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  The Antarctic Treaty

The environment, fauna, flora and mineral resources of the Antarctic continent, sub-Antarctic islands and, more generally, everything south of latitude 60°, benefits from almost complete international protection. This is thanks to the Antarctic Treaty which was signed in Washington on December 1st 1959 by twelve countries: Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Chile, France, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Russia, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The 1959 Treaty preserves the pristine landscape of Antarctica for research and peaceful activities.
The 1959 Treaty preserves the pristine landscape of Antarctica for research and peaceful activities.
© IPF
The Antarctic Treaty laid the foundations for the international and peaceful status of the Antarctic continent. The 45 countries [ http://www.antarctica.ac.uk/About_Antarctica/Treaty/index.html ] which today adhere to the "Antarctic Treaty System" (which includes the Treaty, its Annexes and supplementary international laws) have pledged not to pursue any territorial claims in the region and to ensure the protection and preservation of its fauna and flora. These nations have also agreed to carry out only peaceful activities and to promote scientific research and cooperation in the region.

However, because the original Treaty needed to be more explicit with respect to protecting the Antarctic environment, in 1991, a supplementary protocol, called the Madrid Protocol, was appended to the Treaty. It reaffirms the imperative need to preserve the Antarctic environment and all its ecosystems, and above all designates the region as a "Natural Reserve devoted to peace and science". Under the protocol, all activities related to the exploitation of mineral resources are prohibited (Article 7). In addition, the multiple components of this natural reserve (aesthetic, climatic, meteorological, biological and even historical) now benefit from total protection.


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