Tuesday, 22 February 2011
CASE 220 - Antarctica
The continent surrounding the South Pole constitutes nearly a tenth of the
world's land but is owned by no one. It has no indigenous people, as has
the Arctic. Pie-slice sections are claimed by seven nations -- the United
Kingdom, Argentina, Chile, Australia, New Zealand, France, and Norway.
Neither the United States nor the Soviet Union, prime players on the
southern stage, claims Antarctic territory nor honors the claims of others;
however, both consider the continent politically important. In addition, a
number of developing countries in the United Nations since 1983 have
expressed interest in being informed of and participating in the governance
Up to now, science has been king, thanks to the Antarctic Treaty of 1959, a
highly successful international agreement concluded by 12 scientifically
active nations -- Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Chile, France, Japan, New
Zealand, Norway, South Africa, Soviet Union, United Kingdom, and the United
States. Thirty-nine other nations now participate and 25 of these have
active scientific research projects.
The Antarctic Treaty grew from the International Geophysical Year (IGY) of
1957-58, a scientific assault on the Antarctic, and called for scientific
cooperation in the area south of latitude 60 degrees. It froze territorial
claims, banned all military activity and weapons testing, and established
Antarctica as off limits to nuclear explosions and the disposal of
radioactive waste. It provided all nations freedom of scientific inquiry
but obligated them to share the results. The question of resources was
avoided in 1959, but since that time two additional treaties protect seals
and marine living resources and regulate possible minerals development.
The Antarctic Treaty has evolved through regular meetings of its
consultative parties, originally the 12 nations who conducted the IGY.
Since then, 13 other nations who have carried out substantial scientific
research in Antarctica -- East Germany, Poland, Brazil, India, China,
Uruguay, Italy, West Germany, Spain, Sweden, Finland, Peru, Republic of
Korea -- have been accepted into the "club." Fourteen more nations have
agreed to abide by its terms.
The Treaty vowed not to interfere with historical claims, and at the same
time preserved the position of the countries that do not recognize these
claims. Australia, Chile, and Argentina have been most active in keeping
their claims alive. Argentina has set up a post office and in 1978 flew a
pregnant woman to its base at Esperanza, where Emilio Marcos Palma was born
and promptly declared an Argentine citizen.