New Horizons in Environmental and Energy Law series
Edited by Tim Stephens and David L. VanderZwaag
Chapter 5: Power politics in the Antarctic Treaty System
The Antarctic Treaty System (ATS) possesses an authority of its own in the global context. States also assert their authority and interests within the ATS. These aspects of power have developed and evolved over the duration of the Antarctic Treaty, originally signed by 12 states in 1959. There are now 50 parties, participating at varying levels within the institutions and instruments of the ATS. Twenty-eight of these states are Antarctic Treaty Consultative Parties able to participate in decision-making within the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM). Seven states claim territorial sovereignty over parts of the Antarctic. These claimants, along with the United States and the Russian Federation (formerly the USSR), have maintained a stronghold of leadership within the system. As the last frontier for commercial and resource development, and a haven against militarization or nuclear threat, the Antarctic may be viewed as a domain of opportunity in waiting. It is increasingly desirable as a destination for tourists, a realm of revived geostrategic machination, and above all for speculation as to what the future holds for the frozen continent. The ATS is a sophisticated regime that has developed some of the characteristics of an international organization, even though it has not established an 'Antarctic Commission' or other such institution with a standalone international legal personality (the Antarctic Treaty Secretariat, established in 2004, has a fairly limited mandate).
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