The Antarctic Treaty
The Antarctic Treaty is the foundation stone of the Antarctic Treaty System, which provides for the cooperative governance of the vast Antarctic continent and surrounding Southern Ocean, covering the area south of 60°S latitude. The Treaty has become a model for international cooperation. ATCM XXXIX will contribute to enhance cooperation in Antarctic affairs.
The Antarctic Treaty was signed in Washington on the December 1st 1959 by twelve states: Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Chile, France, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, the Russian Federation, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States. The Treaty entered into force on June 23rd 1961 and has since been acceded to by many other nations.
The total number of Parties to the Treaty is now 53. Article IX of the Treaty provides that a Contracting Party that has subsequently acceded to the Treaty is entitled to gain Consultative status if it has demonstrated interest in Antarctica by conducting substantial scientific research activity there. As a result, the number of Consultative Parties is now 29.
Since the Treaty was signed, the Parties have agreed to other measures to conserve Antarctica’s environmental delicate balance. The Protocol of Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty provides for comprehensive protection of the Antarctic environment and designates Antarctica as a natural reserve, devoted to peace and science. It also prohibits any activity relating to mineral resources, other than scientific research. Agreements are also in place to conserve wildlife living on and around Antarctica, such as the conservation of seals and the conservation of Antarctic marine living resources. The Treaty, the Protocol and these other agreements are the backbone of the Antarctic Treaty System.
Further information: http://www.ats.aq/index_e.htm