UN Court Rules on Peru-Chile Maritime Border

October 20, 2016

In 2008, Peru approached the International Court of Justice to rule on an unset maritime border with Chile. 38,000 square kilometers of ocean were under question, among this area some of the best fishing territories in the Pacific Ocean. Past agreements established that the border ran parallel to the equator. Peru, however, wanted it to be extended southwest to run perpendicular to the land border. Recently, the Hague Judges, of the United Nation’s highest courts, ruled on the dispute. The ruling gave Peru part of the Pacific Ocean while leaving some of the fishing areas as part of Chile’s domain.

Both countries vow to abide by the ruling, and both expressed positive reactions. Prior to the decision, both sides increased police surveillance in order to prevent the ruling from altering the relations between the two. Both nations also wanted to protect their commercial growth, and have maintained friendly economic ties with one another throughout the dispute. Peru is the world’s largest exporter of fish meal while Chile follows as the second largest, both nations relying on one another for investment and economic growth.

This decision marks the end of tensions between these neighboring countries. The zone was disputed primarily due to the large yield of fish that it produces. Peru’s fishing area estimates the disputed zone to be worth USD$200 million annually. In Peru, some were left confused by the decision’s implications. Although they won more of the territory than they had requested, some local fishermen voiced that the ruling was a loss. The decision was received peacefully in both countries. Peruvian columnist Nelson Manrique stated that it was an “intelligent verdict [that is] not going to please everyone but it's also not going to bring anyone to fits."

The countries also disputed the area due to a matter of national pride. In the nineteenth century War of the Pacific, Chile defeated Peru, claiming resource rich lands with access to the sea. Despite these historical conflicts, the Peru-Chile border has exemplified a place of coexistence where citizens freely travel from one nation to the other. Sister cities of Tacna and Arica depend on one another for various reasons such as employment and healthcare. With the border dispute settled, these countries can now continue to peacefully maintain their economic partnership.

About Author(s)

Madeline Townsend
Madeline is a senior at the University of Pittsburgh. She is pursuing a degree in Spanish and Global Studies, with a focus on the Latin American region. She plans to present an honors thesis on visual representations of the internal conflict that occurred in Peru between 1980 and 2000. She also studies Portuguese and Film Studies as minors and works as one of the Panoramas interns.