The icy continent and its unique governance system is being celebrated around the world today, as the international community recognises ‘Antarctica Day’.

Antarctica Day falls on the anniversary of the adoption of the Antarctic Treaty, which took place on 1 December 1959.

The Treaty has been a hallmark of international cooperation on the icy continent for well over half a century. Its success in promoting international cooperation on scientific endeavour and preventing conflict in the region is widely recognised.

Subsequent international agreements, including the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources and the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty form important components of the ‘Antarctic Treaty system’, and establish a comprehensive framework for the protection and conservation of the Antarctic region.

Australia was one of 12 original signatories to the Treaty and continues to play a leading and influential role in international Antarctic affairs.

The number of parties to the Treaty has grown to 53 today, reflecting the increasing international recognition of the scientific and environmental values of Antarctica. Many of these countries are working in Antarctica to understand key scientific questions, and cooperate on science and logistic support activities.

The Antarctic Treaty ensures freedom of scientific investigation and exchange of scientific findings, prevents the militarisation of Antarctica, and accommodates the positions of all Parties on issues of sovereignty.