Antarctic Diplomacy in a Time of Pandemic

Klaus Dodds, Alan Hemmings

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In the reporting about COVID-19 diplomacy, Antarctica has functioned as the exceptional — the only continent, thus far, not to record a single case of COVID-19, although cases were reported on Antarctic tourism vessels in the northern Antarctic Peninsula. For six decades, Antarctic governance has been an experiment in global democracy and diplomacy. Under the auspices of the Antarctic Treaty (1959) and associated legal instruments, all Consultative Parties from Argentina to Ukraine have the same fundamental rights to be engaged with the business of managing Antarctica. This essay speculates on ramifications of the pandemic for Antarctic governance and diplomacy. What are the implications when geographical distancing is joined by new forms of social distancing? Does the model of Antarctic governance and diplomacy still work? One possible future scenario is that conservation enforcement suffers because relevant parties refuse to accept the presence of others and weaponise public health to prevent public scrutiny.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)530-541
Number of pages12
JournalHague Journal of Diplomacy
Issue number4
Early online date8 Oct 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 8 Oct 2020


  • Antarctica
  • Diplomacy
  • COVID-19
  • pandemic
  • geopolitics
  • governance

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