FRONTIERS AND BOUNDARIES
Wilson R.M. Krukoski
(Traslated by José A. Krukoski)
- The basic elements that form a nation are "People", "Government", and "Territory".
- The following considerations will focus specifically on this third element. "Territory" is the surface, limited by boundaries, over which the nation exerts its sovereignty.
"The first boundary was traced on the ground by the first being that understood his position in face of his neighbor's. From individual property it passed to the collective sovereignty, i.e. to the household, from the household to the city, from the city to the province ,and from the province to the country. Everything has limits, lanes, fences, walls or some other designation that defines the characteristics of the material possessions, of some being, be that a man or a social entity."(Castillos Goycochea).
- Making a retrospective analysis over History, it is possible to verify that the concept of Territory, such as it is understood today, only came to be used a little less than 300 years ago. Until then, the nations would define their territories by the land over which their governments could exert their sovereignties.
- The concept of nation was then linked to a communal center, a city and its government, its culture, thus influencing the neighboring regions. Thus is the way, with scarce geographical definition, that the boundaries and locations of the Roman Empire, the domains of Charlemagne, the Ottoman Empire, etc.
- The materialization on the land, with defining monuments, of the limits of a territory, only came to be from the 18th century on. Thus are found the first trials to divide the South American continent, with the treaties of Madrid (1750) and Saint Ildefonso (1777), which vised to divide the Spanish domains from those of the Portuguese.
- Initially, the boundaries were either inhospitable regions or obstacles which were difficult to cross. Or, otherwise defined, it was the farthest regions of influence of a people. Generally, it would be a river, a mountain or a desert which served as wall, or separator. The intention was really to separate two nations. Nowadays the concept of "separation" has changed radically.
- A boundary isn't a paragraph on a treaty, nor a line on a map, but a complex and functional structure on the earth's surface.
- First of all, two terms must be separated, which are usually used improperly as synonyms: Frontier and Boundary.
- The term "Frontier" is more generic and refers to a region, while "Boundary" is linked to a more precise, linear, and perfectly defined concept.
- To focus the objectiveness with which boundaries are implanted, the scholars divided the phases over which it is done into "Historical Precedents", "Delimitation", "Demarcation", and "Characterization".
- In the "Historical Precedent" phase, the cultural characteristics of the people in the region and eventual previous attempts (failed or annulled) to establish a boundary. The failure to observe these precedents during its political division, is the cause for most of the problems in Africa.
- "Delimitation" is the establishment and ratification of the treaties that deal with the subject. During this phase, negotiators from both countries decide, in face of the existing documentation, how is the boundary line to be traced between the two territories. It is essentially a political process.
- Then comes the phase of "Demarcation", when the demarcators try to interpret on the terrain the intentions of the delimiters. This is a technical phase, which can offer some difficulties of interpretation in finding on the terrain the rivers, lakes, mountains or other landmark that has served as the base for the "Delimitation".
- During this phase, the "Demarcating", or "Principal" monuments, or marks are built, which define the lines of the boundary of the country or territory.
- Finally, comes the "Characterization" phase, which is strictly technical. During this phase, new "Marks" are erected in order to satisfy the necessities of the population growth along the borders. This is done strictly in the spirit of the work of the demarcators.
- "Demarcation" and "Characterization" are made by "Joint-Commissions" formed by technicians from both adjacent countries.
- Obeying a logical hierarchy, each subsequent phase cannot alter the decisions of the preceding one. Thus, the technicians working in the improvement of the "characterization" of a boundary, must take into consideration what was previously established by the demarcators, in the same way that the demarcators tried to keep to the spirit of the treaty established during "Delimitation".
- There are still nations facing all the different phases stated above. However, most of them have passed "Delimitation" and "Demarcation", and are currently facing "Characterization" which is a continuous process, practically eternal, always subject to better definitions.
- There are also nations being born. When the UN was created, it had about fifty nations. Nowadays it contains almost 200 independent states.
- In several present days international problems, it is possible to identify cases where a revision of the boundaries, from the "Historical Precedents" phase, is necessary for the success of the "Delimitation" and "Demarcation" phases.
- In the process of secession of the East European states, the appearance of new nations is a presumable fact. The provisions for establishing their territories should follow, naturally, the phases presented above.
- Let us focus now on the several types of limits, or boundaries. A way to distinguish different types of limits is to classify them into two types: Natural Boundaries and Geometric or Artificial Boundaries.
- Among the first type are the Hidric boundaries, or watercourses, and the Orographics, or dry boundaries, being those, water dividers, mountain ranges and other natural landmarks.
- When we observe water boundaries, especially in watercourses, it is interesting to observe that these limits can be presented by the following expressions: "by the talweg", "by the middle", "by one of the margins", "by the alveo", or simply "by".
- When the limit is presented "by the alveo", we understand that there is a condominium of waters. For small watercourses, when the term used is simply "by", it is usually understood that the boundary is set as by the alveo.
- The Geometric limits are the Geodesic Lines (sometimes wrongly assumed as "straigh" lines) and the Geographic Lines (Meridians and Paralels).
- There are also the monuments, generally placed on the boundaries, and that serve to better define the exact location of the boundary lines.
- Among these are the Boundary Marks, placed exactly over the boundary, and the Reference Marks, placed next to boundary lines; these are used when the line follows a watercourse, in which case, the monument is placed on its margin.
- These marks are also classified in order of importance. Therefore, there are the Primary and Secondary (Intermediate or Intercalated) Marks. The first are the ones built during the "Demarcation" phase and the latter during the "Characterization" phase.
- There are also the Deviation Marks. These are the ones placed according to the boundary line, when this line doesn't exactly follow what was planned in the basic "Delimitation" document. This is the case of places close to the border, where as the "Characterization" progresses, the marks have to be placed a little outside the water divider (normally making an area compensation) to facilitate the "Characterization".
- It was said before that the boundaries were initially established to separate people. Nowadays, it is in the borderland that the best interchanges between modern nations occur. These are the "human" boundaries, since the barrier boundaries received the benefit of civilization and united the two states.
- With the recent approximation of countries and the surge of the Community of Nations, one might conclude that the borderlines are doomed, in the future, to disappear. We believe not. They changed in the way they are treated, but will never disappear. It could be compared to the boundary between two neighboring farms where an old fence or stream is enough to separate the two properties, in contrast to the perfectly delimited (to the millimeter) more expensive lots in urban areas where a perfect delimitation and characterization is necessary.
- It is good to remember that "good fences make good neighbors".
- Let us take a look at Brazil. We understand that the "Delimitation" phase is over and practically all the "Demarcation" is complete. In all our borders we are finishing the "Characterization" phase.
- In the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Relations, the subjects of limits and boundaries used to be fundamental. Take, for instance, Rio Branco's time, who knew very well how to deal with our boundary issues with a perfect political-diplomatic strategy. To believe that there are no more problems or work to be done in our boundaries would be a mistake. This work never ends. This is because it can only be done by "Joint-Commissions", in a continuous and specialized work.
- Besides the consular work done on the boundary, there are still specific details, proper of the "Characterization" phase, which in Brazil is done by the continuous work of two Technical Departments of the Ministry of Foreign Relations, one based in Rio de Janeiro, which deals with the boundaries from Bolivia to Uruguay, and the other in Belem, which deals with the boundaries from Peru northward. These activities are coordinated by the Boundary Division of the Ministry of Foreign Relations, in Brasilia.
- Finally, the subject treated here, even though it dealt mainly with international boundaries, is also applicable to the boundaries between states and municipalities.
- The ownership and property of a land is based on the concept of sovereignty.
- We define "ownership" as the capacity to use something, and "property" as the right to use something; we have also "sovereignty" as the right and capacity to decide about ownership and property.
- Therefore, sovereignty over a region can only be established with the precise definition of the territory, which can only be possible with the establishment of its boundaries.
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