60 years of the Antarctic Treaty – An international success story

German Neumayer III research station in Antarctica

German Neumayer III research station in Antarctica, © blickwinkel / dpa

29.11.2019 - Article

In December 1959, the signatory States to the Antarctic Treaty agreed on a milestone in the multilateral world order: in the interest of all mankind, the “seventh continent” was forever to be used exclusively for peaceful purposes and scientific investigation.

The 1959 Antarctic Treaty ended the race for territory in Antarctica. It laid the foundations for scientific cooperation to further investigate the continent and its role in the Earth system and protected Antarctica’s environment and associated ecosystems against commercial exploitation of resources, as well as against military use.

The 1991 Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty reaffirmed Antarctica’s special value as “a natural reserve, devoted to peace and science”. It obliges the Parties to take effective measures to preserve Antarctica’s fragile ecosystems. Since 2011, within the framework of the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), a further goal has been to ensure special protection for the waters around Antarctica by establishing Marine Protected Areas.

Prague Declaration – Working together to safeguard the future of Antarctica

Entirely in keeping with the founding States’ goals, today’s “Antarctic Treaty system” aims at comprehensive multilateral cooperation to preserve and investigate Antarctica. Over the last 60 years, numerous additional States have acceded to the Antarctic Treaty and its Protocol on Environmental Protection and are helping to implement these in practice.

At their most recent annual meeting in Prague, and to mark the Treaty’s 60th “birthday”, they reaffirmed these goals in a joint declaration. The annual meetings look at a number of important issues: the impacts of climate change, the increase in Antarctic tourism, microplastic pollution, issues relating to the study of Antarctic organisms for possible commercial applications, and logistical cooperation in the face of increasing research activity.

Germany’s contribution – Actively preserving and studying Antarctica

Along with 53 other States parties to the Treaty, Germany plays an active role in implementing the principles and goals of the Antarctic Treaty, with German research stations such as Neumayer III on the Ekström Ice Shelf in Atka Bay or Kohnen in the Antarctic interior and the participation of German polar researchers in international bodies making important contributions. Further, Germany regularly takes forward‑looking initiatives within the framework of the Protocol on Environmental Protection – for instance, regarding uniform guidelines for Antarctic tourists or improved protection for the familiar, but endangered, emperor penguins.

In 2016, within the framework of the CCAMLR, Germany prepared an EU proposal for the establishment of a comprehensive Marine Protected Area in the Weddell Sea.

Germany does not pursue any territorial claims in Antarctica. We are committed to preserving and strengthening the unique regime of peaceful cooperation under the Antarctic Treaty for future Generations.


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