Earlier this year I made a submission to a government inquiry that’s developing a strategic plan for Australia’s Antarctic interests over the coming 20 years. My submission talked about a plan to establish the Antarctic Community Council – at this stage it is a concept I am discussing with others, but it’s something I would like to see gain momentum.
The starting premise is that Antarctica is going to need lots more friends and guardians over the coming 20 years. If the Arctic is anything to go by, it’s possible there will be attempts to wind back the conservation treaty to exploit the area. It is also a place that is changing rapidly, and change on these southern continent means change for us all.
It’s time to generate some new community interest and the ACC is my suggsstion. Currently much of the engagement around Antarctica happens inside government and scientific institutions. There are also large international NGOs that fly in for treaty meetings, but I think there is value in a non-government forum to promote cooperation, coordination and interaction among the communities that are neighbours to Antarctica.
This forum can particularly connect communities that are closest to the great southern continent, not because they are the only ones who should care about Antarctic, but because I find that proximity to something can focus, unite and motivate.
The Antarctic Community Council should be an independent, non-profit body to bridge community to the continent. Its role will be:
- to create links and encourage relationships between Antarctic gateway nations.
- to expand the environmental, economic and educational connections people of these nations have with Antarctica.
- to bring the community’s voice and ideas to policies and issues being discussed by governments about the future of Antarctica, the Southern Ocean and the Antarctic Treaty. To help these community ideas be given greater prominence in discussions
- to disseminate information, promote community education and foster stronger and broader interest in Antarctic-related issues and policy, and
- to facilitate the flow of people, information and ideas between the communities of the nations working in Antarctic through professional, educational, social and cultural exchanges.
While the Antarctic Community Council would largely focus on the cities and nations that are the continent’s closest neighbours or who are working in the continent, the Council will aim to be a bridge for community interest in Antarctica right across all Antarctic Treaty signatory nations.
As part of the Australian Government’s 20 Year Australian Antarctic Strategic Plan I would like to see the government acknowledge the importance of greater community engagement in Antarctica as part of the review’s findings. Still waiting for their reply!