Annual Antarctic Treaty Conference Opens Monday in Uruguay
Uruguay is hosting two Antarctic Treaty meetings which will officially be opened Monday May 3 in Punta del Este by Foreign Affairs minister Luís Almagro. Uruguayan authorities expect an attendance of over 350 foreign officials at the Thirty three Antarctic Treaty Consultative and the Thirteenth Committee on Environmental Protection meetings.
According to the official release from the Uruguayan Antarctic Institute, delegates from the 48 Antarctic Treaty member countries, plus one guest and 16 international and inter-government organizations will be present during the event, which is scheduled to last until May 14.
The Consultative Meeting is the official deliberation forum of the Antarctic Treaty and holds annual meetings, last year in the United States and in 2011 in Argentina.
The meeting in Punta Del Este, Uruguay, is likely to be high level, as some hanging issues involve national interests. The Treaty internationalized and demilitarized the frozen continent for cooperative exploration and use. However it did not foresee the increasing and rival demands on the territory or the impact of tourism and the consequences of climate change are most visible in this pristine landscape.
Eleven countries have claimed sovereignty over slices of Antarctica to secure contiguous offshore oil, gas and mineral rights. The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) confers on all coastal states sovereign rights for the purpose of exploring and exploiting the natural resources of its continental shelf. In the Treaty—which was ratified on 23 Jun 1961 by 48 countries—Antarctica is defined as all land and ice shelves south of 60 degrees south latitude.
A new report shows that the ice shelves are shrinking leaving more sea bed to fight over. With dozens of claims before it covering both the Arctic and Antarctic, the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf has become swamped with work, and it could take decades for it to finish reviewing the rival claims.
The conference that begins Monday in Punta del Este will also continue to explore ways to protect the vulnerable Antarctic environment from increasing tourism.
More information: http://www.atcm2010.gub.uy/