Institutional Dimensions of Sustaining Arctic Observing Networks (SAON)


  • Paul Arthur Berkman



holistic, infrastructure, institutions, options, pan-Arctic, sustainability


Sustaining Arctic Observing Networks (SAON) implies a system of different sensors that are generating data to be preserved, interpreted, and applied in a continuous manner over a long period on a pan-Arctic scale. This note summarizes the current institutional framework that relates to data generation and use, as well as decision making and operational responses, around the Arctic Ocean. Sustainable solutions will necessarily involve those institutions that have the financial, logistic, policy, and legal capacity to support infrastructure in the Arctic Ocean region into the future. Three options are introduced for supporting SAON as a key element of the sustainable Arctic Ocean infrastructure that governments and Indigenous peoples hope to develop. Option 1 would be for the Arctic coastal states to mandate that a portion of leasehold payments from energy companies be earmarked for general-purpose infrastructure development in the Arctic Ocean region, with specific inclusion of SAON. Option 2 would be for the Arctic Council, as the high-level forum for international cooperation in the Arctic, to spread the burden of supporting SAON among the Arctic states, non-Arctic states, and Indigenous peoples. Option 3 would be to support SAON through coordinated public-private partnerships among diverse organizations and institutions with Arctic remits. Compelling justification for supporting SAON is that it is needed to inform decision making about both sustainable infrastructure development and maritime domain awareness for commercial operations in the Arctic Ocean.