The Antarctic Treaty is an international agreement that regulates how the Antarctic is to be administered. The treaty consists of a system of recommendations, decisions and measures that are used to protect and conserve this unique environment.
According to the treaty, the environment is to be protected and, in addition to the continent itself, all islands, ice shelves, and surrounding oceans south of 60°S are only to be used for research and peaceful purposes. The Antarctic Treaty has no actual expiration date and just over fifty countries are currently party to it, Sweden among them.
Parties to the Antarctic Treaty
The Antarctic Treaty was signed on 1 December 1959 and entered into force in June 1961. The countries that were initial signatories to the treaty, known as the signatory powers, are Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Chile, France, Japan, Norway, New Zealand, Russia (the Soviet Union), the United Kingdom, South Africa and the United States.
The parties are divided into two categories: consultative parties, which are countries that conduct research and have decision-making rights at the annual consultative meetings, and non-consultative parties.
Sweden acceded to the Antarctic Treaty in 1984 and gained consultative status in 1988.
The Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty
Since the 1960s, our knowledge about the Antarctic environment has increased, as has our awareness of the consequences that careless human activities can have on its sensitive ecosystems. To improve the protection of this unique environment, the parties adopted specific rules in connection with the Antarctic Treaty in 1991. These are compiled in the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty, which entered into force in 1998 and complements other international agreements concerning Antarctica.
As is the case for all consultative parties, Sweden has adopted the Protocol on Environment Protection, which took place in 1998.
The Treaty system also includes the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Seals (CCAS), which was adopted in 1972, and the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CAMLR), which was adopted in 1980. CCAS regulates commercial seal hunting, protects certain seal species from being hunted, and regulates quotas for other species. CAMLR regulates mainly commercial fishing, but also protects other species in the marine food chain in the oceans south of 60°S.
Sweden has been party to CAMLR since 1984, but has not acceded to CCAS.
SCAR and COMNAP
The organisations Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) and Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs (COMNAP) play an important role in the Treaty system. SCAR and COMNAP serve as advisory bodies and exert major influence in terms of recommendations and regulations pertaining to the Antarctic Treaty.