Political context

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The Antarctic, “land of international cooperation”, is a continent protected by a considerable armour of legal measures: the Antarctic Treaty system. Among other things this system guarantees the halting of territorial claims and very strict protection of the environment through the Madrid Protocol.

The Antarctic Treaty:

The scientific and political success of the International Geophysical Year (IGY) laid the foundation for the Treaty’s signature on 1 December 1959. A system set up by States wanting to pursue high-quality research on an exceptional field of study, the Antarctic Treaty freezes territorial claims south of the 60th parallel S. Only peaceful activities can be permitted. At the start 12 States were involved (South Africa, Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Chile, USA, France, Japan, Norway, New-Zealand, United Kingdom, Russia), then since 2009 the number has reached 47. Among these, 7 are known as “Claimant States”, that is they claim possession of a part of the continent (Adélie Land for France for example).

Set out below are texts related to protection of the fauna and flora of the Antarctic zone which are usually attached to the Antarctic Treaty system:

The Madrid Protocol:

In 1991, the Antarctic Treaty was supplemented by a protocol dealing with environmental protection, commonly known as the Madrid Protocol (the city where the final text was adopted, on 4 October 1991). The States that are party to the protocol undertake to ensure the overall protection of the environment in the Antarctic and dependent and associated ecosystems. The Antarctic is therefore designated a “natural reserve dedicated to Peace and Science”.

The Protocol came into force on 14 January 1998, 30 days after ratification by Japan, which brought the ratifications to the number necessary for its entry into force. France approved the Madrid Protocol through a law of 18 December 1992 before its publication in 1998 in the Journal Officiel de la République Française (decree of 18 September 1998). Since then the country has implemented the provisions of the Protocol principally by a law of 15 April 2003 on the protection of the environment in the Antarctic and a decree of application in 2005.

The Madrid Protocol in French law :


Convention for the protection of Antarctic seals (CCAS – signed in 1972, in force from 1978)
Convention the conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR, signed in 1980, in force from 1982).

Note: all the texts can be downloaded in pdf opposite