Fortunes and Future of an Idea: The Designation of Antarctica as a World Park
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree LevelPostgraduate Certificate
Degree NamePostgraduate Certificate in Antarctic Studies
On 25 January 2012, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addressed the General Assembly on his Five-Year Action Agenda 2012-2017: "The Future We Want". In his address, Ki-moon outlined a goal to forge consensus around a post-2015 sustainable development framework and implement it. One of the action points of this goal was to “work with UN Member States to make Antarctica a world nature preserve”. Ki-moon’s statement is a recent addition to long-standing debates about the proper use and/or protection of Antarctica. This paper reviews the history of these discussions and the legal instruments and organisations that have been put into place to govern Antarctica. In particular, the paper traces the evolution of the idea that Antarctica should be protected and the varieties of protective frameworks and degrees of protection that have been proposed. The paper uses the term “world park” to mean a legal framework under which Antarctica would be completely protected from mineral and other resource exploitation. The paper argues that establishing Antarctica as a “world park” is needed for the comprehensive and long term conservation of Antarctica and its wildlife, and reducing the direct and indirect human impacts on the continent and surrounding oceans. At the same time, this measure would conclusively address the ongoing question about resource use in Antarctica and remove the possibility of future insecurity and conflict arising from this uncertainty—hence ensuring the Antarctic Treaty continues to achieve its primary goal of maintaining peace and security. Although a UNmandated “world park” would be desirable in this regard, an analysis of the context of Ban Ki-moon’s statement suggests that his proposed “world nature preserve” would, in practice, not be a “world park” but rather a mechanism to regulate the use of Antarctica’s resources among UN member states. An alternative and more pragmatic pathway towards greater protection of Antarctica, is to therefore build upon the opportunities that exist within the Antarctic Treaty System (ATS). This paper argues that the ATS could build upon the 1991 Environmental Protocol to strengthen environmental protection and environmental security in Antarctica that moves it towards achieving the “idea” of a world park. It could do this by bolstering the Committee for Environmental Protection, reinforcing the ATS secretariat, and pursuing a concerted effort in international forums to protect Antarctica from influences outside the direct control of Antarctic Treaty Parties.