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Bad neighboring countries: cross-border environmental arguments, Disputes and Conflicts

Economic growth and development of a country does not only rely on its internal forces but also it’s influenced by other external forces such as relationship with its neighbors. Cross border businesses play a great role in the promotion of the economy of a country. For instance in the year 2011 digital trade across the US borders increased the GDP between $ 517 billion and $711 billion, average wages also increased from 4.5 to 5.0 percent, and resulted to the growth of employment for over 2.4 million people[CITATION USD16 \p 5 \l 1033 ]. Therefore, there is a need for any nation to maintain a peaceful co-existence with their neighbors for them to benefit from the gains of cross border businesses. However, for various reasons achieving a good relationship between neighbors has not been successful for various reasons despite the efforts of formulation and signing of international treaties and policies. This paper shall focus on the cross-border environmental arguments and conflicts and their overall effect to the growth of the economy of a nation.


The Indonesia-Malaysia conflict dates back to the early years of the 1960s based on the opposition of Indonesia for the creation of the Malaysian Federation. Sukarno, the then president of Malaysia believed that the creation of Malaysia was a strategy by the British government to control the region as their colony[CITATION Moh13 \p 13 \l 1033 ]. Malaysia was created in September 1963 which was basically an amalgamation of the Federation of Malaya (currently West Malaysia), Singapore, The British Colony of North Borneo and Sarawak (currently East Malaysia)[CITATION Mac74 \p “36–37 & 174” \m Eas04 \p 133 \l 1033 ]. The major precursors of the war between Indonesia and Malaysia was included the policy of confrontation that was signed for March- August 1962 and the Brunei revolution of 1962. The confrontation was an undeclared war between Indonesia and East Malaysia. Initially the attacks on the East of Malaysia heavily relied on the volunteers who were trained by the Malaysian army[CITATION Edw92 \p 304 \l 1033 ]. Later they became more organized and infiltration into Malaysia became more intense. The army was deployed to carry out operations across the border of Malaysia. In the year 1964, British responded to the attacks of Indonesia in Malaysia in what was called the Operation Claret. Following the deployment of the Indonesian Army to the West of Malaysia, the UK, through its Strategic Army Command in collaboration with Australia and New Zealand deployed army to the West of Malaysia. Following the ascent to power of president Suaharto, new negotiations were initiated in May 1966 and in August 1966 a peace agreement was signed by the two countries[CITATION Edw92 \p 306 \l 1033 ].

It’s a long time conflict but its effects are being felt up to date. In his research paper Irwansyah (2017), found out that the emergence of the internet and the online social networks have played a great role in the spread of the conflict among the Indonesians and the Malaysians. There are four main issues that have fueled a lot of debate in the mass media. Firstly, the issue of Sipadan-Ligitan islands which both countries claimed and was later resolved through the 2012 International Tribute to Justice (ITJ). In this case Malaysia won the negotiation and the islands became recognized as Malaysian islands. The second issue was the claim of the Ambalat block which Malaysia claimed but was later considered a threat to the political and military forces of Indonesia. The third main issue of concern was the placing of the frontier pole and the border line between West, East, and North Borneo in Indonesia and Sarawak and Sabah in Malaysia[CITATION Fon05 \p 184 \l 1033 ]. The forth issue was the clam launched by Malaysia on the Tanjung Datu, West Borneo, which they claim they had secured by the construction of a lighthouse in the Indonesian territory[CITATION Irw17 \p 01 \l 1033 ].

United States and Mexico

The US-Mexico conflict is commonly known as the Border War dates back to the Mexican revolution of the year 1910. Following the Mexican revolution, the United States Army was stationed along the border to protect the border town from the Mexican liberals and Federals[CITATION Web08 \p 26 \l 1033 ]. The climax of the American-Mexico border war became prevalent in the year 1916 when the Pancho Villa attacked the American border town of Columbus, New Mexico[CITATION Tim08 \p 153 \l 1033 ]. In response, the American Army invaded the northern Mexico to engage the villistas and they managed to capture and kill the two top lieutenants of the Villistas. Later the American Army launched small operation in the Mexican territory until they won the Battle of Ambolos Nogales leading to the formation of a permanent border wall between the two states[CITATION Pet84 \p 151-176 \l 1033 ].

After the end of the civil war there were claims of damage by the Americans and the Mexicans. The government of the US under the leadership of President Calvin Coolidge and Alvaro Obregon formed the American-Mexican Claims Commission which was tasked to handle the civil war claims. Obregon was eager to resolve the issues in order to receive recognition and the petroleum trade which led to the Bucareli Treaty of the year 1923[CITATION Tim08 \p 42 \l 1033 ]. However, these agreements did not last following the ascent to power of the Mexican president Plutarco Elias resulting to the oil dispute and a further conflict called the Cristero War.

In the year 1945 Mexico under the leadership of Manuel Avila Camacho and the US president Franklin D. Roosevelt they agreed to form a collaboration to fight against the axis powers in the Second World War[CITATION Mat07 \p 73-77 \l 1033 ]. The relationship between the two countries was back on track again. Bilateral relations were strengthened between the two countries. During the cold war Mexico supported the US policies and did not question the US intervention in the Guatemala. This relationship led to signing of many agreements which focused on the peaceful coexistence between the two countries. In the year 1970 a Boundary Treaty was signed to resolve Chamizal dispute of the two boundaries with the US ceding the disputed territory. In the year 1994 the US and Mexico signed a North American Free Trade Agreement with the aim of eliminating the trade barriers between the two countries[CITATION Buc97 \p 510 \l 1033 ]. This has led to the strengthening of the economic ties between the countries and with Mexico being the Americas third largest trading partner after Canada and China.

Despite all these successes and the signing of free trade Area led to the emergence of new problems that threaten the economic ties of the two nations. One of the most notable ones is the illegal immigration across the US-Mexico border. By the year 2009 62% of illegal immigrants in the US came from Mexico[CITATION McC11 \p 3-5 \l 1033 ]. The government has made several efforts to curb illegal immigrants and by the year 2014 the figure dropped to 52%[CITATION Kro16 \p “; Fact Tank” \l 1033 ]. The other issue is the trafficking of illegal drugs across the border and illegal weapons across the border. These problems have threatened the economic ties of the two countries with passing of a series of policies and initiatives to curb criminal activities across the border.

With President Trump’s new administration the ties between the two countries have deteriorated. Following the Trumps signing of an executive order for the construction of a border wall on January 25, 2017, Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto canceled his visit to the US[CITATION Lin17 \p “:Los Angeles Times” \l 1033 ]. President Trump has also been campaigning for the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Area, which has threated the long built economic ties between the two countries.


The relationship between America and Canada has been one of the strongest in economic history given the shared cultural and economic similarities between the two countries[CITATION Wau11 \p “:” \l 1033 ]. Canada is ranked number 2 after China as the United States economic partner[CITATION Uni15 \p “:” \l 1033 ]. However, like many other countries they have their border conflicts and differences but they have not affected the economic ties between the two countries to a greater extent. The cross border conflict between the US and Canada dates back to the American Revolution where the disloyal citizens fled to Canada. In the war of 1812 invasion were witnessed across the border and in the year 1815 the war ended with the border remaining unchanged and being demilitarized as well as the Great Lakes[CITATION McR10 \p 50 \l 1033 ]. However, with the continued watch of Britain on the dominance of Canada by the Americans the Canadian Dominion was formed in the year 1867. In the year 1911 Canada rejected free trade agreement with US. However they collaborated closely in the World War II and in the cold war through NORAD and NATO[CITATION Joh08 \p 45 \l 1033 ]. Since then there have been continued economic collaboration between the two nations after the signing of Canada-United States Free Trade Agreement in the year 1988.

In the recent past years there have been emerging minor conflicts between the two states but they have not greatly affected the economic ties between the two nations. Some of the most notable policies that have resulted to heated arguments and debates between the two countries include the Special 301 Report Intellectual Property in which products such as the softwood lumber, tomatoes and other agricultural products have been banned from exportation to America. The second issue of contention is the tightened security across the border after the 2001 terrorist attack on the American Soil[CITATION Vic08 \p 49 \l 1033 ]. The tightened security led to delays in movement of goods and services across the border. However, this problem has been dealt with in a unilateral approach by the two countries reducing the regulations for crossing the border and also training personnel across the border for faster service delivery while maintaining standard security measures across the border. Another issue is the importation of cheap drugs from Canada. As a measure of promoting medical care among its citizens the Canadian have made their drug prescription cheaply affordable by the citizens. The United states through its regulation have passed laws against this cheap importation but other states have allowed the importation. The drugs cartels through their political actors have opposed this importation greatly arguing that it affect the growth and sustainability of local drug manufacturers[CITATION Kel12 \p “: New York Times” \l 1033 ].

Canada and Denmark

For the longest time Canada and Denmark have been into negotiations for the Hans Island located in the Centre of Kennedy Channel of Nares Strait which separates Ellesmere Island from Northern Greenland and also connects Baffin Bay with Lincoln Sea[CITATION Ste07 \p ” 265″ \l 1033 ]. The border conflict started in the years of 1960s with both Denmark and Canada claiming ownership of the territory. The Hans Island is a desolate bare uninhabited island with rocks but it has become a silver land for the two countries to compete for. International law has it that countries have the authority to claim ownership of territories that are 12 miles off their shores and Hans Island is within the 12 miles reach for both countries.

In the year 1933 the permanent Court of International Justice declared the legal status of Hans Island in favor of Denmark. In the ruling the court opined that the geographical evidence of Hans Island were similar to those of Greenland which is part of Denmark. Since the year 1960s several surveys have been carried out in the region by the Canadian Dome Oil Petroleum company to study the movement of ice in the island[CITATION Geo76 \p 1976 \l 1033 ].

In the year 1972 a team of negotiators from both Canada and Denmark started negotiations on the maritime border of the two countries. The negotiations ended ion the year 1973 with no formal agreements on the maritime border of the two countries. Later in December 1973 they signed a continental shelf treaty which was handed over to the United Nations. The treaty focused on the preservation of the continental shelf with both parties agreeing that neither party will exercise their sovereign rights on the Island[CITATION Uni73 \p 16 \l 1033 ].

In the year 1984 the Canadian and the Danish government made a joint administration effort to preserve the marine environment in around the Hans Island. In these negotiations they jointly agreed to manage the marine environment and protect it from over exploitation through fishing and protect the marine environment from pollution. The other aspect was the issuance of authority to carry out research in the region as majority of the research reports that emerged continued to ignite more border conflicts with their findings. Unknown to Denmark the Canadian Dome Petroleum Company was carrying out research in the Island at the time of the agreement. This appeared as betrayal to the Danish who later staged a pole with a Danish flag with a message Welcome to Denmark and left a bottle of brandy, a Danish traditional spirit. The Canadians also reciprocated with a flag and a bottle of Canadian club. The fight continued with each side moving to the opposite side and replacing the flag with their and placing their bottle of spirit[CITATION Ste07 \p 242 \l 1033 ].

The issue of the Hans Island remained a standing issue until the year 2004 when the Canadian army invaded the region. The Canadian government opposition critique brought the issue to parliament after a long period without negotiations. This led to the renewal of negotiations in the year 2007. In these negotiations the Canadian realized the satellite maritime boundary could cut the island into two. The negotiations have not been completed but in the year 2012 there was a proposals of a condominium approach in which the island is split equally into two[CITATION Web15 \p “:CBC News” \l 1033 ]. The two can exercise their sovereign rights on the island.


Cross-border environmental conflicts and disputes have a long historical foundation across the world. This makes it impossible to solve the issues amicably due to the lack of historical knowledge and evidence in regard to the boundaries of the conflicting countries. Also, with time the demands of the conflicting countries undergo transition making it very difficult to come up with solutions during the negotiations. The media also plays a great role in the border conflicts by inciting the citizens to elucidate a series of debates and counter arguments which magnify further the conflict.

It’s no doubt that the economic stability of a country greatly relies on the peaceful coexistence with the neighboring countries. Border conflicts impact negatively on the businesses between the conflicting countries especially where goods have to be transported through the border. However, in these conflicts each nation has its interests to pursue making it difficult to achieve a neutral ground of understanding. Unless the countries shun their interests and focus on achieving peace it becomes difficult to negotiate and achieve amicable solutions that can be accepted by all conflicting parties.

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