On December 1, 2023, an international team of 25 experts, known as the Antarctic Rights Working Group (including individuals from Antarctic Rights, Wild Law Institute, Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature, Earth Law Center) presented a draft Declaration for the Rights of Antarctica, which seeks recognition of Antarctica as an autonomous, rights-bearing entity with a voice in decision making that affects it. This effort is part of a movement to establish a new eco-centric governance system to protect Antarctica’s unique ecosystems from extraction. The draft is intended as a starting point for further elaboration, and feedback will be incorporated into a final Declaration.
The working draft states: “Antarctica is an independent, autonomous entity with a unique international legal status and personality” and Antarctica, and each Antarctic being, has inherent rights and freedoms, including: “the right to exist, and to maintain and regenerate themselves and the relationships which create the living communities which sustain them; the right to be respected as a being; the freedom to be wild…[and] the right to self-expression and self-determination.” The Declaration also urges States to reject Antarctic territorial claims and enable Antarctica to “participate” in/be represented in human decision-making that may affect it (such as sit as a member of the UN and speak for itself). As with other declarations like the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and World Charter for Nature, countries would agree to join in supporting, implementing, and enforcing this new norm.
The Working Group is calling on organizations and individuals to give input as the draft undergoes refinement before finalization. See the drafts of the Declaration and the Explanatory Memorandum and send any comments to email@example.com.