Bridging the Gap
Edited by Stephan W. Schill, Christian J. Tams and Rainer Hofmann
Chapter 9: International (investment) law and distribution conflicts over natural resources
Natural resources – such as minerals or hydrocarbons – constitute the basis of our economies; they provide us with energy and the raw materials for infrastructure and industrial production. Extractive resources – which are the focus of this chapter – are exhaustible and distributed unequally over the globe. Their territoriality, scarcity and uneven geographical distribution lead to conflicts over access to natural resources. Due to the potentially large gains that can be reaped from natural resource exploitation and extensive social and environmental costs involved conflicts not only arise over access, but also with respect to the questions whether to extract or not, the modalities and the sharing of the costs and benefits of natural resource exploitation.Many poor countries in the Global South have historically been and remain today the site of large scale projects for the extraction of raw materials frequently destined for export to countries in the Global North. Under colonialism, international law was instrumental for the metropolitan powers to secure access to natural resource wealth in the colonies and dependent territories. With decolonization and the inclusion of the former colonies into the international community as sovereign States access could no longer be safeguarded through formal domination. Yet, international law continued to play an important role with respect to the distribution of access to natural resources between States, a role that continues to change over time.
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