Magazine article UNESCO Courier

Agreeing to Share

Magazine article UNESCO Courier

Agreeing to Share

Article excerpt

The Dome Flore oilfield off the coast of Senegal and Guinea-Bissau, 70 kilometres southwest of the Casamance river, has caused the two countries plenty of headaches since it was discovered by France's Total company in 1960. The only known offshore oilfield within their economic zone, which is also rich in fishing resources, its reserves are put at 100 million tonnes of heavy oil and only one million tonnes of light. Clearly, the economic stakes are high.

After 16 years of legal battles and a few skirmishes in 1991, the two countries opted for a pragmatic settlement of their territorial dispute and in October 1993 signed an agreement to manage and develop their maritime resources jointly. Until then, such an outcome had seemed a remote possibility.

The earliest negotiations date back to 1977. When the two countries failed to reach agreement, they decided in 1985 to take the case to arbitration before a tribunal. Four years later the court upheld a Franco-Portuguese agreement of 1960 establishing the maritime boundary between their two colonies. But Guinea Bissau rejected this decision, arguing that the tribunal had failed to provide a map showing the exact boundary, as the two parties had requested. …

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