Antarctic community mourns loss of champion
Obituary - Ambassador Jorge : Born San Bernardo, Chile, January 29 1929; died 8 May 2011, Santiago de Chile
The Antarctic community is mourning the passing of one of its most significant diplomats, Ambassador Jorge Berguño, who passed away on 8 May 2011.
Ambassador Berguño joined the Chilean Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1953 and was extremely active as a diplomat and academic right up until his death. His diplomatic activities ranged widely, including as Chilean Ambassador to Australia from 1985 to 1987, and his academic interests were many and varied.
Jorge Berguño was a giant in Antarctic affairs over so many years it is hard to imagine the Antarctic Treaty system without him. I had the privilege of working in international meetings with him on Antarctic matters for over a decade from the late 1990s. In that time I developed a deep fondness for him which is matched only by my respect for his wisdom.
Jorge Berguño obtained his first degree in Law and Social Sciences from the Catholic University of Chile in 1954. His subsequent degrees include a Masters of Public Administration from Princeton (1957) and a Doctor of International Affairs from the American University, Washington (1967). He published widely on international affairs, the Antarctic, and the Law of the Sea, as well as on history, exploration and science.
He had a wide and varied diplomatic career, including a posting to Paris in the early 1970s; later becoming the Chilean Ambassador to UNESCO in the early 1980s, followed by his appointment as Permanent Representative to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). He was a key advisor and negotiator for Chile on many international negotiations. He also served as the Ambassador to Canada, and Ambassador to the United Nations Office inGeneva and the Conference on Disarmament.
Jorge Berguño was a champion of the ideals of the Antarctic Treaty: the spirit of cooperation; the protection of the environment; the continent devoted to peace and science. He was a significant player in the negotiations for the establishment of the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (1980); the Protocol on the Protection of the Antarctic Environment (1990); and the long, drawn out negotiations over liability for damage to the Antarctic environment (2005).
Softly spoken, he would often switch seamlessly from Spanish into English and French (sometimes in the same intervention), quietly emphasising a particularly point which more often than not included a precise analysis of international law and the Antarctic Treaty. As a senior representative of one of the seven countries which lay claim to parts of the Antarctic continent (along with Australia, Argentina, France, the UK, New Zealand and Norway), Ambassador Berguño was the consummate diplomat: while always representing his country's national interests, he would seek a path that brought people together, and which would protect the integrity of the fundamental principles of the Antarctic Treaty.
Jorge Berguño was a good friend to Australia. He enjoyed coming here for Antarctic meetings and working with Australian scientists and diplomats in Antarctic affairs. Over the years he developed a keen interest early historical connections between Australia and Chile. Not so long ago, on one of his many visits to Hobart, he was carrying with him a manuscript detailing the fate of the convicts who had escaped from Macquarie Harbour in Tasmania and sailed an epic voyage across the southern Pacific to Chile.
Ambassador Jorge Berguño is survived by his wife, Paula Hurtado, and his 5 children, two of whom have followed him into the diplomatic service.
His Antarctic colleagues will miss him. The tributes flowing from his Chilean colleagues have been most heartfelt. The world has lost one of its true Antarctic ambassadors.
Vale Don Jorge.
- Tony Press