Strategic Thinking for the Antarctic Environment: The Use of Assessment Tools in Governance

Lamers, M.A.J.; Liggett, D.; Tin, T.


The Antarctic Treaty System has established the strategic vision of Antarctica as a natural reserve, set aside for peace and science in the interest of all of humankind. However, the strategic focus that is implied by the notion of a stable, long-term institutional arrangement is not reflected in the system’s current operating rules and regulatory decisions. A combination of the growing human footprint, avoidance to deal with contentious issues, weaknesses in the implementation of the Environmental Impact Assessment process and lack of strategic thinking in the environmental management of the Antarctic region as a whole contribute to the accumulation of environmental impacts, the degradation of the once-pristine Antarctic environment and the attrition of Antarctica’s unique values. Experiences in the use of strategic thinking and strategic environmental assessment tools in and outside of Antarctica represent exemplars that can be adopted by stakeholders in an Antarctic setting and can be scaled up to the Antarctic region as a whole. A more strategic approach to environmental governance in Antarctica should consist of different components, including strategic thinking (resulting in visions, goals and action plans), planning, decision making (engaging decision makers to commit the necessary resources to implement decisions), implementation and monitoring (observing and reflecting on the effectiveness of actions). In view of growing global interests in Antarctic activities and resources and the loss of Antarctic exceptionalism, a more collective and structural approach to strategic governance is necessary to guarantee the future sustainability of the Antarctic region.