How Does the Law Work in Antarctica?
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The 12 Articles of the Antarctic Treaty
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The Antarctic Treaty is composed of 12 articles, which are written in fairly general terms and are only enforceable by the cooperation of the consultative members.

Here is a brief summary of the 12 articles of the Antarctic Treaty to give you a better sense of how consultative member nations are encouraged to cooperate:

Article 1 – Antarctica is to be used for peaceful purposes only. Military activities, such as weapons testing, are strictly prohibited. However, military personnel and equipment can be used for scientific and other peaceful purposes.

Article 2 – Countries shall work together in cooperation for scientific discovery.

Article 3 – Countries shall freely exchange information and personnel, cooperate with the United Nations, and cooperate with other international agencies.

Article 4 – No territorial claims on Antarctica are recognized, disputed, or established, and no new claims shall be asserted while the Treaty is in force.

Article 5 – This Treaty prohibits nuclear explosions and disposal or radioactive wastes.

Article 6 – This Treaty includes all land and ice shelves south of 60 degrees 00 minutes south, and reserves rights to the high seas.

Article 7 – All countries that abide by this Treaty have free access to any area of Antarctica. As such, all countries may inspect any installations, stations, and equipment of other countries, and have free access to aerial photography. However, advance notice must be given of all expeditions and of the use of any military personnel.

Article 8 – Each country has legal jurisdiction over its own citizens and observers. (This means, for example, US law would govern US tourists, while German law would govern German tourists.)

Article 9 – Frequent consultative meetings shall take place between consultative member nations.

Article 10 – Consultative member nations will discourage activities by any country in Antarctica that are contrary to this Treaty.

Article 11 – Disputes are to be settled peacefully by the parties concerned, or the International Court of Justice.

Articles 12, 13, and 14 – These articles deal with upholding, interpreting, and amending this Treaty.

As you can probably see, the nations that sign this Treaty are relying on each other to cooperate peacefully. Article 11 explicitly states that disputes are to be handled by the parties or nations concerned. In other words, there really is no "legal system" for solving disputes (except to rely on the International Court of Justice).

In addition to the Antarctic Treaty, the consultative member nations meet fairly regularly to recommend, update, and ratify sections to the Treaty. More than 200 recommendations have been adopted at these treaty consultative meetings. One such adoption was the Madrid Protocol that deals with environmental concerns, which we’ll talk about in the next section.

Next, we’ll explore how the law of Antarctica may affect the future development of the world.