The Long Grass at the North Pole

Professor Andrew Serdy

Though legally no more significant than any other point in the Arctic Ocean, into which State’s continental shelf the North Pole will ultimately fall is politically charged for the three States involved – Canada, Demark (Greenland) and Russia – that have submitted to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf outer limits within which the Pole falls.  The 2014 Danish submission, for an area extending beyond the equidistance line with Canada, was in that sense paradoxically helpful to Canada, as Denmark, with the northernmost land territory, is by definition closest to the Pole, which must therefore lie on its side of any such line drawn between itself and any other State; thus Denmark gave cover to Canada which needed to take a similar approach to define its continental shelf entitlement as including the North Pole.  Boundaries will eventually have to be delimited, but as it likely to be 20 years before the Commission examines the last of the submissions, the three States have ample pretext to postpone this step until then, a solution likely to suit them all.


Recruited by Southampton in 2005 to teach the international law of the sea in the LLM and public international law in the LLB.

Formerly served in a number of diplomatic positions in the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (including postings in Tokyo and Warsaw), before specialising in the Law of the Sea in the Department’s Sea Law, Environmental Law and Antarctic Policy Section.

Legal adviser to Australian delegations to the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna, the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission and other international meetings; appeared for Australia in 2000 in the Southern Bluefin Tuna case.

Worked also on Australia’s November 2004 submission under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf on the outer limits of Australia’s shelf where it extends beyond 200 miles from the territorial sea baseline, as well as on the Australia-New Zealand maritime boundary delimitation treaty of 25 July 2004 and the 2003 Australia-East Timor Agreement on the Unitisation of the Sunrise and Troubadour Petroleum Deposit.

100 Years of the Svalbard Treaty

Mr Andrew Simon-Butler1

1Melbourne Social Equity Institute, The University Of Melbourne, Australia

Alongside the 60th anniversary of the Antarctic Treaty, we sit on the eve of another polar law milestone with almost 100 years since the signing of the Svalbard Treaty in February 1920. This longstanding multilateral treaty creates a unique governance regime for this Arctic archipelago, consisting of six key features. These being – 1) Freedom of movement and access; 2) Equal use, treatment and employment/commerce rights; 3) Demilitarisation; 4) Administrative sovereignty over territory and resources; 5) Local use of tax revenue and 6) Environmental protection. With close to a century of state practice, including a history of effective Norwegian administration and peaceful coexistence with the largely autonomous Russian settlements located on Svalbard, this treaty and the model it establishes can be viewed as an exemplar of effective and equitable governance in the polar regions. This paper not only examines each of these six key features of the ‘Svalbard Model’, but also its potential applicability as an analogue for other regions of special territorial status where future civilian settlements may be built, such as the Antarctic Peninsula. As possibly the most accessible, prosperous, demilitarised and internationally diverse location above the Arctic Circle, Svalbard under its almost 100-year-old treaty warrants scholarly attention.


Andrew Simon-Butler is an Australian Lawyer, Australian Registered Migration Agent and Barrister and Solicitor of the Law Society of Ontario. He works in a research capacity for the Melbourne Social Equity Institute at the University of Melbourne, where he undertakes legal research into human rights and public international law generally. In addition to polar law, he also publishes in the areas of international space law and international migration law. He has previously worked for the International Space University in both Ireland and Australia, the Australian Departments of Defence and Immigration and for an Australian Senator.

Lawmaking in the Antarctic Treaty System

Dr AJ (Tony) Press1

1Antarctic Climate & Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre, Hobart, Australia, 2Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, Hobart, Australaia

The Antarctic Treaty System consists of the Antarctic Treaty and the subsequent agreements made pursuant to the Treaty, and the bodies established by the Treaty and these agreements: the Antarctic Treaty; the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Seals; the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources; and the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty (and its Annexes). [Although it never entered into force, the Convention on the Regulation of Antarctic Mineral Resource Activities also has a special place in Antarctic lawmaking].

The suite of laws and decisions made by Antarctic Treaty System comprises the full body of Antarctic lawmaking. Some commentators in recent years have implied that the Antarctic Treaty System is moribund or at best lethargic, because no new treaties or conventions have been made since the Madrid Protocol (1991).

This paper looks at these claims and evaluates the performance of the Antarctic Treaty System in establishing law in the Antarctic.


Tony Press is an Adjunct Professor at the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre (ACE CRC) and the University of Tasmania. He was the CEO of the ACE CRC from 2009 to 2014. He was Director of the Australian Antarctic Division from 1998 to 2008; Australian Commissioner to the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (1998 – 2008); Australian Representative to the Committee for Environmental (1999 – 2008), and its chair from 2002 – 2006; and Australian Delegate and representative the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (1999 -2008). Tony is a commentator on Antarctic law and policy.

Polar Law, “Law-making,” and the Arctic Council

Dr Natalia Loukacheva1

1UNBC, Prince George, Canada

The Arctic Council is a high-level international forum. By its legal structure, it does not have legal personality of an international organization under international law that would enable it to develop legislation or conclude treaties with other subjects of international law. Nevertheless, since its inception in 1996, the Council has been contributing to the development of international law as it relates to the Arctic. Thus, the Council has been engaged in the development of “soft-law” documents and negotiations of the three legally binding agreements that were concluded by the eight Arctic states under the auspices of the Council in 2011, 2013 and 2017 respectively. This presentation shall explore how “law-making” activities of the Arctic Council apply to the principles of Polar law. Further, it shall look at how existing agreements, concluded under the aegis of the Council, have influenced the nature and evolution of this forum and whether there is space for further “law-making.”


Natalia Loukacheva Ph.D., S.J.D. is Canada Research Chair in Aboriginal Governance and Law and Associate Professor at the Department of Political Science, University of Northern British Columbia. Dr. Loukacheva specializes in legal issues in the Arctic since 1996.  She is the author of The Arctic Promise: Legal and Political Autonomy of Greenland and Nunavut, (University of Toronto Press, 2007); the editor and project leader of the first ever Polar Law Textbook, (the Nordic Council of Ministers (NCM), TemaNord 538:2010); of the Polar Law Textbook II, (NCM, TemaNord 535:2013) and of the Polar Law and Resources book (NCM, TemaNord 533:2015).

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