University of Tasmania
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Who saved Antarctica? : Australia and heroic Antarctic diplomacy

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posted on 2023-05-27, 09:47 authored by Andrew Jackson
This thesis provides a history of a key period in Antarctic affairs. In June 1988 the Antarctic Treaty Parties adopted the Convention on the Regulation of Antarctic Mineral Resource Activities (CRAMRA). This ended years of speculation and formal negotiation. Despite there being no known economic minerals, rules had been agreed in case they were found. Thus, Antarctica's diplomatic community was stunned in May 1989 when Australia rejected CRAMRA and proposed to ban mining in a wilderness park. Australia worked with France, then built a coalition of support, to press the case for an alternative to the Convention. After two years of intense negotiations, the 1991 Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty was adopted, with mining prohibited. Blocking CRAMRA in a consensus system seemed simple, but the process to rebuild consensus around an environmental alternative was far more complicated. The turnaround was a pivotal moment in Antarctic history, but not without straining international relationships. The workings of the Antarctic diplomacy are explored in detail, particularly the practical challenges of achieving consensus decision-making. The success of the environment proposal led some players to claim that their efforts alone saved Antarctica. The thesis explores the influence of politicians, diplomats, international lawyers, scientists, environmentalists, the media, public interest and other factors in deciding Antarctica's future. The story is told from the Australian perspective. By drawing on previously inaccessible government records and a hybrid of analytical tools, the thesis provides new insights into the precipitating circumstances, parallel events and the key participants. It argues that the events were the product of circumstances that could not have been predicted or orchestrated, and that there were many individuals who used those circumstances and events to achieve protection of both the Antarctic environment and the Treaty itself.


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  • Unpublished

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Copyright 2019 the author

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  • Open

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