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The Antarctic Treaty was signed in Washington on 1 December 1959 by 12 states, including Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Chile, France, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, the Russian Federation, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States. The Antarctic Treaty is the corner stone of the Antarctic Treaty System, which provides for cooperative governance of the Antarctic continent and surrounding Southern Ocean, covering all of the land and ice shelves south of 60°S latitude.


The Antarctic Treaty entered into force on 23 June 1961 and has since been acceded to by many other nations. As of now, there are 53 Contracting Parties to the Treaty. Article IX of the Treaty provides that a Contracting Party that has subsequently acceded to the Treaty is entitled to acquire the status of a Consultative Party if it has demonstrated its interest in Antarctica by conducting substantial scientific research activity there. The number of Consultative Parties is now 29.


In addition to the Treaty, the Contracting Parties have agreed on further measures to protect the Antarctic environment. The Protocol of Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty establishes the framework for a comprehensive protection of the Antarctic environment and designates Antarctica as "a natural reserve, devoted to peace and science". The Protocol prohibits any activity relating to mineral resources, other than scientific research. Other agreements and measures are also in place to conserve wildlife living on and around Antarctica, such as the conservation of seals and Antarctic marine living resources, etc. The Treaty, the Protocol, and other agreements and measures are the pillars of the Antarctic Treaty System.


Further information, please visit http://www.ats.aq/index_e.htm.