The Antarctic Treaty

The Antarctic Treaty was signed on 1 December 1959 in Washington DC by the twelve countries who had scientists active in and around Antarctica during the International Geophysical Year (IGY) of 1957-58. The Treaty entered into force in 1961 and the total number of nations who are Parties to the Treaty is now 48 (Nov 2010).


Some important provisions of the Treaty:

Antarctica shall be used for peaceful purposes only (Art. I)

Freedom of scientific investigation in Antarctica and cooperation toward that end ... shall continue (Art. II)

Scientific observations and results from Antarctica shall be exchanged and made freely available (Art. III)

Among the original signatories of the Treaty were seven countries - Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, New Zealand, Norway and the United Kingdom - with territorial claims, sometimes overlapping. Other countries do not recognize any claims. The US and Russia maintain a "basis of claim ". All positions are explicitly protected in Article IV, which preserves the status quo:


No acts or activities taking place while the present Treaty is in force shall constitute a basis for asserting, supporting or denying a claim to territorial sovereignty in Antarctica or create any rights of sovereignty in Antarctica. No new claim, or enlargement of an existing claim to territorial sovereignty in Antarctica shall be asserted while the present Treaty is in force.


To promote the objectives and ensure the observance of the provisions of the Treaty, "All areas of Antarctica, including all stations, installations and equipment within those areas ... shall be open at all times to inspection" (Art. VII).


Member Parties

The original Signatories to the Treaty that were active in Antarctica during the International Geophysical Year of 1957-58 accepted the invitation of the Government of the United States of America to participate in the diplomatic conference at which the Treaty was negotiated. These Parties have the right to participate in the meetings provided for in Article IX of the Treaty (Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings, ATCM).


Since 1959, thirty-six other countries have acceded to the Treaty. They are entitled to participate in the Consultative Meetings during such times as they demonstrate their interest in Antarctica by "conducting substantial research activity there". Sixteen of the acceding countries have had their activities in Antarctica recognized according to this provision, and consequently there are now twenty-eight Consultative Parties in all. The other twenty Non-Consultative Parties are invited to attend the Consultative Meetings but do not participate in the decision-making.


Consultative Parties




Non-consultative Parties