Antarctica is at a crossroads. This frozen continent at the bottom of our planet has the potential to either become one of the most fiercely contested zones in the world, or the most collaborative.
Antarctica is one of four internationally recognised global commons along with the atmosphere, the high seas and outer space. These are all areas that have historically been guided by the principle of the common heritage of humankind.
The continent is governed by the Antarctic Treaty System, a complex set of arrangements developed to regulate relations between states with interests and territorial claims in the region. As of today, 29 states are “consultative parties” to the treaty. They demonstrate their interest in Antarctica by carrying out substantial scientific activity there.
Several states have very specific and long-standing interests in Antarctica, which not only determine national policies about engaging with the continent, but can also complicate those engagements. Seven have territorial claims including the United Kingdom, France, Norway, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina and Chile.