Multi-stakeholder environmental governance in the Arctic; institutionalized cooperation or informal dialogue? A case of the oil and gas industry

Aase Refsnes

Student thesis: Master thesis


Multi-stakeholder cooperation, with particular presence of private business entities, is receiving increasing attention in the global governance literature. Private-public partnerships and global policy networks especially has been emphasized as new governance mechanisms. Recently, the world is also witnessing the consequences of global warming; large areas in the Arctic are becoming ice-free, opening for oil and gas activities. As a consequence, various environmental issues, have arisen on how we should govern these activities in the vulnerable Arctic environment. Especially within trans-boundary environmental issues it is advocated that these new governance structures with cooperation between public and the private sectors are particularly pronounced. Therefore, taken the case of the environmental aspects of oil and gas activities in the Arctic, is it possible to observe such governance arrangements in the Arctic or has global governance theory exaggerated the extent of multi-stakeholder cooperation and partnerships between private sector business entities and the public sector? Multi-stakeholder theory has mainly relied on institutionalized relationships between private and public actors. Consequently, I expected to witness a formal cooperative arrangement between the oil and gas industry and the Arctic Council, as a representative for the public authorities, on environmental aspects of oil and gas activities. Through qualitative interviews with main actors involved in the cross-border cooperation, I have obtained the following results: Firstly, there is a small degree of formal cooperation among the actors. Secondly, there is a high presence of informal cooperation, especially through voluntary standards. Thus, no institutionalized cooperation was found between the actors. On this background, my main conclusions has been that learning from the case of the Arctic, there has been a too narrow focus on the different forms of collaborative action, prioritizing formal partnerships and underestimating the informal cooperation on issues such as voluntary guidelines and standards. Consequently, global governance has in the case of the Arctic exaggerated the extent of formal public-private cooperation; as such collaborative arrangements are presented in multi-stakeholder theory today.

EducationsMSc in International Business and Politics, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2010
Number of pages98