Fuzzy Signals to Potential Observer States in the Arctic Council

Alexandra Middleton

Citation: Alexandra Middleton, Fuzzy Signals to Potential Observer States in the Arctic Council, Global Affairs Review, Vol. 2, No. 2, Fall/Winter 2021.

doi: 10.51330/gar.0020221

ISSN: 2660-6968

date: December 28th, 2021


The attention to the Arctic is fuelled by the prospect of economic development, emerging shipping routes, and changing geopolitics. Since 1996 the Arctic Council, an intergovernmental forum for Arctic cooperation, has served to foster environmental protection and sustainable development in the region. The Arctic Council is composed of the eight Arctic states with territory north of the Arctic Circle and six Permanent Participants representing Arctic Indigenous People. Since its inception, the Arctic Council has admitted 13 non-Arctic Observer states. However, in 2021 three new candidates (Ireland, Czech Republic, and Estonia) were not successful with their applications despite proven records of Arctic research and influence in the region. This article will elaborate on the dynamics of Observer states admittance to the Arctic Council. Signalling theory is applied in this paper as a theoretical lens. More precisely, this paper will concentrate on fuzzy signalling, because such signals do not fall into binary classification and require a lot of contextual geopolitical information for interpretation. The data consists of research articles, publicly available statements, and media articles. The findings demonstrate that the admittance of Observer states to the Arctic Council can be viewed as fuzzy signalling. This paper will argue that fuzzy signalling is intrinsic to a multi-actor governance forum like the Arctic Council, where decisions are made on a consensus basis.