Operation of freedom of navigation by American warships and UNCLOS – 1982
December 1, 2019 marked the 60th anniversary of the signing in Washington of the Antarctic Treaty, the main legal instrument for the management of practical activities and the regulation of interstate relations in the 60 ° parallel South territory.
On May 2, 1958, the United States Department of State sent invitations to the governments of Australia, Argentina, Belgium, Chile, France, Japan, Great Britain, New Zealand, Norway, of the then South African Union and of the USSR for the International Conference on Antarctica. It was proposed to convene it in Washington in 1959. The group of participants in the Conference was limited to countries which had carried out Antarctic projects within the framework of the International Geophysical Year (IGA) (July 1957-December 1958).
The Soviet Union supported the idea of convening a conference. In a response letter, the Kremlin stressed that the outcome of the Conference should be the International Antarctic Treaty with the following basic principles: the peaceful use of Antarctica with a total ban on military activities in the region and the freedom of scientific research and the exchange of information between the Parties to the Treaty.
The Soviet government also proposed to expand the group of conference participants to include all parties interested in the issue.
During these years, the international legal settlement of the Antarctic problem had become an urgent task. In the first half of the 20th century, territorial claims over Antarctica had been expressed by Australia, Argentina, Chile, France, Great Britain, New Zealand and Norway.
In response to the Soviet proposal, the United States kept all the land claims of individual countries on the agenda, but pledged to freeze them. Russia, however, believed that third party territorial claims should be rejected. At the same time, the position of the two states almost completely coincided as the right to claim territorial ownership of the entire continent could only be retained as a pioneer.
The USSR relied on the conclusions of the expedition of Russian admiral FGTh. von Bellingshausen and his compatriot Captain MP Lazarev on the war sloops Vostok and Mirnyj in 1819-1821, as the United States relied on the explorations of NB Palmer’s sloop expedition hero in 1820.
The conference opened on October 15, 1959 in Washington DC. It was attended by delegations from twelve countries which had carried out studies within the framework of the IGY programs in Antarctica.
The Conference ended on December 1, 1959 with the signing of the Antarctic Treaty. It is the main instrument of international law governing the southern polar region of the planet.
The fundamental principles of the Treaty are: the peaceful use of the region, as well as broad support for international cooperation and the freedom of scientific research. Antarctica has been declared a nuclear free zone. Previously announced land claims in Antarctica have been maintained but frozen and no new land claims should be accepted. The principle of free exchange of information and the possibility of inspecting the activities of the Parties to the Antarctic Treaty were proclaimed. The agreement is open for accession by any UN member state and has no validity period.
Over time, it has been proposed to further develop the political and legal principles of the Treaty through regularly convened consultative meetings. Decisions at these meetings can only be made by those Parties to the Treaty which have a permanent expedition station in Antarctica.
All decisions are taken exclusively by consensus, in the absence of reasoned objections. The first Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting was held in the Australian capital, Canberra, from July 10-24, 1961.
Until 1994 (when the 18th Consultative Meeting was held in Kyoto), meetings were held every one or two years, but since the 19th Meeting held in Seoul in 1995, they began to be convened on a regular basis. annual basis. The last meeting, the 42nd, was held in Prague from July 11 to 19, 2019. The 43rd consultation meeting will be held in Paris from June 14 to 24, 2021: the suspension of the meeting to be held in Helsinki from July 24, 2019. May to June 5, 2020 was due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The 17th meeting was held in Venice, Italy, from November 11-20, 1992.
The main decisions of the meetings until 1995 were called recommendations and since 1996 ATCM measures. They enter into force at the end of the ratification procedure by the Consultative Parties. A total of 198 recommendations and 194 measures were adopted.
In sixty years, the number of Parties to the Antarctic Treaty has grown from twelve founders in 1959 to 54 in 2019. These are 29 countries in Europe, nine in Asia, eight in South America, four in America. North and Central, three in Oceania and one in Africa.
The number of Consultative Parties to the Treaty with national expeditions to Antarctica continues to grow: Australia, Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Chile, People’s Republic of China, Korea (South), Ecuador, Finland, France , Germany, Japan, Great Britain, India, Italy, Norway, New Zealand, Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Russia, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, Ukraine, Uruguay and United States of America.
The remaining 25 Antarctic Treaty countries with non-consultative status are invited to attend relevant meetings, but are not included in the decision-making process.
In the 1970s and 1980s, the desire to join the Treaty was reinforced by the desire of many countries to develop the biological and mineral resources of Antarctica. The growing practical interest in Antarctica and its resources has led to the need to adopt additional environmental documents.
During this period, recommendations for the protection of the Antarctic nature were adopted almost every year at the consultative meetings. They served as the starting material for the creation of three conventions that protect the natural environment: 1) the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Seals; 2) the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources; and 3) the Convention for the Regulation of Antarctic Mineral Resources.
Later, on the basis of adopted recommendations and conventions, the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty was drafted. It became an environmental part of the Treaty and was signed on October 4, 1991 for a period of 50 years at the Madrid consultative meeting – hence the name of the Madrid Protocol.
According to the Protocol, Antarctica is declared a “nature reserve for peace and science” and should be preserved for future generations. After 1991, new countries that joined the Treaty began to show interest in participating in large-scale international research projects on global climate change and environmental protection.
Considering the above, Antarctica can be described as a global science laboratory: there are around 77 stations on the continent, which have provided their scientists from 29 countries. They explore the continent itself, the patterns of climate change on Earth, and space itself.
But how is it that the territories of the sixth continent become the target of scientists from all over the world?
In 1908, Britain announced that Graham Land (the Antarctic Peninsula south of Ushuaia) and several islands around Antarctica were under the authority of the Governor of the Falkland / Malvinas Islands (claimed by Argentina). The reason was that they were / are close to the archipelago.
In addition, Britain and the United States preferred not to acknowledge that Antarctica was discovered by Russian explorers Bellingshausen and Lazarev. According to their version, the discoverer of the continent was James Cook, who saw the impenetrable sea ice of Antarctica, but at the same time confidently insisted that there was no continent south of the Earth.
Ten years later, the appetite of the British Empire grew and in 1917 it decided to seize a large area of Antarctica between 20 ° and 80 ° West meridian to the South Pole. Six years later, Great Britain added to its “possessions” the territory between 150 ° East meridian and 160 ° West meridian, discovered in 1841 by the explorer Capt JC Ross, and entrusted it to the administration of his neo colony. -Zeeland.
The British Dominion of Australia received a “parcel of land” between 44 ° and 160 ° East Meridian in 1933. In turn, France claimed its rights to the area between 136 ° and 142 ° East Meridian in 1924: this area was discovered in 1840 and named Adélie Land by Captain J. Dumont d’Urville. Britain did not care and the Australian sector was not contested by France.
In 1939, Norway decided to have a slice of the Antarctic pie, declaring that the territory between 20 ° West Meridian and 44 ° East Meridian, namely the land of Queen Maud, was its own. In 1940 and 1942 Chile and Argentina came into conflict, and the lands they chose not only partially overlapped but also invaded British “Antarctic Territories”.
Chile submitted a request for an area between 53 ° and 90 ° west meridian; Argentina, for an area between 25 ° and 74 ° West meridian. The situation has started to heat up.
In addition, in 1939, Germany announced the creation of the German Antarctic Sector, namely New Swabia, while Japan also formalized its claims to a substantial area of Antarctic ice.
Again in 1939, for the first time, the USSR expressed – as a premise and postulate – that Antarctica belonged to all mankind. After the end of World War II, all legal acts of the Third Reich were abandoned and Japan renounced all of its overseas territorial claims under the San Francisco Peace Treaty. According to unofficial Japanese statements, however, the country claims its own technical equipment: according to its own version, the deposits are so deep that no one except Japan has the technology to recover and develop them.
By the middle of the 20th century, disputes over Antarctica became particularly acute: three out of seven countries claiming the land were unable to share the areas by mutual agreement. The situation created considerable discontent among other states and hampered scientific research. So now is the time to implement this idea, the results of which have been outlined above.
In 1998, the Environmental Protection Protocol was added to the Antarctic Treaty. In 1988, the Convention on the Management of Antarctic Mineral Resources was also opened for signature, but it did not enter into force due to the refusal of the democratic governments of Australia and France to sign it. However, this convention enshrines great respect for the environment, which lays the foundations for the protocol on environmental protection. Article 7 of this protocol prohibits any activity relating to Antarctic mineral resources other than scientific activity. The duration of the protocol is set at 50 years, i.e. until 2048.
Most likely, its period of validity will be extended, but we must be prepared for any development of events. Earth’s resources are inevitably depleted, and it is much cheaper to extract oil and coal in Antarctica than in space. An oxymoronically near distant dystopian future awaits us.