Cover Image

PAPERBACK
$113.25



View/Hide Left Panel
Click for next page ( 376


The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement



Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.

OCR for page 375
25. The Interaction Between the Antarctic Treaty System and the United Nations System Richard A. Wooicoft When in 1773 the great navigator Captain James Cook became the first known person to force a small vessel beyond the Antarctic Circle, he recorded in his journal that "I can be bold enough to say that no man will ever venture fur- ther than I have done and that the land which may lie to the south will never be explored. n Well, here just over 200 years later, we have actually conducted a seminar on the Beardmore Glacier of the con- tinent that Cook predicted would never be explored. Hobson's theory of imperialism suggested that the trader followed the missionary and the flag followed the trader. In Antarctica it has been different; the scientists fol- lowed the explorers and seminar attendees have followed the scientists. For me, personally, this visit fulfills a lifelong ambition. For Australia and Australians, Antarctica is a neighboring continent of great importance. Indeed, the earliest maps of the Southern Hemisphere show a gigantic mass, usually called Terra Australis (the southern land) and, in those maps, Australia and Antarctica were con- nected. While physically they are separated by sea, they remain connected by a tradition of proximity, interest, exploration, and research. So I am very glad to have had the opportunity to par- ticipate in the Workshop on the Antarctic Treaty in three capacities: in my personal capacity, as the chairman of the New York group of the Antarctica Treaty consultative parties, and as the representative of Australia at the United Nations. As I am sure i Us well known, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) considered "the question of Antarctica" in 1983 and again in 1984. At the conclusion of the debate in 1984, it was agreed to inscribe the item again 375

OCR for page 375
376 on the provisional agenda for the fortieth session of the UNGA in 1985. This is not, of course, the first time that considera- tion has been given to the United Nations' playing some role in antarctic affairs. In the years before the signature of the Antarctic Treaty in 1959, a number of individuals and organizations, and even some states, made suggestions for some relationship between the United Nations and Antarctica. As long ago as 1956, India, whose scientists are now conducting research at a new antarctic station on the other side of this continent, proposed that the question of Antarctica be included on the agenda of the UNGA. In the event, that did not happen, and it was not until 1983 that Antarctica became a subject of discussion in the General Assembly. To some this might suggest that there has been little interaction between the United Nations system and the Antarctic Treaty System. Some might even see this lack of discussion of Antarctica in the United Nations as evidence of what has been alleged to be "secrecy" or "exclusivity on the part of the Antarctic Treaty con- sultative parties. It would be a serious mistake to reach such conclusions. The fact that states have not, until recently, dis- cussed the subject of Antarctica in the General Assembly indicates to me a lack of interest among the majority of countries not involved in the continent as well as a measure of acquiescence on the part of the world community in the system of management established by the Antarctic Treaty. This has occurred both because the practical framework of cooperation operating under the treaty system has promoted the principles and purposes of the U.N. system and because, in appropriate areas, there has been practical cooperation between the two systems. PROMOTION OF PRINCIPLES AND PURPOSES OF UNITED NATIONS CHARTER The United Nations Charter defines a number of important purposes of that organization, including the development of friendly relations between nations, the achievement of cooperation between nations in solving international prob- lems, and, most importantly, the maintenance of peace and security. The United Nations Charter also emphasizes a number of principles governing the actions of states, including respect of the sovereign equality of states,

OCR for page 375
377 encouragement of the peaceful settlement of international disputes, the avoidance of the threat or use of force, and the promotion of economic and social advancement of all peoples. I should like to concentrate, first, on the ways in which the Antarctic Treaty has given practical effect to these important principles and purposes of the U.N. system and, in particular, how it has encouraged international cooperation in Antarctica and how it has insulated the continent from international conflict and rivalries over the last quarter of a century. In order to measure the achievements of the Antarctic Treaty System and to relate them to U.N. principles, we should reflect briefly on the situation in Antarctica before the signature of the Antarctic Treaty in 1959. Territorial claims, and nonrecognition of these claims by other nations active in Antarctica, had led to political tensions. Rivalry among certain of the claimants had led to incidents and protests. One country took steps to bring its claim before the International Court of Justice, and the other countries involved declined to accept the jurisdiction of the court. In short, a difficult inter- national situation had developed that posed a potentially serious threat to peace in the region. The unprecedented cooperation that underlay research activities in Antarctica in the fields of geophysics and geography during the International Geophysical Year (IGY) of 1957-1958 marked a turning point in relations between countries with interests in the continent. Because of the lack of basic data on Antarctica and the extremely difficult operating conditions there, it was imperative that there be maximum cooperation among scientists engaged in common research programs, including the free exchange of views and personnel and free access to stations and installations. There was also a strong sense, on the part of the scientists involved, that their studies in Antarctica were important to the entire world community and that the results of their efforts should be freely available to all who were interested. This cooperative spirit led the 12 nations that had conducted research in Antarctica during the IGY to reflect on the earlier unsatisfactory situation and to consider a more permanent framework for continuing their joint efforts, in a way that would allow all nations wishing to be active on the continent to do so without threatening the interests of others or destabilizing the area.

OCR for page 375
378 The result was the Antarctic Treaty of 1959. This was the starting point; and today it is still the core of what is known as the Antarctic Treaty System (ATS). The latter comprises a cooperative framework and a wide range of carefully considered recommendations and legally binding instruments that address living and working in Antarctica, exchanging information, protecting the environment, and conserving and making rational use of resources. In this regard, I should refer in particular to the 1964 Agreed Measures for the Conservation of Antarctic Fauna and Flora, the 1972 Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Seals, the 1980 Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, and the current negotiations toward an Antarctic minerals regime. Let us now look more closely at how the Antarctic Treaty, in its language and in its practical application, relates to the fundamental purpose of the United Nations Charter: the maintenance of international peace and security. The preamble of the treaty states that n it is in the interest of all mankind that Antarctica shall continue forever to be used exclusively for peaceful purposes and shall not become the scene or object of international discord." It continues that "a treaty ensuring the use of Antarctica for peaceful purposes and the continuance of international harmony in Antarctica will further the purposes and principles embodied in the Charter of the United Nations." What could be a more forthright commitment to the aims of the United Nations with respect to peace and security? The treaty also goes beyond this general commitment by including a number of specific provisions designed to ensure that this commitment is upheld. Article I of the treaty prominently and firmly estab- lishes the position of the treaty partners that "Antarc- tica shall be used for peaceful purposes only." It prohibits "any measures of a military nature, such as the establishment of military bases and fortifications, the carrying out of military manoeuvres, as well as the testing of any type of weapons." Other provisions relating to the demilitarization of Antarctica include Article V, which prohibits nuclear explosions; Article VII, which provides full access for purposes of inspection by consultative party observers to promote the objectives and ensure the observance of the provisions of the treaty; and Article IX (la), which

OCR for page 375
379 permits consultative parties to adopt measures regarding the "use of Antarctica for peaceful purposes only." Special mention should also be made of the ingenious device contained in Article IV of the treaty, which puts to one side the question of territorial sovereignty, the source of earlier tensions, as an obstacle to peaceful cooperation. Article IV represents the practical application of specific exhortations of the United Nations, including respect for the sovereign equality of states and the encouragement of peaceful settlement of disputes. The "freezing"--no pun is intended--of positions with respect to claims removed the basis for the earlier contention between countries active in Antarctica. Collectively these provisions, and the fact that they have worked in practice over a long period, establish the Antarctic Treaty as the only effective post-World War II international agreement ensuring the demilitarization of a large geographic region. The treaty has also provided a precedent for numerous subsequent initiatives and proposals for regional disarmament measures, including nuclear-weapons-free zones. In this way, as in others, the treaty has made an important contribution in fur- thering the principles and purposes of the United Nations Charter. With the advantages of hindsight and knowledge of the extreme difficulty of negotiating measures to limit con- ventional or nuclear weapons today, the achievement of the Antarctic Treaty in this area must be seen both as impressive and of great value to all states--particularly, may I say, to states such as those of Australasia, of the South Pacific, of South America, and of southern Africa, which are within close geographic proximity to Antarctica. In spite of other differences, the importance of main- taining Antarctica demilitarized, free of nuclear weapons and strategic competition, and a zone of peaceful coopera- tion was clearly recognized by most delegations that spoke on the antarctic item at both the 38th and the 39th UNGA sessions. LINKS WITH THE UNITED NATIONS SPECIALIZED AGENCIES I shall turn now to links between the treaty system and the specialized agencies of the United Nations. Article III(2) of the Antarctic treaty makes specific provision for the establishment of cooperative working

OCR for page 375
380 relations with the U.N. specialized agencies and other international organizations with a scientific or technical interest in Antarctica. The anticipated increased international interest in the continent and the need for cooperation and the sharing of the results of antarctic research with the whole world community, including those states that lack the desire or the means to become actively involved in antarctic research. Although existing links are not highly formalized, practical working relations have already been developed with U.N. family organizations, such as the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), as well as with organizations outside the U.N. system, such as the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) and the Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research (SCOR) of the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU), the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, and the International Whaling Commission. At their very first meeting the consultative parties adopted a recommendation making it an obligation of governments to encourage the work of relevant inter- national organizations, including the U.N. specialized agencies, and to promote on a bilateral basis the develop- ment of cooperative relations with those organizations (Recommendation I-V). In considering the degree of cooperation already established with U.N. bodies, particular mention should be made of links established with WMO, ITU, IOC and FAO. Antarctica has a crucial effect on the atmosphere of the whole Southern Hemisphere, and meteorological data from Antarctica play an important role in predicting global weather and climate. Hence the great value of cooperation between nations active scientifically in Antarctica and the WMO. An important element in this cooperation is the provision of daily antarctic meteoro- logical data via the Global Telecommunications System in the WMO's World Weather Watch program, which has been continuing since the IGY in 1957-1958. The system also involves the cooperation of the ITU. The WMO has an executive committee working group on Antarctic meteorology, through which antarctic treaty

OCR for page 375
381 consultative nations regularly contribute expertise to the coordination and development of antarctic meteorol- ogy. The consultative parties are also making substantial contributions to the World Climate Research Program (WCRP), which is coordinated jointly by the WHO and the ICSU. They were closely involved also in the very suc- cessful Global Atmospheric Research Program, which ran from 1967 to 1982 and which was the forerunner of the WCRP. Cooperation with the IOC has included contributions by the consultative parties to the Program Group on the Southern Ocean, a coordinating body for marine biology research. The IOC also has permanent observer status at meetings of the commission of the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR). The FAO also has observer status at CCAMLR meetings. It is working with the CCAMLR secretariat to develop fishing data for the Southern Ocean area. The FAO, together with SCAR and other committees of the ICSU, is also sponsoring the 10-year Biological Investigation of Marine Antarctic Systems and Stocks program, the aim of which is to gain a deeper understanding of the structure and functioning of the antarctic marine ecosystem as a basis for the future management of antarctic living resources. This program also relates to the work of the IOC. I should also refer to the close links between the consultative parties and SCAR. This is in keeping with the facts that the ICSU played a prominent part in developing the cooperation that occurred during the IGY~ and that cooperation among the consultative parties has traditionally been most extensive in the field of scien- tific research. There are also close links with SCOR and with the Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environ- ment of ICSU. ICSU, whose charter provides for the encouragement of international scientific activity for the benefit of humankind as a way of contributing to the cause of peace and international security, has consulta- tive status with UNESCO, the Economic and Social Council of the U.N. (ECOSOC), the FAO, and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and working relations with the ITU, the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Disaster Relief Organization, and the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development. Membership of ICSU consists of science academies, research councils, and associations or institutions from some 65 countries.

OCR for page 375
382 One can see from this that a wide range of practical interaction already exists among the members of the Antarctic Treaty, the United Nations system, and other relevant scientific bodies. THE FUTURE In the light of growing international interest in Antarctica in recent years, reflected in the consideration of it within the United Nations, it is worthwhile to speculate on how future interaction between the ATS and the U.N. system might develop and on what other steps might be taken to accommodate this wider international interest in the affairs of the Southern continent. In this connection, I am speaking not as the chairman of the Antarctic treaty consultative party coordination group in New York, nor as a representative of the Australian government, but rather on the same basis as all the speakers at the Workshop on the Antarctic Treaty-- that is, in my personal capacity. I would begin by recalling the maxim, Diplomacy is the art of accommodation and compromise," and, in this context, I shall attempt to balance the concerns of those who have argued that there is a need substantially to revise, or even to replace, the existing system of manage- ment in Antarctica against the views of those who want to see the ATS maintained because of its value and importance but who are prepared to acknowledge that there may be scope for further evolution within the present system. To do this, it is necessary to address some of the main criticisms of the treaty system. A major concern has been with the decision-making process, which has been criticized as being exclusive, undemocratic, and discriminatory against small states. It is suggested instead that a universal framework based on equality, for example within the United Nations, would be more appropriate. While this latter obviously has appeal for countries that have not previously been involved but now have an interest in Antarctica, I would suggest that, in fact, the existing two-tier system has several important advantages. The present system is based on the notion that those countries that are directly engaged in antarctic activi- ties are, through their experience in Antarctica, best placed to take decisions affecting such matters as scientific programs and environmental protection in the

OCR for page 375
383 continent. Moreover, it is they who will be bound by the obligations that arise from those decisions, which are taken continuously by means of consensus. Hence, giving consultative parties a special role is both logical and workable from a management viewpoint. This is not dissimilar to the practice in many other international bodies, including a number in the U.N. system. Furthermore, consultative party status is not, as has sometimes been suggested, effectively restricted to wealthy countries. The present list of consultative parties demonstrates that there are no ideological or economic divisions on north/south or east/west lines within the treaty framework. The present arrangement permits practical cooperation in an atmosphere free of the political rhetoric or posturing that often infects much of the United Nations system. Beyond this, I should emphasize that the Antarctic Treaty--which has now been acceded to by 32 states, including 6 new signatories in the past two years, is open to all member states of the United Nations. In 1983 it was decided that all parties to the Antarctic Treaty may attend consultative meetings and, subsequently, also future meetings of the minerals negotiations as observers. Thus any country that is interested in antarctic affairs may now, by simply acceding to the Antarctic Treaty, which involves no cost, have the opportunity to partici- pate in and influence decisions taken in these meetings. Acceding states may speak and circulate papers. Further- more, as decisions are taken by consensus, their influence on the decis ion-male ina Process would in Practice be . . significant. The distinction between Antarctic Treaty consultative parties and nonconsultative parties Is therefore likely to become less marked in the future. This represents an important change from the past. It shows the capacity and the will of the consultative parties to adapt the treaty system to changing circum- stances and interests. Small states, which do not main- tain antarctic programs and which perhaps never intend to do so, can nevertheless, through acceding to the treaty, become fully informed about antarctic affairs and bring considerable influence to bear when decisions are made, thus ensuring that their interests are taken into account. I would advocate strongly that such countries consider carefully the benefits this opportunity provides. It has also been suggested that access to information under the present system is poor. It is true that, in the past, exchanges of information on antarctic matters

OCR for page 375
384 occurred largely among those countries directly engaged in Antarctica. This was not the result of any desire to withhold information from the rest of the world. Far from it; the results of scientific research in Antarctica have always been made freely available to the inter- national community. Rather, it was the consequence of the relatively limited interest shown by other countries in antarctic affairs until recent times. Recognizing the growth of international interest, the consultative parties, at their twelfth meeting in 1983, decided to take steps to disseminate more widely informa- tion on antarctic activities, to study further steps, and to consider them in 1985 (Recommendation XII-6). To this end, in the period since, they passed to the United Nations Secretary-General for circulation to all member states the report of their twelfth meeting and, individu- ally, they made substantial contributions toward the United Nations Secretary-General's study of Antarctica. An improved and expanded Handbook of the Antarctic Treaty is being prepared. This is not to suggest that more cannot be done. I am aware that many countries still believe that information flows could be improved further. An important way of improving their access to information would be for them to accede to the treaty and attend meetings. Another would be for consultative parties to circulate copies of information regularly exchanged among themselves and through SCAR to the U.N. secretariat for information. Means of ensuring effective dissemination of information on Antarctica will be considered at the Brussels meeting in October, 1985, and any ideas others may have will be welcome. It has been argued that links between the ATS and U.N. specialized agencies and other relevant nongovernmental bodies have not been adequately developed. I have already canvassed the range of links that currently exist. These links are not perhaps so extensive as they might be, and there may well be benefit in seeking to extend them in future in the cases of organizations that have relevant expertise. I believe that the consultative parties might carefully consider the scope for intensifying their existing links with U.N. agencies and nongovernmental bodies and the opening up of new links with other relevant bodies. Where appropriate, such organizations might attend consultative meetings in an observer capacity, as they do meetings of CCAMLR. Also, U.N. specialized agencies and other relevant nongovernmental

OCR for page 375
385 bodies might be encouraged to consider giving Antarctica higher priority in terms of allocation of resources within their total programs than they have done to date. Close links with such bodies would also assist the process of improving the dissemination of information on Antarc- tica to the international community. Judging from statements made at the last two UNGAs, it seems to me that the interests and concerns of nontreaty countries relate mainly to the question of possible min- eral resources. This is especially true of the negotiations taking place through special Antarctic Treaty consultative meetings to develop an antarctic minerals regime. It is suggested that the rich, developed countries are seeking to exploit the resource potential of Antarctica for their own benefit, at the expense of others, and that wider international involvement in the negotiation of any minerals regime is necessary. It is also suggested that Antarctica is the "common heritage of mankind" and that any revenues derived from the exploitation of its resources should be shared equitably. In the same context, it is argued that territorial claims in Antarctica are outmoded and that the prospect of future resource exploitation contains the seeds for potential conflict there. There are many complex issues involved here. First, let me deal with the concept of Common heritage." While many states, including Australia, accept the validity of the concept for the international seabed and outer space, there is no international consensus that it is applicable to Antarctica. Moreover, in the U.N. context, analogies with the Outer Space Convention and the Law of the Sea Convention do not really work. The oceans are global. Outer space surrounds us all. Antarctica, on the other hand, has fixed dimensions and neighbors such as my own country, Australia, with a sustained and serious interest in the continent. A most important reason why "common heritage" is not applicable to Antarctica is the fact of the existence of long-standing territorial claims in Antarctica. While such claims might not be recognized by the international community, they remain a fact of international life. Differences over claims have been usefully put to one side under the Antarctic Treaty in favor of international cooperation e In my view, to reopen this question will only provoke an unnecessary renewal of tensions, which have been successfully avoided for the past 25 years.

OCR for page 375
386 Common heritage also has an exploitive connotation, and it is important to emphasize that the principal purpose of the minerals negotiations is not, as is some- times suggested, to carve un the resources of Antarctica It IS tO ensure that unregulated minerals activity does not take place in future that could prove environmentally harmful, adversely affect other uses of the continent, and lead to renewed contention. The consultative parties are seeking to negotiate an agreement that will lay down the broad rules for future activity and establish arrange- ments with the objectives of ensuring that the fragile antarctic environment is fully safeguarded and that poten- tial conflict is avoided. It is important to negotiate such a regime now, in the absence of pressures to exploit. On the question of wider involvement in the antarctic minerals negotiations and the need to ensure that the interests of all countries are adequately taken into account, I mentioned earlier the decision by the consul- tative parties to open future meetings of the minerals negotiations to all parties to the Antarctic Treaty. This goes a long way toward meeting such concerns. Any country interested in antarctic minerals may now attend minerals negotiating meetings if it first accedes to the Antarctic Treaty. By this means it can exert an influence on the proceedings. Furthermore, in developing a minerals regime, negotia- tors have been conscious of the need to ensure that it serves the interests of all humankind in Antarctica that , ~ z~ Is open to accession by all states, and that there is fair opportunity for all states to narEicinnh" in firm minerals activities. The negotiations have been based from the outset on the principle of nondiscrimination among states. It is also widely recognized by those engaged in the minerals negotiations that in order to arrive at an internationally accepted minerals agreement there will be a need, among other things, to accommodate the interests of the wider international community, including the many countries that may not become engaged in any possible future mining activity in Antarctica. This leads me to a third and related point, the aues- tion of revenue sharing from antarctic resource activity on an equitable basis. This is a difficult area to address, largely because so little is known about the resource potential of the Antarctic continent, much less how it might be exploited. Many exaggerated notions of the resource wealth of Antarctica have been expressed.

OCR for page 375
387 The reality is that most of the information available is speculative and based largely on geological hypothesis The few known, low-grade, on-shore deposits that are . accessible in the two percent of the continent not covered by deep moving ice will not be exploited for a very long time indeed. Much prospecting and exploration would need to be done before it could be determined whether exploita- tion is feasible or economic. Although prospecting might commence in the next decade or so, minerals exploitation, if it ever takes place in Antarctica, even on its con- tinental shelf, will not occur until well into the next century. The higher costs that would be involved in operating in Antarctica, as well as the long distances and inhospitable climate, make it likely that developers will concentrate on other areas of the world that remain to be exploited before turning their attention toward Antarctica. Thus, in my view, notions of taxation and revenue sharing in the Antarctic context seem very premature and uncertain indeed. Nevertheless, it seems to me inconceivable that an antarctic minerals regime that ignored notions of equity could be successfully negotiated and find international acceptance in the current political climate. That would be politically naive. Accordingly, in the longer term, if exploitation were to take place in Antarctica, it seems only reasonable to expect that all states would have rights of access to antarctic mineral resources and that they should not be excluded from the economic bene- fits derived from them, after the costs of recovery and of the minerals regime's institutions have been covered. How these concepts find expression in the minerals regime will be a matter for discussion and negotiation. Realis- tically, the details are likely to be left to the institu- tions created by the minerals agreement to sort out in the future. In the same context, I believe that there is scope for those already engaged in antarctic activities to offer greater cooperation to developing countries interested in antarctic scientific research within their national pro- grams. In particular, they might share their antarctic experience with scientists of other countries, undertake joint research where appropriate, and advise countries interested in conducting their own Antarctic programs on scientific and logistic support matters. They might also extend opportunities, within the limits of their own national programs, for scientists from interested cOun- tries, especially developing countries, to conduct research in Antarctica.

OCR for page 375
388 RELATIONSHIP TO THE UNITED NATIONS SYSTEl!4 I N THE FUTURE I would note that during discussion on the antarctic item at the 1984 U.N. General Assembly, most speakers--even the critics of the present treaty system--paid tribute to the virtues of the treaty, particularly its provisions for demilitarization, denuclearization, scientific cooperation, and environmental protection. Their criticisms were aimed at a number of other areas, which I have addressed. The various suggestions that I have made in response to these concerns amount to saying that T believe there is scope within the treaty system to address many of these concerns. Some can be resolved by encouraging closer interaction between the ATS and the U.N. system; others will need to be resolved by different means. Such matters will need to be addressed at the 1985 thirteenth Antarctic Treaty consultative meeting as well as at the fortieth UNGA session, where Antarctica will again be on the agenda. I return to my earlier reference to diplomacy as the art of accommodation and compromise. If we are to avoid dispute and confrontation, there is a responsibility on the part of all concerned to show realism and flexibility. Attempts to replace the ATS, or to set up new institu- tional arrangements for the management of antarctic affairs within the United Nations, will be neither practicable nor productive; on the other hand, Antarctic Treaty consultative parties should continue to find ways of overcoming the reasonable concerns of other countries by improving the operation of the treaty system. An increase in public interest, or the launching of a particular initiative in the UNGA by one or two countries, should not lead us to the conclusion that a new set of arrangements should be developed to replace the ATS. As Evan Luard wrote in an article on Antarctica in the Summer 1984 issue of Foreign Affairs, "as long as the Treaty is progressively opened to new members, as their scientific capacities increase, there would seem to be little advan- tage in replacing it with new mechanisms.... n In my own view, there would be no advantage in seeking "new mechanisms." I am not opposed to U.N. interest in Antarctica or to the discussion of Antarctica in the United Nations. There is already a measure of constructive interaction between the treaty partners and the U.N. system, which I have noted. What I am opposed to is pressure--to a large

OCR for page 375
389 extent artificially stimulated--for some institutionalized U.N. political involvement in an area in which there are no threats to the peace nor any substantial political, economic, or social problems. What I would oppose, for example, would be attempts to establish yet another U.N. committee, which is not needed, which would not be effective, and which could lead to attempts to undermine or replace an existing, sound, flexible, and open instrument in the Antarctic Treaty. When I became Australia's ambassador at the United Nations and, then, chairman of the New York group of the Antarctic Treaty consultative parties, I knew little about the inner workings of the U.N. system and less about the processes of the ATS--although I had, of course, been interested in a general way in both matters. In earlier days--in the 1960s and 1970s--I was attracted to international approaches to questions such as that of Antarctica and to the concept of the "common heritage of mankind. My personal experience in New York, over the last two and a half years, and in Antarctica itself, however, has demonstrated to me that one system--the U.N. system--works less effectively than I had hoped, while the other system--the ATS--works more effectively than I had expected. This experience has turned me away both from attempts to apply the common heritage principle to Antarctica and from efforts to institutionalize U.N. involvement in Antarctica, however well intentioned these attempts may be. In the Antarctic Treaty we have something of value. It is a sound and proven basis on which to build in the future. I am confident of that. AS is well known, I am a strong supporter of the United Nations and of the multi- lateral process, but in this particular case I cannot perceive a useful role for the United Nations beyond the production of the Secretary-General's study on Antarctica and the dissemination of information about Antarctica to interested countries. The fundamental issue is this. Could the United Nations provide a practical alternative to the treaty or a more effective framework to regulate future activities in Antarctica? On the basis of my own experience I would have to answer, no. The United Nations does have the potential to pass resolutions promoted by Third World countries, because of the majority that these countries can normally command on certain political and economic issues. However, the passage of some such resolutions, without consideration

OCR for page 375
390 of whether a resolution can or will be implemented, or of its practicability, can have the result of undermining the credibility of the United Nations itself. While, as I have said, I personally am a strong supporter of the multilateral diplomatic process, I do not wish to see the United Nations drawn into areas in which it is bound to prove unable to act effectively, thereby risking the further erosion of its international credibility. In conclusion, I believe that the ATS is an evolving and continuing experiment that has served the international community well. As Philip Quigg wrote in his recent book, A Pole APart,1 nJuSt as Antarctica's unique environment must be protected trom exploiters, so must its political and economic future be protected from ideologues. The treaty, he continued, "deserves the opportunity to prove again its adaptability and the capacity of its members for adjustment and compromise, not only among themselves but with the rest of the world. n I should like to finish my remarks by quoting an old American adage which goes, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Well, in my opinion the Antarctic Treaty is not a broken instrument. It is a successful, open, and effective instrument. So I would urge its critics not to try to dismantle it but to accept it and to build on the flexible framework it provides. This would be--to use the language of the treaty--"in the interests of all mankind. NOTE 1. New Press. A Twentieth Century Fund Report, McGraw-Hill Book Company (New York), 1983.