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Keynote Speech by H.E. Zhang Yesui Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs At the Special Meeting "Our Antarctica: Protection and Utilization"

2017-05-26

Jointly Shoulder the Responsibility of Antarctic Governance

And Write a New Chapter in Antarctic Protection and Utilization

Beijing, 23 May 2017

 

Distinguished Delegates,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Friends,

 

Good afternoon. Let me begin by extending congratulations on the opening of the 40th Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM). It gives me great pleasure to attend this special meeting and discuss with you the important subject of Antarctic protection and utilization.

 

It has been 58 years since the Antarctic Treaty System was established. The Antarctic Treaty has defined the legal status and governance mechanism of the Antarctica, helped maintain peace and stability there and set out the institutional framework for Antarctic protection and utilization. The past 58 years have seen new challenges to the governance of the Antarctica. Issues like global warming and marine pollution are exerting an increasingly notable impact on the Antarctica, making Antarctic protection a long and daunting task even though the necessity of it has been widely recognized.

 

Moreover, with the rise of mankind's capability and need for exploring and utilizing the Antarctica, human activities in the Antarctica are becoming more extensive and diversified, Antarctica's economic and social value is receiving greater attention, and such new types of activities as Antarctic tourism and bio-prospecting are getting increasingly popular. All these have brought new pressure to Antarctic governance. How to effectively meet these challenges is an important subject that cannot be bypassed in Antarctic governance and calls for the wisdom of all Antarctic Treaty Consultative Parties.

 


Ladies and Gentlemen,

Friends,

 

An old Chinese saying reads, "As every object has a main body and every event an origin, the right way to address an issue is to find its main body and original cause." A right understanding of the relationship between the protection and utilization of the Antarctica is crucial to identifying the future direction and concrete measures of the governance of the Antarctica.

 

- Enhanced protection is the prerequisite for peaceful utilization of the Antarctica. The world needs a clean Antarctica. The unique climate and geographical features of the Antarctica make its natural environment and eco-system vulnerable and highly susceptible to the influence of the outside world. The environment of the Antarctica, if disrupted, is difficult to recover and is highly likely to bring serious negative impacts on the global climate and environment. Therefore, we must enhance the protection of the Antarctica and avoid any negative impact on it, so that its unique natural environment will be maintained, its enormous research and social value be preserved and all this can be passed on to our children and grandchildren. This is the due responsibility of our generation and it is also what our mission of protecting Planet Earth calls for.

 

- Proper utilization is a natural part of the broader effort to harness the value of the Antarctica. The world needs a dynamic Antarctica. The Antarctica is a "natural laboratory" for scientific research, an indicator for global climate change and a treasure trove of natural resources. It plays an irreplaceable role in expanding our knowledge of science, addressing climate change, protecting the global eco-environment and exploring the modes for sustainable use of resources.

 

Bio-prospecting in the Antarctica serves as a good example as it helps tap the huge potential of the medical value of the genetic resources in the Antarctica. Proper utilization of the Antarctica through scientific investigation, research, navigation and development of biological resources will bring into play the Antarctica's unique value in promoting scientific research, medical care, and socio-economic development, and be much helpful in protecting the Antarctica in return.

 

- A balanced approach is the basic idea of the international governance of the Antarctica. The world needs a harmonious and sustainable Antarctica. Both the protection and utilization of the Antarctica are of high practical value to human survival and development, and they are our common responsibility. As a Chinese saying goes, "Things may turn into their opposite if pushed too far and doing too much is as bad as doing too little." In future governance of the Antarctica, we need to continue to place equal emphasis on protection and utilization, strike a proper balance between the two, and make them reinforce each other. This is the overall interest of the international community and the choice we need to make to improve the Antarctic governance mechanism.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Friends,

 

The Chinese believe that, "a wise man changes as time and circumstances change". We need to adapt to the change of time and explore new ideas to balance Antarctic protection and utilization and meet both ends in a holistic way.

 

First, we should take a rule-based approach and strengthen the legal system of protection and utilization. The Antarctic Treaty System provides the institutional safeguard for Antarctic protection and the normative reference for its peaceful utilization. We should adhere to the current Antarctic Treaty System, including the prohibition of mineral resource activities, and at the same time, adapt to the new circumstances by discussing and formulating relevant laws, regulations and regulatory mechanisms in response to the new issues and challenges such as Antarctic tourism and bio-prospecting to improve the legal framework of Antarctic governance. In this process, we should make full use of the ATCM for decision-making and coordination, and observe the principle of consensus building through consultation. We should also follow relevant international rule-making outside the Antarctic Treaty System framework for closer interaction and coordination between the system and other relevant international mechanisms.

 

Second, we should take an R&D-oriented approach and cement the scientific foundation for Antarctic protection and utilization. Without sufficient scientific research, the plans and measures for area protection and management, and conservation and utilization of marine living resources can hardly be sensible and effective. The Antarctic Treaty sets out the principle of freedom of scientific investigation, which provides the institutional guarantee for the human explorations of the Antarctica. As the primary human activity in the Antarctica, scientific investigation provides a scientific basis for Antarctic protection and utilization and has a profound impact on the decision-making in the international governance of the Antarctica. Countries need to strengthen their R&D planning and capacity building, promote cooperation in the Antarctic investigation and research, focus on the research of the impact of global climate and environmental change and the emerging and unknown areas, and gain a deeper understanding about the laws that govern the change and development of the Antarctica. These efforts will be of reference to provide support for the decision-making in Antarctic affairs and lay a solid scientific foundation for better protection and utilization of the Antarctica.

 

Third, we should take a cooperation-supported approach and make protection and utilization reinforce each other. International cooperation is an effective way for Antarctic governance. Challenges brought by the new activities of Antarctic tourism and bio-prospecting cannot be met by any country alone and require the coordination and cooperation among all parties. We should adhere to the basic model of cooperative governance and enhance our cooperation on Antarctic protection and utilization based on the existing bilateral and multilateral frameworks and platforms. In the meantime, we should strengthen information exchange and sharing, coordinate our positions on such major issues as area protection and management, and conservation and utilization of marine living resources, and heed the views of all stakeholders, for better protection and utilization of the Antarctica.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Friends,

 

The Antarctica is like the "white treasure" at the end of the world, and is the common home of mankind. Its protection and utilization is our common responsibility and mission, and a commitment we share to future generations. With concerted efforts, we must fulfill the responsibility of Antarctic governance, turn challenges into opportunities, and work to build a peaceful, stable, and cooperative order in the Antarctica. China is ready to work with other parties to write a new chapter in the Antarctic protection and utilization and create a better future for the Antarctica to the benefit of the human society and posterity.

 

To conclude, I wish the meeting full success and the discussions of all agenda items of the ATCM highly productive.

 

Thank you.