Following Russia's invasion of Ukraine in 2022, the Arctic Council, the principal forum for regional governance, found itself in uncharted waters when the seven western Arctic states opted to cease their participation in protest against Russia’s actions. Fast forward to 2023: while the Council's Chairship has transitioned to Norway, the path to reinvigorated collaboration remains obscured. The crux of the dilemma lies in the interplay between the pressing need for cooperation in areas like climate science and emergency preparedness and the overarching geopolitical tensions stemming from Russia's actions in Ukraine and the subsequent expansion of NATO to include Finland and Sweden, both Arctic states.

This session aims to contextualize the Arctic’s role on the global stage, unpack the challenges the region currently faces, and explore potential avenues for reigniting working-level cooperation in essential areas. For those new to the nuances of the Arctic, the region is more than just a geopolitical hotspot - it's a microcosm of the larger challenges faced by the international community. Engage with us to understand how interactions in the Arctic ripple across the globe, affecting everything from international relations to the very science underpinning our understanding of climate change.


"David Balton"David Balton is the Executive Director of the Arctic Executive Steering Committee, which advances and coordinates and U.S. policies and activities in the Arctic region. He previously served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Oceans and Fisheries in the Department of State’s Bureau of Oceans, Environment and Science, attaining the rank of Ambassador in 2006. He was responsible for coordinating the development of U.S. foreign policy concerning oceans and fisheries and overseeing U.S. participation in international organizations dealing with these issues. His portfolio included managing U.S. foreign policy issues relating to the Arctic and Antarctica. Balton functioned as the lead U.S. negotiator on a wide range of agreements in the field of oceans and fisheries and chaired numerous international meetings. During the U.S. Chairmanship of the Arctic Council (2015-2017), he served as Chair of the Senior Arctic Officials. His prior Arctic Council experience included co-chairing the Arctic Council Task Forces that produced the 2011  Agreement on Cooperation on Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue in the Arctic and the 2013  Agreement on Cooperation on Marine Oil Pollution Preparedness and Response in the Arctic. He separately chaired negotiations that produced the Agreement to Prevent Unregulated High Seas Fisheries in the Central Arctic Ocean.

"Svein Vigeland Rottem"Svein Vigeland Rottem is a Senior Researcher at the Fridtjof Nansen Institute (FNI). His main research interests are within the fields of Arctic security, Arctic governance, science-policy interface, and the Arctic Council. His PhD (Political Science) was on the Norwegian defence establishment’s encounter with new post-cold war realities, emphasizing, among other things, security in the Arctic. In recent years, however, his main research focus has been on Arctic and global environmental governance, maritime safety issues in the Arctic, science-policy influence, and the Arctic Council. He is the author of a number of books, articles in academic journals, and reports on these issues. Rottem holds a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Tromsø, Norway.

"Elana Wilson Rowe"Elana Wilson Rowe is research professor at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs. Dr. Wilson Rowe’s research and expertise areas include governance of nature and changing power relations in the Anthropocene, Arctic and ocean governance and geopolitics, and Russian climate and Arctic policymaking. Her publications explore how the interplay of diplomatic practices, security rivalries and expert/environmental knowledge shape outcomes and understandings in regional and global policy fields. She is the author of Russian Climate Politics: When Science Meets Policy (Palgrave, 2013) and Arctic Governance: Power in Cross-border Relations (University of Manchester, 2018). She was a member of Norway’s committee establishing research priorities for the UN Ocean Decade. She holds a BA in Russian and Geography from Middlebury College (USA) and an MPhil and PhD in Geography/Polar Studies from the University of Cambridge (2006). 

"Fran Ulmer"Fran Ulmer has been a Senior Fellow at the Belfer Center's Arctic Initiative since 2019. She was a Visiting Professor at Stanford University from 2017 to 2018. Ulmer was appointed by President Obama as the Chair of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission (USARC) in March 2011 and served in that role until August 2020. From 2014 to 2017, Ulmer was a Special Advisor on Arctic Science and Policy at the State Department. In June 2010, President Obama appointed her to the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling. From 2007 to 2011, she served as Chancellor of the University of Alaska Anchorage, Alaska’s largest public university. Ulmer served as an elected official for 18 years as the mayor of Juneau, a state representative and as Lieutenant Governor of Alaska. She previously worked as legal counsel to the Alaska Legislature, legislative assistant to Governor Jay Hammond and Director of Policy Development for the state. In addition, she was the first Chair of the Alaska Coastal Policy Council and served for more than 10 years on the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission. She has served on numerous local, state, and federal advisory committees and boards. Ulmer earned a J.D. cum laude from the University of Wisconsin Law School, and has been a Fellow at the Institute of Politics at Harvard Kennedy School.


"Jennifer Spence"Jennifer Spence is an Arctic Initiative Senior Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs with expertise related to sustainable development, international governance, institutional effectiveness, and public policy. Spence has a particular passion for working with Northerners to understand and respond to the opportunities and challenges facing the Arctic region. She is also an Adjunct Professor with Carleton University’s Northern Studies Graduate Program and was the Executive Secretary of the Arctic Council’s Sustainable Development Working Group until 2023. Previously, she worked for 18 years with the Government of Canada in senior positions related to resource management, conflict and change management, strategic planning, and leadership development. Spence holds a Ph.D. in public policy from Carleton University, a Master of Arts from Royal Roads University in conflict management and analysis, and a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in political science from the University of British Columbia.