In the process of writing a post questioning National Geographic Map Policy I was given the name of the Director of Editorial and Research for National Geographic Maps. I emailed him with a few questions on current map policy, specifically related to the Hala'ib triangle, Bir Tawil and Somaliland.
Today I heard back from Juan. As promised, his email is below. It's nothing groundbreaking and if I'm honest, predictable, but it speaks to the map giant's ability to respond to the public. I don't totally buy the fact that the scale of the maps prevents them from displaying Somaliland in grey, then again I only buy large maps and so my view might be a bit skewed. There doesn't seem to be any problem displaying Andorra and it is about the size of a pinhead on my 110" wide world map.
Thanks go out to Juan Valdes and Kevin Lance!
Thank you for your email of August 25, 2010 regarding the National Geographic's portrayal of the Hala'ib Triangle, Bir Tawil trapezoid, and Somaliland in our maps.
The Society’s cartographic policy is one of portraying de facto situations; that is, to portray to the best of our judgment the reality on the ground. We consult with multiple authoritative sources on a frequent basis to determine the current political status of disputed territories and how to best represent them in our maps.
With regard to our cartographic treatment of the Hala'ib Triangle, after several military clashes between Egyptian and Sudanese forces in the 1990's, Sudan ultimately withdrew from this area in January 2000. Their forces were pulled south of the political boundary set by the Anglo-Egyptian Agreement of 1899 - the 22nd parallel. Since then, Egypt has effectively administered the area.
As for the Bir Tawil trapezoid, Egypt does not recognize sovereignty over this area on its maps; here, it claims the 22nd parallel as both its political and administrative boundary. Inversely, Sudan officially recognizes the boundary of Bir Tawil as that set by the British in 1902. However, Sudanese sources contradict this stance by cartographically portraying the Bir Tawil trapezoid as being partially administered by the states of River Nile and Red Sea.
To date, the political and military situation in the Hala'ib Triangle remains unchanged, while Egypt's and Sudan's stance on Bir Tawil has been somewhat cartographically defined. Therefore, the Society's Map Policy Committee has recognized Egypt's de facto administration of the Hala'ib Triangle and Sudan's de facto governance of the Bir Tawil trapezoid. As a point of reference, and where scale permits, the 1902 administrative boundary is delineated in our maps accompanied by a label identifying Sudan's existing claim to the Hala'ib Triangle.
Regarding the color fill treatment of Somaliland in our Africa Wall Map, most political boundaries depicted in our maps and Atlases are stable and uncontested. Those that are disputed receive a special treatment. Depending on the map's scale, such territories or separatist states are shown in a gray fill with their administrative centers depicted by an open bull's eye symbol.
Where scale permits, explanatory notes are added to explain the current political situation of such disputed territories.The difference you have noted between our treatment of Somaliland in our World map to that of our Africa wall map is a reflection of this policy.
Finally, yes, I have been a long standing member of the Society's Map Policy Committee.
Your interest in National Geographic maps is appreciated. Thank you for taking the time to write.
Juan José Valdés
Director of Editorial and Research
National Geographic Maps