Why Do Countries Establish Borders?

Quck answer

Countries have borders for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, borders serve as a means of defining and protecting a country’s territory. They establish clear boundaries that separate one country from another, helping to maintain sovereignty and control over resources. Borders also play a crucial role in maintaining national security by controlling the flow of people, goods, and information. They help regulate trade and immigration, prevent conflicts, and ensure the safety and well-being of citizens. Additionally, borders can reflect cultural, historical, and political divisions, representing a sense of identity and belonging for a country and its people. Overall, borders are essential for maintaining order, security, and national identity.

Have you ever traveled between countries? How was the experience? Did you have to present your passport at the border? Maybe you needed special authorization before crossing. Or maybe you simply walked or drove straight across the border without any interruptions.

The process of crossing a border varies depending on the countries involved. In some cases, nations have open borders. This means that people can cross the border without undergoing inspections or showing their passports. Most countries in the European Union (EU) have open borders. Crossing between these countries is similar to traveling between states in the U.S.A.

Other borders are much more restricted. They may be marked by fences or walls. In many countries, individuals are required to stop for inspections before crossing a border. In certain places, it is nearly impossible to cross between two nations. One example is the border between North and South Korea, which is separated by a wide area known as the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).

So why do countries establish borders? There are several reasons. Borders determine the extent of a government’s authority. People within a country’s borders must abide by its laws and pay taxes. If they move or travel to another country, they must learn and comply with the laws there.

Some borders separate people with different ways of life. For instance, Pakistan separated from India in 1947. Pakistan, with its majority Muslim population, was able to establish different laws and customs compared to the majority Hindu population in India.

In other cases, borders disregard culture and religion. For example, European colonizers established borders for many African nations during the 1800s and 1900s without consulting the local inhabitants. This has caused significant conflicts on the continent, including violent civil wars.

Countries also use borders to regulate the movement of people. One example is the Berlin Wall, which was constructed in 1961 to separate East Berlin from West Berlin for 28 years. The primary purpose of the wall was to prevent people from leaving the Soviet-controlled East Berlin.

Borders may also serve to protect people from diseases. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many countries closed their borders to visitors in an effort to slow down the spread of the virus.

The U.S.-Mexico border has been making headlines recently. In recent years, many individuals have left South and Central America and traveled to the U.S. through Mexico. Some are fleeing violence in their home countries, while others are seeking to reunite with family in the U.S. Some simply hope to find better job opportunities with higher pay and better conditions.

The policies at the U.S. border have sparked considerable controversy. When individuals attempt to cross the border without permission, border agents may send them back or detain them in detention centers. Many families have been separated at the border, leading to widespread calls for change.

National borders can take various forms. Some countries have closed borders with fences or walls, while others have more open borders that are easily crossed by visitors. What are your thoughts on strong borders? Do you believe they are important? Why or why not?

Give It a Try

Remember to ask a friend or family member for assistance with these activities!

  • This Wonder discussed how governments use a country’s borders to enforce their policies and laws. It also explored the reasons why people might want to leave their country and how different types of borders can create difficulties in leaving. Compose a brief narrative about the country you reside in, explaining why you appreciate it and identifying something you would change. Are you fond of the climate? Do you feel secure there? Do you notice any injustices? Share your story with a friend or family member.
  • What do you know about other countries across the globe? Have you ever traveled to another country or pondered what it would be like to live somewhere else? One intriguing method of comparing life in different countries is to examine their Quality of Life rankings. Quality of life encompasses factors such as education, healthcare, political stability, and more. Take a look at this list from the U.S. News & World Report. How do these countries compare? Where does your country rank on the list? Does it align with your expectations? Discuss the list with a friend or family member.
  • As mentioned in this Wonder, the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) serves as the border separating North and South Korea. What does this place look like? Why does it exist? Explore this article, which includes pictures of the DMZ.

Wonder Sources

https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/border/ (accessed 30 Aug. 2021)

https://www.newyorker.com/books/under-review/what-are-borders-for (accessed 30 Aug. 2021)

https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2021/08/13/migrant-encounters-at-u-s-mexico-border-are-at-a-21-year-high/ (accessed 30 Aug. 2021)

https://learnersdictionary.com/ (accessed 30 Aug. 2021)


1. Why do countries have borders?

Countries have borders primarily to establish and maintain control over their territory. Borders serve as a demarcation line between one nation and another, defining the extent of their sovereignty. They help to regulate the movement of people, goods, and services, ensuring security and facilitating the enforcement of laws and regulations within a specific geographic area.

2. How are borders determined?

Borders are determined through a variety of means, including historical agreements, treaties, and negotiations between countries. They can be based on natural geographical features such as rivers, mountains, or coastlines, or they can be artificially drawn lines. In some cases, borders are disputed and are subject to ongoing negotiations or conflicts.

3. What is the purpose of border control?

The purpose of border control is to manage the movement of people and goods across borders. It allows countries to regulate immigration and ensure the safety and security of their citizens. Border control also helps prevent the entry of illegal goods, drugs, weapons, and contraband, and it plays a crucial role in maintaining public health and preventing the spread of diseases.

4. Are borders necessary in today’s globalized world?

While globalization has increased interconnectedness and interdependence among nations, borders remain necessary for various reasons. They help to maintain national identity, safeguard national security, and protect economic interests. Borders also allow countries to control immigration and manage the flow of goods, services, and capital. However, the nature of borders and their function may evolve in response to the changing dynamics of globalization.

5. How do borders affect international relations?

Borders play a significant role in shaping international relations. They define the territorial boundaries of countries, influence diplomatic relations, and can be a source of tension or conflict between nations. Border disputes have the potential to strain diplomatic ties and escalate into armed conflicts. On the other hand, well-defined and mutually recognized borders can promote stability, cooperation, and peaceful coexistence between countries.

6. Can borders change over time?

Yes, borders can change over time due to various factors such as historical events, political agreements, or territorial disputes. Borders have been redrawn throughout history as a result of wars, colonization, decolonization, and the dissolution of political unions. Changes in borders can occur through peaceful negotiations or as a result of armed conflicts. However, altering borders is a complex and sensitive process that requires careful consideration and often involves international law and diplomacy.

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