The Antarctic Treaty System: Introduction .The Antarctic Treaty System: Introduction The Antarctic

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  • The Antarctic Treaty System: Introduction

    The Antarctic Treaty System (ATS) is the whole complex of arrangements made for the purpose of coordinating relations among states with respect to Antarctica. Included are the Antarctic Treaty itself, Recommendations adopted at meetings of the Antarctic Treaty Parties, the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty, and two separate conventions for the Conservation of Antarctic Seals (London 1972), and on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (Canberra 1980). The Convention for the Regulation of Antarctic Mineral Resource Activities (Wellington 1988) has not been ratified by any state, but is part of the body of documents produced by Parties to the Antarctic Treaty and is reproduced herein.

    The ATS also includes the results of Meetings of Experts, the decisions of Special Consultative Meetings and, at a non-governmental level, reflects the work of the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) on all aspects of the system. These various measures and actions were adopted or taken when a need for them was perceived. The practice has been essentially pragmatic, and it was not until the conclusion of the Protocol on Environmental Protection that there was a systematic attempt to provide a code for the regulation of all Antarctic activities other than those covered by the two separate conventions dealing with the conservation of seals and marine living resources.

    The Signatories to the Treaty included the twelve countries that were active in Antarctica during the International Geophysical Year of 195758 and then accepted the invitation of the Government of the United States of America to participate in the diplomatic conference at which the Treaty was negotiated in Washington in 1959. These Parties have the right to participate in meetings provided for in Article IX of the Treaty (Consultative Meetings) and are accordingly known as Consultative Parties. The Treaty provides for accession by any state which is a member of the United Nations, and for accession by any other state by invitation of all Consultative Parties. The Treaty provides for such states as have acceded to the Treaty and during such times as they have demonstrated their interest in Antarctica by carrying out substantial scientific activity there to become Consultative Parties. Fifteen states have become Consultative Parties by this means.

    Every year (before 1991 it was every two years) the Consultative Parties meet for the purpose of exchanging information, consulting together on 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. Since 1983 those countries party to the Treaty that are not Consultative Parties have been invited to take part in these meetings, though without the ability to block the adoption by consensus of any decisions taken. In addition, special Consultative Meetings are convened as deemed appropriate by the Consultative Parties. The non-Consultative Parties were invited to take part in the IVth and XIth Special Consultative Meetings, respectively on Antarctic minerals

  • and on environmental protection, though without the ability to block consensus. The Consultative Parties have invited observers and experts from intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations to advise on the work of Consultative Meetings relevant to their respective interests. Finally there have been three meetings of experts from governments to consider questions of Antarctic telecommunications, one to consider questions of air safety, one to consider issues relating to environmental monitoring and one to consider a code of shipping.

    The primary purpose of the Antarctic Treaty is to ensure in the interests of all mankind that Antarctica shall continue forever to be used exclusively for peaceful purposes and shall not become the scene or object of international discord. To this end it prohibits any measures of a military nature but does not prevent the use of military personnel or equipment for scientific research or for any other peaceful purpose. The Treaty provides for freedom of scientific investigation in Antarctica, promote[s] international cooperation in scientific investigation in Antarctica, encourages the establishment of cooperative working relations with those Specialized Agencies of the United Nations and other international organizations having a scientific or technical interest in Antarctica, prohibits any nuclear explosions in Antarctica and the disposal there of radioactive waste material and provides for detailed exchanges of information. To promote the objectives and ensure the observance of the provisions of the ... Treaty, Consultative Parties have the right to designate observers to carry out any inspection of ... all areas of Antarctica, including all stations, installations and equipment, and all ships and aircraft at points of discharging or embarking cargoes or personnel in Antarctica...

    The Treaty applies to the area south of 60 South Latitude, including all ice shelves, but nothing in the Treaty shall prejudice or in any way affect the rights, or the exercise of the rights, of any State under international law ... with regard to the high seas within that area. The broad practical effect of Article VI has been that whereas the Consultative Parties have proceeded by means of Recommendations provided for under Article IX when dealing with matters pertaining to land and ice shelves in Antarctica, they have proceeded by means of separate Conventions, with independent ratification and accession procedures, when dealing with matters that affect their rights or the exercise of their rights with regard to the seas within the area of application of the Treaty.

    At the root of the Antarctic Treaty lies Article IV dealing with territorial sovereignty. It safeguards the positions of three groups of states which are Parties to the Treaty: those that had previously asserted rights of or claims to territorial sovereignty in Antarctica, those that consider themselves as having a basis of claim to territorial sovereignty in Antarctica, and those that do not recognize any other States right of or claim or basis of claim to territorial sovereignty in Antarctica. The same Article, however, goes on to provide that no acts or activities taking place while the present Treaty is in force shall constitute a basis for asserting, supporting or denying a claim to territorial sovereignty in Antarctica or create any rights of sovereignty in Antarctica. No new claim, or enlargement of an existing claim, to territorial sovereignty in Antarctica shall be asserted while the present Treaty is in force.

    Recognition of the potential for dispute inherent in issues of economic exploitation,

  • from which, once embarked upon, there might be no retreat by any side, gave birth, as an exercise in preventative foresight, to the conventions on living resources and on minerals. In the negotiation of the conventions the different sides of the sovereignty argument fought vigorously for their respective positions. The resulting conventions are expressions, on the one hand, of the strength of national interest and, on the other hand, the accommodations that could be accepted by all sides within the safeguards provided for in Article IV. It is thus that qualities of foresight in dealing with issues before they become insoluble, restraint in the pursuit of national interest and recognition of the national interests of others, have come to mark the Treaty system.

    The Convention on the Regulation of Antarctic Mineral Resource Activities, concluded in 1988 in Wellington, has not been ratified by any state. After it was negotiated, it was agreed at the XVth Consultative Meeting in Paris in 1989 to elaborate a comprehensive system for the protection of the Antarctic environment and its dependent and associated ecosystems and, in the process of that elaboration, to review existing measures (Recommendation XV-1).

    The outcome of that review took the form of the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty, together with five Annexes: on Environmental Impact Assessment (Annex I), Conservation of Antarctic Fauna and Flora (Annex II), Waste Disposal and Waste Management (Annex III), Prevention of Marine Pollution (Annex IV), and Area Protection and Management (Annex V). The Protocol together with the first four annexes was adopted on 4 October 1991 in Madrid. The fifth Annex was adopted under Recommendation XVI-10 at the XVIth Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting on 17 October 1991 in Bonn. Annex Ventered into force on 24 May 2002. Provision is made for additional annexes to be incorporated following entry into force of the Protocol.

    The Protocol builds upon the Antarctic Treaty and Recommendations adopted by Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings to extend and improve the Treaty's effectiveness as a mechanism for ensuring the protection of the Antarctic environment. It designates Antarctica as a natural reserve, devoted to peace and science, and sets forth basic principles and detailed, mandatory rules applicable to human activities in Antarctica, including obligations to accord priority to scientific research. The Protocol prohibits all activities relating to Antarctic mineral resources, except for scientific research, and provides that this prohibition cannot be amended by less than unanimous agreement for at least fifty years following entry into force of the Protocol.

    The Protocol establishes a Committee for Environmental Protection as an expert advisory body to provide advice and formulate recommendations to the Consultative Meetings in connection with the implementation of the Pro