Strengthening the Arctic Council: Insights From the Architecture Behind Canadian Participation


  • Jennifer Spence Carleton University


The Arctic has gone from being on the periphery of world affairs, as a venue of fading military tensions between two Cold War superpowers, to holding a prominent global profile and importance triggered by the dramatic environmental changes being observed. It is in this context that the Arctic Council has garnered international attention as a prominent player in the region. This article argues that exploring how the Arctic Council works is critical for understanding what the Council is and what it has the potential to be—in particular, by exploring how the internal organization of a state, such as Canada, serves to define the nature of a member state’s contribution and ultimately plays a critical role in shaping what the Council is.  This analysis exposes that there are, in fact, two modes of work at the sub- state level that support Canada’s involvement in the Council: first, the centralized and hierarchical systems and structures that support Canada’s participation as a unitary actor in the Arctic Council, and second, a system of horizontal and informal function-specific networks. This article concludes that the unit of analysis and the approach adopted to analyze how the Council works fundamentally alter not only our understanding of this international forum but also our understanding of the forces that have the potential to contribute to the Council’s success and evolution in the future.

Author Biography

Jennifer Spence, Carleton University

Jennifer Spence is a PhD candidate at Carleton University’s School of Public Policy and Administration.






Special Collection: The Arctic Council, the EU and Polar Politics