The primary purpose of the Antarctic Treaty is to ensure “in the interests of all mankind that Antarctica shall continue forever to be used exclusively for peaceful purposes and shall not become the scene or object of international discord”. To this end it prohibits “any measures of a military nature” but does “not prevent the use of military personnel or equipment for scientific research or for any other peaceful purpose”. The Treaty provides for “freedom of scientific investigation in Antarctica, promotes international cooperation in scientific investigation in Antarctica”, encourages “the establishment of cooperative working relations with those Specialized Agencies of the United Nations and other international organizations having a scientific or technical interest in Antarctica”, prohibits “any nuclear explosions in Antarctica and the disposal there of radioactive waste material” and provides for detailed exchanges of information.
To promote the objectives and ensure the observance of the provisions of the Antarctica Treaty”, Consultative Parties “have the right to designate observers to carry out any inspection of all areas of Antarctica, including all stations, installations and equipment, and all ships and aircraft at points of discharging or embarking cargoes or personnel in Antarctica.
The Treaty applies to the area south of 60° South Latitude, including all ice shelves, but nothing in the Treaty “shall prejudice or in any way affect the rights, or the exercise of the rights, of any State under international law with regard to the high seas within that area”.