Is the Antarctic Treaty System on thin ice? A review of the evidence (2019)
Type of ContentOther
Degree NamePostgraduate Certificate in Antarctic Studies
PublisherUniversity of Canterbury
Human engagement with the Antarctic is becoming increasingly complex, and the Antarctic Treaty System (ATS) appears ill-equipped to address the challenges this poses. The most recent regulatory mechanism of the ATS, The Madrid Protocol, was added to the regime in 1991 which marks the date at which structural progress within the system ground to a halt. On an international stage, this has led to a failure in remaining up to date with global developments especially in regards to environmental law. With a rapidly growing tourism industry and new interests in the potential of bioprospecting, the ATS lacks both the regulation and legally binding measures required to steer Antarctica towards a sustainable future in either activity. Core ATS principles are becoming undermined, as in the case of bioprospecting: commercial potential has diminished incentive to freely share scientific information. With a growing membership to the system, conflicting values make for slow and difficult decision making. A power play between nations is bringing to the surface the age-old issue of sovereignty and causing unease amongst the hegemonic Antarctic states. This risks a fragmentation of the ATS, diminishing its original achievements of international collaboration and peace. Challenged to its very core, the ATS is in need of innovative new solutions to reinforce its ability to safeguard Antarctica for future generations. Collective determination from the Antarctic Treaty Parties combined with increased resourcing, are key to the achievement of a more effective and future-proofed Antarctic governance strategy.
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