Speech of the Under-Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Edgardo Riveros, at the Symposium to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the signature of the Environmental Protocol
It is a pleasure to be with you again, due to the meeting of the Special Working group of the Consultative Meeting of the Antarctic Treaty (ATCM), specially created to celebrate 25 years of the signature of the Protocol on Environmental Protection to The Antarctic Treaty.
This Protocol, also known as the Madrid Protocol, holds a fundamental place in the Antarctic Treaty System. Its negotiation and ratification sets the beginning of a new stage on the System. It leaves behind expectations regarding mineral extraction- as a product of the negotiation on the Convention on the Regulation of Antarctic Mineral Resource Activity
(CRAMRA) – to focus on a wider protection of the Antarctic environment.
Time has shown that the signing of this document was the right decision at the right time. With this commemoration we are renewing our commitment to the path we started a quarter of a century ago.
I am not using the word “renewing” lightly. For Chile the ATCM and this Special Working Group have the purpose of ratifying our collective will to protect the Antarctic environment and its dependent ecosystems, keeping in mind this continent is a natural reservoir, dedicated to peace and science. When we met in Viña del Mar in 1990 our objective was to sign an international instrument allowing the reduction of the impact of human activities. The Protocol has proved to be effective in its purpose, but it is needed to be alert to the evolution of the diverse pressures Antarctica confronts.
This Meeting has assigned a full day of its regular activities to analyze the work of the Protocol until now and approach the challenges associated to the protection of the Antarctic environment. I would like to bring attention to some aspects Chile considers should be attended in this forum.
Prohibition of Mineral Resource Activities At last week’s inaugural speech, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs acknowledge the lack of awareness of public opinion regarding the Antarctic Treaty System. It is often misunderstood that the prohibition of Mineral Resource Activities established in Article VII of the Protocol will end in 2048, when actually this prohibition is indefinite.
We believe this meeting should send the message that the Parties are determined to continue supporting this moratorium. Current available information shows it is not possible to perform mineral resource extraction without harming the Antarctic environment. Over the years we find more reasons to promote initiatives encouraging the protection of the environment.
Controlled Antarctic Tourism Antarctic tourism has grown continuously over the last years. For next year we expect about 40.000 people to visit Antarctica, especially the Antarctic
Peninsula area. Tourism has been a constant issue in consultative meetings and, despite some measures have been taken, we still rely on self-regulation. Regarding this issue, we are grateful of the remarkable work of the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO).
Nevertheless, if this trend continues, it would be necessary to examine the continuity of the self-regulation of this activity. For a number of reasons Chile has a special interest in a controlled and responsible tourism activity.
In first place, the proximity of our coasts to the Antarctic territory portrait us as a gateway and neutral platform for the development of these activities.
On the other hand, Chile has responsibilities of Search and Rescue in Antarctic waters and therefore it is really important this activity is taken under strict security standards. Finally, through our scientific national program we have a significant participation in the Antarctic Peninsula, thus it is important that touristic activities do not interfere with those of a scientific nature.
Last April our Ministry of Foreign Affairs hosted the First National Workshop on Antarctic Tourism, at the INACH offices. At this workshop these issues where discussed and it was agreed that there are a diversity of related topics that need to be promptly addressed. Hence, it would be suitable if this meeting could have a unified approach regarding this growing industry and its compatibility with our responsibilities for the protection of the
Annex VI to the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty regarding responsibility on environmental emergencies.
We are aware of the relevance of prevention, reduction and containment of the impact of environmental emergencies in Antarctica and its dependent ecosystems. It is also important to establish responsibilities; Annex VI of the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty on the impact of environmental emergencies is a key element in this regard.
We know that its ratification has been slow, not due to the unwillingness of the Parties, but because of the complexities of the dispositions of the Annex. In this regard, Chile has been working on a inter ministry consultative process, aimed at its prompt ratification. We are determined to advance in this process before the next ATCM to be held in China in 2017.
As a country bordering Antarctica, Chile has a special interest on the ratification of this Annex. We trust the ratifying process of this instrument would be accelerated.
Final considerations Today you will have the opportunity to analyze the work and effectiveness of the Protocol which presents a unique and original frame of environmental conservation and protection. The Committee for Environmental Protection (CEP) originated from the Protocol, which XIX version concluded last Friday, is a fundamental support for the Consultative Meetings. Today’s meeting will allow to assess its success and impact on
the decision making and future responsibilities.
Nonetheless, I invite you to deepen the discussion on current and future challenges that we face in the light of changes in the Antarctic environment. This type of reflection, through presentation and thorough discussion on fundamental issues for the Antarctic Treaty System, represents a best practices element of any intergovernmental forum.
It is an appropriate time to renew the commitment our countries have on the protection of the Antarctic environment, through an important instrument as is the Madrid Protocol. I would like to end my intervention encouraging you to approve a political declaration that allows the public opinion to get a better knowledge on these matters and that expresses this
firm collective commitment.
I wish you all great success on your deliberations and a safe journey to your countries and homes at the end of this meeting.
Thank you very much.