Rights for the Arctic Ocean: A Path Towards Sustainability?

Mana Elise Hera Tugend is a PhD-candidate at the Norwegian Centre for the Law of the Sea. Her research investigates the future of Arctic Ocean conservation and the possibilities for transformative changes in the legal system that are reflective of the socio-ecological realities and challenges and the interconnectedness of ecosystems.

The Rights of Nature movement reimagines who can be a legal subject and recognizes that nature possesses inherent rights to exist, thrive, and evolve based on the understanding of the interconnectedness of all life on Earth. Against this background, the main research question is: How can the translation of the Rights of Nature to the international domain in the Arctic Ocean contribute towards answering socio-ecological threats?

Humans are a central cause of the socio-ecological crisis unfolding in the Anthropocene. The Earth system suffers the consequences of human activities as demonstrated by climate change, pollution, and biodiversity loss which put human, non-human, and environmental well-being at risk. In the face of these risks and impacts, it became unavoidable to consider how to address these challenges.

The project seeks to explore whether redefining the legal status of nature and conferring rights to the natural world at the international level has the potential to catalyze a broader shift in law and society and a shift in human attitude towards nature. The novelty of the research lies in the fact that no research has been made to implement the rights of nature at the international level, and especially not in the Arctic Ocean.

Mana holds an LL.M. in Polar Law from the University of Akureyri in Iceland. During her master’s, she traveled abroad for exchange semesters both in Bodø, Norway and Helsinki, Finland. Before becoming a doctoral research fellow at NCLOS, she did an internship at the North Atlantic Marine Mammal Commission (NAMMCO), where she progressed to the position of scientific and communication assistant.

In addition to her work at NAMMCO, Mana worked as an assistant researcher at NCLOS on issues connected to the ongoing negotiations for the establishment of the BBNJ agreement. As part of her assignment, she wrote a blog post titled ‘What Role for Traditional Knowledge in the Conservation of Marine Biodiversity in the Arctic High Seas?’. In September 2021, she started at NCLOS as PhD Research Fellow.

Tugend, Mana Elise Hera | UiT