Diverging role of information in the Arctic governance

Published on
April 5, 2016

The effects and consequences of the contemporary growth of information and advancement of information technologies in the Arctic are insufficiently studied and lack critical assessment. The widespread opinion that such progress will predominantly be bringing positive effects is overemphasized and requires careful examination of pros and contras.

In their article in the recently published Special Issue on Informational governance and environmental sustainability ESA and ENP colleagues Alexey Pristupa (ESA/ENP), Machiel Lamers (ENP) and Bas Amelung (ESA) reviewed the literature dealing with the changing role of environmental information in Arctic marine governance.

Controversial role of information

The researchers conclude that the role of information in Arctic governance processes is controversial and spins around the issues of legitimacy, trust, and power. On the one hand information disclosure facilitates legitimization of practices, builds trust between various groups of actors, and empowers marginalized groups. On the other hand, information can (un)intentionally reinforce existing power imbalances through information overflow and manipulations.

Growing importance of non-state actors

States have traditionally invested heavily in the development of environmental information systems in Polar regions in order to monitor the changes in natural environment. But also private sector contribution is rapidly growing in line with the increasing economic activities such as shipping, fisheries and fossil fuel exploration. Non-state actors, efficient in mobilizing financial or informational resources, see new opportunities in redefining their role and setting the rules of the game applicably to Arctic resource use and governance. Information is changing from being a passive input or output of state policy decision-making, towards being a transformative factor in multi-actor governance.

Informational Governance Research Programme of Wageningen University

This publication is a part of the project that explores the implications of the modern technological and scientific developments in the Russian Arctic. Thus, various stakeholders and decision-makers increasingly have access to the wealth of information, ranging from real-time data on sea-ice conditions to strategic vulnerability maps. But what role does all this information and these information systems play in Arctic governance? How does the disclosure of data, information and knowledge affect governance processes? How do we ensure that socially marginalized groups (e.g. indigenous communities) benefit? How can we assure that enhanced and integrated information systems will not lead to environmentally unsustainable developments? The project seeks to find answers to these questions and examines the currently ill-explored transformational role of environmental information in the governance of resources in the Arctic.