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The Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research

Prince of Asturias Award for International Cooperation 2002

The Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR), popularly known as the International Antarctic Committee, is an inter-disciplinary, non-governmental organization formed by scientists from around the world whose mission is to coordinate and promote scientific research in Antarctica through international research programmes, protect its environment and provide independent technical assistance to the International Antarctic Treaty.

The Committee was created 35 years ago by the International Council for Science (ICSU) with the aims of coordinating the work of scientific research in Antarctica, preserving the area as a territory for peace and science, and turning it into a shared heritage of humanity.

Countries that have their own research programmes in Antarctica are Full Members of the Committee. This group currently comprises thirty-two countries. There are also six associated countries, i.e. those who do not yet possess a scientific programme of their own, but plan to have one in the future.

Administratively, the Antarctic Committee has a permanent secretariat based at the Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge (UK). The executive committee, which is its governing body, is currently made up of scientists from Australlia, Germany, the USA, Malaysia, Brazil, Spain and the UK. Argentina and Chile have also played a decisive role in Antarctic research. Both countries have the largest number of Antarctic bases and part of their national territory is on the Antarctic continent.

Spain joined the Committee in 1987 and became a full member in 1990. Our country ratified the Antarctica Treaty in 1982 and was accepted as Consultative Part in 1988. By virtue of this Treaty, signatories take on a commitment to declare the continent of Antarctica an area dedicated to peace and science, where priority is given to international co-operation, information exchange and research.

Spain boasts its own National Research Programme in Antarctica. The modern, polar-capacity oceanographic research vessel Hesperides, and the Juan Carlos I and Gabriel de Castilla Antarctic stations, on Livingston and Deception islands respectively, are Spain´s Antarctic springboards, from where some hundred or so Spanish scientists a year carry out their work during the Southern Hemisphere´s summer, in coordination with researchers from abroad.

Antarctica is seen as one of the most extraordinary and representative examples of the world´s natural heritage, and the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research as one of the most significant and successful exponents of international cooperation.

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