Research Handbooks in International Law series
Edited by Catherine Brölmann and Yannick Radi
Chapter 20: The making of international natural resources law
International natural resources law is not a clearly defined or systematically constructed body of rules but, instead, arises from the application of general rules and principles of ‘classical’ international law applying to shared natural resources. Most notable amongst which are the principle of State sovereignty over natural resources and the concept of equity, which informs the allocation of rights over such resources. However, international law-making in this field involves a number of unique challenges for the international legal system which have shaped the means, both formal and informal, by which such rules have emerged. Thus, international rules relating to natural resources tend be found in framework conventions, which promote inclusive participation by States and permit adaptive and scientifically sophisticated regimes to emerge. Similarly, soft-law instruments are employed to permit hesitant States to engage in early iterations of the law and to build confidence in the emerging rules. In addition, general principles of law are widely employed, while customary rules appear to form rather quickly and easily.
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