‘Soft' treaty and science diplomacy in the Arctic

Theme 5. Other
Session Name 5.14 Science diplomacy dialogue: Building common interests in the Arctic
Datetime Sep 05, 2018 02:40 PM - 02:50 PM (UTC +3)
Location IT115
Presentation Type Oral
Presenter Hema Nadarajah
Author(s) Hema Nadarajah (University of British Columbia, Canada)
Abstract text

While binding, the Agreement on Enhancing International Scientific Cooperation is not a hard treaty and falls within the twilight zone of a binding, yet soft instrument that contains no new obligations for its Parties. This paper, utilizing textual analysis, interviews and a review of the literature, seeks to examine why this has been the case. It questions the ambiguity of an agreement that was concluded via a process of science diplomacy, and what that means for politics and development of common interests in the Arctic. It also suggests that the Agreement can be better described as a ‘soft’ treaty as opposed to soft law, which generally refers to instruments that are specifically normative and non-binding. 


Through analysis of the legal framework within which the Arctic Council conducts its interstate scientific cooperation activities, this research hypothesizes that the Agreement has been an outcome of domestic politics, as well as geopolitical tensions between Russia and the West. In laying out the advantages of ‘soft’ treaties as well as its drawbacks, it finds that despite a lack of harder forms of enforcement and inability to control state behaviour, a dependence on continued goodwill and mutual advantage, ‘soft’ treaties can sometimes be just as effective normatively. Given the use of scientific knowledge in such agreements, it lends itself well to the efficacy of modification, and can provide a stepping stone towards hard law in the future, should it be needed.

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