Posts Tagged ‘United Nations


United Nations News Centre – UN court rules Colombia has sovereignty over islands claimed by Nicaragua

United Nations News Centre – UN court rules Colombia has sovereignty over islands claimed by Nicaragua.

Islands off Nicaragua ruled to belong to Columbia


No Sudan movements from map-makers as the South celebrates.

de Südsudan en Southern Sudan ru Южный Судан

Image via Wikipedia

The people of South Sudan celebrated this week as they became Africa’s 54th nation. But cartographers around the world are in no rush to redraw.

Both Google Maps and Bing Maps are still awaiting confirmed geo data for the new border, which has not yet been officially agreed. As confirmed by US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, the exact location of the border will be determined along with military re-deployments and agreements on natural resources. A 12 mile buffer zone to reduce outbreaks of violence is expected to be part of the final agreement, with Ethiopian troops playing a key peace-keeping role. The conflict in the region is estimated to have cost over 1.5 million lives in decades of violence.

A number of ‘unofficial maps’ have been developed, including this one from London’s Guardian Newspaper, and South Sudan’s own Foreign Ministry has been issuing maps for use by its embassies and foreign diplomatic missions, however they are yet to finally agree the borders or receive official recognition from the United Nations. This should occur in a meeting Thursday, and will follow the EU, United States and Russia’s recognition of the state whose independence was finally declared last Saturday, July 10th.

Juba will be the new capital where many challenges such as extreme poverty will be faced. This is also where the nations wealth of oil reserves will be strategically  managed from.

Google reported that they were awaiting the most accurate data before they would update their Google Maps and Google Earth products with the new nation, until then they have been encouraging locals to produce their own maps in community mapping events.

South Sudan already has its own national soccer team which played its first match against a Kenyan club team on saturday, however currently the world governing body FIFA does not recognize the new nation and matches will remain, like the cartography,  ‘unofficial’.

Republic of South Sudan, via the Mission of the Government of South Sudan.


What’s in a name?

The UGEGN (United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names) is currently meeting in Vienna, Austria in  its 26th Session.

The purpose of this meeting is to review, discuss and report on resolutions agreed by the United Nations Conferences on the Standardization of Geographical Names, which have occurred at 5 year intervals since 1959.

UN Place Names Database

The conferences are designed to move towards standardization of place names around the world, whilst protecting the cultural heritage that is behind many of them. There are many examples around the world. The UN has a team working specifically in Africa where frequent and rapid political changes have meant that many regions, cities and even countries are known by multiple names. Austria itself includes towns and cities near its Hungarian border with multiple identities to multiple cultures, including Croat, Roma and German language translations.

This can cause headaches when preparing reference materials, developing or executing disaster response, international law and even military activity.

Ultimately the hope is that each country will submit its standardized list of ‘official names’ and the UGEGN will disseminate these names internationally, including a standardized method of translation into languages which use non-roman scripts such as Arabic. Meanwhile, the recording of cultural names to preserve local heritage is another key aim. More than 400 Geographers, Linguists, Cartographers and Planners make up the group from around the world.

The results so far are manifested in the World Geographical Names Database, which contains 2600 full and short country names for 192 UN member states, 4100 names for 2970 cities with populations over 100,000, and 600 audio files to assist with pronunciation.

Given that this seems to have been a moving target since 1959 one can expect that there will be many more sessions before the job is complete……


Sudan in the spotlight.

The spotlight is once again shining on Sudan and once again not necessarily in a good way. A referendum is scheduled in the country for January 9, 2011 allowing citizens to decide whether the oil-rich South will separate from the North, where the ruling government is based.


The Sudan via

The Sudan via


And therein lays the issue. Sudanese president Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who has been accused of atrocities in the past, has said that he would not accept anything less than unity. That attitude, despite an outward commitment to peace, has observers from all over the world on edge, fearing not only fraud and intimidation in the referendum process, but outright civil war if the outcome is a ‘yes’ vote supporting secession.

Sudan was embroiled in a two-decade civil war until a peace was brokered by the UN in 2005. This referendum is a result of that peace deal. Many fear that without intervention by the UN, another conflict will erupt and could result in genocide. Two weeks ago at the UN General Assembly, President Barak Obama warned the factions in both North and South to ensure that the referendum and the likely split of the country proceed peacefully and promised normalization of relations if that happens. However, with the oil wealth of the nation in play there, it will surely be a difficult path to independence for the South.

Movie actor and activist George Clooney made the point on the Today show that either way, the United States is going to pour money into Sudan. The choices are stark – spend it on cleaning up a man-made disaster and the atrocities that will surely result, or  be proactive and provide the material and capital support that is needed to ensure a peaceful transition.

Voter registration is scheduled from November 14th through December 4th, but the registration process continues to be a problem. So even with international support, the referendum may need to be delayed beyond January, which could itself spark violence.


Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir, the president of ...

Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir via Wikipedia


Cartographically speaking, if you have products in the pipeline that include maps showing Sudan keep a close watch on this situation. At the moment, it is too early to include South Sudan as an independent entity and it may take some time after the referendum to settle the situation. Our editors will establish a policy for the display of the boundary in the interim period after the referendum if it passes. Consult with us before making changes to your products.

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