The Making of International Environmental Treaties
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The Making of International Environmental Treaties

Neoliberal and Constructivist Analyses of Normative Evolution

Gerald Nagtzaam

Gerry Nagtzaam contends that in recent decades neoliberal institutionalist scholarship on global environmental regimes has burgeoned, as has constructivist scholarship on the key role played by norms in international politics. In this innovative volume, the author sets these interest- and norm-based approaches against each other in order to test their ability to illustrate why and how different environmental norms take hold in some regimes and not others.
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Chapter 3: Frozen in Time: Minerals and the Campaign to Preserve Antarctica

Gerald Nagtzaam


We are all concerned with protection of that continent for present and future generations. (Sveneld Evteev1) INTRODUCTION Humanity has looked to Antarctica for centuries with dreams of undiscovered mineral wealth. However, it was not until the 1970s that this potential became a feasible economic reality and outside corporate forces began to pressure states to modify the existing Antarctic regime, which disallowed mining. At the same time, various ENGOs were determined that the Antarctic environment be preserved unspoilt in perpetuity. With the support of key defecting states, in 1991 they achieved this goal with the adoption of the Madrid Protocol, allowing Antarctica to be ‘locked away’ for the foreseeable future. The case of Antarctica and the fate of its mineral wealth make a fascinating test of the strengths and weaknesses of both neoliberal institutionalism and constructivism. On the one hand, it is a textbook example of cooperation, with the creation of a regime to govern the continent. This started with scientists cooperating, despite nationalist antagonisms, at the height of the Cold War. Given the privileging of consensus decisions within the resultant regime by the Contracting Parties, it might be expected that neoliberals would seek to explain normative change in regard to Antarctica as a case where states chose to cooperate to reduce uncertainty and achieve their own economic interests. However, a neoliberal analysis would also have to explain the defection of key states like Australia and France, for ostensibly altruistic reasons, in the face of a fierce veto coalition led by...

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