We are sailing across the Antarctic Peninsula with Homeward Bound, a global leadership initiative aiming to connect and train women scientists from around the world to influence the policies and decisions that will shape the future of our planet. This is the largest all-women expedition in Antarctic history (112 women from 35 countries), and today acquires special significance as we commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Antarctic Treaty.
In this voyage we have experienced firsthand the uniqueness of Antarctica. In addition to its immensity, beauty, fragility and vulnerability to climate change, we have learned about its unconventional governance model. Thanks to the Antarctic Treaty, born in 1959 at the height of the Cold War, Antarctica has remained for six decades as the only continent without countries, national borders or wars. A continent that does not belong to anyone and at the same time belongs to us all, and a natural laboratory to study and understand the impact of climate change on our planet.
The origins of the Treaty date back to 1957, when the International Year of Geophysics (IGY) was celebrated in Antarctica. That year, 12 countries (Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Chile, France, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, the United Kingdom, the United States and the Soviet Union) worked together to establish scientific research programs on the continent. Some of these nations had previously claimed parts of the continent, but the IGY helped reduce political tensions between them and resulted in a permanent solution for the joint management and governance of Antarctica, culminating with the signing of the Antarctic Treaty on December 1, 1959 in Washington, DC
It is in that spirit of collaborative leadership and collective responsibility that we must now address our most pressing global challenge: the climate crisis. With all eyes on COP25 in Madrid, it is especially important to remember the role that Antarctica and the oceans play in regulating the Earth´s global climate system. More than ever, we must integrate science and diplomacy to unite all nations in the face of a global challenge no country can solve on its own.
In an increasingly divided world, the Antarctic Treaty endures today as one of the most successful international agreements in history and a triumph of science diplomacy, demonstrating the power of the universal language of science to overcome our differences and work together towards a common goal: protecting and preserving our planet for future generations.
Happy birthday, Antarctica!
HB4 participant Dr. Marga Gual Soler is an expert in science diplomacy and Science Policy Adviser to the European Commission.