Bordering on the absurd

All the world’s territorial disputes, graded by intensity

March 25, 2014
Obsession
Borders
March 25, 2014
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We recently published a map showing that most of the world’s countries are involved in land or border disputes of some kind. But that might have given a false impression of the level of conflict in the world. The map above categorizes the conflicts according to their gravity, from dormant disputes to active conflicts. (Countries marked in gray have none.) Central and western Africa, Asia and the Middle East emerge as the areas of the world with most active territorial conflicts.

In the CIA World Factbook, from which the data for the map are taken, some of the disputes stand out as particularly curious. The oddest may be the case of Portugal, which refuses to recognize Spanish sovereignty over Olivenza (or Olivença), a small, triangular piece of territory on the border between them that Spain has controlled for two centuries. The dispute is “based on a difference of interpretation of the 1815 Congress of Vienna and the 1801 Treaty of Badajoz.” There are also peculiar border disputes in Africa, between Benin and Togo in one case, and the Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola in another. In both cases, one side accuses the other of moving boundary markers.

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