The United States has strong diplomatic interests in Antarctica. In particular, the United States seeks to promote Antarctica’s status as a continent reserved for peace and science in accordance with the provisions of the Antarctic Treaty of 1959. The United States played a major role in negotiating this Treaty, which was signed in Washington, and it participates actively in all aspects of the Antarctic Treaty System. There are currently 53 Parties to the Treaty, of which 29 are Consultative Parties having the right to participate in decision-making.
The Department of State coordinates U.S. policy on Antarctica, and works closely with the National Science Foundation, the federal agency that administers the U.S. Antarctic Program. The United States maintains three year-round scientific stations on Antarctica and has more personnel based in Antarctica than any other country. The Department of State leads the U.S. delegation to the annual Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM), where the international community discusses a range of issues pertaining to the Continent. The Department also maintains close ties to the Antarctic Treaty Secretariat (based in Buenos Aires) which facilitates communication among parties to the Antarctic Treaty.
Seven countries (Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, New Zealand, Norway, and the United Kingdom) maintain territorial claims in Antarctica, but the United States and most other countries do not recognize those claims. While the United States maintains a basis to claim territory in Antarctica, it has not made a claim.
The Department of State is responsible for informing other Treaty Parties of non-governmental expeditions to Antarctica organized in or proceeding from the United States. In this connection, the Department of State determines, in consultation with the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Science Foundation, whether expedition organizers are subject to U.S. regulations administered by EPA and NSF related to environmental protection in Antarctica.
The United States is also a party to the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), a part of the Antarctic Treaty System that promotes conservation of marine resources and limits fishing in the Southern Ocean. The U.S. Commissioner to CCAMLR is a State Department official who heads the U.S. delegation to the annual Commission meetings in Hobart, Australia.
The Department of State strongly supported the 2007-2009 International Polar Year (IPY), an intense scientific campaign to explore new frontiers in polar science, improve our understanding of the critical role of the polar regions in global processes, and educate the public about the polar regions. More recently, the U.S. led initiative to re-confirm the Treaty Parties’ commitment to the Madrid Protocol’s Mining Ban during the 2016 Antarctic Treaty meeting received unanimous support and was adopted by all Treaty Parties.
More information about the State Department's role in promoting U.S. interests in Antarctica is available by contacting the Office of Ocean and Polar Affairs at (202) 647-0237 or by emailing Antarctica@state.gov.