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Diplomacy in Action

Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting Press Teleconference

Evan Bloom
Head of the U.S. Delegation to the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting 
Tucker Scully, Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting Chair; Jan Huber, Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting Executive Secretary
Washington, DC
April 17, 2009



Coordinator: Welcome and thank you for standing by. At this time, all participants are in a listen-only mode. During the question and answer session, please press star 1 on your touchtone phone.

Today’s call is being recorded. If you have any objections, you may disconnect at this time. Now I’d like to turn the call over to Ms. Billie Gross. Thank you, you may begin.

Public Affairs Specialist Gross: Thank you, good afternoon - my name is Billie Gross and I am the Public Affairs Specialist for the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Oceans, Environment and Science.

This afternoon we are joined by senior representatives who, for the last two weeks have attended the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland. The meeting began on April 6 with the first ever joint session of the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting and the Arctic Council which was hosted at the Department of State and included an address by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting was attended by nearly 400 diplomats and Antarctic program managers and logistics experts and polar scientists from 47 countries, including 28 consultative parties with a scientific presence in the Antarctic. Attendees discussed several issues, including environmental protection, the advancement of science and the management of tourism.

On this afternoon’s call, we have Tucker Scully, Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting Chair, Jan Huber, Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting Executive Secretary and Evan Bloom, Deputy Director of the Office of Ocean and Polar Affairs at the U.S. Department of State and Head of the United States Delegation to the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting.

Now I will turn it over to the speakers who will give brief remarks and then take questions. So Tucker, why don’t we begin with you?

Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting Chair Scully: Thank you very much. As Billie said, I’m Tucker Scully. I was honored to be the Chair of the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting. This is the 32nd such meeting that has taken place under the Antarctic Treaty and it took place on the historic occasion of the 50th anniversary of the signing of the treaty which was signed in 1959 in Washington.

Just a remark or two on the treaty itself; the treaty basically makes Antarctica a zone of peace reserved for scientific research. It was at the first major disarmament treaty that involved the United States and the then Soviet Union. All military and nuclear activities were banned, freedom of scientific research is guaranteed, and the - on the political and legal front, the treaty sets aside fundamental differences over territorial sovereignty - claims to territorial sovereignty in Antarctica to allow cooperative research programs and peaceful activities to go forward without encumbrance.

The treaty also has evolved into a system for dealing with all activities in Antarctica. And as Billie mentioned, has become - has come to be a system that emphasized environmental protection, resource conservation and cooperation in scientific research and in looking at some of the major scientific issues facing the world today, including such issues as research on what’s going on with the global planet systems.

The meeting which has just concluded has - was mentioned began with a high level session of the Arctic Council, the major political body dealing with issues in the North and the Antarctic Treaty and the issues of - such as facing most regions with respect to climate change were highlighted.

The meeting - the treaty meeting itself, the 50th anniversary of the treaty - the 32nd consultative meeting - adopted a number of measures related to environmental protection, tourism, safety of activities in Antarctica and promotion of scientific research. And we can go into those as we go along.

But the meeting has just been concluded, I think, on a very high note. It seems the meeting participants were happy and I think pleased with the results that were taken. Anyways, let me turn it to Jan Huber, who is the Executive Secretary - the Head of the Secretariat for the Antarctica Treaty and let him make a remark or two.

Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting Executive Secretary Huber: Thank you, Tucker. My name is Jan Huber, I am the Executive Secretary of the Antarctic Treaty Secretariat, which is located in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Every Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting is a - really a co-production between the permanent staff of the Antarctic Treaty Secretariat in Buenos Aires and the host country, which always has a voice country secretariat in the different countries where the meeting is based.

For instance, last year, it was in Kiev, Ukraine and before that it was in New Delhi, India. Now this meeting was special because, as Tucker already mentioned, it was the 50th anniversary meeting. And so it was a very special occasion.

The meeting took place in Baltimore in very grand and very efficient facilities in the Baltimore Convention Center. And it has been a great pleasure to work together with the staff provided by the U.S. Department of State on the one hand and the secretariat, including the translators and interpreters on the other.

And I’ll be ready to answer any question about the actual organization aspect of the meeting, let’s say. Maybe I should now turn over to Evan Bloom, the Head of the U.S. Delegation.

Head of the United States Delegation Bloom: Thank you, Jan. My name is Evan Bloom, I’m - as you said - Head of the U.S. Delegation, I’m from the U.S. Department of State. And we have just completed a very successful meeting. As Tucker Scully mentioned, we started two weeks ago with a ministerial meeting hosted by the Secretary of State.

She emphasized a number of themes, including the importance of polar science and of course, polar science makes a major contribution to our understandings of climate change. Also, she emphasized the need to act to promote environmental protection in Antarctica, and asked the meeting to address certain key issues related to tourism and shipping.

And in that context, the ministers issued two declarations, one related to polar science and the international polar year which has just ended, as well as one related to the 50th anniversary of the Antarctic Treaty.

Now this meeting accomplished quite a bit. It adopted a series of rules related to tourism, some legally binding limits which will take effect once all parties ratify them. And that includes a measure relating to limits on landing from passenger vessels. There was another resolution on mandatory shipping code for vessels in Antarctica, promoting some efforts that are going on in the International Maritime Organization to promote safety of shipping.
And also, a resolution designed to enhance protection of the entire Antarctic ecosystem which is something else that the secretary had emphasized. So this has just ended after two weeks and we’re happy with the results. That’s all I have. That’s all, folks.

Public Affairs Specialist Gross: Okay, so we can open it up for questions now.

Head of Delegation Bloom: Sure.

Coordinator: Our first question comes from (Matthew Lee). Your line is open.

QUESTION: Hi, listen, I’m just wondering if you can tell me - one of the three of you can tell me - were all of the U.S. tourism proposals adopted? In terms of the landings and the landing sites or were some of them not adopted? And then, when will they actually become legally binding?

Head of Delegation Bloom: Hi, this is Evan Bloom. All of them were adopted in one form or another. But of course, they were subject to negotiations. So they changed somewhat over time. The one that is legally binding is the one that relates to landing of persons from passenger vessels in the Antarctic Treaty area. And that one provides, for example, that operators should refrain from making any landings in Antarctica from vessels carrying more than 500 passengers. And also some rules related to - on restricting the number of passengers on shore at any one time to 100 or fewer and those sorts of rules.

Those will become legally binding when they are in effect ratified each by the 28 consultative parties. And then there were - the others were never proposed as legally binding in the first place. One that promotes safety related to life boats turned into a more general resolution that promotes the changing the existing polar - non-binding polar guidelines into legally binding - into a legally binding code at the National Maritime Organization. And that was adopted also with some language about lifeboats.

And also a resolution on enhancing environmental protections for the entire Antarctic ecosystem northwards of the Antarctic conversions. And that was adopted as a resolution.

QUESTION: Okay - and these are all adopted by consensus, so there shouldn’t be any problem getting in each country ratifying them?

Head of Delegation Bloom: Right. So they’re all - it’s all by consensus so every consultative party agreed.

QUESTION: Okay. And then the last one - how about that - the minimum ratio of one guide to 20 tourists? Is that, well, assured? Did that pass too?

Head of Delegation Bloom: Yes, that was part of the measure that I mentioned first along with the limits on vessels carrying 500 or fewer passengers. So that was one element of that legally binding measure.

(Matthew Lee): Right. Thank you.

Coordinator: Our next question comes from (Leora Bulk). Your line is open.

QUESTOION: Hi, there. I was wondering how the environmental parts related to the protocol of environmental protection. Is that part of the same thing - I know there was an annex that Clinton, at the beginning of the - at the beginning of - two weeks ago, urged the Senate to accept. Is that related to the resolution that was passed?

Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting Chair Scully: This is Tucker Scully, the Chairman. No, it’s not directly related - no. The protocol on environmental protection is the - which was adopted a decade or so ago, consolidates and incorporates into specific annexes the protections of the Antarctic environment that have been agreed, and new measures - and new protections that are agreed by the parties of the treaties.

Secretary Clinton referred to what is known as Annex 6 to the protocol, which is the revised - there were four original annexes. Two additional ones have been added. The six related to liability to damage - liability for damage from response action in calls for response action in the Antarctic Treaty area.

It has - was negotiated over a significant period of time and does require as a major new provision - set of provisions, advice and consent by the Senate. So what the Secretary was announcing was the conveyance of that annex to the Senate.

But also during the meeting here, the party completed a major review and amendment to strengthen Annex 2 of the environmental protocol which deals with species protection of native species and native plants in Antarctica. And that was considered one of the significant achievements of the meetings.

QUESTOION: And what - and the resolution, the Environmental Protection Resolution, could you give me more details as to what that was?

Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting Chair Scully: Well, the - there was the environmental protection - I think the resolution that you’re referring to were resolutions relating to tourism. There were two resolutions adopted with respect to tourism that relate to both safety of shipping - and I can give you a title...

QUESTION: Evan said there was a resolution on enhancing environmental protection of the entire Antarctic ecosystem.

Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting Chair Scully: Yes, I can - that was the first one - that is a resolution that basically calls for measures to protect the entire Antarctic ecosystem which stems from the fact that generally the Antarctic ecosystem is considered to be the area that is best of the physical boundary between Antarctic waters and sub-Antarctic waters, called the Antarctic conversion. That boundary lies north of the actual area of the Antarctic treaties. But to protect the Antarctic ecosystem is a whole...

(Leora Bulk): Okay.

Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting Chair Scully: Measures applicable to the ecosystem as a whole. That requires some creative and imaginative approaches because the treaty parties can only regulate in the area of the treaty which is south of this Antarctic conversion.

(Leora Bulk): Okay.

Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting Chair Scully: (Unintelligible) proposed where the treaty parties coordinate activities elsewhere so that we can achieve the same protection as both in the Antarctic treaty area. And then that other piece that would complete the protection of the entire Antarctic ecosystem.

(Leora Bulk): Okay.

Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting Chair Scully: And that principle was accepted.

QUESTION: Okay. And one more thing - was ice melt discussed, preventing ice melt, global warming aspects?

Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting Chair Scully: A general point about Antarctica and the polar regions, they are victims of what’s going on elsewhere in the world rather than the sources of...

(Leora Bulk): Sorry, that’s what I meant. I know they’re not the sources.

Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting Chair Scully: But secondly, what was emphasized in particular was the kind of science that’s going on in the Antarctic, which is leading to the understanding of the changes that are taking place in the global climate. And in fact, how those changes may affect -- particularly activities in the Antarctic -- but also the contribution that that research can make to understanding how climate changes are going to affect the planet as a whole.

And so a major emphasis was on promoting that science, and ensuring that that science is supported and efforts are redoubled in that regard - particularly emerging from the national polar year. So there’s a major emphasis on trying to make sure that the parties individually and collectively work together that the research that is needed and the research parties that have been indentified on that to understand what is in fact happening to our planet to our respect to climates.

(Leora Bulk): All right, thanks.

Coordinator: And once again, if you do have a question, please press star 1. Our next question comes from (Julia Marsh). Your line is open.

QUESTION: Hi, I’d like to know if the subject of undersea territory and conflicts between countries like Russia and Canada over resources and navigation routes was discussed. And if so, what were the discussions about and what is the U.S. position on those conflicts?

Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting Chair Scully: Thanks very much, this is Tucker Scully again. Just to note, that - the reference to those issues is really an (Arctic) issue.

(Julie Marsh): Okay.

Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting Chair Scully: The issue has come up in the Arctic. It was touched upon in the ministerial meeting in that there were - as Secretary Clinton mentioned, she was - she noted the United States will make - intends to seek ratification of the United Nations suspension on the law of the sea. And applications of the preventative provisions of that convention which relate to control over offshore oil and gas and the effective implementation of those provisions would be a significant contribution to reporting the kinds of conflict that people have worried about in the Arctic. But that was mainly for the ministerial meeting. We were obviously dealing with the south polar region rather than the north.

(Julie Marsh): Right.

Coordinator: And I do not show any further questions at this time.

Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting Chair Scully: Well, I guess it remains for us to thank you then and we will - I’m sure that the - the Billie and her colleagues in OES, if the press has further, you know, questions in the future, we’d be perfectly happy to give them to Evan and the appropriate people to answer them. But for those of us in Baltimore, we thank you.

Public Affairs Specialist Gross: Yes - and I can provide my contact information for those on the line as the public affairs specialist for the Bureau of Oceans, Environment and Science. I can be reached at 202-647-6664. And we thank you all for calling in this afternoon. Everyone have a great weekend.

Man: Thank you, Billie.

Man: Thank you.

Man: Thank you.

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