The Antarctic Treaty

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The main treaty was opened for signature on December 1, 1959, and officially entered into force on June 23, 1961. The original signatories were the 12 countries active in Antarctica during the International Geophysical Year of 1957-58 and willing to accept a US invitation to the conference at which the treaty was negotiated. These countries were Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Chile, France, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, the USSR, the United Kingdom and the United States (which opened the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station for the International Geophysical Year).

Articles of the Antarctic Treaty

  • Article 1: \area to be used for peaceful purposes only; military activity, such as weapons testing, is prohibited, but military personnel and equipment may be used for scientific research or any other peaceful purpose;
  • Article 2: freedom of scientific investigation and cooperation shall continue;
  • Article 3: free exchange of information and personnel in cooperation with the United Nations and other international agencies;
  • Article 4: does not recognize, dispute, or establish territorial claims and no new claims shall be asserted while the treaty is in force;
  • Article 5: prohibits nuclear explosions or disposal of radioactive wastes;
  • Article 6: includes under the treaty all land and ice shelves south of 60 degrees 00 minutes south;
  • Article 7: treaty-state observers have free access, including aerial observation, to any area and may inspect all stations, installations, and equipment; advance notice of all activities and of the introduction of military personnel must be given;
  • Article 8: allows for jurisdiction over observers and scientists by their own states;
  • Article 9: frequent consultative meetings take place among member nations;
  • Article 10: treaty states will discourage activities by any country in Antarctica that are contrary to the treaty;
  • Article 11: disputes to be settled peacefully by the parties concerned or, ultimately, by the International Court of Justice;
  • Articles 12, 13, 14: deal with upholding, interpreting, and amending the treaty among involved nations.

The main objective of the ATS is to ensure in the interests of all mankind that Antarctica shall continue forever to be used exclusively for peaceful purposes and shall not become the scene or object of international discord. The treaty forbids any measures of a military nature, but not the presence of military personnel per se. It avoided addressing the question of existing territorial claims asserted by some nations and not recognized by others.

Text courtesy of the of the GNU Free Documentation License

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David White