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Large meeting of people.
Photo Credit: Andrew Jackson/Australian Antarctic Division
An Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting in Madrid, Spain, in 2006. Currently, there are 48 parties to the Antarctic Treaty, an international agreement that preserves the continent for peaceful, scientific pursuits. Malaysia recently announced it would accede to the treaty.

Growing membership

Malaysia to become newest party to Antarctic Treaty

Welcome to the party, Malaysia.

The Southeast Asian country will become the 49th party to the Antarctic Treaty External Non-U.S. government site, an international agreement that preserves the continent for peaceful, scientific pursuits. The announcement to accede to the treaty was made by Malaysia’s cabinet on Aug. 25.

Malaysia will join the Antarctic Treaty system as a non-consultative party, with the view of becoming a consultative party in the future, according to Bernama, Malaysia’s national news agency.

The treaty was signed in 1959 by the 12 nations that originally conducted research in Antarctica during the International Geophysical Year (IGY) External Non-U.S. government site, a scientific campaign of unprecedented discovery. The United States and former Soviet Union both launched the first satellites into space during IGY. Other major IGY accomplishments included the discovery of the Van Allen Belt, a ring of plasma wrapped around the Earth, and confirmation of the plate tectonics theory.

Since 1959, 36 other countries have acceded to the treaty; the most recent before Malaysia were Portugal in 2010, Monaco in 2008 and Belarus in 2006. There are 28 consultative parties that participate in decision-making, while the other 20 nations have non-consultative status.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of when the treaty went into effect. Key articles of the treaty reserve Antarctica for peaceful purposes only and ensure continued freedom of scientific investigation and exchange of data.

The treaty served as springboard for the Protocol on Environmental Protection External Non-U.S. government site, which was signed in Madrid on Oct. 4, 1991 and entered into force in 1998. It designates Antarctica as a “natural reserve, devoted to peace and science,” and established basic principles applicable to minimize human impact to Antarctica. It also prohibits all activities related to Antarctica’s mineral resources, except for scientific research.

Every year the treaty parties meet in a forum known as the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM) External Non-U.S. government site. The 34th ATCM met this summer in Buenos Aires concurrently with the Committee for Environmental Protection External Non-U.S. government site, an advisory body established by the Madrid Protocol that offers recommendations on environmental policy to the ATCM.

Malaysia has been involved in scientific research in Antarctica since 1997 when New Zealand opened its Scott Base External Non-U.S. government site to Malaysian scientists, according to Bernama. As of last year, 62 scientific expeditions involving 60 Malaysians researchers have been conducted.

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Curator: Peter Rejcek, Antarctic Support Contract | NSF Official: Winifred Reuning, Division of Polar Programs