Arctic Indigenous Societal Security at COP21: The Divergence of Security Discourse and Instruments in Climate Negotiations

Victoria Herrmann


In UN climate change conferences, there exists a disconnect between the space for and use of Arctic cultural heritage as a catalyst for action and parallel international legal and financial support for climate adaptation and mitigation in the North. This article aims to unpack this divergence of creating a space for societal security discourse and producing tangible climate commitments to Arctic Indigenous peoples in UN climate negotiations. The article surveys and explores visual and textual narratives pertaining to Arctic heritage at COP21 focusing on regional Indigenous political organizations and representatives. It contends both that societal security is to maintain Arctic indigenous culture in its traditional state from changes in the climate and that societal security is to protect indigenous culture from harm or destruction while allowing it to live, change and develop in its own accord to assist with climate mitigation and adaptation actions. The article then turns to the resulting Paris Agreement and Paris Road Map to survey specific legal, financial, and policy support mechanisms for Arctic Indigenous peoples. The article argues that the space for and use of Arctic Indigenous societal security discourses at COP21 are uneven with the resulting global policy initiatives, and do not adequately support the security of current cultural practices and heritage in the Arctic.

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