The importance of effective compliance and enforcement to long-term resilience of the ATS

Ms Jill Barrett1,2

1Queen Mary University of London, London, United Kingdom, 2Associate Member 6 Pump Court Chambers, London, United Kingdom

Effective compliance with and enforcement of treaty obligations are essential to the credibility of the Antarctic Treaty System (ATS), a crucial ingredient of long-term resilience. The ATS faces more enforcement challenges than most treaties due to the continent’s physical characteristics. Moreover, at the heart of the unique relationship between international law and national legal systems in the Antarctic area lie two fundamental issues: territorial sovereignty disputes and ambiguities in the ATS treaties on jurisdictional nexus between treaty obligations and persons who undertake activities in Antarctica. Parties have chosen inconsistent jurisdictional bases in their national laws to implement treaty provisions, resulting in enforcement gaps. Sensitivities over sovereignty issues inhibit Parties from addressing these gaps, even when they result in violations going unprosecuted.

As tourism, fishing and other non-governmental activities in Antarctica increase, the need for new modes of practical co-operation on domestic law enforcement is intensifying. The effectiveness of ATS inspection regimes demonstrates that Parties can co-operate at the international level despite the challenges. To secure future ATS resilience, co-operation needs to extend into areas where domestic law penetrates. The Parties also need to develop new ways to engage with third States and non-State actors to secure respect for ATS values.


Jill Barrett is Visiting Reader in Law, Queen Mary London University, where she introduced a new LLM module ‘International Law and Governance of the Polar Regions’. Other areas of expertise include treaties, international environmental law and law of the sea. She is a Barrister at 6 Pump Court Chambers and also works independently as international law consultant.

She was previously Legal Counsellor, Foreign & Commonwealth Office. During her 20-year FCO career she represented the UK at the UN and many international conferences including ATCM and CCAMLR. Later, she attended ATCMs as Secretariat staff member and then legal adviser to ASOC.

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