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The Antarctic Treaty

On December 1, 1959, twelve countries active in Antarctic scientific research signed the Antarctic Treaty. This came into force June 23, 1961, creating an unprecedented global partnership that now includes more than 50 countries.

The Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting

Treaty Parties come together once a year at the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM). As an invited Expert since 1994, IAATO participates in annual ATCMs, providing expert advice on tourism-related issues to facilitate discussions on the management of human activity in Antarctica.

In 2011, through Resolution 3 (2011), the ATCM adopted the General Guidelines for Visitors to the Antarctic, which provide general advice for visiting any location, with the objective of ensuring visits do not have adverse impacts on the Antarctic environment, or on its scientific and aesthetic values.

Parties implement the Antarctic Treaty and its Environment Protocol into the domestic law. National legislations establish a permitting regime for activities in Antarctica, and eligible visitors are required to obtain the necessary permits in advance from the relevant Competent Authority of each Antarctic Treaty Party.

IAATO Information Papers

In its role as an advocate for the practice of safe, environmentally responsible Antarctic travel, IAATO also submits Information Papers to the ATCM including reports on member activities and the latest visitor facts and figures.

Head over to our Information Papers page to find the full archive of current and past information papers presented to the ATCM since 1991.

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History of the Antarctic Treaty

The Antarctic Treaty was signed in Washington on December 1, 1959 by the 12 countries whose scientists had been active in and around Antarctica during the International Geophysical Year (IGY) of 1957-58. It entered into force on June 23, 1961 these 12 signatories – Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Chile, the French Republic, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, the Union of South Africa, The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the United States of America – became the original 12 consultative nations.

It has since been acceded to by many other nations, with now more than 50 parties.

Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, China, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Finland, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Korea (ROK), Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, Poland, Russian Federation, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, and Uruguay have achieved consultative status by acceding to the treaty and conducting substantial scientific research in Antarctica. Russia carries forward the signatory privileges and responsibilities established by the former Soviet Union.

The nations which have acceded to the Antarctic Treaty in a non-consultatory capacity are Austria, Belarus, Canada, Colombia, Cuba, Denmark, Estonia, Greece, Guatemala, Hungary, Iceland, Kazakhstan, Korea (DPRK), Malaysia, Monaco, Mongolia, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland, Turkey, Venezuela. These nations agree to abide by the treaty and may attend consultative meetings as observers.

Together these Antarctic Treaty nations represent about two-thirds of the world’s human population. Consultative meetings have been held approximately every other year since the treaty entered into force, but since 1993 they have been held more frequently. Each meeting has generated recommendations regarding operation of the treaty that, when ratified by the participating governments, become binding on the parties to the treaty.

Additional meetings within the Antarctic Treaty System have produced agreements on conservation of seals, conservation of living resources, and comprehensive environmental protection.

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