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Polar Geopolitics?

Polar Geopolitics?

Knowledges, Resources and Legal Regimes

Edited by Richard C. Powell and Klaus Dodds

The polar regions (the Arctic and Antarctic) have enjoyed widespread public attention in recent years, as issues of conservation, sustainability, resource speculation and geopolitical manoeuvring have all garnered considerable international media interest. This critical collection of new and original papers – the first of its kind – offers a comprehensive exploration of these and other topics, consolidating the emergent field of polar geopolitics.

Chapter 4: Re-justifying the Antarctic Treaty System for the 21st century: rights, expectations and global equity

Alan D. Hemmings

Subjects: environment, environmental law, law - academic, environmental law, politics and public policy, international politics, international relations


The Antarctic Treaty System (ATS) was created during the Cold War. Its persistence over 50 years (1961 onwards) has also tended to mythologize its achievements, and mummify foundational norms as it addressed the modalities of collective governance and the problem of territorial sovereignty. The ATS ëregimeí (defined by Berridge and Lloyd (2012, p._212) as ërules and procedures relating to a specific international activity, geographical area, or economic resourceí) has attracted little strategic reassessment of its foundational norms and declaratory values. Two decades after the Cold War epoch closed, the system appears to be less integrated into the international system, less innovative in its practices and moribund so far as further institutional development goes (on historical origins, Bulkeley 2009; Dodds 2010). To the extent that the Antarctic Treaty was a response to particular circumstances, there were general benefits. It certainly was the ërich manís clubí it was later accused of being by key players in the non-aligned movement and Group of 77: ëThe days when the rich nations of the world can take for themselves whatever territory and resources that they have access to are overí (Mahathir Bin Mohamad 1982). It was in nobodyís interests that the ëAntarctic Problemí (Hunter Christie 1951) of the Post-War world not be addressed peacefully. There was, accordingly, some justice to the claim in the Preamble to the Antarctic Treaty to be acting ëin the interest of all mankindí. The immediate interests secured were those of the participant states, a small minority of ëmankindí.

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