60th Anniversary of the Antarctic Treaty

60th Anniversary of the Antarctic Treaty

Recently, on 23 June, the 60th anniversary of the Antarctic Treaty was celebrated. The Antarctic Treaty was entered into force on 23 June 1961.

Significance of this treaty:

The treaty, signed during the Cold War, by twelve countries with an interest in the Antarctic, is the only treaty to apply to an entire continent. It is also the foundation of a rules-based international order for a continental territory with a temporary population.

Its relevance at present

  • This treaty was signed at a very complicated time and complicated circumstances, but now the question of whether this treaty is necessary or not has been a frequent question.
  • Although circumstances have changed radically in the 2020s compared to the 1950s, the Antarctic Treaty is still able to successfully respond to many challenges today.
  • Antarctica is, to a large extent, accessible due to technology and climate change. Apart from the original 12 countries from this continent, now the genuine interests of many other countries have also been added to it. Some global resources, especially oil, are becoming increasingly scarce.
  • There is also uncertainty about China’s intentions regarding the Antarctica region. China joined the treaty in 1983 and became an advisory member in
  • It is anticipated that at some point in the future, more attention will be given to the prospects of mining in the Antarctic. That is why it seems necessary to revisit the ‘Restrictions on Mining in Antarctica’.

About Antarctic Treaty:

  • On 1 December 1959, the Antarctic Treaty was signed by 12 countries in Washington to protect the Antarctic continent only for scientific research and to maintain a demilitarized zone.
  • These 12 original signatories include Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, Japan, New Zealand, Belgium, Norway, South Africa, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the United States and the United Kingdom.
  • Since this treaty came into force in the year 1961, 54 countries have joined it. India became a member of this treaty in the year Its headquarter is located in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
  • The treaty defines Antarctica as an ice-covered land located south of 60 °S latitude.

Major provisions of the treaty:

  • Under ‘Article-I’, Antarctica will be used only for peaceful purposes.
  • Under ‘Article-II’, the freedom of scientific research in Antarctica and cooperation in this direction will continue.
  • Scientific observations and results from Antarctica will be exchanged and provided freely under ‘Article-III’.
  • Under ‘Article IV’, territorial sovereignty shall remain ineffective, i.e. no new claim may be made by any country on it or the extension of an existing claim.
  • Through this treaty, all disputes related to claims made by any country on this continent were stopped.

Antarctic Treaty System:

Disputes over the Antarctic continent have arisen over the years, but almost all disputes have been resolved through various agreements and treaty enlargements in the framework. This entire framework is now known as the Antarctic Treaty System.

Main Agreements of the Antarctic Treaty System

It is mainly made up of 4 major international agreements –

  • The Antarctic Treaty of 1959
  • Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Seals (CCAS), 1972
  • The Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, 1980
  • The Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty, 1991

Source – The Hindu

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