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IBRU: Centre for Borders Research

The State of Sovereignty

20th anniversary conference, Durham University, 1-3 April 2009

"Celebrating 20 years of boundary studies"


SOS flyer

Governments around the world are facing increasingly complex challenges in the exercise of territorial sovereignty and maritime jurisdiction – and a growing number are arguably losing the battle, sometimes with catastrophic consequences. IBRU’s 20th anniversary conference addressed a topic of growing concern to governments, scholars and boundary practitioners: The State of Sovereignty.

IBRU began work in 1989, the year that saw the fall of the Berlin Wall and the first use of the term ‘the borderless world’. Two decades on, borders are still very much with us but the geopolitical setting in which they exist has changed dramatically. The changing nature of sovereignty in a globalising world has attracted attention from a wide range of disciplines, but the practical implications of such changes for boundary-making, management and dispute resolution have rarely been examined in depth. This major international conference brought together scholars and practitioners from around the world to reflect on the impact of the geopolitical upheavals of the last twenty years, and to exchange ideas about the meaning and function of sovereignty and international boundaries today and in the decades ahead.

The conference attracted over 200 participants from more than 50 countries. Over 26 sessions they explored a diverse range of themes - from 'failing' states to disputed maritime space to cartographies of sovereignty - and regional issues from the Arctic to the Middle East to Western Sahara. Many of the conference papers and presentations are now available for download from this website, although access to some is restricted to conference participants only.

Conference programme, abstracts & papers

PDF icon Conference programme & abstract booklet (PDF version; 2 mb)

Conference photos