Published online by Cambridge University Press: 21 October 2015
The Arctic and the Antarctic appear to be polar opposites with regard to many matters, including the systems of governance that have evolved in the two regions. Antarctica is demilitarised, closed to economic development, open to a wide range of scientific activities, and subject to strict environmental regulations under the terms of the legally binding Antarctic Treaty of 1959 along with several supplementary measures that together form the Antarctic Treaty System (ATS). The Arctic, by contrast, is a theatre of military operations, a site of largescale industrial activities, a homeland for sizable groups of indigenous peoples, and a focus of growing concern regarding the environmental impacts of human activities. The Arctic Council, the principal international body concerned with governance at the regional level, operates under the terms of a ministerial declaration that is not legally binding; it lacks the authority to make formal decisions about matters of current interest. Digging a little deeper, however, one turns up some illuminating similarities between the governance systems operating in the antipodes. In this article, I pursue this line of thinking, setting forth a range of observations relating to (i) the history of governance in the antipodes, (ii) institutional innovations occurring in these regions, (iii) issues of membership, (iv) jurisdictional concerns, (v) the role of science, (vi) relations with the UN system, (vii) institutional interplay, and (viii) the adaptiveness of governance systems in the face of changing circumstances. The governance systems for the polar regions are not likely to converge anytime soon. Nevertheless, this analysis should be of interest not only to those concerned with the fate of Antarctica and the Arctic but also to those seeking to find effective means of addressing needs for governance in other settings calling for governance without government.