The Arctic is a region of international dialogue and potential competition, of varied challenges and diverse opportunities. It is also a region that is rapidly gaining in geopolitical significance as it undergoes profound environmental, economic, and social change.

The Wilson Center’s Polar Initiative is the comprehensive, non-partisan Arctic and Antarctic policy forum in the United States, tracking, analyzing, and making sense of these complex and interconnected dynamics.

Leveraging the depth and breadth of knowledge of its regional and topical experts, the Initiative pursues crosscutting research, offers actionable policy ideas, and develops public awareness. Fostering multilateral dialogue and convening leaders from government, academia, private industry, indigenous peoples, and civil society. The Polar Initiative aims to holistically address the many critical questions facing, and related to, the polar regions.

Current topics of priority include: 

  • Environmental security 
  • Multilateral cooperation in the Arctic and Antarctic 
  • Shipping and infrastructure
  • Icebreakers and maritime capabilities
  • National security, domain awareness, and the Law of the Sea
  • Arctic investment
  • Alaska’s role as America’s Arctic state, as well as its unique needs, challenges, and opportunities
  • The Arctic-Asia-Pacific Rim nexus


The Polar Initiative also partners with the U.S. State Department and Dartmouth College to direct the Fulbright Arctic Initiative. Polar Initiative Director Mike Sfraga serves as the Co-Lead Scholar of the program, which provides an opportunity for the brightest minds from the eight Arctic nations to collectively address public-policy research relevant to shared challenges and opportunities.