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The Antarctic Treaty - Background Information

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Introduction

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 continent is like this. A land which the Antarctic Treaty parties call a natural reserve, devoted to peace and science.

The Antarctic Treaty came into force on 23 June 1961 after ratification by the twelve countries then active in Antarctic science. The Treaty covers the area south of 60°S latitude. Its objectives are simple yet unique in international relations. They are:

  • to demilitarize Antarctica, to establish it as a zone free of nuclear tests and the disposal of radioactive waste, and to ensure that it is used for peaceful purposes only;
  • to promote international scientific cooperation in Antarctica;
  • to set aside disputes over territorial sovereignty.
Antarctic Treaty flags of nations

The treaty remains in force indefinitely. The success of the treaty has been the growth in membership. Forty six countries, comprising around 80% of the world’s population, have acceded to it. Consultative (voting) status is open to all countries who have demonstrated their commitment to the Antarctic by conducting significant research.

Signatories to the Antarctic Treaty:

Country

Date of entry into force

Consultative status

Argentina

23-6-61

Original signatory

Australia

23-6-61

Original signatory

Austria

25-8-87

 

Belgium

23-6-61

Original signatory

Belarus

27-12-06

 

Brazil

16-5-75

27-9-83

Bulgaria

11-9-78

05-6-98

Canada

04-5-88

 

Chile

23-6-61

Original signatory

China

08-6-83

07-10-85

Colombia

31-1-89

 

Cuba

16-8-84

 

Czech Republic

01-9-93

 

Denmark

20-5-65

 

Ecuador

15-9-87

19-11-90

Estonia

17-5-01

 

Finland

15-5-84

20-10-89

France

23-6-61

Original signatory

Germany

05-2-79

03-3-81

Greece

08-1-87

 

Guatemala

31-7-91

 

Hungary

27-1-84

 

India

19-8-83

12-9-83

Italy

18-3-81

05-10-87

Japan

23-6-61

Original signatory

Korea DPRK

21-1-87

 

Korea ROK

28-11-76

09-10-89

Monaco

30-05-08

 

Netherlands

30-3-67

19-11-90

New Zealand

23-6-61

Original signatory

Norway

23-6-61

Original signatory

Papua New Guinea

16-9-75

 

Peru

10-4-81

09-10-89

Poland

23-6-61

29-7-77

Romania

15-9-71

 

Russian Federation

23-6-61

Original signatory

Slovak Republic

01-1-93

 

South Africa

23-6-61

Original signatory

Spain

31-3-82

21-9-88

Sweden

24-4-84

21-9-88

Switzerland

15-11-90

 

Turkey

24-1-96

 

Ukraine

28-10-92

04-6-04

United Kingdom

23-6-61

Original signatory

United States

23-6-61

Original signatory

Uruguay

11-1-80

07-10-85

Venezuela

24-3-99

 

Twenty eight nations, including the UK, have Consultative status. The Treaty parties meet each year at the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting. They have adopted over 300 recommendations and negotiated separate international agreements, of which three are still in use. These, together with the original Treaty provide the rules which govern activities in Antarctica. Collectively they are known as the Antarctic Treaty System (ATS).

The three international agreements are:

  • Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Seals (1972)
  • Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (1980)
  • Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty (1991)

The full text of the Treaty is given in The Antarctic Treaty (1959)