Global legal norms in the Antarctic
Antarctica is unique in so many ways. In geographic terms it is the coldest and driest continent, relatively pristine and alongside the cold waters of the Southern Ocean it forms an important driver in the global climate system. Human habitation is sparse and essentially temporary, linked to the various research stations established by national governments. In legal and political terms it is also unique, with territorial claims held in abeyance under an international regime that provides for governance by a relatively small number of states with the acquiescence of the remainder of the global community. The origins of this regime, the Antarctic Treaty System (ATS), are generally regarded as a triumph of science over politics, with the reservation of Antarctica as a natural reserve devoted to peace and science set against the background of the Cold War. Despite the endurance of the regime for well over fifty years, it is reasonable to question its capacity to continue to operate. Particularly in the face of global climate change, it is important to look critically at international institutions and assess their ability to serve the global community into the future. One concern that has been highlighted in recent literature is the extent to which the ATS has made efforts to incorporate emergent principles of international law into Antarctic law and practice. At the heart of this concern is the idea that the success of the ATS depends upon a broad perception of its legitimacy. French reminds us that 'suspended territorial claims notwithstanding', 'the Antarctic Treaty and associated instruments have created an international regime over a commons space'. The international community therefore has an interest in ensuring that the Antarctic regime operates, and evolves, consistently with general international law.