The Antarctic Treaty
The Antarctic Treaty established the first nuclear-weapon-free zone (NWFZ) as part of a multilateral agreement to demilitarize Antarctica, which the Treaty defines as the area south of 60° South latitude. A goal of the Treaty is to facilitate international cooperation in peaceful scientific research of Antarctica. The Treaty prohibits nuclear explosions, the disposal of radioactive waste, and military deployment in the Antarctic zone. However, it provides for “the use of military personnel or equipment for scientific research or for any other peaceful purposes.” While the Treaty upholds states’ previously asserted territorial sovereignty on the continent, it bans any future claim to territorial sovereignty or the enlargement of an existing territory.
Under Article 9, any party to the Treaty may appoint an observer to complete inspections of all areas of Antarctica. Observers have “complete freedom of access at any time to any or all areas of Antarctica” and maintain the right to inspect any other states’ stations, installations, equipment, ships, or aircraft. Observers also have the right to carry out aerial inspections. The Treaty provides for dispute resolution methods such as negotiation, mediation, arbitration, or judicial settlement.
The origins of the Antarctic Treaty date back to the mid-1950s, when international scientific organizations proposed a global initiative to foster cooperation in the sciences. The International Geophysical Year (IGY), as it became known, lasted from July 1957 to December 1958. It provided a coordinated effort within the scientific community to conduct research on various geophysical phenomena. Twelve nations—Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Chile, France, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States—participated in the IGY. Although IGY activities took place across the globe, Antarctica remained the focal point of the venture. All contributing nations deemed the project a success and met at the 1959 Washington Conference to discuss the continent’s continued demilitarization. On December 1, 1959, all 12 nations signed the Antarctic Treaty, and it entered into force on June 23, 1961.
Antarctic Treaty. (2009, June 2). Center for Nonproliferation Studies. Retrieved from http://www.nti.org/e_research/official_docs/inventory/pdfs/antarc.pdf
The Antarctic Treaty. (n.d.). U.S. Department of State. Retrieved from http://www.state.gov/www/global/arms/treaties/arctic1.html