The Arctic Council

Matt Headshot.JPG

Dear Delegates,

It is my great pleasure to welcome you to the sixty-fifth session of Harvard National Model United Nations! My name is Matthew Rossi and I am a rising sophomore at Harvard College. This year I am thrilled to be directing a committee that has never before been offered in HNMUN’s long history: the Arctic Council.

My interest in the Arctic stems from my passion for law and environmental science. At Harvard, I am pursuing a joint concentration in Government and Anthropology focusing on the intersection between culture, history, and the law. In 2018, I served as an Assistant Director for the Special Summit on Futuristic Technology at HMUN, our sister conference for high school delegates, and for the Special Session of the Commonwealth of Independent States at HNMUN. I am also the Director of Design and Planning Strategy for HMUN 2019 and compete on Harvard’s competitive intercollegiate traveling Model UN team, ICMUN. Outside of Model UN I write and design for the Harvard Political Review, am a member of the classical music department at WHRB Harvard Radio, and can frequently be found watching copious amounts of Blue Planet and Bob’s Burgers.

I am beyond excited to simulate the Arctic Council with all of you at conference. Our committee structure is unique; while territories north of the Arctic Circle often fall into the hands of just a few countries, the Arctic Council offers permanent representation to numerous indigenous groups, NGOs, and non-state actors. Balancing the interests of these diverse groups will be an important challenge as we debate the responsible use of Arctic resources and current territorial conflicts in the region.

The Arctic is often thought of as a barren place removed from human influence. On the contrary, the Arctic has been uniquely shaped by human society, both to the region’s benefit and detriment. I look forward to hearing your ideas as we discuss the triumphs and travails of the more than four million people living in the frigid reaches of the North. Please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions or just to say hello!

All the best,

Matthew Rossi
Director, The Arctic Council
Harvard National Model United Nations 2019


Topic Area A: The Responsible Use of Arctic Resources

Beyond its external appearance as a frozen desert, the Arctic is home to some of the richest deposits of natural resources in the world. More than 400 onshore oil and gas fields have been discovered in the Arctic, with a quarter of the most extensive fields as of yet untapped. Further, the region is home to some of the globe’s largest deposits of mineral resources, including iron, copper, gold, and platinum. Extraction of these resources is controversial—environmental consequences could be catastrophic, and the work is often monopolized by large multinational corporations that can clash with local communities and indigenous leaders. The Arctic is also home to a wealth of living resources. At the end of 2017, Arctic nations came together to pass a 16 year moratorium on Arctic fishing after melting sea ice opened vast polar regions to fishing trawlers. Reindeer herding is another key activity, especially for many indigenous peoples. As the world quickly runs out of water, the Arctic is also home to approximately one fifth of the planet’s freshwater. In a region profoundly impacted by climate change, how can the Arctic Council ensure equitable access to limited resources while also promoting long-term sustainability?

Topic Area B: Adjudicating Territorial Claims in the Arctic

The Arctic falls into a unique grey area under international law; while the eight Arctic nations have extensive claims in the region, the United Nations has explicitly prohibited national claims to the North Pole and the high seas surrounding it. Meanwhile, several nations continue to make territorial claims under the auspices of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, a legal framework complicated by the fact that prominent actors such as the United States have never ratified it. Perhaps the most difficult question is the extent to which indigenous peoples should enjoy sovereignty over Arctic territories. While represented in the Arctic Council, these peoples have no representation in the United Nations, and are subject to differing state policies that call into question their nationhood and personhood. With the warming atmosphere revealing newly profitable lands and opening coveted trade routes, a framework is clearly needed for proposing, adjudicating, and resolving Arctic territorial claims and disputes.