Kathrin Keil

K. Keil

Berlin Graduate School for Transnational Studies


Strong Cooperation without Strong Institutions - The Case of the Arctic -

Adresse Ihnestr. 26
Raum 102
14195 Berlin
Telefon +49(0)30 838 57029
E-Mail keil[at]transnationalstudies.eu

Betreuer / supervisors:

Prof. Dr. Miranda Schreurs
PD Dr. Helmut Weidner
Prof. Oran R. Young of the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management an der University of California, Santa Barbara 



The Arctic is a rapidly changing place. Its meaning in national foreign policies as well as in the interaction of various players has changed over time in general and increased tremendously recently in particular. It poses various opportunities and challenges to the actors interested in and affected by developments going on in the Arctic; examples include the growing importance of mineral resources, the possible development of new sea navigation routes that open up new opportunities for shipping and fishing, which together with the big issue of environmental dangers in general and climate change risks in particular also pose major challenges to the Arctic actors, not least because of the well-founded rights of and threats posed to the indigenous populations of the Arctic. Against this background, the central empirical points of departure of this thesis are that the Arctic becomes more relevant in actors’ policies and that the probability that actors’ policies are conflictive rises. In the centre of attention of this thesis is a detected theoretical-empirical puzzle in the realm of International Relations: although dominant theories of IR – neorealism and neoliberalism – predict conflict between actors on a region like the Arctic due to the non-.sovereign quality of big parts of the Arctic Ocean, the issue areas involved – security as well as strategic and economic interests –, high national stakes and weak institutions, the empirical reality shows rather the opposite, namely that substantial cooperation between Arctic actors takes place. This leads to the Arctic apparently being a case of intensive cooperation without strong institutions, which leads to the central research question of this thesis: How can dominant theories in IR explain the cooperative state of the Arctic and thus cooperation without strong institutions and without strong norms? This research project aims to fill the existing gap in the literature on explicit and extensive theorising of the Arctic case from an International Relations perspective as well as to find out about new phenomena that are – or are not – covered by dominant IR theories’ explanatory power. Put differently, by testing if so far not addressed issues are explainable by a certain theory – here: cooperation without strong institutions and norms – this thesis contributes to the academic debate by firstly solving a detected theoretical-empirical puzzle and secondly by refining theories through so-called ‘middle-range theorising’. The empirical relevance of this study is given by it shedding light on explanatory factors for cooperation among actors and the role of institutions, which will for example contribute to assessing if the pressing problems of the Arctic, which are inextricably linked to the rest of the globe, will be solved successfully. Additionally, if it is not (only) strong institutions that ensure cooperative handling of collective action problems, apparently other factors have to be taken into account and are thus valuable to detect and add to our knowledge. In other words, the empirical phenomenon potentially means that strong international institutions might in some cases be neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for stable cooperation to emerge between states. 


Finanzierung: Berlin Graduate School for Transnational Studies (BTS), Dahlem Research School (DRS)