Antarctic Treaty turns 50

This year the 32nd Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting celebrated the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty – on December 1, 1959.

To mark the occasion, ministers and officials from around the world gathered in Washington D.C., USA, at a special event hosted by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. During her speech, Secretary Clinton reflected on the significance of the Antarctic Treaty.

'[The Treaty] stands as an example of how agreements, created for one age, can serve the world in another, and how when nations work together at their best, the benefits are felt not only by their own people, but by all people and by succeeding generations,' she said.

'The Treaty is a blueprint for the kind of international cooperation that will be needed more and more to address the challenges of the 21st century, and it is an example of smart power at its best. Governments coming together around a common interest and citizens, scientists, and institutions from different countries, joined in scientific collaboration to advance peace and understanding.'

Representing Australia at the event, Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts, the Hon Peter Garrett AM, MP, reiterated Australia’s commitment to the Antarctic Treaty, as the assembled Ministers adopted a declaration recognising the key role of the Treaty in protecting the Antarctic environment and supporting cooperative scientific research.

'Australia was one of the 12 original signatories to the Antarctic Treaty, signed here 50 years ago,' Mr Garrett said.

'Since then 35 other countries have signed this historic agreement — a testament to its importance.'

Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said that since its inception, the Treaty had been bolstered by associated agreements, including the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, and the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty, which provides for the comprehensive environmental protection of Antarctica and a ban on mining.

'Australia is proud of the leading role it took in ensuring that Antarctica’s environmental values are properly protected, and we continue to regard Antarctic environmental protection as one of our highest priorities,' Mr Smith said.

Minister Garrett also announced that Australia will host the 35th Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting in 2012. Australia hosted the first Treaty meeting at Parliament House in Canberra in 1961 and the 12th meeting in 1983.