The application of the wilderness concept in Antarctica and Svalbard: A comparison of the respective regulatory systems

Antje Neumann

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionScientific


    The wilderness values of Antarctica receive explicit legal protection under the Environmental Protocol to the Antarctic Treaty. However, different opinions exist, on the one hand, as regards the precise meaning of the wilderness concept at the international and national level and, on the other hand, in respect to the question what consequences may arise from the legal obligation to protect Antarctica’s wilderness values, in particular as regards tourism policy. Due to these divergences, the international debate has been stagnating for several years and no progress could be achieved towards the protection of respective values.
    Against this background, a PhD-project on the relevance of a wilderness concept for managing tourist and other non-governmental activities in Antarctica will be presented. The project investigates the central research question: “To what extent can the concept of protecting Antarctic wilderness values constitute a basis for regulating tourism and other non-governmental activities in Antarctica, taking particular notice of experiences and ‘lessons learnt’ in other wilderness areas in the world?” At the conference, first results of one of the ‘lessons to be learnt’ case studies, conducted in relation to the wilderness of Svalbard, will be presented. They include, among others, the priorities set by the present regulatory system of Svalbard towards the wilderness characteristics of (1) a minimum size, (2) the absence of infrastructure, (3) the natural intactness, and (4) the provision of solitude. Furthermore, they elaborate on the preferences that are made in terms of selecting regulatory instruments, such as the designation of protected areas and the duty to conduct Environmental Impact Assessments. Despite ambitious political strategies and numerous regulatory efforts towards wilderness protection in Svalbard, preliminary results indicate that economic interests prevail over the interest of preserving “the area’s distinctive natural wilderness”.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publication5th Conference of the international polar tourism research network (IPTRN)
    Subtitle of host publicationIceland, Akureyri and Raufarhöfn, 29 August - 2 September 2016
    Publication statusPublished - 2016


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