Geneva Agreement (1966)

The Agreement to resolve the conflict between Venezuela and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland over the border between Venezuela and British Guiana, better known as the Geneva Agreement, is a treaty between Venezuela and the United Kingdom, along with its colony of British Guiana (which would soon receive its independence), that was signed in Geneva, Switzerland, on 17 February 1966. The treaty outlines the steps taken to resolve the territorial dispute between Venezuela and the United Kingdom, arising from Venezuela's contention to the UN in 1962 that the 1899 declaration by the Paris Tribunal of Arbitration awarding the territory to British Guiana was null and void,[2] following the publication of Severo Mallet-Prevost's memorandums and other documents from the tribunal that called the decision into question.[1][3]

Geneva Agreement
Agreement to resolve the conflict between Venezuela and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland over the border between Venezuela and British Guiana
Territory in dispute (Essequibo) shown in light green with the rest of Guyana in dark green; Venezuela shown in orange.
Signed17 February 1966[1]
LocationGeneva, Switzerland[1]
Effective17 February 1966[1]
Depositary Secretary-General of the United Nations[1]

History edit

The Geneva Agreement was published in the Official Gazette of Venezuela No. 28.008 on April 15, 1966, and subsequently registered with the General Office of the Organization of the United Nations on May 5, 1966, under registration number I-8192.[4][5][1]

Three months after the agreement was signed, on May 26, 1966, the colony of British Guiana received its independence from Britain, declaring itself the "Republic of Guyana" (officially the Co‑operative Republic of Guyana since 1970). From that point forward, the new country joined the agreement as an independent nation alongside the United Kingdom and Venezuela, fully taking over the United Kingdom's former position in talks with Venezuela regarding the border dispute.[6]

The Geneva Agreement is a temporary agreement to come to a permanent solution, often referred to as an "agreement to reach an agreement",[citation needed] and although Venezuela maintains that the arbitral award of 1899 is invalid, the status quo under the agreement has endured. As a result, the disputed region will remain under the authority of the government of Guyana until any other resolution is made under the treaty. As per Article V, the treaty cannot be interpreted as a "renunciation or diminution" of any basis of claim to the territorial sovereignty of British Guiana,[1] thus upholding the 1899 Arbitral Award as legally binding. The first article of the document recognizes Venezuela's claim that the 1899 court decision is null and void, but the treaty neither supports nor disputes the claim. Instead, it requires that each of the signing parties acknowledge the other's claims, and seek to find a practical, peaceful, and satisfactory solution for all of the parties involved.[7]

The Geneva Agreement established the creation of a "Mixed Commission" composed of representatives of Venezuela and British Guiana (with no direct participation by the United Kingdom), which was given a period of four years to arrive at a final resolution regarding the border dispute, or else choose some other form of peaceful settlement outlined by the UN. In 1970, at the end of this four-year period, the Port of Spain Protocol was signed by Guyana, Venezuela, and the United Kingdom, in order to essentially "freeze" parts of the Geneva Agreement for twelve years.[8] In 1982, Venezuela refused to ratify an extension of the Port of Spain Protocol, bringing the original 1966 agreement back into effect.

In 1983, Venezuela proposed to make direct negotiations with Guyana, but Guyana refused and proposed three alternate routes of reaching an agreement: the United Nations General Assembly, the United Nations Security Council, or the International Court of Justice, each of which was rejected by Venezuela.

Later that same year, at the initiative of Venezuela, and in accordance with the provisions of Article IV-2 of the agreement and Article 33 of the Charter of the United Nations regarding peaceful solutions to conflicts, the border conflict dispute was brought under the jurisdiction of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, since the two countries were not able to reach an agreement on the means of settlement.[9]

In 1987, Guyana and Venezuela decided to accept the Good Offices method, following the General Act for the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes, which would be put into effect in 1989. Following this agreement, a representative of the Secretary General chosen and accepted by the parties would serve as a mediator between the governments so that they reach a satisfactory solution as dictated by the treaty.[10]

The first representative brought in to maintain the Geneva Agreement was former Under-Secretary General Diego Cordovez.[citation needed] The final representative was the Jamaican professor Norman Girvan. Each representative was elected and accepted by both countries with the approval of the Secretary-General of the United Nations.[11][12][13]

Official positions of the countries edit

The positions of the parties arise from different interpretations of the first article of the agreement:

A Mixed Commission shall be established with the task of seeking satisfactory solutions for the practical settlement of the controversy between Venezuela and the United Kingdom which has arisen as the result of the Venezuelan contention that the Arbitral Award of 1899 about the frontier between British Guiana and Venezuela is null and void.

To Guyana, the purpose of the agreement is to initially determine whether the declaration of the Paris Tribunal of Arbitration is null and void, and that unless Venezuela can prove its invalidity, the arbitral award of the region to Guyana is upheld.

To Venezuela, the purpose of the agreement is to commit both parties to reaching a satisfactory solution for a practical agreement between the two countries. It considers the invalidity of the 1899 arbitral award to have been explicitly stated within the document, and implicitly agreed upon through the signature of the Prime Minister of Guyana when it was still a British colony. To Venezuela, this has already been agreed upon, and it would not have been sensible for the other countries to sign the agreement if they did not agree with the statements within.[14]

On the 52nd anniversary of the international treaty being signed in Switzerland, Venezuelan Government has reaffirmed its commitment to the Geneva Agreement. President Nicolas Maduro has called on the Venezuelan people to defend their "legitimate and non-renounceable" territorial rights over the Essequibo region. Defense Minister Vladamir Padrino Lopez stresses that Venezuelans should continue to claim their territory and stated on his social media "The Sun of Venezuela is born in the Essequibo."[citation needed]

Criticism edit

The agreement was criticized in Guyana for essentially reopening a legal case that, for them, was already closed. Notably, Guyanese politician Cheddi Jagan, the chief of the Guyanese opposition, founder of the People's Progressive Party (PPP), and eventual president of the republic, strongly opposed the agreement. In his work The West on Trial (1996), he stated his regrets about the return of the border dispute:[15]

The PNC-UF coalition government jointly signed the Geneva Agreement with the Venezuelan and British governments… and created a Mixed Commission (Guyana-Venezuela). Thus, they conceded recognition to the spurious Venezuelan territorial claims and what had been a closed case since 1899 was reopened.

Although the Geneva Agreement is currently the most valuable document for Venezuela in the negotiation process with Guyana, Venezuela recognizes that it lacks some of the concrete elements required to allow them to recover any territory from Guyana because of the conflicts between Venezuela's stance and the contents and results of the treaty.[citation needed]

In terms of the results of the treaty, there are several effects that harm Venezuela's position:[citation needed]

  • The agreement to find a "practical agreement" for a "satisfactory solution" has been proven to be infeasible in practice,
  • The United Kingdom was permitted to handle the territory dispute through a colony it had control over instead of interacting with Venezuela directly,
  • Venezuela agreed to allowing the colony to become independent from the United Kingdom without requiring a solution to the border problem first,
  • Guyana was allowed to become a state, which led to it carrying more weight in the conflict,
  • Venezuela would have to negotiate with a country that had inherited the problem from its colonizers, rather than with the country that had created the problem itself, and
  • The relative perceptions of the two countries had switched: Venezuela would no longer be perceived as the weak nation usurped by the colonial power of the United Kingdom. Instead, now the poor and newly independent Guyana would appear to be the weak nation being preyed on by a rich country trying to take away part of "its territory".

These results are problematic to Venezuela because it is obviously unlikely that Guyana will choose to give Venezuela three-quarters of the territory it has controlled and administered since the time of its independence, along with its ability to use resources there, regardless of its right to sovereignty over the region. In addition, when British Guiana declared itself an independent nation three months after the Geneva Agreement, Venezuela had to immediately recognize its independence as a result of the agreement, without solving the dispute with the United Kingdom first, and in spite of its continued claims to sovereignty over the Essequibo.[editorializing]

See also edit

Notes edit

  1. ^ After Guyana received its independence from the United Kingdom, it supplanted the United Kingdom in negotiations on the matter.

References edit

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Agreement to Resolve the Controversy over the Frontier between Venezuela and British Guiana (Geneva Agreement) | UN Peacemaker" (PDF). Retrieved 28 January 2021.
  2. ^ "Award regarding the Boundary between the Colony of British Guiana and the United States of Venezuela" (PDF).
  3. ^ "Guyana-Venezuela: The "controversy" over the arbitral award of 1899". COHA. 11 September 2015. Retrieved 8 January 2016.
  4. ^ Acuerdo de Ginebra en la Gaceta Oficial de Venezuela Nº 28.008 del 15 de abril de 1966 Archived 24 August 2015 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ "UNTC". Retrieved 3 October 2015.
  6. ^ "Guyana – The Cooperative Republic". Retrieved 3 October 2015.
  7. ^ "No. 8192. Agreement * to Resolve the Controversy Between Venezuela and The United Kingdom of Great Britain And Northern Ireland Over the Frontier between Venezuela and British Guiana. Signed at Geneva, ON 17 February 1966" (PDF). Retrieved 12 December 2016.
  8. ^ "Guyana, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and Venezuela" (PDF). United Nations Treaty Collection. 19 November 1971.
  9. ^ "(Venezuela ratifica ante ONU disputa con Guayana) Venezuela ratifies the UN dispute with Guyana". Archived from the original on 29 June 2012. Retrieved 3 October 2015.
  10. ^ Andrés Serbin and Manuel Berroterán. "Las Relaciones Entre Venezuela y Guyana y La Disputa del Territorio Esequibo: ¿Un Paso Adelante, Dos Atrás?". Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales. Archived from the original on 27 November 2018. Retrieved 26 November 2018.
  11. ^ "Venezuela y Guyana retoman mecanismo de buen oficiante para diferendo limítrofe". Retrieved 3 October 2015.[permanent dead link]
  12. ^ "Department of Political Affairs". Archived from the original on 3 May 2013. Retrieved 3 October 2015.
  13. ^ Secretary-General Appoints Norman Girvan of Jamaica as Personal Representative on Border Controversy Between Guyana, Venezuela
  14. ^ Donís Ríos, Manuel. "El Acuerdo de Ginebra Cumple Cincuenta Años" (PDF). Academia Nacional de la Historia de Venezuela.[permanent dead link]
  15. ^ "West on Trial". Archived from the original on 5 July 2007. Retrieved 3 October 2015 – via