Pluralism of pluralisms [Post 13]

The Americas: natives and settlers.

With little regard to the original occupants of the land, the European colonial times marked a change in the socio-political dynamics across the Americas.[1] Although English, French, Dutch, Portuguese and Spanish conquests have their own peculiarities in the way they dealt with local populations, all cases resulted in a profound change. The former Aztec, Mayan and Incan Empires were dismantled and many tribes simply became extinct.[2] In terms of territorial definition, European rulers created borders using European understanding of concepts such as sovereignty and state. Unsurprisingly, none of these documents mention the indigenous population.

The states formed after colonial times applied the principle of uti possidetis juris by which they assumed to have sovereignty over their formerly-colonial areas.[3] Nevertheless, these previously “settled” borders proved to be unclear or non-existent and generated competing claims that resulted in territorial disputes.[4]

There are a few remaining cases in America of European presence. The Hans island dispute between Canada and Denmark[5] and the Marouini River tract dispute between Suriname and French Guiana[6] are part of the colonial legacy in the new continent. Arguably, the most notable ongoing territorial dispute in the Americas that include a former colonial power is over the Falklands/Malvinas Islands. This dispute started as early as 1833, since the British settled.[7]

There are several territorial disputes in the Caribbean. Most of them have their origin in colonial times. However, since many of the Caribbean states are islands and all of them have maritime borders, the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea resulted in other differences due to the legally redefined areas such as exclusive economic zones. Moreover, new technologies and the presence of natural resources in these areas have fostered disagreements.  Similar to the previous cases, the territorial dispute with regard to the archipelago of San Andres, Providencia and Santa Catalina is rooted in colonialism. As a result of migration, slavery and the different cultural influences at play, the Raizal community has struggled between Anglophone/Protestant and Hispanic/Catholic views.[8]

The Amazon rain forest[9] is located in South America and is part of the territories of Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana. The area is within domestic, regional and international contexts and several agents such as sovereign states, indigenous people, non-governmental organizations, multi-national private companies, and scientists.[10]

Some partial conclusions indicate that any population in a disputed territory, whether implanted for “right-peopling” reasons or indigenous, may present a different interest to the ones represented by the claimant sovereign states.

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Africa: natives and settlers.

Author of:

Territorial Disputes and State Sovereignty. International Law and Politics (London and New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2020).

Sovereignty Conflicts and International Law and Politics: A Distributive Justice Issue (London and New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2017).

Wednesday 28th April 2021

Dr Jorge Emilio Núñez

Twitter: @DrJorge_World

[1] For a detailed account about territorial disputes in the Americas see Jorge E. Núñez, Territorial Disputes and State Sovereignty: International Law and Politics (London and New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2020), chapter 6.

[2] Linda A. Newson, “The Demographic Collapse of Native Peoples of the Americas, 1492-1650,” in Proceedings of the British Academy 81 (1993): 247-288.

[3] Steven R. Ratner, “Drawing a Better Line: Uti Possidetis and the Borders of New States,” in American Journal of International Law 90:4 (1996): 590-624; Malcom N. Shaw, International Law (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 446-451; Ian Brownlie, Principles of Public International Law (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), 129-130; and many others.

[4] Alan J. Day, ed., Border and Territorial Disputes (Essex: Longman, 1982), 332-333.

[5] Christopher Stevenson, “Hans Off!: The Struggle for Hans Island and the Potential Ramifications for International Border Dispute Resolution,” in Boston College International and Comparative Law Review 30:1 (2007): 263-275; A. H. Kessel, “Canadian Arctic Sovereignty: Myths and Realities,” in  Governing the North American Arctic, edited by D. A. Berry, N. Bowles and H. Jones, (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016), 242-246.

[6] Thomas W. Donovan, “The Marouini River Tract and Its Colonial Legacy in South America,” in Chicago-Kent Journal of International and Comparative Law 4 (2004): 1-28.

[7] See Jorge E. Núñez, Sovereignty Conflicts and International Law and Politics (London and New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2017), chapter 7. For official historical accounts see (UK) and (Argentina).

[8] James Ross, “Routes for Roots: Entering the 21st Century in San Andrés Island, Colombia,” in Caribbean Studies 35:1 (2007): 3-36.

[9] Note the author uses the terms Amazonia or Amazon rainforest to refer to the geographical area in which many sovereign states in South America may sovereignty claims.

[10] Paul E. Little, Amazonia: Territorial Struggles on Perennial Frontiers (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001).

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