Antarctica is the only continent with no nations. While seven nations (not including the United States) have made claims to Antarctica, no single nation controls any part of the continent. The Antarctic Treaty governs the actions of people in Antarctica. The links below are to more information on the treaty.
The 12 nations listed in the preamble signed the Antarctic Treaty on 1 December 1959 at Washington, D.C. The Treaty entered into force on 23 June 1961; the 12 signatories became the original 12 consultative nations.
As of May 2000, 15 additional nations (Brazil, Bulgaria, China, Ecuador, Finland, Germany, India, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Peru, Republic of Korea, Sweden, Spain, and Uruguay) have achieved consultative status by acceding to the Treaty and by conducting substantial scientific research in Antarctica. Russia carries forward the signatory privileges and responsibilities established by the former Soviet Union.
Another 17 nations have acceded to the Antarctic Treaty: Austria, Canada, Colombia, Cuba, Czech Republic, Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, Denmark, Greece, Guatemala, Hungary, Papua New Guinea, Romania, Slovak Republic, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, and Venezuela. These nations agree to abide by the treaty and may attend consultative meetings as observers.
The 47 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.
What follows is the complete text of the Antarctic Treaty. The headings for each article were added by the National Science Foundation and are unofficial.
Click here for the complete Antarctic Treaty.