Arctic Frontiers Science

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

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. Abstract submitters had a chance to indicate their intention to contribute to the special issue. More information about this will be available at a later stage.

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 | Stanford University, USA & The Arctic Institute

A detailed program of the session is presented below, and is based on abstracts accepted ahead of the Arctic Frontiers 2022 conference initially planned for 31 Jan - 3 Feb 2022. The program is subject to modifications after the registration deadline for presenters, which was set on 11 April. 

All attendees to Arctic Frontiers are invited to the Researcher's Reception, hosted by the Norwegian Polar Institute, on Sunday 8th May at 20:00. Join us in the Fram Centre's Lysgården (atrium) for an evening of light entertainment, food, drinks, professional exchange and socialising. If you want to attend, please email to

Guidelines for oral presentations and posters is available here.

A step-by-step instruction on how to set up your virtual science booth is available here.


The Arctic Frontiers Administration is located at the Fram Centre in Tromsø, Norway. The Administration is responsible for day to day operations and for the organisation of the annual conference, and reports to the Board of Arctic Frontiers.

The secretariat is led by Anu Fredrikson.


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