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Breaking the Ice: INGOs as Arctic Council Observer Status Applicants

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - ACOSA (Breaking the Ice: INGOs as Arctic Council Observer Status Applicants)

Reporting period: 2018-03-01 to 2020-02-29

This project set out to explore how normative criteria are used by an international organization when considering granting INGOs some degree of inclusion into its organizational structures. My research contributed to the exploration of this question by: (1) developing a model to explain whether an NGO has a chance of becoming an observer member of the Arctic Council by factoring in both the formal and informal elements of the application process; and (2) developing a framework for audience engagement by NGOs who lack moral legitimacy and who have a stigma with the audience they seek to engage by factoring in the need for a continued process for demonstrating awareness of behaviours, attitudes and practices that led to the legitimacy deficit and stigmatization and willingness to commit through action a change from the behaviours, attitudes and practices in a manner that resonates with the target audience.

Objective 1 is to trace the origins and rationale for the development of the observer status position within the Arctic Council and its links to institutional legitimacy. Objective 2 is to assess possible explanations for the different receptions to different INGO interest in involvement in the Arctic Council’s work. Objective 3 is to draw inferences between the Arctic Council’s handling of INGO inclusion and the broader discussion about INGO legitimacy and their position within international politics.

The first published journal article with Polar Record (output 1) in which I developed a model exploring the formal and informal processes of NGO observer status assessment addressed all three objectives, with a focus on Objective 1. To develop this model and journal article, I used interviews from my previous Carlsberg project and this Marie Curie project with Arctic state representatives that work on Arctic Council matters to unpack how they approach observer applications. I also did research using the Arctic Council digital repository and official documents to explore what they formally state as their process of assessing observers and cross reference that with how officials describe their internal state processes and rationale for supporting or declining observer applications.

Objective 2 is examined in my forthcoming book chapter (output 2) and journal article (output 3). It looks at the role of trust, moral legitimacy and stigma in helping to explain different receptions to different INGOs in the Arctic region and in politics. These publications focus on input from state representatives and Greenpeace and WWF representatives, literature on trust, legitimacy and stigma, and literature on past engagement by different NGOs in the North and the Arctic.

Objective 3 is explored in the last journal article (output 3) on Greenpeace’s efforts to overcome stigma and how their example can create a template for other NGOs seeking to engage audiences with whom they lack moral legitimacy and have a negative stigma and my contracted monograph on why WWF is trusted by key audiences in the North. These two outputs draw heavily on the fieldwork interviews of firsthand experiences and reflections from WWF, Greenpeace, Indigenous peoples, and Arctic state representatives.
My scientific results have been published or accepted by internationally recognized publishers during the project time period – (Journals) Polar Record, Arctic, Global Governance, Asian Survey, and The Northern Review; (Book Publishers) McGill-Queens University Press, Manchester University Press, and Springer.

Directly from the project:
• Burke, D.C. “Trust and the WWF Global Arctic Program.” In Non-Human Nature in World Politics: Theory and Practice, edited by Joana Castro Pereira and André Saramago. Springer (Forthcoming, 2020).
• Burke, D.C. and Phelps Bondaroff, Teale N. (2019) “Becoming an Arctic Council NGO Observer.” Polar Record 54(5-6): 349-359.
• Burke, D.C. Trusting WWF in the Arctic. Under-contract. Manchester University Press.
• Burke, D.C. (2019) “CHARS and Cambridge Bay: An Interview with Marla Limousin.” Arctic 72(3): 329-334.
Inuinnaqtun translation (translated by James Panioyak), “CHARS-kut tahamani Ikaluktutiami: Onipkaktok Apighoktaovluni una Marla Limousin” available on the Women in the
Arctic and Antarctic website.
• Burke, D.C. (2018) “Why the new Arctic ‘Cold War’ is a dangerous myth.” 13 December.
• Burke, D.C. (2018) “Miljøorganisationer bliver ikke taget seriøst i Arktis” (Environmental non-governmental organizations struggle to be taken seriously in the Arctic). Altinget: Arktis, 30 May.
• Burke, D.C. (2018) “Why the Arctic isn’t a ‘global commons.’ The Conversation, 8 April.

During the project period with secondary research from the Marie Curie time period:
• Burke, D.C. (2019). Diplomacy and the Arctic Council. Montreal-Kingston: McGill-Queens University Press.
• Burke, D.C. (2019) “Club Diplomacy in the Arctic.” Global Governance 25(2): 304–326.
• Burke, D.C. and Saramago, A. (2018) “Singapore's Contribution to Arctic Cooperation.” Asian Survey 58(5), pp. 920-941.
The project results help to push polar and NGO scholarship by exploring the never-before examined dynamics of the interplay between formal and informal rules and norms in Arctic politics at the regional (Arctic Council) and local (community) levels. This research broadens our understanding of the cost of membership and trust with various northern audiences – focusing on governments and their representatives and northern communities, particularly Indigenous peoples – that NGOs must incur if they want to be legitimacy actors from the perspective of these audiences whose work can be trusted. Potential users of the project results include government officials and civil servants working on aspects of Arctic politics, cooperation and diplomacy, Indigenous peoples representatives.

Activities undertaken to spread awareness of the research and its potential socio-economic impact

• interview with the CBC Radio program CBC The Current discussing Russian Arctic militarization and security in the Arctic region, particularly post the 2014 Crimea conflict (;
• interview for the Arctic Summer School as a guest speaker about science diplomacy (;
• interview as a guest expert for the Diplo Foundation on their open-access webinar series on diplomacy speaking about Arctic diplomacy (;
• publication of open-access news op-eds with Altinget: Arktis ( and The Conversation (; and
• an in-depth interview published in Arctic with the town manager for Cambridge Bay, Nunavut which hosts Canada’s High Arctic Research Station with an Inuinnaqtun translation available on the Women in the Arctic and Antarctic website (
Cover page of first published article with Polar Record