Abstract: This assessment of the Arctic is divided in to four sections. First, the true value of the region is defined in terms of its environmental, geostrategic, economic and socio-cultural importance. Such a definition stresses the need for countries involved in Arctic expeditions (notably Canada, the United States, Denmark, Russia), to manage the extraction and distribution of the region’s natural resources responsibly, sustainably, while protecting natural habitats and addressing the growing concerns of local indigenous populations. Second, the Arctic Council is presented and its effectiveness, as a regime of regional environmental cooperation with global implications, is questioned. In this respect the main obstacle is of a conceptual nature since, in its current form, the Council lacks a legally-binding institutional structure. Third, the abundance of natural resources, especially hydrocarbons, in the Arctic has attracted the attention of many, including policy-makers, scholars and researchers, among others. Considerable attention in this research is devoted to analysing the impact the exploitation of Arctic oil reserves is having. Finally, given this works argument that the Arctic Council is dangerously limited and incapable, particularly with regards to the management of natural resources, the Antarctic Treaty System (ATS), which is a legally-binding international convention (1959), is presented as a model for future reform in the Arctic region.
Keywords: Arctic competition, the Arctic Council, hydrocarbons, the Bering Straits, Antarctic Treaty System, North and South poles, environmental degradation