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The Enforcement of International Law in the Arctic and at Sea

The special research programme The Enforcement of International Law in the Arctic and at Sea (RAS - "Retshåndhævelse i Arktis og til Søs") is composed of researchers who study the regulation and enforcement of legal norms in the Arctic and on the high seas. The Head of the Special Research Programme is Martin Mennecke

RAS is organised under the International Research Section, but also has participants from other research groups at the Department of Law.

Focus of the research programme

The Arctic is changing and attracts a great deal of attention both internationally and in Denmark. The world's oceans are also of key importance to states, not least because much of Denmark's and the world's trade takes place at sea. Oceans are also currently in focus because they serve as not only a route, but a death trap for thousands of refugees and migrants. This is the basis for why we have chosen to focus our research in RAS on the Enforcement of International Law in the Arctic and at Sea.

RAS takes its starting point in the fundamental question of to what extent complex and new trends in the Arctic and at sea challenge the law and its enforcement: do we lack the national and international norms and institutions to ensure effective enforcement of the law? To what extent do the various actors in the Arctic and at sea have the appropriate legal frameworks to manage and control the developments?

RAS thus handles themes that are especially current and relevant for both state actors and non-state actors in Denmark, Greenland, the Faroe Islands and abroad, and especially for the maritime industry, the Danish Defence and foreign policy circles.

RAS builds on ongoing research on the regulation of maritime activities and law enforcement at sea. RAS also covers current research into the interaction between the exercise of official authority, the behaviour of private actors and Arctic law.

RAS, knowledge sharing and civic engagement

RAS conducts its research in close cooperation with relevant actors. The researchers continuously disseminate their work to Danish and international law audiences and to society in general through the media, blogs and journals.

Members of the special research programme are engaged in national and international networks and regularly present at conferences both in Denmark and abroad. At SDU, RAS researchers are active in the cross-faculty Blue SDU network and in the cross-disciplinary Center for War Studies.

RAS is also in charge of academic events at SDU. In spring of 2016, both Thomas Winkler, the Danish Ambassador to Russia, and Erik Lorenzen, the Arctic Ambassador for the Kingdom of Denmark, gave lectures to RAS. Each year the special research programme also organises closed stakeholder meetings to discuss current issues such as the implementation of the Polar Code in Denmark. 

In October 2016 RAS brought together Danish and international researchers, practitioners, government officials and civil society actors to take stock of the cooperation in the Arctic Council. The conference particularly focused on the role of public international law in the Arctic Council, the influence of indigenous people on the Council and emerging Arctic security challenges.

RAS researchers are also involved in relevant national and international working groups. For example, Birgit Feldtmann is an expert member of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia. Since the negotiations on Greenland’s quotas in 2012, Martin Mennecke has served as advisor on international law to the Danish delegation to the International Whaling Commission.

RAS’ involvement in teaching

RAS researchers regularly incorporate their research into a variety of subjects in the law programmes at SDU. Legal issues from the Arctic and the seas are discussed with the students in basic subjects such as Public International Law, as well as in special subjects such as International Organisations, Current Developments and Challenges in Public International Law and International Perspectives on Criminal Justice. In addition, the group offers supervision on relevant Bachelor and Master of Laws theses. Several of the special research programme members are involved in writing a new Danish textbook on public international law, which will incorporate various questions posed by RAS, among other things. 

Partners of the special research programme in Denmark and abroad

RAS members are involved in a range of relevant collaborative research projects and currently examining possibilities of starting more formal collaborations with other Danish and international research groups within the same field.