Statement by the Government of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana in commemoration of the 124th Anniversary of the Arbitral Award which settled the land Boundary between British Guiana and Venezuela.
October 3, 2023
In 1897, Venezuela and Great Britain concluded an agreement- the Treaty of Washington-by which they agreed to submit the dispute regarding the location of their land boundary to binding arbitration before a tribunal of eminent jurists including the heads of the judiciary of the United States and Great Britain. The parties – Britain and Venezuela – agreed in that Treaty to accept the Tribunal’s Award as ‘a full, perfect and final settlement’ of the boundary issue between the parties. That ‘settlement’ is exactly 124 years old today October 3, and Guyana still accepts and celebrates the Arbitral Award as stipulated by the Treaty.
On 3 October 1899, the Arbitral Tribunal delivered its Award, which determined the boundary between Venezuela and British Guiana (“the 1899 Award”). The 1899 Award was the culmination of arbitral proceedings during which the respective territorial claims of Great Britain and Venezuela were addressed at great length and in detail by distinguished legal counsel representing the two States, including through many thousands of pages of written submissions and more than 200 hours of oral hearings before the Arbitral Tribunal.
For more than six decades after the 1899 Award was delivered, Venezuela treated the Award as a final settlement of the matter. It consistently recognised, affirmed and relied upon the 1899 Award as “a full, perfect, and final” determination of the boundary with British Guiana. Between 1900 and 1905, Venezuela participated in a joint demarcation of the boundary, in strict adherence to the letter of the 1899 Award, and emphatically refused to countenance even minor technical modifications of the boundary line described in the Award.
Venezuela proceeded to formally ratify the demarcated boundary in its domestic law and thereafter published official maps, which depicted the boundary following the line described in the 1899 Award.
However, in 1962 as British Guiana was approaching its independence from Great Britain, Venezuela recognized that it would become neighbour with a nascent State and by virtue of its expansionist ambition, Venezuela abandoned the rule of law and good faith and laid claims to the Essequibo territory.
As Guyana commemorates the anniversary of the Arbitral Award of 3 October, 1899, we continue to adhere to and embrace the rules of international law and respect our pacta sunt servanda obligation.
Guyana instituted proceedings against Venezuela by Application to the International Court of Justice on 29 March 2018 asking the Court to resolve the controversy that has arisen as a result of Venezuela’s contention, formally asserted for the first time in 1962, that the 1899 Arbitral Award Regarding the Boundary between the Colony of British Guiana and the United States of Venezuela is “null and void”.
The Government of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana remains firmly of the view that the Arbitral Award of 1899 is valid. Guyana is committed to a path of final and peaceful settlement and will continue to adhere to the rule of International Law and the procedures of the International Court of Justice. It is for honour that we call today as we celebrate on this anniversary date that Arbitral Award of Paris of 3rd October 1899 in continued respect for the sanctity of Treaties and the rule of law.