The Antarctic Treaty

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.
Flags of the Antarctic Treaty Nations, as at June 2015
Flags of the Antarctic Treaty Nations, as at June 2015

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)

Flags of the Antarctic Treaty Nations, as at June 2015