Untangling the paradox of conflict resolution in maritime boundary delimitation

Authors: Catalina Garcia*, University of Amsterdam
Topics: Coastal and Marine, Legal Geography
Keywords: maritime boundaries, conflict resolution, Caribbean
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2020
Start / End Time: 5:35 PM / 6:50 PM
Room: Terrace, Sheraton, IM Pei Tower, Terrace Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The literature on maritime boundaries reveals a plethora of conflicts by virtue of sovereignty, exploitation of living and non-living resources or legitimization of historical rights. In this regard, some coastal and island states choose judiciary means to solve contestations and nowadays international maritime boundary litigation settlement is a predominant subject in the field of international law. However, in what it seems a paradox in the maritime boundary conflict resolution processes, international courts and tribunals rely almost exclusively upon UNCLOS and the geographical paradigm criteria, omitting marine borders dynamics as well as goals and principles stated by the same international organizations in relation to a coordinated ocean governance, marine resources conservation, sustainability, and inclusiveness.

My research is conducted on the Colombian-Nicaraguan maritime boundary. Through the lens of Anthropological Geography of Law (Braverman et al. 2014; Delaney 2017), I am exploring boundary dynamics on the interplay between practices, spaces and different ideas of law in the disputed area. How actors of governance understand the maritime boundary space and cope with contestations?

My findings show that the paradox could be reduced if mechanisms of conflict resolution go beyond the traditional-legal boundary-making processes and consider the fluidity of the marine space, meaning i) the variety of social practices occurring at the boundary (fisheries, goods mobility, transport, smuggling); ii) the array of legal orders at disposal regulating oceans and coastal spaces (SDGs, SSF Guidelines, UNFCCC, CBD, ILO 169) ; iii) the Boundary Actions understanding blurred lines and bright ones (Alba, 2005, Van Broekhoven 2016)

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