Berlin Wall is Gone but Separation Walls are a Growth Industry

[Montréal, Québec, Canada 7°C] The celebration of the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall was one week ago today. With that behind us, it is now time to acknowledge that the construction of separation walls throughout the world is on the increase. According to l’Observatoire de géopolitique de la Chaire Raoul-Dandurand at Université du Québec À Montréal (UQÀM), and a special ‘Section C’ in Montréal French language daily, Le Devoir, there are now 40 walls around the world that render passage across borders extremely difficult.

In the article, The Wall Fantasy (Le fantasme du mur) by Élisabeth Vallet and Charles-Philippe David (Director and President, respectively, of l’Observatoire de géopolitique de la Chaire Raoul-Dandurand) write about “walls of shame, walls of separation, walls of indifference, walls for money, walls to charge tariffs: each time a society can no longer consider the ‘Other’, it raises barriers to seal borders.” Although borders are often bilateral, a result of signed treaties and a point of contact between states, the construction of a seperation wall is primarily a unilateral decision to control borders for the purposes of exclusion.

All of the borders are not necessarily continuous. Some may have occasional gaps or may alternate between a fence or a concrete construction. Others divisions are maintained using detection technologicies like cameras, lazers, trip wires, etc.


WALLS (source: 2009 © Éric Mottet, Département de géographie, UQAM.)

Eleven walls build (1947-1991)

According to Éric Mottet’s map (above)  that was on display at the Fences and Walls in International Relations thematic week and conference held in Montréal from October 26-30, 2009, eleven walls built between 1947 – 1991 outlasted the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. These separation walls divide 1) South Africa/Mozambique, 2) South Africa/Zimbabwe, 3) Greek/Turkish Cyprus, 4) South Korea/North Korea, 5) the United States/Cuba (Guantanamo), 6) Gibraltar/the Spanish mainland, 7) India/Pakistan, 8) Israel/Lebanon, 9) Israel/Syria, 10) Morocco/Western Sahara, and 11) Zimbabwe (Rhodesia)/Zambia.

Revised version of the West Bank barrier, as of 2006 (wikipedia)

Apartheid Wall (in red) as of 2006 (Wikipedia)

Seven walls build (1991-2001)

During the decade between 1991 – 2001, seven more walls were built against new post-Cold War threats as defined by the country who initiated the building of a separation wall. The first country listed for each of the walls named in this page is the country that initiated their wall’s construction. These seven walls are: 1) Spain/Morocco (Ceuta), 2) Spain/Morocco (Melilla), 3) United States/Mexico, 4) Malaysia/Thailand, 5) Kuwait/Iraq, 6) Uzbekistan/Afghanistan, and 7) Uzbekistan/Kirghistan.

Twenty-two walls build (2001-2009)

Between 2001 – 2009, at least twenty-two walls have been built in a post-9/11 security climate. The wall listed below are either projected, are already under construction or completed: 1) Saudi Arabia/United Arab Emirates, 2) Saudi Arabia/Iraq, 3) Saudi Arabia/Oman, 4) Saudi Arabia/Qatar, 5) Saudi Arabia/Yemen, 6) Burma/Bangladesh, 7) Botswana/Zimbabwe, 8) Brunei/Malaysia, 9) China/North Korea, 10) Egypt/Gaza Strip, Palestine, 11) United Arab Emirates/Oman, 12) India/Bangladesh, 13) India/Burma, 14) India/Pakistan – phase 2, 15) Iran/Pakistan, 16) Israel/Jordan, 17) Israel/West Bank, Palestine, 18) Jordan/Iraq, 19) Kazakhstan/Uzbekistan, 20) Pakistan/Afghanistan, 21) Thailand/Malaysia, and 22) Turkmenistan/Uzbekistan.

US-Mexico border fence, Tijuana: Photo by Nathan Gibbs (CC)

US-Mexico border fence, Tijuana: Photo by Nathan Gibbs (CC)

Despite a globalized world that pretends to be more open through organizations like the World Trade Organization (WTO) or with agreements like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the flow of financial and commercial capital has been made easier while the flow of people across borders is stifled. Although Canada, the US and Mexico have NAFTA which eases the flow of commerce across borders of the three countries, the United States continues to build a barrier along their border with Mexico to control the flow of immigrants. According to an article by Julie Dufort, more than 5,000 people have been died or been killed crossing the border into the United States over the last 15 years. In comparison to the 1,245 people who lost their lives trying to cross East to West Germany during its 40-year existence, the wall that divides the US/Mexico border is a much more dangerous and deadly boundary to cross without permission.

Security Indistrial Complex

Building walls is a growth industry worldwide. Julien Saada, doctoral candidate at UQÀM’s Observatoire de géopolitique de la Chaire Raoul-Dandurand, wrote in his french language article, The Wall Economy, a market in full expansion, that contracts worth billions have been doled out to security and construction corporations from Europe, the United States and Israel that specialize in border security. Saudi Arabia and Romania are among the clients.

According to the Homeland Security Research Corporation, the entire market could reach a value of $178 billion between now and 2015. The Washington-based consulting firm estimates that the amount could balloon to $700 billion if a major attack like 9/11 hits American, European or Japonese soil.

Day of Action against Israel Apartheid Wall

Demonstrators toppled a segment of the eight-metre tall concrete Israeli Apartheid Wall in Ni’ilin, West Bank, Palestine on November 9, 2009 to mark the 20th anniversary to the fall of the Berlin wall, which has been declared an international day of action against Israel’s barrier.

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