Open events
Event #1192

Critical Perspectives on Arctic Oceans Governance, Sustainability and Justice


Wednesday, June 2, 2021

10:30 - 11:45
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Association events , Indigenous programming , Northern Relations
English | anglais
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Building on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, 2021 marks the beginning of the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030). Sustainable development is often described as necessitating the balancing of three pillars: the economic, environmental, and social. Yet this leads to contestation over cross-cutting dimensions like equity and justice.

On a global scale, significant attention has been devoted to the environmental dimension of oceans governance to date, from ocean acidification to marine species. Meanwhile, the notion of a ‘blue economy’ is increasingly moving from the margins to the centre of conversations surrounding sustainable development. The High Level Panel for Sustainable Ocean Economy, created in 2018, recently released a report ( in which the Panel proposes transformations in key areas of ocean wealth, health, equity, knowledge, and finance, to be guided by principles including alignment with other international legal frameworks, and between land-based and ocean-based activities, as well as inclusiveness of human rights, gender equality, and respect for Indigenous peoples’ rights.

This roundtable will bring together diverse voices to reflect on the relevance of these global frameworks – including their approaches to issues of equity and justice – for an Arctic context. The Arctic Ocean is not only integral to the health of our global social-ecological system, but is increasingly also a harbinger of change elsewhere, thereby providing significant insights for broader conversations on ocean governance, sustainability, and justice.


Sara L Seck, PhD, is an Associate Professor & Associate Dean, Research at the Schulich School of Law, and Marine & Environmental Law Institute, Dalhousie University. Her past research has considered public and private international law, international sustainable development law, business and human rights, and environmental and climate justice, with attention to insights from feminist and relational theory, Third World Approaches to International Law, and Indigenous perspectives. Recent publications include a co-authored chapter on ‘People at the Poles’ for the Handbook on Polar Law (Edward Elgar, 2020). She is also co-editor (with Sumudu Atapattu and Carmen Gonzalez) of the forthcoming (March 2021) Cambridge Handbook of Environmental Justice and Sustainable Development.

My role will be to introduce the roundtable discussion by reflecting on key insights from our forthcoming co-edited book on environmental justice and sustainable development. The book sheds light on the social dimension of sustainability, and its relationship to human rights and environmental justice. Despite global endorsement of the Sustainable Development Goals, the case studies in the book reveal that environmental justice struggles are growing all over the world. These should not be understood as isolated injustices, but rather as symptoms of interlocking forms of oppression that privilege the few while inflicting misery on the many and threatening ecological collapse. A key question for this roundtable will be how, in light of the sustainable oceans decade and emerging blue economy governance frameworks, sustainable oceans governance in the Arctic context might overcome the challenges of intersecting and overlapping forms of injustice in a time of global ecological crisis. Various frameworks for understanding and contesting injustice are explored in the book, including Indigenous environmental justice, gender justice, socio-ecological resilience, human rights and vulnerability, human dignity, and racial capitalism. Determined in consultation with the roundtable participants, a set of agreed upon questions will guide our discussions.


Dalee Sambo Dorough, PhD (Inuit-Alaska) is the International Chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Council, a non-governmental organization that represents approximately 165,000 Inuit from the Russian Far East, Alaska, Canada and Greenland. She is affiliated with the University of Alaska Anchorage where she served as an Assistant Professor of International Relations within the Department of Political Science from 2008-2018; former Chairperson [2014] and Expert Member of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (2010-2016); and co-Chair of the International Law Association (ILA) Committee on Implementation of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Dalee holds a Ph.D. from University of British Columbia, Faculty of Law (2002) and a Master of Arts in Law & Diplomacy from The Fletcher School at Tufts University (1991). She is also the co-editor of the new Routledge Handbook of Indigenous Peoples in the Arctic.

As part of this roundtable, she will share reflections on the implementation of the rights of Indigenous peoples in the Arctic and upcoming issues of concern to the Inuit Circumpolar Council.

Tahnee Prior, PhD (expected January 2021) is a Killam Postdoctoral Fellow at the Marine & Environmental Law Institute of Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada. Her current research examines the application of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to women in the context of the Arctic marine space and maritime activities. Together with Dr. Sara Seck she is also a Research Associate on a project titled “Women of the Arctic Ocean: Exploring the Intersection of Gender, Indigeneity & the Law of the Sea in the Canadian Arctic”, funded by the Ocean Frontier Institute. Tahnee is the co-founder of Women of the Arctic a non-profit association registered in Finland whose mission it is to raise awareness of, support for, and maintain a focus on women and gender-related issues in the Arctic. Tahnee completed her Ph.D. and Masters of Arts in Global Governance at the University of Waterloo, and her Bachelor of Arts in International Relations at Franklin University Switzerland.

The 2030 UN Sustainable Development Agenda identifies regulatory and ocean governance systems as essential to advancing the ten targets of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14 – ‘Life below water’ – which seeks to conserve and sustainably use oceans, seas and marine resources. Scholars and policy-makers alike increasingly recognize the importance of mainstreaming SDG 5 – focused on gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls – across all other SDGs, including SDG 14. As a part of this roundtable, Tahnee will reflect on the degree to which principles for a sustainable ‘blue economy’ framework are being developed by states, corporations, civil society for the Arctic Ocean and coastal areas. More precisely, she will focus on whether gender equality is being mainstreamed into this framework and, if not, how this may be done.

Olga Koubrak (LLM Dalhousie; JD Victoria) is a PhD candidate at the Marine & Environmental Law Institute, Schulich School of Law, Dalhousie University. Her research focuses on how domestic and international legal instruments can improve conservation outcomes for marine species at risk. Olga has contributed to the review of transboundary fisheries arrangements in the Northwest Atlantic and North Pacific to understand how these organizations approach the issue of climate change; and is part of a team reviewing the federal government’s policy response to the unprecedented level of right whale mortality in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in 2017, with a recent publication in Ocean and Coastal Management. She is a member of OceanCanada’s Law and Policy Working Group, and, co-author of a forthcoming contribution on comparative Canadian-Russian approaches to Indigenous rights in Arctic oceans governance. 

As a part of this roundtable, Olga will contribute reflections on marine species at risk in sustainable oceans governance including legal barriers to, and solutions for, the application of dynamic ocean management tools to the protection of Canadian species at risk by balancing the legal principles of certainty and fairness with the ecological reality of change and uncertainty. For example, the Atlantic walrus (Odobenus rosmarus) is a culturally and ecologically important species in the Arctic, sensitive to human disturbances and climate change. It is currently managed by Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board, and has recently been designated as a species of Special Concern by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC).

Desai Shan (Ph.D Cardiff) is an Assistant Professor at the Community Health and Humanities Division, Faculty of Medicine, Memorial University of Newfoundland. Her research explores maritime occupational health and safety and sustainable maritime development. Her current research projects focus on occupational health and safety law and practice related to Arctic shipping activities and COVID-19 and its impact on seafarers. Desai has published fifteen research articles and book chapters on Canadian and international seafarers’ rights to occupational health and safety. She developed a national maritime fatigue prevention training course for Transport Canada in 2020. She sat on the expert panel of the Ministry of Foreign affairs of the Republic of Indonesia to develop guidelines on international seafarer abandonment cases.

As a part of this roundtable, Desai Shan will contribute her research findings on Maritime occupational health and safety challenges in the Arctic.

Margherita Paola Poto (Prof. Dr., University of Turin, Italy) is a mum, an ally of the Earth, and a researcher at the Faculty of Law, UiT The Arctic University of Norway (Romssa/Tromsø). Her research interests include ocean governance, climate change and Indigenous law, comparative administrative law, environmental law and sustainability, and Arctic governance. She is particularly interested in the development of new methodological approaches to law, that encompass Indigenous methodologies, intra-comparative analysis, community and gender-based research.

As a part of this roundtable, Margherita will share reflections on her current research project which brings together water defenders and innovators to re-evaluate the legal ordering of water governance — focusing specifically on access to information, participation, and access to justice – through a lens of empathy (ability to enter in communion with the emotions of others), compassion (ability to feel together) and care (ability to take restoring actions).

  • Sara Seck, Associate Professor of Law and Associate Dean, Research, Schulich School of Law, Dalhousie University
  • Tahnee Prior, Killam Postdoctoral Fellow, Marine and Environmental Law Institute, Schulich School of Law, Dalhousie University
  • Olga Koubrak, PhD Candidate, Marine and Environmental Law Institute, Schulich School of Law, Dalhousie University