Human activities in Antarctica are primarily regulated by the complex of multilateral agreements of the Antarctic Treaty System, in particular the Antarctic Treaty itself and its Madrid Protocol on Environmental Protection. Human activities in the Antarctic continent currently focus on scientific research and environmental protection.
UNEP direct involment in Antarctic matters includes the preparation of the report of the United Nations Secretary-General on the Question of Antarctica and the participation in the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings.
In addition, through its various global programmes, UNEP addresses assessment, management and policy aspects of global and regional environmental issues, many of which are relevant to Antarctica and the Southern Ocean.
UNEP’s involvement in the polar areas requires policy guidance and co-ordinated inputs from UNEP substantive units. To this end, a Polar Task Force has been established that convenes on an ad hoc basis to discuss and decide upon policy issues and to a lesser degree on operational matters in the poles.
Reports of the UN Secretary-General on the Question of Antarctica
In order to keep the international community informed on the activities of the Antarctic Treaty Parties, the United Nations was requested to serve as a neutral channel to provide information on Antarctic activities. To this end, the UN Secretary-General submits to the UN General Assembly a report on Question of Antarctica on a periodical basis, usually every three years. The report is prepared by UNEP.
Participation in the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings
UNEP participates in the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings and the meetings of the Committee for Environmental Protection that take place annually. These meetings aim at reviewing and promoting further the implementation of the Antarctic Treaty and its Protocol on Environmental Protection. UNEP contributes to these meetings by the submission of technical papers that cover a range of issues including the practice of inspections, bioprospecting and the status of conservation of Antarctic mammals and birds.See more...
Relevance of UNEP's global programmes to Antarctica
UNEP has closely linked global programmes on the conservation, management and monitoring of the marine environment and its living resources. These programmes include the Global Plan of Action for the Conservation, Management and Utilization of Marine Mammals, the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities and the Regional Seas Programme. The later comprises 13 regions and over 140 governments in a system of legally binding conventions and protocols implemented through action plans. Major periodic coordination meetings are organized among the regional seas to share experiences, to which the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources is also invited.
The assessment programme of UNEP has responsibility for keeping under review the state of the environment. UNEP launched the fourth volume of the Global Environment Outlook series in 2004, where specific chapters are dedicated to the poles. Antarctica is also one of the area of the UNEP’s Global International Water Assessment which aims at producing a comprehensive and integrated global assessment of the ecological status of and the causes of environmental problems in 66 water areas in the world.
UNEP administers the secretariats of various global conventions dealing with subjects directly relevant to Antarctica and the Southern Ocean. They include the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer and its Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora and the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals under which the recent Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels was negotiated.
Further Resources: Antarctic links