Centre’s Research: An Overview

Polar Cooperation Research Centre (PCRC) seeks to be the leading institution in polar legal and policy studies in Japan, focusing on the Arctic international legal and institutional developments. PCRC is the first of the kind in Japan and, probably, in Asia. ArCS project emphasizes the integration of social science studies with Arctic natural sciences and humanity studies. As a participating agency of the ArCS project, PCRC at Kobe University GSICS will provide evidence-based legal and institutional analysis on the operation of the Arctic Council (AC) and its Working Groups and Task Forces, and on the emerging international legal orders in the Arctic.

The establishment of international and Japanese networks of scholars and experts interested in the Arctic legal and policy studies is the first mandate of the PCRC. PCRC has established a Kobe Arctic Legal Order Studies Forum, a mailing list comprising of about 30 Japanese international law and international relations scholars interested in the Arctic and about 50 international scholars. Through this network, PCRC will provide updates on Arctic legal and policy studies in Japan and in the world. This Forum is open to all those interested in the activities of PCRC. (Photo: At Arctic Centre, University of Lapland, Finland, October 23, 2015)

International collaboration with world’s leading academic institutions and experts in polar legal and policy research and graduate-level education is the second mandate of the PCRC. Director Shibata commenced to establish such collaboration with several institutions in the USA, Iceland, Finland and Norway in 2015, and intends to continue the effort. (Photo: At Polar Law Institute, University of Akureyri, Iceland, October 20, 2015)

PCRC offers to host researchers and doctoral/post-doctoral students interested in polar legal and policy studies as Japan Society for Promotion of Science (JSPS) fellows. PCRC also welcomes Ph.D. students interested in doing polar legal studies in Japan entering Kobe University GSICS doctoral course in English. The candidates may want to seek Japanese government (MEXT) scholarship. For details of the JSPS fellowship, please see the JSPS website .

PCRC, as its third mandate, will be convening many international symposia and workshops with guest speakers from abroad and from Japan, in order, first, to sensitize the Japanese academia, policy-makers, business sectors and general public in the Arctic legal and policy developments and, second, to provide its research results that can be used for Arctic stakeholders. The Centre’s kick-off symposium on “Emerging Arctic Legal Orders in Science, Environment and the Ocean” on 18-19 December 2015 provides the main themes and the approach of the PCRC’s study into the Arctic legal and policy issues for the first two years.

PCRC’s Events

July 28-29, 2016

2nd international symposium organized by the PCRC "The Future Design of the Arctic Ocean Legal Order"

Leading experts in Polar Law gathered at Kobe University on Jul 27-28 to discuss the future design of the Arctic Ocean Legal Order. Japan’s Ambassador in Charge of Arctic Affairs, Kazuko Shiraishi, gave the keynote address for the Centre’s second international symposium on Japan’s Arctic Policy and it’s challenges. With the topic of the symposium specifically on the future design of the Arctic Ocean legal order, the perspective from several of the Arctic ocean coastal states were represented including Russia, the US, Norway and Canada. Following Ambassador Shiraishi, JSPS invited fellow to the PCRC, Alexander Sergunin, presented on the Russian approaches to an emerging Arctic Ocean Legal Order. Paul Berkman, Director of the Arctic Futures Initiative (AFI) , discussed the growing global relevance of the Arctic Ocean and the concept of building common interests in the region amidst competing national agendas, and focusing on the need to balance governance with assets. Rounding out the first session on Actors in the Arctic Ocean Legal Order-Making, Fujio Ohnishi, Assistant Professor at the College of International Relations at Nihon University, discussed his perspective on the new US led mode in the Arctic of “compartmentalized multilateralism” which Ohnishi characterized as a more pan-Arctic and inclusive leadership style in the Arctic.

Session two focused on the Forums for the Arctic Ocean Legal Order-Making. Brian Israel, Legal Adviser for the U.S. Department of State, discussed his perspective on both the form and function in the future of Arctic marine cooperation by drawing on his experience as Co-Chair of the Arctic Council’s Task Force on Arctic Marine Cooperation . Speaking from his experience as the Director-General at the Japanese National Research Institute of Far Seas Fisheries and his current role as Head of Delegation to the A5+5 Meeting on the High Seas Fisheries in the Central Arctic Ocean, Joji Morishita discussed a topic of great interest to all attendees: the development of new fisheries management in the Arctic high seas. Morishita pointed out a rare development in global fisheries management happening in the Central Arctic Ocean where environmental protection measures and scientific research are preceding the development of commercial fisheries. Following Morishita, Tore Henriksen, a GSICS visiting professor from the University of Tromsø, took on the large task of covering institutional approaches to future governance of the Arctic Ocean. Henriksen drew attention to the need for more integrated and holistic approaches to governance by bridging sectors and jurisdictions through adopting an ecosystem management mindset to Arctic governance. Kamrul Hossain, Associate Professor from the Arctic Centre of the University of Lapland, discussed indigenous peoples and norm-making in the development of the Arctic legal regime. Hossain pointed out how the unique role of indigenous people as equal stakeholders in the consensus-based decision-making process of the Arctic Council has elevated the Arctic as an example of how indigenous people are increasing in influence in the international law-making process.

Session three touched on the theme of Regionalism within Universalism. Opening the session, Viatcheslav Gavrilov, Professor from Far Eastern Federal University in Russia, discussed the need for a mix of Political and Legal instruments congruent with universal and regional regulation goals required to face the challenges of the future Arctic. Fresh from the most recent meeting on Arctic scientific cooperation held shortly before this symposium, PCRC director Akiho Shibata discussed preliminary details of the new treaty now under negotiation from the Arctic Council’s Scientific Cooperation Task Force . Shibata revealed optimism for the level of inclusiveness and good will expressed in the new treaty, including consideration for non-Arctic Observer States to the Arctic Council such as Japan. A specific goal of the PCRC under the guiding mandate of the Arctic Challenge for Sustainably Project (ArCS) is to foster understanding between the natural science and social science researchers. Takashi Kikuchi, Deputy Director for the Institute of Arctic Climate and Environment Research (IACE), JAMSTEC, provided much needed perspective from the natural sciences by describing the technology used for Arctic scientific observation as well as the challenges and opportunities for international scientific collaboration in the Arctic Ocean.

The final main session of the symposium focused on Ecosystem Approaches. Betsy Baker, Professor at the Vermont School of Law in the United States, discussed a “Neighborhood Approach” to Large Marine Ecosystems (LMEs) in the Arctic. Baker drew attention to the concept of how a larger network of interrelated ecosystems can act as an Arctic-wide cooperation mechanism with co-benefits for the Arctic region. Following Baker, Suzanne Lalonde, Professor from the University of Montreal in Canada, discussed the challenges facing a Pan-Arctic Network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). Based on her preliminary research on the topic, Lalonde advocated for action not just the establishment, but the development and ongoing management of Arctic MPAs. Lalonde’s research presented the group with a general discussion over the need to better define the various roles of MPAs as they are often misunderstood to the detriment of their use and effectiveness. To finish the fourth session, brief presentations were given by Assistant Professor of the PCRC, Osamu Inagaki, regarding the inter-Institutional collaboration between the ICES and the Arctic Council for ecosystem assessment in the central Arctic Ocean Ecosystem; and Associate Professor from Hokkaido University, Orio Yamamura, who discussed Japan’s research in the Arctic Ocean.

The final portion of the symposium focused on the future of research and development. Co-chair of the IIASA Arctic Futures Initiative, Hannu Halinen, provided perspective from AFI for a holistic and global approach to more integrated Arctic future. The final speaker, Atsumu Ohmura, Chair of the ArCS Council and Professor emeritus from the Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science, gave the group a sobering picture of the climate crisis affecting the Arctic region, and concluded by stressing the need for further integration and understanding between the fields of natural and social sciences in order to addresses the urgent global climate crisis in the Arctic and beyond.

July 13, 2016

Professor Sergunin's  Seminar "Arctic Cooperation: Challenges and Opportunities"

On July 13, the PCRC convened an international seminar by Professor Alexander Sergunin, Visiting Professor of GSICS, entitled "Arctic Cooperation: Challenges and Opportunity." In the presentation, Professor Sergunin examined the negative impacts of the Ukranian Crisis on the Arctic cooperation including the activities of the Arctic council and the potential areas for future Arctic Cooperation. He also mentioned the possible strategies to achieve such cooperation. After this insightful presentation, the participants of the seminar actively engaged in discussion with Professor Sergunin.  

December 18-19, 2015

International Symposium on Emerging Arctic Legal Orders in Science, Environment and the Ocean

After Ambassador Halinen’s insightful overview of the significance and challenges of the Arctic Council in the Arctic legal-order making, the speakers and participants in the panel discussion came to share a view that the Arctic Council is now the only inter-governmental forum specifically dealing with Arctic issues but there are certain limits to what the Arctic Council can do, like Arctic high seas fisheries. It is also noted that Arctic Council members have different attitudes as to how non-Arctic States should be engaged in the work of the Arctic Council depending on the types of the meetings.

As to Professor Johnstone’s presentation touching on the soft normative instrument such as the black carbon & methane framework allowing non-Arctic States’ participation, a view was expressed that China’s involvement might become a key to its success. Professor VanderZwaag’s presentation focused on the possible future legal order on the Arctic Ocean fisheries initiated by the five Arctic coastal States, in comparison with the still hazy prospects of the Ocean-related legal order-making in one of the task force of the Arctic Council (TFAMC), whereas a scientist, Professor Hirawake, questioned the current commercial interest in the Arctic fisheries. An interesting insight was that there might be a possibility of establishing an Arctic Ocean Council, similar to the Arctic Economic Council. Director Shibata in his presentation argued that one of the emerging legal precepts that can be found in the negotiation of the agreement is that scientists and their scientific activities should be treated equally irrespective of their nationalities, while the closed nature of the agreement remains a challenge. Professor Nishimoto in his presentation observed that the polar code may serve an important role as “a reference point” in interpreting Article 234 of the UNCLOS.

In the concluding panel discussion, the invited speakers generally supported the themes and approach of the Centre’s proposed Arctic legal order studies, while suggesting a few additional insights, such as considering the role of indigenous peoples in such order-making. During the conference reception, the speakers and participants continued the discussion in a more casual atmosphere, with Kobe beef and Fugu (blows fish) BBQ.

October 19-29, 2015

Visit by Director Shibata to World’s Leading Arctic Legal Research Institutions

Director Shibata visited the Faculty of Law at the University of Akureyri and the Polar Law Institute (PLI) , Iceland and discussed possible collaboration in research and education. Director Shibata also gave a seminar to Faculty's students and researchers on a new agreement on Arctic scientific cooperation.

Director Shibata then visited Arctic Centre at University of Lapland, Finland, and discussed in detail with its Director, Professor Timo Koivurova, possible collaboration in research and education. As a result, PCRC has been approved to become a partner organization of the Arctic Law Thematic Network under the University of the Arctic (UArctic). One doctoral student at the Centre showed concrete interest in coming to PCRC as JSPS fellow from 2017.

Director Shibata’s final destination was Jebsen Centre for the Law of the Sea , the Arctic University of Norway, and agreed to invite its Director, Professor Tore Henriksen, as GSICS visiting professor for 2016 Spring semester. Director Shibata also gave a seminar (photo) on a controversial issue of ICJ’s Whaling in the Antarctic case and its aftermath.

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