Antarctic politics and Antarctic science — are they at loggerheads? 1
“Antarctica shall be used for peaceful purposes only …… Freedom of scientific investigation and co-operation toward that end …… shall continue, subject to the provisions of the present Treaty.”
These are the fundamental objectives of the Antarctic Treaty as expressed in Articles I and II. What follows in the Treaty, and in most of the many “Recommendations” to the Governments of Antarctic Treaty Consultative Parties (ATCPs), is aimed at securing these objectives by the creation of a framework of law. Unusually for a system of laws, most of this legal framework is hortatory rather than mandatory in character - it cajoles rather than orders. Perhaps not surprisingly this has given rise to damaging suggestions about its ability to provide adequate protection for the Antarctic environment. The response of the ATCPs to this criticism has been to embark on a review of existing Antarctic law, to make it more consistent, reduce overlaps and more especially, make much of it mandatory. This process began at the XIth Special Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting in Chile last November. Since it aims to provide greater clarity, accessibility and certainty in the law, it must be welcomed. But within these admirable objectives a prospect of loggerheads begins to loom.
1 The views expressed are the author's and are not to be taken as necessarily representing those of the British Government.