Key words: natural resources, international law, human rights, permanent sovereignty. Natural resources sustain livelihoods and unite people, but have also a divisive effect when people fight over their control as in the case of mineral resource driven conflicts. This chapter examines a selected group of human rights which are impacted by the exploitation and management of natural resources. The focus is on self-determination, rights of indigenous peoples and traditional local communities, racial discrimination, right to food, cultural rights and participatory rights. The argument put forward is that international law has evolved from the post-colonial principle of permanent sovereignty over natural resources to a more nuanced regime in which sovereignty is functional to the respect and protection of certain fundamental rights which reflect the general interest of the international community.
Although no uniform concept of cultural property exists today in international law, various working definitions have emerged in treaty regimes established for its protection, both in peacetime and in time of war. The criteria adopted for this purpose include the empirical description of a typology of objects and sites of cultural significance, the criterion of great importance for national heritage or for humanity as a whole, and the age of the objects, as in the case of underwater cultural heritage. The international regime for the protection of cultural property has increased in scope and complexity in the past 50 years. Special rules have emerged on the modes of lawful acquisition of cultural property, loss of title, recognition of national patrimonial laws that amplify the notion of stolen property, and the obligation to return stolen and illegally exported cultural property beyond the traditional mechanism of conflicts of laws. The concept and scope of cultural property has also been pushed beyond the traditional concept of material objects to include intangible cultural heritage, which implicates new forms of collective property of communities over their cultural expressions. While cultural property is traditionally linked to the nation State, new challenges are posed with regard to the jurisdictional claims over, and attribution of property rights to, cultural property discovered at the bottom of the sea and in areas beyond national jurisdiction.