Elliott, Lorraine M
This thesis does three things. It describes and analyses the progress of environmental
politics in the Antarctic. In doing so, it contributes to a wider research agenda on the
environment as an issue in international relations. Finally, it explores questions in
international relations theory about the nature of cooperation and change in the
The case study of environmental politics in the Antarctic Treaty system focusses
attention on the systemic issues of the...[Show more] adequacy of interstate practices on the
management of the environment, the need for new thinking on international cooperation
and the role of non-state actors (particularly environmental organisations and the
Traditional realist theory, with its state-centric assumptions, is poorly placed to generate
propositions which enable these major themes to be investigated. This thesis therefore
employs an analytical framework grounded in the liberal institutionalist tradition of
international relations theory.
This thesis argues that two dimensions of a regime are important in judging the
adequacy of state practice on environmental issues: the prevailing hierarchy of values
on security and the environment and the relative weight given to sovereignty or
The Antarctic regime, based on the Antarctic Treaty of 1959, was constructed as a
security regime to avoid conflict over competing territorial claims and to avoid tension
between the superpowers in the Antarctic. Yet it was increasingly required to function
as an environmental protection regime - a purpose for which it was not designed.
The hierarchy of values in this regime privileged political (and security) concerns over
environmental ones. Sovereignty norms dominated. Thus the process of decisionmaking
on environmental issues was, in the final analysis, flawed. The network of
environmental rules and procedures adopted was ad hoc, disaggregated and increasingly
unwieldy. Implementation of those rules was poorly monitored.
The increasing asymmetry between the normative political values of the Treaty system
and the demands for comprehensive environmental protection were most in evidence in
the debates surrounding minerals activity in the Antarctic. The particular focus of the
case study, in its examination of environmental politics in the Antarctic, is the negotiation and subsequent overturning of the Minerals Convention and the negotiation
of a qualitatively different agreement in the Madrid Protocol to the Antarctic Treaty.
This process of radical change can be analysed in the context of a reordering of the
hierarchy of values and a move away from sovereignty norms towards interdependence
norms. Non-governmental environmental organisations are a key dimension in
mobilising this change. Because they focus critical attention on inter-state
environmental practice and, in doing so, bring new values and ideas to the debate, their
role needs to find an appropriate place both in the empirical analysis of the Antarctic
regime, and in the wider theories of regime-making and change in international
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