Building the World

Diplomacy on Ice


Flag of the Antarctic Treaty. Image: wikimedia commons.

December 1, 1959: the world came together not in cold war but in cold peace. The previous year, International Geophysical Year (IGY), 1957-1958, inspired peaceful treaties in two different spheres, both new to human endeavors. Space opened up with landmark IGY achievements including Sputnik, then Vanguard, leading to the Outer Space Treaty. Antartica, earth’s only continent without native human population, became active with 50 IGY scientific stations. Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Chile, France, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, Soviet Union, United Kingdom, and the United States called their cooperative IGY initiative “Diplomacy on the Ice.” Antartica is defined as the land and ice shelves south of 60 degrees latitude; it was formerly called Gondwana. On December 1, 1959, the twelve nations opened for signature the Antarctic Treaty; by 2016, the treaty included 53 parties. A treaty system developed including the Protocol on Environmental Protection, Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, and Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Seals, expanding the original treaty’s statement: “Recognizing that it is in the interest of all mankind that Antarctica shall continue forever to be used exclusively for peaceful purposes” for this continent, never home to humans, to honor and protect the abundant other forms of Nature. In this era of climate change, how should signatories safeguard this treasure of earth and environment?

For more: Diplomacy on Ice: Energy and the Environment in the Arctic and Antarctic. Rebecca H. Pincus and Salem H. Ali, editors. Yale University Press, 2015. ISBN: 9780300205169.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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