Pluralism of pluralisms [Post 26]

Contexts and territorial disputes

The previous post introduced the notion of contexts in relation to cosmopolitanism and sovereignty. Any agent (individuals, communities and states) may have presence and be interested in the local, regional and international contexts. In order to bring light to the notion of contexts and their relevance, the blog series will make use of territorial disputes. To gain a more comprehensive understanding of any territorial dispute all three contexts should be considered: domestic, regional and international. Broadly, consider the following examples:

The difference between Russia and Crimea may appear on the surface to be circumscribed to the local and regional contexts. However, not to acknowledge the direct or indirect influence of the international context means to have an incomplete view of a dispute that clearly have more interested agents. Arguably, NATO’s expansion and the European Union may explain Russian behavior.[1]

Similar to the Crimean case, Gibraltar introduces two visible agents (Spain and the United Kingdom).[2] In principle, Gibraltar as a territorial dispute could be characterized as local or region. A more details analysis, however, should acknowledge at least three salient issues: the populations in Gibraltar and in La Línea, which form two very different collective identities with deep gaps between their economy that generate social movements; the European Union in light of Brexit; and overlapping maritime areas.

Kashmir too appears to be circumscribed to the local or domestic and, possibly, regional contexts. This account would be incomplete without considering the international sphere. For instance, states like Russia, the United States and the United Kingdom have interests in the area as well as either direct or indirect influence.[3]

Amazonia is not per se a territorial dispute. But the area has distinctly relevance in the domestic, regional and international contexts. Evidently, a territory rich in natural resources attracts domestic, regional and international agents but in Brazil, the largest state in the area, politicians and academics seem to agree that the internationalization of the Amazon is not the answer.[4]

All these examples and other territorial disputes have characteristics that make them dissimilar. Despite their peculiarities, all territorial disputes share some traits in common. One of them is the fact that if we center our analysis on solely one context, the outcome will be biased because of it incompleteness. It is accurate to maintain that either the domestic, regional or international context may be more relevant that the others in relation to a particular dispute. But their degree of relevance should not be reason enough to discard them if we aim to comprehend the complexity behind these disputes and, hopefully, solve them peacefully and permanently.  

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International context.

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).

Monday 31st May 2021

Dr Jorge Emilio Núñez

Twitter: @DrJorge_World

[1] Maximilian Klotz, “Russia and the Ukrainian Crisis: A Multiperspective Analysis of Russian Behaviour, by Taking into Account NATO’s and the EU’s Enlargement,” in Croatian International Relations Review 23:80 (2017): 259-287.

[2] George Hills, Rock of Contention, a History of Gibraltar (London: Robert Hale & Company, 1974). For more details about the early history of Gibraltar, see the official version at and a contemporary account at .

[3] J. G. Merrills, International Dispute Settlement (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017).

[4] See the speech by Cristovam Buarque, Professor at the University of Brasilia, former candidate for the Presidency of Brazil (2006), former District Governor and Senator , in Revista Diálogo Educacional 3:5 (2002): 107-108 available (in Portuguese) at , accessed 31/05/2021. There are many resources in Portuguese opposed to the internationalization of Amazonia not translated into English. See, for example, Pio Filho Penna, “Interações Regionais e Pressões Internacionais sobre a Pan-Amazônia: Perspectivas Brasileiras,” in (eds.), Amazônia e Atlântico Sul: Desafios e Perspectivas para a Defesa no Brasil, edited by Gilberto F. Gheller, Selma L. M. Gonzales and Laerte P. Mello (Brasília: IPEA: NEP), 2015; Arthur C. F. Reis, “A Amazônia e a Integridade do Brasil,” in Brasília: Senado Federal (Brasilia: Conselho Editorial, 2001); and many more.

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