Remarks at The Joint Session of the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting and the Arctic Council, 50th Anniversary of the Antarctic Treaty
Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of State
Loy Henderson Conference Room
April 6, 2009
Thank you very much, Reno, and let me welcome all of you here for this very important event. It’s a real pleasure for me to have the honor of serving as Secretary of State as we celebrate really four interlocking events that bring us all to this place today. I want to certainly welcome all of the ministers who are here and also Prince Albert – we greatly appreciate his work – the many representatives of organizations that have been deeply concerned about the Antarctic and the Arctic.
But let me relate the four important events that I think we are marking today: first, the conclusion of the International Polar Year, a coordinated effort in planetary research among scientists from more than 60 nations; second, the start of the Annual Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting, which the United States is proud to host for the first time in 30 years; third, the first ever Joint Session of the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting and the Arctic Council; and finally, the 50th anniversary of the treaty itself, which stands as an example of how agreements created for one age can serve the world in another, and how when nations work together at their best the benefits are felt not only by their own people but by all people and by succeeding generations.
In 1959, representatives from 12 countries came together in Washington to sign the Antarctic Treaty, which is sometimes referred to as the first arms control agreement of the Cold War. Today, 47 nations have signed it. And as a result, Antarctica is one of the few places on earth where there has never been war. Other than occasional arguments among scientists and those stationed there over weighty matters having to do with sports, entertainment, and science, there has been very little conflict.
It is a land where science is the universal language and the highest priority and where people from different regions, races, and religions live and work together in one of the planet’s most remote, beautiful, and dangerous places.
The genius of the Antarctic Treaty lies in its relevance today. It was written to meet the challenges of an earlier time, but it and its related instruments remain a key tool in our efforts to address an urgent threat of this time, climate change, which has already destabilized communities on every continent, endangered plant and animal species, and jeopardized critical food and water sources.