Policy | VOL. 12, ISSUE 70, January-February 2012

Antarctic Treaty System

There are few places on earth where there has never been war, where the environment is fully protected, and where scientific research has priority. The whole of the Antarctic - a land which the Antarctic Treaty parties call a natural reserve, is devoted to peace and science. The continent extends over 14 million km2 and is encircled by floating barriers of ice and stormy seas. Only 2 per cent of Antarctic is free of ice and it comprises of 26 per cent of the world’s wilderness area. In human historic terms, the land exploration of Antarctic is recent, most of it being accomplished during the twentieth century. The improved technology and knowledge of the last 100 years allowed greater access, encouraging detailed surveying and research, and the gradual occupation of Antarctic by scientific stations. Twelve nations are active in Antarctic, nine of which laid territorial claims or reserved the right to do so, agreed that their political and legal differences should not interfere with the research programme. The origin of the ATS lies in the cooperative scientific experience of the International Geophysical Year (IGY) in 1957-58. The IGY’s result led to a decision prolonging international involvement in Antarctic to assure continued scientific research while cutting off territorial claims of the countries which claimed Antarctic ‘sectors’. The Antarctic Treaty, signed in Washington on 1 December 1959...

To purchase this article, kindly sign in

Comments are closed.