Antarctic Treaty System

Antarctic Treaty Nations

(International Policy Formulation)

International Organizations

(Scientific or Technical Advice)

FIGURE 5.1 The Antarctic Treaty System was initiated by integrating policy formulation with international ''scientific or technical advice'' through the Antarctic Treaty and ''specialized agencies of the United Nations and other international organizations" (Fig. 2.4b). The Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research, which preceded the 1959 Antarctic Treaty, was formally identified as a relevant international organization along with the International Council of Scientific Unions at the first Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting in 1961 (Recommendation I-I). Subsequent Antarctic institutions, committees, and annexes are described in Table 5.2. (See also Antarctic Treaty Searchable Database: 1959-1999 CD-ROM).

or non-recognition of any State's claim,'' and ''no acts or activities shall constitute a basis for asserting, supporting or denying a claim to territorial sovereignty in Antarctica or create any rights of sovereignty in Antarctica.''

The Antarctic Treaty was crafted during a period of increasing international tension between the United States and the Soviet Union, with the erection of the Berlin Wall and the precarious fence of the Cold War. Antarctica could have become a nuclear testing or dumping ground because it was a remote, ice-covered environment without permanent human occupation. However, such activities would have involved military personnel and created an ''object of discord'' among nations. For these reasons, Antarctica was established as the first nuclear-free zone on the Earth (Article V): ''Any nuclear explosions in Antarctica and the disposal there of radioactive waste material shall be prohibited.''

This Antarctic zone was specified in Article VI as ''the area south of 60° South Latitude, including all ice shelves.'' However, there was a potential conflict with the 1958 United Nations Conventions on the High Seas, which also applied to this region beyond the sovereignty of nations, where ''the term 'high seas' means all parts of the sea that are not included in the territorial sea or in the internal waters of a State.'' For this reason, Article VI of the Antarctic Treaty further clarified that nothing ''shall prejudice or in any way affect the rights or exercise of the rights, of any State under international law with regard to the high seas within that area.'' These ''rights'' of the high seas include the freedoms of navigation, fishing, laying submarine cables and pipelines, overflight, and scientific research (Chapter 12: The Science Keystone).

''In order to promote the objectives and ensure the observance of the provisions'' of the Antarctic Treaty, Article VII provides for the designation of observers who ''shall have complete freedom of access at any time to any or all areas of Antarctica.'' Moreover, this provision means that

... all stations, installations and equipment within those areas, and all ships and aircraft at points of discharging or embarking cargoes or personnel in Antarctica shall be open at all times to inspection. . . .

This provision for unilateral inspections in the Antarctic Treaty area is exceptional among international agreements, especially among other disarmament treaties. In addition, Article VII requires all Antarctic Treaty nations to inform each other about any expeditions and stations as well as any military personnel or equipment that are being used for peaceful purposes.

As with any legal system, laws are only as good as the level of enforcement behind them. However, in Antarctica, enforcement by the international community becomes problematic, especially when military personnel are specifically prohibited for any purpose other than those which are peaceful. To solve this dilemma, Article VIII indicates that all personnel ''shall be subject only to the jurisdiction of the Contracting Party of which they are nationals in respect of all acts or omissions.'' Essentially, each nation has the responsibility and obligation of enforcing the legal principles of the Antarctic Treaty over its own nationals.

Article VIII further requires that all nations ''shall immediately consult together with a view to reaching a mutually acceptable solution'' if there is a dispute. This ''gentlemen's agreement'' for enforcing legal principles in Antarctica is unique among nations in cooperatively managing an international region and its resources ''for peaceful purposes only.''

Article IX.1 of the Antarctic Treaty (Box 5.3) describes the consultative process that is the foundation for the ATCM and the evolution of legal principles in the Antarctic Treaty System (ATS) since 1961. To become a consultative nation, however, a Contracting Party also must demonstrate (Article IX.2)

... its interest in Antarctica by conducting substantial scientific research activity there, such as the establishment of a scientific station or the dispatch of a scientific expedition.

Those nations that have signed the Antarctic Treaty, but have not conducted ''substantial scientific research,'' are referred to as acceding nations, as opposed to consultative nations (Table 5.1). At the turn of the 21st century, there are 27 consultative and 17 acceding nations in the ATS.

What is the importance of continuous consultation in environmental and resource management?

box 5.3 1959 antarctic treatya


Representatives of the Contracting Parties named in the preamble to the present Treaty shall meet at the City of Canberra within two months after the date of entry into force of the Treaty, and thereafter at suitable intervals and places, for the purpose of exchanging information, consulting together on the matters of common interest pertaining to Antarctica, and formulating and considering and recommending to their Governments, measures in furtherance of the principles and objectives of the Treaty, including measures regarding:

a. use of Antarctica for peaceful purposes only;

b. facilitation of scientific research in Antarctica;

c. facilitation of international scientific cooperation in Antarctica.

d. facilitation of the exercise of the rights of inspection provided for in Article VII of the Treaty;

e. questions relating to the exercise of jurisdiction in Antarctica.

f. preservation and conservation of living resources in Antarctica.

aFrom the Antarctic Treaty Searchable Database: 1959-1999.

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