Antarctic Treaty
The Antarctic Treaty came into force in 1961 after ratification by the twelve countries then active in Antarctic science. Today 44 countries, covering 80 per cent of the world population, have ratified the Treaty. Its objectives are simple yet unique in international relations:
  • to demilitarize Antarctica,
  • to establish it as a zone free of nuclear tests and the disposal of radioactive waste, and to ensure that it is used for peaceful purposes only;
  • to promote international scientific cooperation in Antarctica;
  • to set aside disputes over territorial sovereignty.

The Treaty parties have adopted over 200 recommendations and negotiated five separate international agreements:

The 26th Antarctic Consultative Meeting was held in 2003 in Spain.

Protocol on Environmental Protection • Committee for Environmental Protection
The Protocol on Environmental Protection (Madrid Protocol) entered into force in 1998. The Committee for Environmental Protection (CEP) was established through the Protocol, also in 1998, with the functions to provide advice and formulate recommendations to the Antarctic Treaty Parties in connection with the implementation of the Environmental Protocol.

Both the Protocol and the CEP are the results of a continuously growing awareness within the Antarctic Treaty system of the importance of protecting the fragile Antarctic environment. Environmental Protection has always played a central role in cooperation within the Antarctic Treaty System, and in 1991 this cumulated in the signing of the Protocol. The Protocol contains very stringent and comprehensive regulations to prevent and combat pollution.

The Protocol establishes Antarctica as a "natural reserve, devoted to peace and science", and prohibits mining for commercial purposes. It outlines the environmental conduct for all activities undertaken in Antarctica, including prior assessment of potential environmental impacts.