Public defence: Governing Antarctica - Assessing the Legitimacy and Justice of the Antarctic Treaty System

Master Yelena Yermakova at the Department of Philosophy, Classics, History of Art and Ideas will defend her dissertation Governing Antarctica: Assessing the Legitimacy and Justice of the Antarctic Treaty System for the degree of philosophiae doctor (PhD).

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The Antarctic Treaty System (ATS) has been the main governance platform for the Antarctic since 1959. The ATS has been celebrated as one of the most successful international regimes for setting aside the dispute over the territorial status of Antarctica. It has also been praised for safeguarding the pristine environment of the continent. However, the reality is that the ATS was based on an “agree to disagree” principle and only delayed addressing the question of sovereignty. Six decades later it is also not clear whether the ATS is equipped to respond to the changing environment in the Antarctic, to the growing interest in its resources, and the increasing activities in the region. In light of this, there is a need for a normative assessment of the regime. This thesis has a two-step framework: (I) it assesses the legitimacy of the ATS; and (II) it evaluates whether the ATS is a just regime. Breaking the appraisal of the ATS into two steps reflects the idea that legitimacy and justice are not the same, and allows for room to suggest both feasible reforms in the short-term and more ideal goals in the long-term.

This thesis highlights shortcomings of the ATS’s legitimacy and suggests reforms for the ATS to gain more legitimacy. The thesis proceeds to evaluate whether the ATS is a just regime by relying on a republican conception of justice, which demands elimination or minimization of domination. Yermakova argues that the ATS is not a just regime and offers strategies for the ATS to transition toward a more just path, which requires it to become more inclusive and representative. Moreover, Yermakova discusses how the International Seabed Authority provides an institutional blueprint for a more just regime as an ideal end goal.


The defence will stream live on 22 September, 10.15 am. 


Request a digital copy of the dissertation.

Trial lecture

Designated topic: What role should justice and legitimacy play in governing a global commons (other than the Antarctic)?

A recording of the trial lecture will be published here on 20 September.

Evaluation committee

Dr. Carmen Pavel, Kings College London (first opponent)

Associate Professor Peder Roberts, University of Stavanger (second opponent)

Associate Professor Anna Smajdor, University of Oslo (committee administrator)


Professor Alejandra Mancilla, University of Oslo

Dr. Cara Nine, University College Cork

Published Sep. 6, 2021 2:17 PM - Last modified Sep. 8, 2021 10:15 AM