How does the United States protect a continent? In the case of Antarctica, American diplomats and scientists negotiate with other members of the Antarctic Treaty about how countries will act on the frozen continent. We just completed the 42nd annual meeting of the Antarctic Treaty members where the global community reaffirmed that the continent is reserved for peace and science.
The 54 members of the Antarctic Treaty unanimously approved the declaration on the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Antarctic Treaty. During the meeting, countries committed to preserving peace and international cooperation as well as reaffirmed the permanent ban on mining.
During the meeting, the United States negotiated with the other 53 Antarctic Treaty members as well as met bilaterally with individual countries to advance specific goals. To name just a few, we met with the delegation from China to discuss transparency and environmental protection in Antarctica; with the delegation from Australia to discuss our shared strategic vision for Antarctica; and with the delegation from Turkey to learn about their increasing activities in Antarctica.
The U.S. National Science Foundation maintains three year-round American scientific stations on Antarctica and has more personnel based in Antarctica than any other country (around 1,500 during the warmest months). We presented at the meeting plans to invest $350 million over the next 15-20 years to modernize our scientific station at McMurdo that will maintain U.S. leadership, reduce costs, find efficiencies, conserve energy, and support science over the course of the next 30-50 years in Antarctica. The scientists, staff, and researchers stationed in Antarctica have made significant contributions in advancing the frontiers of knowledge of Antarctic research, understanding, and innovation.
The input of non-governmental organizations are vitally important to our efforts. We were pleased to support the additional work being done by the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research and International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) to develop a systematic conservation plan for the Antarctic Peninsula to manage biodiversity, science, and tourism. The continued growth of tourism and science on the continent makes this important! We also applaud the steps taken by IAATOand the leading environmental NGO coalition Antarctica and Southern Ocean Coalition (ASOC) to further protect penguins and whales south of 60° South.
Please click on these links to learn more about the US diplomacy in Antarctica and the United States Antarctic Program.
About the Author: Bill Muntean is a Foreign Service Officer who works in the Office of Ocean and Polar Affairs and coordinates U.S. diplomatic efforts related to Antarctica. The Office of Ocean and Polar Affairs is located within the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.