic. In the Antarctic, norms of behaviour foster system legitimacy and resilience is reinforced by the consequences of abandoning the system. With continued acceptance of the individual governing-system dynamics, emerging issues can be accommodated in both polar regions.


Publication title

Polar Record



Article number









Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies


Cambridge University Press

Place of publication

New York

Rights statement

Copyright 2014 Cambridge University Press

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  • Restricted

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