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The Antarctic Treaty is part of the Antarctic Treaty System and is designed to regulate international relations in regard to Antarctica. In the treaty system, Antarctica is defined as all of the land and ice shelves south of 60°S latitude. The treaty sets aside Antarctica as a scientific preserve, establishes freedom of scientific investigation and bans military activity. The treaty is monitored by the Antarctic Treaty Secretariat headquartered in Argentina.
The Antarctic Treaty was originally written with 14 articles that were designed to protect the area and the scientific cooperation that was already taking place. These articles set aside the area for peaceful purposes only, banned nuclear testing, disallows any territorial claims, and prevent the disposal of radioactive waste among other things. The articles have been added to, but each addition has been in the spirit of preserving the area.
The Antarctic Treaty System hold a yearly meeting called the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting. This meeting is the international forum for the administration and management of the region. Only 28 of the 46 parties to the agreements have the right to participate in decision-making at these meetings, though the other 18 are still allowed to attend. The decision-making participants are the Consultative Parties and include countries that have demonstrated their interest in Antarctica by carrying out substantial scientific activity there. There are currently 46 signees to the treaty. The a few of the major players are the United States, Russia, United Kingdom, and Argentina.
Each signee of the Antarctic Treaty has shown a dedication to the preservation of the flora, fauna, and study of the Antarctic. Several important scientific discoveries have been made as a result and , hopefully, many more will be forthcoming.
If you’d like more info on the Antarctic Treaty, check out the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research Website, and here’s a link to The Antarctica Treaty System Homepage.
We’ve also recorded an episode of Astronomy Cast all about planet Earth. Listen here, Episode 51: Earth.