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.
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|
|New Zealand||23-6-61||Original signatory|
|Papua New Guinea||16-9-75|
|Russian Federation||23-6-61||Original signatory|
|South Africa||23-6-61||Original signatory|
|United Kingdom||23-6-61||Original signatory|
|United States||23-6-61||Original signatory|
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)
Flags of the Antarctic Treaty Nations, as at June 2015