Ocean Frontiers Working Group

Ocean Frontiers Research-Working Group Report 2016-17

There are four broad categories of activities under the Ocean Frontiers Working Group:

  1. Peace Research Lecture Series: under this series, a guest lecture on a peace and security theme related to the maritime domain is organized once every month, in the Fall-Winter terms of the academic year. This maritime peace research lecture series was launched in September 2016 at York University. Since then there have been six guest lectures under this series, engaging Science for Peace members and other significant scholars across Canada. These lectures were largely attended by undergraduate and post graduate students interested in ocean ecologies as well as faculty members researching on ocean space governance and maritime security matters.
  2. Annual Spring Round-Table: an annual workshop (structured as a round-table) engaging scholars, government officials and non-governmental heads was launched on April 28th 2017 – but the planning for this event started in Summer 2016. This was organized as a collaborative effort with administrative support and financial assistance from the Robarts Center for Canadian Studies and York Center for Asian Research. Hon. Mdm. Peggy Mason, the former Canadian Ambassador for Disarmament and the Current President of the Rideau Institute delivered the Keynote. The Deputy Director of the Oceans Law Division at Global Affairs Canada, Allison Stewart opened the series of paper presentations. Prof. Ted McDorman from Univ. of Victoria, formerly seconded to the Dept. of Foreign Affairs and currently seconded to UN Ocean conferences chaired a plenary session of papers on Arctic governance. Other scholars who straddle the government and academic sectors spoke on various threats and opportunities in the trans-pacific frontiers of our world.
    Since this first Round-Table was deemed an engaging platform across multiple sectors to discuss maritime security, governance and policy issues, it was consensually decided to organize a second one in Spring 2018. This future Round-Table is again poised to be a collaborative one with various research centers of Ontario-based Universities. The theme of every year’s round-table would vary though maritime domain would be the framework within which multiple security issues would be discussed. In 2017, the theme was, “The Geotechnical Politics of Ocean Frontiers: the Canadian North and the Indo-Pacific”. For 2018, the major consensus is on the topic, “Exploring Comprehensive Security across Ocean Frontiers”. Participation of scholars and officials in this round-table is largely on invitation basis. The papers to be presented at the Spring 2018 Round-Table will also be published posthumously in a special edition of a journal by end next year.
  3. Guest Lectures, as part of the Annual Lecture Series on Human Security: these lectures are organized by inviting leading scholars to talk on ecological and political disasters affecting human health, livelihoods and the environment. Since there is scope for two guest lectures in this annual series at University College, two scholars were invited to analyze the interconnectivity between climate change, ocean science and maritime security. Dr. Mark Winsfield, a renowned climate protection advocate, environmentalist, and a Professor with York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies delivered his talk in Oct 2016 on Ontario’s climate policy. The second guest lecture was by a renowned scholar connected to the Ocean Frontiers Research-Working Group: Dr. Stephen Bocking, former Chair of the Environmental Studies Dept at Trent University and well known Arctic Security Scholar talked on Cold War Science and its relation to international security at University College in November 2016.
  4. Ocean Frontiers Panel Discussion: this was a collaborative effort with the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York, but organized as a public forum at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE). This public series was organized May 24th in contradistinction to the Round-Table that was by invitation basis only. Dr. Philip Steinberg (Univ. of Durham, UK), Dr. Cindy van Dover (Duke University, U.S.) and Dr. Catherine Coumons (Mining Watch Canada, Ottawa) were the main speakers. One of the main preoccupations of this discussion was on answering two major sets of questions: i) what are ocean frontiers, and how are they are imagined, divided, controlled and governed? ii) Furthermore, how is the deep seabed as a new resource frontier being commercialised and exploited in synergy with the environment? or is deep seabed mining regime disregarding the environment?
    This public event was followed by a two-days workshop engaging scholars on science policy, and governance of borders and boundaries. While the April Roundtable (first in the series) focussed on transboundary maritime security at regional and global levels due to militarization and arms race, the May workshop (within a month’s gap) focussed on the interface between science policy, international governance of ocean space and emerging environmental threats from increased industrialization.

Concluding Remarks

It has been a busy year engaging institutions and institutional heads, scholars, governmental and non-governmental officials in workshops and guest lecture series. The next year is set to be similar in terms of research and educational activities. One major on-going effort – in addition to the integration of working group meetings with the guest lecture sessions and workshops – is to organize the working group’s research papers into annual publication/s that can serve as educational resource material for all concerned. These publications are envisioned now as a body of online resource material, to be accessed through the main website of Science for Peace. Alternatively, a special annual edition would be produced through collaboration with a major journal such as that on maritime affairs or international affairs. The publication effort is a work in progress.

Venilla Rajaguru: venilla@yorku.ca