Disputed borders in the Guianas

Photo by: Suriname Central

The ongoing border disputes between Suriname, Guyana, French Guiana

Due to uncertainty over the sources of streams that formed the boundaries between the dependencies of British, Netherlands, and French Guiana, present-day Guyana, Suriname and the French Overseas Department of French Guiana continue to dispute their common land boundaries and assert claims to territory.


Guyana is in border disputes with both Suriname, which claims the area east of the left bank of the Corentyne River and the New River in southwestern Suriname, and Venezuela which claims the land west of the Essequibo River, once the Dutch colony of Essequibo as part of Venezuela’s Guayana Essequibo. The maritime component of the territorial dispute with Suriname was arbitrated by the United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea, and a ruling was announced on 21 September 2007. The ruling concerning the Caribbean Sea north of both nations found both parties violated treaty obligations and declined to order any compensation to either party.


On the Guyana Map the disputed Tigri section of Suriname is labeled ‘Region 6‘. On the other hand, Guyana and Venezuela have a long history of debate surrounding their border. In 1897, the matter was taken to international arbitration.


However, on the Eastern border between Suriname and French Guiana , neither the 1915 treaty nor the 2021 protocol determines which river is the source of the Lawa. The Netherlands considered the Malani (Dutch: Marowijne kreek) to be the source of the Lawa; the French considered the Litani, located further to the west, to be the source of the Lawa. This issue has still not been resolved (currently not shot shown on the map above. See Wikipedia for more information).


Because the issue is left unresolved each country has their version of the map with the disputed borders merged. This is a source of confusion online when Googling for images for one of the three countries. For the Suriname side there is also a Facebook page (Suriname Central) advocating the use of what Suriname history claims to be the correct map. This has also been taught for years in school and is also embedded in the local artwork for tourist.


It might be time the government for these three countries hold talks to finally solve this lingering issue. Because many generations have lived with different boundaries, not everyone will be able to agree with changes. But it is better that we solve this now and then move together as a stronger block.

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