Modernity has effected the regions of circumpolar community very differently. With each country taking a unique approach to its share of the governance responsibility for the High Arctic, a diverse palette of policy approaches has emerged to the common governance issues of northerners. A relative consensus has emerged around decentralized governance arrangements for northern communities, although there is a wide range of interpretations and implementations. This paper explores these differing relationships between central governments of Arctic Council member states and their more autonomous counter-parts in the North. It finds that the most successful approaches are consultative and strike a balance between local empowerment and the engagement of the central government.

While particular attention is often paid to the issues of natural resource development and military-led exercises of sovereignty, it is clear that successful governance is able to see past these apparently dichotomous options. Vibrant sovereignty, sound governance and successful human development go hand-in-hand, led by consultative investments in healthcare, education, environmental protection and the cultural revitalization of indigenous communities. Central governments must resist the impulse to bypass the multilateral institutions and devolutionary compromises which empower the circumpolar community in order to assure good governance and sustainable development.