News & information on Antarctica & the Southern Ocean

Antarctic governance a symbol of international cooperation

Antarctica doesn’t have a government. Instead, it is governed by international agreement. As such, Antarctic governance is an example of international cooperation at a very rare scale.

The Antarctic Treaty was originally drafted in 1959 and ratified by the first countries in 1960. To date, 52 countries have signed the treaty.

The Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) actually predates the Antarctic Treaty, having been established in 1958 to formulate and coordinate Antarctic scientific research programmes. Scientific research is the main activity on the continent and surrounding seas.

Physical operations in Antarctica is coordinated through Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs (COMNAP), founded in 1989. The various national Antarctic organisations and scientific groups are members of COMNAP. They review operations, share information and provide a forum for dealing with logistical issues.

Antarctic tourism is a growing industry, with more tourists than scientists visiting the continent or at least the surrounding seas every year. Antarctic tourism is also coordinated by a voluntary organisation, the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO), founded in 1991. IAATO sets out to advocate, promote and practice safe and environmentally private-sector travel to the Antarctic. The organisation now represents more than 100 companies that offer tourism packages to Antarctica.

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