The Battle for the Seventh Continent
by Doaa Abdel-Motaal
September 2016, 320pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-4803-2
$66, £49, 57€, A90
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-4804-9
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

Antarctica is a continent about double the size of Australia that can offer living space and access to rich marine living resources. The question “Who owns Antarctica?” will soon need to be answered.

The thawing Antarctic continent offers living space and marine and mineral resources that were previously inaccessible. This book discusses how revisiting the Antarctic Treaty System and dividing up the continent preemptively could spare the world serious conflict.

The Antarctic Treaty and related agreements—collectively known as the Antarctic Treaty System (ATS)—regulate the seventh continent, which is the only continent without a native human population. The main treaty within the ATS came into force in 1961 and suspended all territorial claims in Antarctica. The Antarctic Environmental Protocol followed in 1998 and prohibited any minerals exploitation in the continent. With this prohibition up for review in 2048, this book asks whether the Antarctic Treaty can continue to protect Antarctica.

Doaa Abdel-Motaal—an expert on environmental issues who has traveled through the Arctic and Antarctic—explains that the international community must urgently turn its attention to examining how to divide up the thawing continent in a peaceful manner. She discusses why the Antarctic Treaty is unlikely to be an adequate measure in the face of international competition for invaluable resources in the 21st century. She argues that factors such as global warming, the growth in climate refugees that the world is about to witness, and the increasingly critical quest for energy resources will make the Antarctic continent a highly sought-after objective.

Readers will come to appreciate that what has likely protected Antarctica so far was not the Antarctic Treaty but the continent’s harsh climate and isolation. With Antarctica potentially becoming habitable only a few decades from now, revisiting the Antarctic Treaty in favor of an orderly division of the continent is likely to be the best plan for avoiding costly conflict.


  • Argues that the Antarctic Treaty, which was opened for signature in 1959, needs to be reconsidered since pressure continues to build for the occupation of the continent and the exploitation of its living and non-living resources
  • Suggests that international conflict over Antarctica is likely in the coming decades, particularly because the ban on mineral resources is up for revision in 2048
  • Argues that policymakers need to draw lessons from the economic competition the world is now witnessing in the thawing Arctic Ocean
Doaa Abdel-Motaal, PhD, is an environment and climate change expert. She is former chief of staff of the United Nations Fund for Agricultural Development, Rome, Italy, and deputy chief of staff of the World Trade Organization, Geneva, Switzerland. She has worked on environmental issues throughout her life and traveled through the Antarctic and the Arctic in 2015. She holds a master's degree in environment and development studies from the University of Cambridge and a doctorate in development studies from the University of Geneva.


"This is a most useful text that should see widespread application in the educational and policy making communities, and among Antarctic operators of one kind or another. The world is not static, change is all around, and there are lessons to be learned from the Arctic that could well be applied in the south to improve matters there. The book is well worth a read."—Polar Record, August 2, 2017

"A thought-provoking book on the potential occupation of the seventh continent. In my words quoted in the book, I sent a message to the future population of Antarctica: 'Decide your own destiny and your own future . . . You will have your own life, you will live there, and you should be the one to decide.'"—Aleqa Hammond, Former Prime Minister of Greenland/Member of Parliament of Denmark

"This book makes a compelling case that the forces of globalization, climate change, and migration are already changing the face of Antarctica and aggravating its tragedy of the commons. The author’s exposition of the challenges and her proposed remedies are provocative and should act as the beginning of a new conversation."—Pascal Lamy, Former Director-General of the World Trade Organization and President Emeritus of the Jacques Delors Institute

"In the coming decades, the Antarctic, long a peripheral region in international relations, will become a much more significant and contentious geopolitical space. The changing global order requires Antarctica’s governance to reflect more diverse interests, and the consequences of anthropogenic climate change are so profound that no place on our common planet any longer remains peripheral. Against this background, Doaa Abdel-Motaal offers a critical analysis of our current Antarctic arrangements and suggests options for a new regional dispensation there."—Dr. Alan D. Hemmings, Adjunct Associate Professor, Gateway Antarctica Centre for Antarctic Studies and Research, University of Canterbury, New Zealand
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