Territory and Justice: a research network

November 19, 2014

Territory and Justice Symposia 4: Sovereignty and Resources

Filed under: Uncategorized — Chris Bertram @ 12:16 pm

A territorial right is typically understood as a tripartite bundle of rights. It includes claims to territorial jurisdiction, resource rights, and the right to control borders and to regulate the movement of people and goods across the territory. This symposium considers two papers which make considerable contributions to our understanding of resource rights and their application in international law.

In international law resource rights are closely correlated with territorial jurisdiction. A number of instruments of international law support the view that natural resources are at the ‘disposal’ of the nation-states ‘in’ or ‘under’ which they exist.

Endorsing the doctrine of ‘permanent sovereignty’ over natural resources, Wenar notes that the natural resources of a country belong to the people of that country. His paper asks then why ‘tyrants and insurgents are
allowed to sell off a country’s resources while crushing popular resistance, and to use the proceeds in ways that make the people worse off’ (p.9).

Chris Armstrong questions the basis of permanent sovereignty over resources. Armstrong writes that ‘despite its huge significance in world politics, permanent sovereignty is not often explicitly justified in either international law or political philosophy’ (p.2). He examines the most prominent arguments in favour of permanent sovereignty and finds that they are insufficient to justify permanent sovereignty.

Commenting on Wenar’s arguments, Shmuel Nili’s paper highlights the minimalist approach adopted by Wenar in relation to the property rights that tainted trade violates. He also questions Wenar’s exclusive focus on the very worst dictatorships violating property rights. En lieu of Wenar’s ‘practical sense,’ Nili proposes that other less awful regimes be subjected to the same scrutiny as the worst of the worst.

In her commentary, Alexa Zellentin considers the implications of Armstrong’s refutation of the principle of permanent sovereignty over resources for Wenar’s argument. Although mindful of Armstrong’s ‘powerful critique,’ Zellentin doubts that the idea that national communities are especially entitled to benefit from the resources found in their territory can easily be given up.

The Symposium on Sovereignty and Resources exemplifies once more the commitment of the Territory and Justice Network to encourage discussion of break-through research on topics related to territorial rights. Its production has been made possible by the assistance of Leif Wenar and Chris Armstrong and by the enthusiasm and expertise of Shmuel Nili and Alexa Zellentin.

Timothy Mawe

(Click on name to access the article)

Leif Wenar(King’s College London) “Property Rights and the Resource Curse”

Chris Armstrong (University of Southampton) “Against ‘permanent sovereignty’ over resources”

With Commentaries by

Shmuel Nili (Yale University)

Alexa Zellentin (University College, Dublin)

Please note: in downloading any of the articles linked above you affirm that they are for your own personal use. For any other purpose, you must obtain permission from the publisher (in the case of target articles) or the author (in the case of JTS commentaries and replies).

How to cite these commentaries:
Author Last Name, Author First Name, “Title of Commentary”, Territory and Justice Symposia (Edition), Cara Nine (ed.), URL .

(also available via the Territory and Justice Network main page at http://eis.bris.ac.uk/~plcdib/territory.html )


Blog at WordPress.com.