2020 Polar Law Symposium The Rule of Law in the Polar Regions

Special Online Session of
13th Polar Law Symposium

Logistically supported by Kobe PCRC

Message to All Polar Law Scholars

From the Convenor

Due to the worsening situation caused by COVID-19 pandemic in Japan and worldwide and after careful consultation with the Advisory Committee, with breaking hearts, I have decided to postpone the Kobe symposium to the fall of 2021, hosting it as the 14th Polar Law Symposium at Kobe University, Japan. Its dates have not yet been decided, but most likely it will be held around the same time of the year, namely November 2021.

The 13th Polar Law Symposium will be held as a Special Online Session. This will be a simple online forum, protected by password to be issued to registered participants (there will be no registration fees), where the presenters will be able to upload their research results in PPT, video clips with audio, and other forms to be decided later. There will be no interactive online discussions during the Session, but the opportunities for the participants to send their comments and feedbacks by e-mails will be provided. This online session will be available for a period of three weeks in November 2020.

Registration for Special Online Session
All those scholars who submitted the abstracts are already registered to the Session and will be provided with the URL and password to access the Session in due course. For those who would like to “observe” and “make comments” to the online presentations, you will need to register in order to obtain the URL and the password to access the Session. The registration information will be available by early September. There will be no registration fee both for presentations and for observing.

Fellowships for the 2020 Polar Law Symposium
From those accepted abstracts/panel proposals and based on the request through the abstract submission portal, Kobe PCRC will offer fellowships amounting to max. 200,000 JPY/person to selected early-career/indigenous scholars. For selection purposes, early-career/indigenous scholars seeking fellowships from Kobe PCRC were requested to submit a longer version nearing the maximum limit (700 words). The Planning Committee members will be contacting candidates from July to August by email.

Under the instruction and supervision of a Planning Committee member, the selected fellows are expected to assist the establishment of online discussion panels, to promote the active discussions leading up to the Session in November, to draft reports of the panel discussions for publication, and/or prepare research papers for submission to the Yearbook of Polar Law. Further instructions and conditions will be duly sent to the selected recipients.
Under the present scheme, “early-career scholars” are all students and those researchers within 5 years past their PhD; whereas “Indigenous scholars” are all indigenous polar experts and researchers and Indigenous knowledge holders of all backgrounds and career stages (such as ones represented by the Arctic Council Permanent Participants).

Call for abstracts

Abstracts: Submission portal is closed on 5 June 2020.
Early-career/indigenous scholars fellowship requests:Closed on 5 June 2020.

The Special Online Session of the 13th Polar Law Symposium maintains the six panel themes as originally proposed, and the online presentations will be made under those themes (in addition to new panels).

Panel Theme 1: International rule of law in polar regions
This is the overarching theme of 2020 PLS.
International polar law is, and should be, depicted as an integral part of the international legal system the main purpose of which is to bring the rule of law in the international community. The objective of this panel is to re-examine the foundational principles of international law applicable in both polar regions which are essential for their maintenance of peace and security, for providing stability and foreseeability, for promoting international cooperation in science and environmental protection, and for proactively regulating emerging issues such as tourism and resource developments. This panel welcomes fundamental legal discussion on the concept of “the Rule of Law” or “the Rule-based Order” as applied in the polar regions, and the role of international law in changing geopolitical situations today and tomorrow (increasing nationalism and unilateralism, big power rivalries, emerging Asian, Latin American and African powers) and their implications for the polar regions.

Panel Theme 2: Policy-law-science nexus in polar regions
The polar regions have legal regimes that often centre around international scientific cooperation and science-based decision-making; that seek peace through science-based diplomacy; and that are challenged by new technological advances that influence member activities. This panel will analyse the nexus between policy, law and science (including technologies and logistics), and how shifts in this nexus can build stronger and more resilient polar regimes and institutions. The panel welcomes examination of the role of scientists and scientific organizations, such as International Arctic Science Committee (IASC) and Scientific Committee for Antarctic Research (SCAR), as observers and experts in the policy- and law-making discussions in the Arctic Council (AC) and Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings (ATCMs). The panel encourages collaborative presentations between social scientists and natural scientists, engineers and operational managers on relevant topics of mutual interest.

Panel Theme 3: Protecting marine and terrestrial polar environments
The polar regions require unique legal regimes which seek to protect and/or conserve their fragile, changing and diversity-rich marine and terrestrial environments. These regimes face many challenges, both environmental and anthropogenic. This panel seeks to discuss relevant normative approaches (ecosystem, precautionary, etc), legal principles (jurisdiction, prevention, due diligence, responsibility and liability, etc), legal procedures and mechanisms (environmental impact assessment (EIA), marine protected areas (MPA), area protection and management schemes, etc) applicable in both polar regions and to examine how these regimes, with their diverse actors, develop, maintain and adapt to these challenges unique to the polar regions.

Panel Theme 4: Humans and human security in polar regions
Polar regions, because of their harsh natural environment, pose unique challenges for humans in their endeavours to access the areas, to pursue professional activities, and to make a viable living. The Arctic is the home to 4 million inhabitants, including the indigenous peoples. In Antarctica, during the long winter, there are around 1,000 personnel maintaining their stations and doing scientific observations, but in the short austral summer, these personnel increases up to 5,000 and more than 50,000 tourists by boats and planes visit small ice-free areas of the vast continent. Acknowledging the very different contexts in which the human aspects are addressed in their applicable laws and policies, this panel welcomes examinations of basic principles relevant to humans in the polar regions, such as strengthening human safety and security, promoting sustainability of human activities, and reducing the physical as well as carbon footprints of humans, including tourists and scientific personnel. The indigenous aspects of the polar law and policy may be more relevant to the Arctic, and the panel welcomes addressing these issues. The panel welcomes a constructive and a mutually-learning dialogue between the Arctic and non-Arctic indigenous peoples.

Panel Theme 5: Resources and industries in polar regions
As polar regions and their resources become more accessible, various forms of commercial activities are on the rise. In the Arctic, its rich resources attract increased interest from the resource extraction industries. In Antarctica, there are some allegations that the ban on mineral resource activities is circumvented through “disguised” scientific geological surveys. Tourism has dramatically grown in both the Arctic and the Antarctic. Other new types of activities, such as bioprospecting for genetic resources, may also increase in the future. However, there are significant challenges in ensuring that these resource activities where legally allowed are conducted in a sustainable manner, in relation to the fragile environment and the inhabitants of the region. This panel seeks to identify the challenges in ensuring sustainable development of resources and in regulating their industrial activities in the polar regions. It aims to consider to what extent the existing rules, frameworks and practices have been effective in ensuring sustainable development, and to discuss how gaps and shortcomings could be addressed. The fisheries in the polar regions (CCAMLR and the new fisheries agreement for the Central Arctic Ocean (CAO)) can be addressed either in this panel (focusing on the resources) or in the next panel (focusing on the law of the sea and their legal aspects).

Panel Theme 6: The law of the sea and the polar regions
The law of the sea is one of the key components of the legal framework of the polar regions. Reflecting the balance between the interests of States, the law of the sea defines the maritime entitlements of coastal States to their maritime zones and provides the rights and obligations for States concerning the different uses of the sea. As such, it has provided a common ground on which all activities could take place. Nevertheless, there remain various issues concerning the law of the sea, in areas such as maritime delimitation, delineation of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles, navigation, marine scientific research, and the regulation of high seas fisheries. This panel will address these various issues concerning the law of the sea in the polar regions. As many of the issues involve the question of how the interests of coastal States in the polar regions could be reconciled with the interests of other States, some emphasis will be placed on considering this cross-cutting theme. The panel welcomes examinations on normative and institutional interactions between and amongst the relevant treaties and organizations, such as Antarctic Treaty System, Central Arctic Ocean (CAO) fisheries agreement, Arctic Science Cooperation Agreement, IMO’s Polar Code, UNCLOS, the negotiation on a legally binding instrument on BBNJ, etc.

Important dates

9 November 2020 Special Online Session of 13th PLS open (until 30 November)
1 September 2020 Registration for special online session begins
Early August 2020 Acceptance notification on abstracts/fellowships
5 June 2020 Final deadline for abstracts/fellowship requests
24 April 2020 Decision: 13th Polar Law Symposium goes Online
24 April 2020 Kobe PCRC will host the 14th Polar Law Symposium in 2021
5 December 2019 Call for abstracts open
5 December 2019 2020 PLS Kobe website open

Hosts & Sponsors




Convenor of the Special Online Session of the 13th Polar Law Symposium:
Akiho Shibata, Director, Kobe PCRC

Advisory Committee:
Gudmundur Alfredsson (University of Akureyri, Iceland)
Timo Koivurova (University of Lapland, Finland)
Julia Jabour (University of Tasmania, Australia)

Planning Committee:
Akiho Shibata, Chair (Kobe PCRC)
Hiroyuki Enomoto (Arctic Environmental Research Center, National Institute of Polar Research, Japan)
Kentaro Nishimoto (School of Law, Tohoku University, Japan)
Yuko Osakada(Faculty of Law, Chukyo University, Japan)
Nikolas Sellheim (Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science, University of Helsinki, Finland)
Indi Hodgson-Johnston (Institute of Marine & Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania, Australia)
Zia Madani (Kobe PCRC from September 2020)
Osamu Inagaki (Researcher, Polar Cooperation Research Centre, Kobe University)

Wakako Masuda (Polaris Secretaries Office Co., Ltd.)


For inquiries regarding the symposium generally and for abstract submission,
please send an e-mail to:2020_pls_kobe@2020polarlawsymposium.org