From time to time one hears the question to whom the Antarctic actually belongs to. The answer is simple: since there is no indigenous population in the Antarctic, it is a world heritage and belongs to everyone and to nobody in particular! The Antarctic Treaty System regulates both of these aspects.
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The Antarctic Treaty System is one of the most successful international treaties ever and consists of the Treaty itself and other international conventions which are based on the Treaty. In an area of the world whose land surface is nearly one and a half times the size of Europe including the Ural, the treaty system has secured peace and close cooperation among states with widely varying priorities in terms of research and environmental protection for 50 years despite an as yet unresolved, and therefore "frozen", territorial conflict.
The Antarctic Treaty was signed on 1 December 1959 in Washington D.C. and entered into force on 23 June 1961. Further conventions followed in subsequent years.
1964: Agreed Measures for the Conservation of the Antarctic Flora and Fauna
1972: CCAS – Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Seals
1980: CCAMLR – Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources
1988: CRAMRA – Convention on the Regulation of Antarctic Mineral Resource Activities – was signed by the majority of the Parties at the time but rejected by a few others. As a result, it was not ratified by a single state and never entered into force. It was replaced three years later by the following convention:
1991: Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty – the treaty entered into force in 1998.
International Secretariat for the Treaty System
The Antarctic Treaty Secretariat (ATS) was established in 2004. It is headquartered in Buenos Aires, and Manfred Reinke (Germany) has served as Executive Secretary since 2009. The ATS supports the annual meetings of the consultative parties to the Treaty – for example through compilation, storage and publication of ATCM documents – as well as the meetings of the Committee for Environmental Protection (CEP). It also facilitates the exchange of information between the Parties and acts as central contact office for public information about the Antarctic Treaty System and activities in the Antarctic.
Countries which become Parties to the Treaty implement the Treaty by transposing it into their own national law. The respective national regulations apply only to the citizens of that state. As a result, some of the parties have stricter regulations than others pertaining to activities in the Antarctic.
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