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International Law

Were the Crusades Justified? A Revisiting

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If one surveys a magazine of opinion, such as ModernDiplomacy.eu, among others, it will not take long before one encounters a tirade or a rebuke against religion in general or Christianity and the Catholic Church in particular.

The five phenomena which allegedly inspire the attack, coming usually from secularists and positivists are: 1) The suppression of knowledge and obscurantism, 2) the required celibacy of its priests resulting in pedophilia and homosexuality, 3) the Inquisition, 4) Witch hunting and burning, 5) the Crusades. These are phenomena which go back to medieval times which in themselves are usually declared as dark times (confusing the dark ages with medieval times in general) and therefore undesirable in our modern, scientifically advanced, “enlightened” times. Often enough a recommendation is freely and egregiously offered: the Church should simply disband itself after asking for forgiveness for its crimes and hanging its head in shame, and everybody will be much better off afterward. Enlightenment and peace, transparency and liberty and integrity will then arrive on the scene and will reign supreme: a sort of Utopian Garden of Eden.  If any quarter is granted to any form of Christianity in this highly Utopian world free of corruption and sin, it will be for a reformed Church, that is to say, the Protestant Churches.

I have already dealt at some length with the first three historical phenomena. At times it has given rise to reactionary spirited counter-positions on the matter, sometimes those positions have degenerated into a diatribe. That is of course undesirable. At the risk of renewing such a diatribe, and in the more positive interests of free speech and truth, I’d like for the moment to tackle here the fifth of the above mentioned phenomena, the one on the Crusades and some of their assumptions and implications. I suppose the first thing that should be said about all those phenomena within Christianity is that they are historical and cannot be denied as existing at one time. To deny that is to make a dialogue impossible. But on the other hand we should remember well the fact of their historicity, that all historical phenomena are subject to an interpretation which may turn out to be correct or perhaps misleading. That an historical interpretation of an event cannot be made outside its historicity by 20/20 hindsight; its narration has to be kept within the period one is describing. I should mention here that to insure that such was the case, I have drawn for inspiration and historical correctness from an excellent book on the subject by Jonathan Riley-Smith, titled What were the Crusades?  

Before we attempt an answer to such a question let us situate the Crusades within historical time. They took place within a span of approximately two centuries within middle Middle Ages, that is outside of the Dark Ages (500-800 AD) and before the higher Middle Ages: between 1096 to 1270. There were seven of them and only the first was successful as a military mission. It should be kept in mind that the Moslems, the new religion on the block attempting to overrun the whole of Europe, were already in Palestine some 450 years earlier. The unintended but more beneficial consequences were a unification that occurred among different nations and people in Europe, the economic and cultural exchanges between East and West that occurred in the defense of a common cultural heritage, Christianity.

Since those Crusades had the Church’s blessing the question arises: had the Church reversed its attitude toward violence and war in general. The myth has been propagated that it did. But in fact, as the just war theory of St. Augustine and its principle of proportionality proclaims, Christianity, since its beginning, had never been absolutely pacifist. It did consider war as a last resort to be avoided whenever possible but at times preferable as a lesser evil. Even Jesus never condemned soldiers for being soldiers. This is an important consideration at a time such as ours when once again men go around in Palestine decapitating and committing all sorts of atrocities are dreaming of Sharia law in the Vatican, while others talk of “a clash of civilizations” and an alliance of the West which some have called a call for a new Crusade to defend the West’s values.
Which brings us to the second crucial question. Who were the aggressors? Some do not hesitate to say that the Christians were the imperialistic aggressors. But wait a minute. The conflict between Islam and Christianity began not with first Crusade but with the birth of Islam in the 7th century A.D. when the Muslim conquest began encircling the West on the Western front with the conquest of Spain and the Byzantine Empire on the Eastern front. A very good case can be made that the aggressors were the Muslims, even if at first it looks as if it were the Christians who went looking for trouble and adventure in the Middle East. No historian has ever condemned Scipio the African for moving the Roman army to North Africa to finally defeat Hannibal in North Africa. All one has to do is to remember that Hannibal had already defeated the Romans three times in the Italian peninsula. The same applies to Western Europe which saw an outpost such as Vienna threatened by the Turks.
That that there were atrocities committed during the Crusades is undeniable but here again we need to keep in mind that atrocities usually go together with any war. The crusades had their share of heroes and villains, saints and sinners. The Church never approved the Sack of Jerusalem and Constantinople. The Pope at the time (Innocent III) said of the incident of Constantinople “No wonder the Greeks call you dogs,” and he excommunicated those responsible. The anti-Jewish pogrom were also in direct violation of a Papal decree protecting Jews. The children’s crusade was never approved by the Church.

The other myth or gratuitous charge against the Church is that it granted indulgences for evil. The crusades were not for the purpose of converting the Moslems. In that sense they were not, strictly speaking religious wars. More properly they were an armed pilgrimage. Moreover this pilgrimage, a holy act, was often subverted by “crusaders” with economic or political personal agendas. Blessed Urban II, the Pope who called the first Crusade never promised indulgences to all crusaders, only to those undertook the crusade for devotional purposes. Each crusader made a vow, signified by the wearing of a cloth cross, and he (or she) was rewarded with the grant of an indulgence and certain temporal privileges. A distinguishing feature of crusading was that the cross was enjoined on men and women not as a service, but as a penance, the association of which with war had been made about a decade before the First Crusade. While holy war had had a long history, the idea of penitential war was unprecedented in Christian thought. It meant that a crusade was for the crusader only secondarily about service in arms to God or benefiting the Church or Christianity; it was primarily about benefiting himself. He was engaged in an act of self-sanctification. Those were the precondition for earning indulgences or commuting of the time to be spent in purgatory for one’s transgressions. On the contrary, it was the Muslims who promised unconditional and instant Heaven to all their war dead.

The figure for the Muslim dead, which used to range from ten to seventy thousand on the basis of accounts written long after the event, ought to be revised downward. A contemporary Muslim source has been discovered that puts the number at three thousand. Three thousand men and women is still a lot of people, of course, but it is low enough to make one wonder why the Western eyewitnesses, who gloried in generalized descriptions of slaughter, felt the need to portray a bloodbath.

On the other hand, Smith points out that “the behavior of the crusaders in the East cannot be considered to have been quantitatively worse than that of those fighting in any ideological war, the behavior of the crusaders in Europe could sometimes be abominable, even by the standards of the time. Before heading off to the Jerusalem crusades in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, some Europeans ‘prepared themselves’ through violent outbreaks of anti-Judaism in France, Germany, and England. During the crusades launched against fellow Christians or heretics, the most unpleasant examples of loss of discipline and control took place (the sacks of Constantinople in 1204 and of Béziers in 1209 spring to mind). If we are going to express contrition for the behavior of the crusaders, it is not so much to the Muslims that we should apologize, but to the Jews and to our fellow Christians.”

 

The politically correct position nowadays is to apologize for past atrocities. But the question arises: should we be apologizing at all? No crusade was actually proclaimed against the Jews. As far as crusading itself is concerned, most Muslims do not view the crusades, in which they anyway believe they were victorious, in isolation. Islam has been spasmodically in conflict with Christianity since the Muslim conquests of the seventh century, long before the First Crusade, and the crusading movement was a succession of episodes in a continuum of hostility between the two religions. In the late nineteenth century, however, they began to regard the West’s monopoly of commerce and colonialism as a change of tactics, in which everything the crusaders had lost to them was being more than regained. The crusades are merely symptomatic of a much longer-term competitiveness.

It is the Church’s subjective act of repentance for past sin that matters. How useful is it to condemn wars that were supported by great saints like Bernard of Clairvaux, Thomas Aquinas, Bridget of Sweden, Catherine of Siena, John of Capistrano, even possibly Francis of Assisi? Ought  we not rather challenge the widespread sentimental and unhistorical assumptions that genuine Christianity is an unambiguously pacific religion? The consensus among Christians on the use of violence has changed radically since the crusades were fought. Only in the sixteenth century did the nearly universal conviction that the use of violence depended on Christ’s direct or indirect authority begin to be undermined. Now violence can be justified only in terms of the needs of the “common good,” defined in relation to accepted earthly laws.
Smith says in this regard that “Just war arguments thus moved from the field of moral theology to that of law. The Encyclopédistes referred to the crusades as ces guerres horribles — but although they agreed that the use of force nearly always had evil consequences because of the suffering that accompanied it, they still regarded violence itself as being morally neutral. No one had yet taken the second step necessary for the emergence of “modern” just war theory, the conviction borrowed from pacifism that force is intrinsically evil — though conceding that it can nevertheless be condoned as a lesser evil.”

Our just war theory has become so embedded in our thinking that we forget that it represents a relatively short-lived departure from a much longer-lasting and more positive tradition. The founding of the League of Nations and then the United Nations and the judgments at the Nuremberg trials encouraged the revival of concepts of natural law, manifesting themselves in the notion of crimes against humanity and an insistence on judgment by international tribunals. So, the coalition assembled by President Obama is not a coalition of Crusaders out to impose their religion and values but a coalition buttressed and justified by humanitarian aims. This development subordinates international law to natural law and reintroduces ethical judgments to just war theory. Could it be that the restoration of Christ to the position of an authorizer of violence, which was a feature of the militant Christian liberation theology in the 1960s and early 1970s in Latin America and elsewhere, was part of this process of change?

A stance that justifies a “humanitarian” war on moral grounds has placed itself at least in the same field as that once occupied by crusade theorists. As Smith aptly writes: “The language that demands that our ancestors be posthumously anathematized is not too distant from that of the men who wanted the corpse of Pope Boniface VIII to be exhumed and burnt. We may be entering a period of conceptual uncertainty about the most difficult of all society’s dilemmas — when or when not to use force — and we need not emotion, but cool heads and an objective analysis of the past.”

To return to our initial argument: it seems that those who go around casting aspersions on religion in general and Catholicism in particular in the name of “enlightenment” without employing in their analysis the historical perspective, advocating peace at any cost, may ultimately be creating more confusion and shadows than light. Even Plato, after an admirable description via the myth of the cave of the condition of those who dwell in a dark cave chained to their misguided assumptions and seeing their shadows and appearances on a wall illumined by fire, asks if any of us can be sure of being out of the cave under the light of the sun and seeing reality as it really is. His wise answer is “only God knows.”

Note: this article, slightly modified, has already appeared in Ovi Magazine.

Professor Paparella has earned a Ph.D. in Italian Humanism, with a dissertation on the philosopher of history Giambattista Vico, from Yale University. He is a scholar interested in current relevant philosophical, political and cultural issues; the author of numerous essays and books on the EU cultural identity among which A New Europe in search of its Soul, and Europa: An Idea and a Journey. Presently he teaches philosophy and humanities at Barry University, Miami, Florida. He is a prolific writer and has written hundreds of essays for both traditional academic and on-line magazines among which Metanexus and Ovi. One of his current works in progress is a book dealing with the issue of cultural identity within the phenomenon of “the neo-immigrant” exhibited by an international global economy strong on positivism and utilitarianism and weak on humanism and ideals.

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International Law

Freedom of Navigation Operation by US War Ships and UNCLOS – 1982

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DDG 51 Arleigh Burke Class Destroyer. Source: military.com

A US war ship carried out freedom of navigation operation (FONOP) in the Indian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) near Lakshadweep Islands in April2021 without prior consent of Indian government. The official statement issued by the Commander of the US seventh fleet, said” the operation was conducted by a guided-missile destroyer USS John Paul Jones to challenge India’s excessive maritime claims. The war ship asserted navigational rights and freedoms approximately 130 nautical miles west of the Lakshadweep Islands, inside India’s exclusive economic zone, without requesting India’s prior consent, consistent with international law. Although India requires prior consent for military exercises or maneuvers in its EEZ or continental shelf. The US forces operate in the Indo-Pacific region on daily basis. All operations are designed in accordance with international law and demonstrate that the US will fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows”. It clearly indicates that US does not recognize the conditions imposed by some coastal states on the FONOP in their EEZ and will conduct such operations in future also.

In response, the Indian ministry of external affairs issued a press note saying that “we have conveyed our concerns regarding this passage through our EEZ to the government of the USA through diplomatic channels, the war ship was continuously monitored transiting from the Persian Gulf towards the Malacca Straits”. The lukewarm reaction of India depicts that her reaction will limit to issuing press notes. It is pertinent to mention that US Navy ships avail the facility of innocent passage and transit through the territorial waters of coastal states as well. Probably their argument is that as per United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea(UNCLOS)-1982 it is allowed and restrictions by the coastal state are not in order. US government is appeared to be probing the EEZ and territorial waters of different countries which have issued restrictions which are not commensuration with the Law of the sea convention as per their interpretation. The development of Spartly islands by China in the South China sea may be the central motive. During one year from Oct 2019 to Sep 2020, US challenged the excessive maritime claims of 19 coastal states including Brazil, Japan, Malaysia, South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam and mainland China.

Brief description of territorial waters and EEZ in accordance with UNCLOS- 1982 which is often referred to as the “constitution for the world’s oceans, ”has been signed and ratified by 130 UN members. Fifteen states including USA have not yet ratified and fifteen UN members and observers including Israel and Turkey have neither signed nor ratified. The territorial sea as per article 3 is defined as “every State has the right to establish the breadth of its territorial sea up to a limit not exceeding 12 nautical miles, measured from baselines determined in accordance with this Convention. The waters on the landward side of the baseline of the territorial sea form part of the internal waters”. The right of innocent passage as per article 17 is “subject to this Convention, ships (this term needs to be explicitly defined whether it includes warships or not) of all states, whether coastal or land-locked, enjoy the right of innocent passage through the territorial sea”.

It is pertinent to mention that USA had 3 nautical miles’ territorial limits till 1988 when as per New York Times of 29 Dec 88, it was extended to 12 nautical miles in Dec 88by President Reagan. A move partly intended to hinder operations of Soviet spy trawlers that ply American coastlines. It states that it would not affect cruise ships (this term has not been defined to include warships or not) and other merchant vessels on innocent passage through American waters. According to “Oxford Public International Law” while describing innocent passage in both the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and the Convention on the Territorial Sea & the Contiguous Zone, basic provisions on innocent passage are defined to apply to ‘all ships’ or foreign ships.  Developed maritime states suggest that war ships and other government ships operated for non-commercial purposes are also included. Whereas a number of (mainly developing) states do not include warships. These states have claimed the right to demand prior authorization or at least prior notification of the entry of foreign warships to their territorial waters for innocent passage. These terms need to be explicitly clarified to avoid ambiguity. Most of the coastal states, including Pakistan have imposed restrictions on war ships transiting through the territorial waters.

According to Territorial Waters and Maritime Zones Act, 1976,“the limit of Pakistan’s territorial waters is twelve nautical miles beyond the land territory and internal waters of Pakistan measured from the baseline, foreign warships, including submarines and other under water vehicles and foreign military aircraft may enter or pass through the territorial waters and the air space over such waters with the prior permission of the Federal Government. Foreign super tankers, nuclear powered ships and ships carrying nuclear or other inherently dangerous or noxious substances or materials may enter or pass through the territorial waters after giving prior notice to the Federal Government”.

Pakistan has hardly observed any incident of violation of territorial waters in the past. However, due to development of Gwadar as a deep draught port, a jugular vein of CPEC, the possibility of surveillance to monitor development in the area cannot be ruled out. Pakistan Maritime Security Agency (PMSA), PN, and coastal stations are required to be more watchful. Regarding breadth of EEZ, articles 57, states that “the exclusive economic zone shall not extend beyond 200 nautical miles from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured”. The article58, which elucidates, right and duties of other states in EEZ, states that, “all States, whether coastal or land-locked, enjoy, subject to the relevant provisions of this Convention, the freedoms referred to in article 87 of navigation and overflight”. Article 87 deals with the freedom of the high seas. Regarding navigation, it states that, the high seas are open to all states, whether coastal or land-locked. Freedom of the high seas is exercised under the conditions laid down by this Convention and by other rules of international law. It comprises, inter alia, both for coastal and land-locked States: (a) freedom of navigation; (b) freedom of overflight”.  From these articles it is evident that EEZ gives freedom of navigation of high seas. War ships can navigate without prior consent / approval of the coastal states. It may be mentioned that there are more than 100 coastal statesin the world. Some of these have large coast like USA 153,707 Km including Alaska and Hawaii andAustralia 83595Km including its islands. Their EEZ extends to 200 NM from respective base lines. It is likely to hamper the freedom of navigation of warships if they have to take consent / approval of each coastal state every time. To conclude, it is suggested all states may honor the territorial waters of the coastal states and take prior permission from the respective government for its warships to transit. Articles 3 and 17 on the subject refer. The coastal states, while considering articles, 57, 58 and 87 may not impose restrictions on navigation of warships in their respective EEZ. The US being one of the Maritime Power may ratify the UNCLOS – 1982 and pursue its allies to do the same. The term warship has been defined in article 29, but it has not been used in the important article 17(right of innocent passage) in which only term ship has been used which is a source of ambiguity. Its clarification is considered essential.     

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International Law

Basic knowledge about Peace Education and how it is beneficial in resolving conflicts

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“Peace education is a pedagogical to create a world at peace by pace we mean more than the absence of violence”-Johan Galtung

Peace education emerged during post World War II, with a variety of definitions and explanations. Generally it is defined as “The education that comprises of planning, pedagogy, skills and teachings that lead towards peace.”

The multifaceted approaches of peace embrace human right education, developmental education, environmental education, conflict resolution education and disarmament education. Peace education is a task of gaining the values, knowledge. The greatest source of building peace are people itself. Peace education brings transformation by erecting cognizance and perception. Peace education should first bid youth and adults to be cognizant of aftermath of a peculiar conflict. Then, they should be asked to use their observing abilities, perceptions and visualize themselves in place of others to recognize their suffering and foster empathy for the ones going through violence.

Peace education encourages young minds to transform conflict in a peaceful manner and conflict resolution through tranquil paths. Peace education involves movement against system. To do so we must keep in mind the phases or levels of peace.

PHASES OF PEACE

There are three (3) phases of peace education:

Cognitive phase,Effective phase and Active phase.

Cognitive phase

NECESSITY OF PEACE EDUCATION

During past two decades the World has suffered many conflicts and highest ratio of violence which affected many countries and regions of world mainly third-world countries. Conflict like war leads to discriminatory disperse of assets.

Peace education is necessary for transformation of conflict in a tranquil method. Peace educations at developing universal values, it prepares to cope up with uncertain circumstances. It is dispensable to develop personal autonomy and influence, nourishes harmony. It has an important social intention. It seems to metamorphose the contemporary social state. It focuses on termination of war.

Social injustice, war and violence imposes long term consequences and affects the routine of common man. With peace education, it is thought that it will wipe out all the sufferings of mankind and makes path towards the transformation of world that is marked by violence. There are many campaigns going on for resolution of conflict, but none can succeed without peace education. It is tier to stave off military conflicts.  It is pivotal for the minds that have knowledge of peace education to use it in nifty fashion to perorate and command conflicts.

VALUES FUNDAMENTAL TO PEACE EDUCATION:

Self respect means having sense of one’s own worth. A person’s background’ defines him. And one leans toward positive change.

Others respect stands for having perception of allure of other people despite of their religion, caste and creed.

Gender equality vouches for bestowing equal rights to all human beings. Not only women but transgender as well, for they are the part of our society.

Justice stands for perception of equal rights. It upholds for the principle of equality and rejection of all kind of exploitation.

Social responsibility visualize enthusiasm to reshape the society in the best possible way

Positive vision has connotation tovisualize the future world full of peace’ a hope of tranquil tomorrow.

SKILLS FUNDAMENTAL TO PEACE EDUCATION:

These skills need to be developed.

Reflection is the use of perceptive thinking, through which people enhance their knowledge and understandings.

Critical thinking and Analysis, having an idea to do a research critical analysis meansability to approach issues with an open mind.

Decision making is the ability to analyze problems and search for their alternative solutions.

Imagination means creating new prototypes and alternative ways of living.

Group building means working in co-operation as a team to achieve goals. The postulate is that everyone has something to contribute, everyone is part of the solution.

Empathy is the ability to see the perception of an individual or a whole group, to see that what they are going through and developing same feeling as them.

SPHERE OF PEACE EDUCATION:

If we talk about the scope and sphere of peace education. Peace education constitutes of many conformation. Peace education accords in building a peaceful society. Main educations among peace education are:

Disarmament Education:

Disarmament protests rose after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki followed by cold war. From here the beginning of peace education evolved as a rejoinder to menaces of nuclear weapons. In recent times, excessive use of arms have become a major concern of peace education. UN Office of Disarmament Affairs) reported that 70 % of the expenditures in the annual global trade on conventional arms, estimated at $ 30 billion, are made by poor countries in the developing world (UNDDA, 2002).

Human Rights Education:

Following the universal declaration of Human Rights in 1948, the movement towards educating people started. This movement was called Human Rights Education. It adds to the enjoyment of pivotal Human Rights. It rose as an important concern to HRE, to teach all the people. Because every individual cannot be taught in a single classroom. HRE comprises of notion of chumminess of rights and responsibilities.

Global Education

It is defined as the programs and education that can help an individual learn more about human rights and care more about world and worldly affairs. It creates a sense to care more about the planet Earth.

Conflict Resolution Education

From the past two decades conflict resolution education have gained thrust. It has been added to the curriculum of many educational institutions. CRE has many important goals one of them is to create a constructive and peaceful society. Teaching students to make them peacemakers and to create n environment that to reach acceptable solutions.CRE principles are now increasingly used in many schools, workplaces, offices in Philippines as well as many parts of the world.

Multi-cultural Education

Multicultural education has developed first in the countries which consist of diversity of multi cultural population. Mainly in the countries having history of receiving immigrants. It helps students to appreciate cultural differences and similarities to create bonds with them. Young children can easily absorb negative stereotypes of the society so multi-cultural education from the beginning level creates a sense of brotherhood among them. Multi-cultural education looks forward to eliminate all these negative stereotypes.

Interfaith Education

The interfaith movement began in 1893 at the World’s Parliament of Religions gathering in Chicago, which gave rise to Interfaith education. It gave rise to many interfaith organizations. It is considered as the most important form of education to promote peace. It creates a sense of co-operation among religions.  

Development Education

Development education emerged in 1960’s. It condemns biased economic order which leaned towards the consequences of hunger, homelessness and marginalization. NGO’s and institutions concerned with it are integrating many issue like inequality in society. It leads to the development of peaceful societies. It seeks to pursue consciousness summons undemocratic structures.

Non-Sexist Education

During the hike of feminism in1960’s there have been endeavour to oppose sexist education. Gender fair education seeks to promote principles that lead towards non-sexist society. A society where everyone practices equal rights despite of their gender. It advocates break down of gender based stereotypes.

CONCLUSION

Peace education is something that promotes tranquility in society. It aids in creating harmony among human beings and their environment. There are many happenings in the world that have no other solution than peace education. It leads towards a calm society. It emerged after WW II to promote quietude in the world. Since then many organizations and NGO’s are operational to promote peace education among individuals and groups of individuals. In a nutshell, one would mention that peace education is the only key to lead world towards positivity and calmness in most aspects. Peace education is a concrete pathway to deal with war and its aftermath. Teaching learners tranquil paths to resolve conflict plays constructive role in society.

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International Law

Is Antarctica the new Eldorado? The sixth continent between claims and international law

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December 1, 2019 marked the 60th anniversary of the signing in Washington of the Antarctic Treaty, the main legal instrument for managing practical activities and regulating interstate relations in the territory 60°parallel South.

On May 2, 1958, the U.S. State Department sent invitations to the governments of Australia, Argentina, Belgium, Chile, France, Japan, Great Britain, New Zealand, Norway, the then South African Union and the USSR for the International Antarctic Conference. It was proposed to convene it in Washington in 1959. The group of participants at the Conference was limited to the countries that had carried out Antarctic projects as part of the International Geophysical Year (IGY) (July 1957-December 1958).

The Soviet Union supported the idea of convening a Conference. In a letter of reply, the Kremlin stressed that the outcome of the Conference should be the International Treaty on Antarctica with the following basic principles: peaceful use of Antarctica with a total ban on military activities in the region and freedom of scientific research and exchange of information between the Parties to the Treaty.

The Soviet government also proposed expanding the group of participants at the Conference to include all parties interested in the issue.

In those years, the international legal resolution of the Antarctic problem had become an urgent task. In the first half of the 20th century, territorial claims to Antarctica had been expressed by Australia, Argentina, Chile, France, Great Britain, New Zealand and Norway.

In response to the Soviet proposal, the United States kept all the territorial claims of various countries on the agenda, but it undertook to freeze them. Russia, however, believed that third parties’ territorial claims had to be denied. At the same time, the position of both States coincided almost entirely insofar as the right to make territorial claims for the ownership of the entire continent could be retained only as pioneers.

The USSR relied on the findings of the expedition by Russian Admiral F.G.Th. von Bellingshausen and his compatriot Captain M.P. Lazarev on the sloops-of-war Vostok and Mirnyj in 1819-1821, while the United States relied on the explorations of N.B. Palmer’s expedition on the sloop Hero in 1820.

The Conference opened on October 15, 1959 in Washington DC. It was attended by delegations from twelve countries that had carried out studies as part of IGY’s programmes in Antarctica.

The Conference ended on December 1, 1959 with the signing of the Antarctic Treaty. This is the main international law instrument governing the planet’s Southern polar region.

The basic principles of the Treaty are the following: peaceful use of the region, as well as broad support for international cooperation and freedom of scientific research. Antarctica has been declared a nuclear-free zone. Previously announced territorial claims in Antarctica have been maintained but frozen and no new territorial claims are to be accepted. The principle of freedom to exchange information and the possibility to inspect the activities of the Parties to the Antarctic Treaty have been proclaimed. The agreement is open to accession by any UN Member State and has no period of validity.

Over time, it has been proposed that the political and legal principles of the Treaty be further developed in the framework of regularly convened consultative meetings. Decisions at these meetings can only be taken by the Parties to the Treaty that have a permanent expedition station in Antarctica.

All decisions are taken exclusively by consensus, in the absence of reasoned objections. The first Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting was held in the Australian capital, Canberra, from 10 to 24 July 1961.

Until 1994 (when the 18th Consultative Meeting was held in Kyoto), meetings were held every one or two years, but since the 19th Meeting held in Seoul in 1995 they have begun to be convened on a yearly basis. The most recent Meeting, the 42nd one, was held in Prague from 11 to 19 July 2019. The 43rdConsultative Meeting will be hosted in Paris on 14-24 June, 2021: the suspension of the Meeting that was to be held in Helsinki from 24 May to 5 June 2020 was due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The 17th Meeting was held in Venice, Italy, on November 11-20, 1992.

The main decisions of the Meetings until 1995 were called recommendations and since 1996 ATCM measures. They come into force following the ratification procedure by the Consultative Parties. A total of 198 recommendations and 194 measures have been adopted.

Over sixty years, the number of Parties to the Antarctic Treaty has increased from twelve founders in 1959 to 54 in 2019. These include 29 countries in Europe, nine in Asia, eight in South America, four in North and Central America, three in Oceania and one in Africa.

The number of Consultative Parties to the Treaty that have national expeditions in Antarctica keeps on growing: Australia, Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Chile, the People’s Republic of China, (South) Korea, Ecuador, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, Great Britain, India, Italy, Norway, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Russia, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, Ukraine, Uruguay and the United States of America.

The remaining 25 Antarctic Treaty countries with Non-Consultative Party status are invited to attend relevant meetings, but are not included in the decision-making process.

In the 1970s and 1980s, the desire to join the Treaty was reinforced by the desire of many countries to develop Antarctica’s biological and mineral resources. Growing practical interest in Antarctica and its resources led to the need to adopt additional environmental documents.

During that period, recommendations for the protection of Antarctica’s nature were adopted almost every year at the Consultative Meetings. They served as starting material for the creation of three Conventions, which protect the natural environment: 1) the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Seals; 2) the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources; and 3) the Convention for the Regulation of Antarctic Mineral Resources.

Later, based on the recommendations and Conventions adopted, the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty was drafted. It became an environmental part of the Treaty and was signed on October 4, 1991 for a period of 50 years at the Madrid Consultative Meeting – hence it is also called the Madrid Protocol.

According to the Protocol, Antarctica is declared a “natural reserve for peace and science” and should be preserved for future generations. After 1991, the new countries that adhered to the Treaty started to show interest in participating in large-scale international research projects on global climate change and environmental protection.

Considering the above, Antarctica can be described as a global scientific laboratory: there are about 77 stations on the continent, which have supplied their scientists from 29 countries. They explore the continent itself, the patterns of climate change on Earth and the space itself.

However, how did it happen that the territories of the sixth continent became the target of scientists from all over the world?

In 1908, Great Britain announced that Graham Land (the Antarctic peninsula south of Ushuaia) and several islands around Antarctica were under the authority of the Governor of the Falkland/Malvinas Islands (claimed by Argentina). The reason for this was that they were/are close to the archipelago.

Furthermore, Great Britain and the United States preferred not to acknowledge that Antarctica had been discovered by the Russian explorers Bellingshausen and Lazarev. According to their version, the discoverer of the continent was James Cook, who saw the impenetrable sea ice of Antarctica, but at the same time confidently insisted that there was no continent south of the Earth.

A dozen years later, the appetites of the British Empire grew and in 1917 it decided to seize a large sector of Antarctica between 20° and 80°meridian West as far as the South Pole. Six years later, Great Britain added to its ‘possessions’ the territory between 150°meridian East and 160°meridian West, discovered in 1841 by the explorer Capt. J.C. Ross, and assigned it to the administration of its New Zealand’s colony.

The British Dominion of Australia received a “plot of land” between 44° and 160° meridian East in 1933. In turn, France claimed its rights to the area between 136° and 142° meridian East in 1924: that area was discovered in 1840 and named Adélie Land by Capt. J. Dumont d’Urville. Great Britain did not mind, and the Australian sector was not disputed by France.

In 1939, Norway decided to have a piece of the Antarctic pie, declaring that the territory between 20° meridian West and 44° meridian East, namely Queen Maud Land, was its own. In 1940 and 1942, Chile and Argentina entered the dispute and the lands they chose not only partially overlapped, but also invaded Britain’s “Antarctic territories”.

Chile submitted a request for an area between 53° and 90° meridian West; Argentina, for an area between 25° and 74°meridian West. The situation began to heat up.

Furthermore, in 1939, Germany announced the creation of the German Antarctic Sector, namely New Swabia, while Japan also formalised its claims to a substantial area of Antarctic ice.

Again in 1939, for the first time the USSR expressed – as a premise and postulate – that Antarctica belonged to all mankind. After the end of World War II, all legal acts of the Third Reich were abandoned and Japan renounced all its overseas territorial claims under the San Francisco Peace Treaty. According to unofficial Japanese statements, however, the country claims its own technical equipment: according to its own version, the deposits lie so deep that no one except Japan possesses the technology to recover and develop them.

By the middle of the 20th century, disputes over Antarctica became particularly acute: three out of seven countries claiming the lands were unable to divide up the areas by mutual agreement. The situation caused considerable discontent among other States, and hampered scientific research. Hence it came time to implement that idea, the results of which have been outlined above.

In 1998, the Protocol on Environmental Protection was added to the Antarctic Treaty. In 1988, the Convention on the Management of Antarctic Mineral Resources had also be opened for signature, but it did not enter into force due to the refusal of the democratic Australian and French governments to sign it. That Convention, however, enshrined great respect for the environment, which laid the foundations for the Protocol on Environmental Protection. Article 7 of that Protocol prohibits any activity relating to mineral resources in Antarctica other than scientific activity. The duration of the Protocol is set at 50 years, i.e. until 2048.

Most likely, its period of validity will be extended, but we have to be prepared for any development of events. Earth’s resources are inevitably running out and it is much cheaper to extract oil and coal in Antarctica than in space. So an oxymoronically near distant dystopian future awaits us.

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