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Polar Law Textbook

image of Polar Law Textbook

The idea for this textbook developed from the recognition of the need to disseminate information about Polar Law as an emerging field of legal studies - an area of study long overdue greater recognition. Developments in the Polar Regions - the Arctic and Antarctica - are now the subject of growing interest and importance. They concern a divergent range of global and regional development issues and beg further inquiry into the role of law in dealing with many of these issues. This textbook is the first educational material of its kind. It attempts to illustrate the importance of legal values in addressing various challenges across the Nordic region, among remote Arctic communities and globally. The textbook focuses on the various developments in international and domestic law concerning the Polar Regions (e.g., issues of environmental law, law of the sea, resources, human rights law and Indigenous peoples’ rights, etc.). By looking at linkages between different areas of law and the other social sciences, the textbook also explores the relevant aspects of the economic, social and political developments affecting both Polar areas (e.g., questions of Polar governance, economics, and the political situation in some of the Arctic areas). The authors hope that this pioneering work will encourage anybody interested in Polar Law to pursue further studies, research or cooperation on the many initiatives which take place within the Nordic, Arctic and global community in relation not just to the Arctic but also to the Antarctic.

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Human Rights and Indigenous Rights

Indigenous persons and indigenous peoples are, of course, entitled to all human rights, on an equal footing with everyone else, and they have equal recourse to all of the international human rights monitoring institutions and procedures. In addition, the rights of indigenous peoples are specifically addressed in separate international human rights instruments and by separate international monitoring bodies. International human rights standards relevant to the Arctic are to be found in a series of treaties that have been ratified by the respective States, in declarations adopted by vote in intergovernmental organisations, and in case-law stemming from monitoring bodies set up by these same organisations. The key instruments have been adopted under the auspices of the United Nations (UN), International Labour Organisation (ILO), the Council of Europe (CoE), the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE), and the Organization of American States (OAS). The two organizations that have paid most attention to the rights and needs of indigenous peoples, in terms of both standard-setting and monitoring, are the UN and the ILO. The human rights performance of States is subject to monitoring under a variety of procedures. Some are treaty-based, involving examination of State reports and quasi-judicial complaints procedures while others are based on the UN Charter and declarations rather than treaty commitments, involving special investigative procedures and the universal periodic review of the performance of all States under the UN Human Rights Council. As treaties are binding upon their ratification by States conventions are the preferred instruments and, for the same reason, whenever possible, decisions from treaty bodies are preferable to recommendations from the extra-conventional procedures. The special measures and special rights put in place for indigenous peoples are intended to overcome discrimination against these groups, and individuals belonging to them and to place them on an equal footing with others. These measures seek to protect, inter alia, cultural ways of life like traditional economic activities, the property and management rights relating to land and natural resources, environmental conditions, and self-governance. Inter national human rights law can make a positive difference. As public awareness, official knowledge of human rights and multi-layered monitoring by several intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) slowly improves, so does State performance. The Arctic countries should of course be subject to this type of scrutiny; as democracies they ought to be sensitive to the commentary of these organisations. Obviously, this chapter does not provide a comprehensive picture of all the standards and monitoring instances, but an attempt is made, with emphasis on the United Nations, to raise issues and provide sources of particular relevance to the Arctic.

English

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