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Permanent Sovereignty over Natural Resources

Yogesh Tyagi

Keywords: Sovereignty; Resources; Self-determination; Economic Independence; International Investment

Emerging from the North-South struggle of the 1960s and 1970s, the principle of permanent sovereignty over natural resources is a fundamental right of states, as well as of peoples. Both the principle and the right represent the resolve of developing countries to attain economic independence and to assert the authority of domestic law, albeit with a conflict of perceptions about the role of international law in this scheme. The principle is widely accepted, whereas the right is frequently contested. In the field of international human rights law, the peoples-oriented character of the right has shown its potential to outshine its state-centric nature. In the twentyfirst century, the debate over the permanent sovereignty over natural resources has resurfaced especially as a reaction to the litigious record of international investment law. As a result, the principle of permanent sovereignty over natural resources has once again become the rallying point for introducing reform in international investment law. The process of reform is taking different forms, such as states changing their model bilateral investment treaties (unilateralism) or renegotiating their existing bilateral investment treaties (bilateralism), although multilateralism continues to be neglected. This process needs to accompany a new kind of North-South dialogue to secure its wider acceptance in order to ensure a healthy development of the principle/right of permanent sovereignty over natural resources.

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