Obligation to Negotiate Access to the Pacific Ocean (Bolivia v. Chile)
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Overview of the case
On 24 April 2013, the Plurinational State of Bolivia instituted proceedings against the Republic of Chile before the Court, concerning a dispute in relation to “Chile’s obligation to negotiate in good faith and effectively with Bolivia in order to reach an agreement granting Bolivia a fully sovereign access to the Pacific Ocean”. In its Application, Bolivia asserted that “beyond its general obligations under international law, Chile has committed itself, more specifically through agreements, diplomatic practice and a series of declarations attributable to its highest-level representatives, to negotiate a sovereign access to the sea for Bolivia”. According to Bolivia, “Chile has not complied with this obligation and . . . denies the existence of its obligation”. In its Application, as the basis for the jurisdiction of the Court, Bolivia invoked Article XXXI of the American Treaty on Pacific Settlement (Pact of Bogotá) of 30 April 1948.
On 15 July 2014, Chile filed a preliminary objection to the jurisdiction of the Court, and the proceedings on the merits were then suspended. After Bolivia filed its written statement on the preliminary objection, public hearings were held in May 2015. In its Judgment rendered on 24 September 2015, the Court rejected the preliminary objection raised by Chile and found that it had jurisdiction to entertain the Application filed by Bolivia.
Following the submission of Chile’s Counter-Memorial, the Court authorized the submission of a Reply by Bolivia and a Rejoinder by Chile and fixed 21 March and 21 September 2017 as the respective time-limits for those pleadings. Public hearings were held in March 2018, and the Court delivered its Judgment on the merits on 1 October 2018.
In its Judgment, the Court considered the various legal bases invoked by Bolivia in support of Chile’s alleged obligation to negotiate Bolivia’s sovereign access to the Pacific Ocean.
The Court concluded that none of those bases established an obligation for Chile to negotiate Bolivia’s sovereign access to the Pacific Ocean. It added that its finding should not be understood “as precluding the Parties from continuing their dialogue and exchanges, in a spirit of good neighbourliness, to address the issues relating to the landlocked situation of Bolivia, the solution to which both had recognized to be a matter of mutual interest. With willingness on the part of the Parties, meaningful negotiations could be undertaken”.
This overview is provided for information only and in no way involves the responsibility of the Court.