Proposal preview

Power and principles. The political economy of natural resources since 1870.

Since at least 1870 the industrialized countries have assumed a right to access the natural resources in underdeveloped territories under the tangled banners of civilization, progress, and development. This notion of a ‘global colonial commons’ for which there were competing demands for access at multiple levels, for long underpinned the international political economy of natural resources. The era of decolonization set in motion a powerful counter-reaction, and the spirit of the New International Economic Order became embodied in the demand for absolute national sovereignty over natural resources in the producer countries. This emboldened resource-rich states to engage anew in experiments with discriminatory concession and tax regimes, state ownership or outright nationalization. Paradoxically, national control gained recognition as a principle of international law just as new set of trans-national and multi-scalar challenges became pressing, e.g. pollution, resource depletion and market failures. Furthermore, it reinvigorated the idea of international commodity agreements as a means to improve the workings of the market by the way of buffer stocks, supposedly in the interest of both producers and consumers. This panel explores the role of ideational, political, and legal frameworks for resource regulation and management across the globe in a long-term perspective. It looks at the reification of resource sovereignty as a response to global forces and a barrier to common solutions, as well as efforts to establish a new multilateral liberal regime under the condition of sovereign states also in the Global South.

Organizer(s)

  • Mats Ingulstad Norwegian University of Science and Technology mats.ingulstad@ntnu.no Norway
  • Hans Otto Frøland Norwegian University of Science and Technology hans.otto.froland@ntnu.no Norway

Session members

  • Martin Chick , University of Edinburgh
  • Andreas Sanders, European University Institute
  • Andrew Perchard, Coventry University
  • Glen O'Hara, Oxford Brookes
  • Lucas Lixinski, University of New South Wales

Discussant(s)

  • Einar Lie University of Oslo einar.lie@iakh.uio.no

Papers

Panel abstract

1st half

The Cosmopolitan Claim

Mats Ingulstad and Lucas Lixinski

The principle that the state possesses the right to control the resources found on its territory has a long history, but was only relatively recently enshrined in international law. Permanent Sovereignty over Natural Resources (PSNR) is referred to by the United Nations in the landmark 1962 Resolution as "a basic constituent of the right to self-determination." This forceful resolution marked the culmination of decades of wrangling between the states in the Global South and the industrialized North over how natural resources could be exploited, and established a firm foundation for the demands for a New International Economic Order. But rather than being natural ending point in the struggle for self-determination, the PSNR resolution also highlights the enduring importance of competing modes of resource ownership, in which authority of a state possessing mineral wealth is subsumed under the interest of a greater good. This paper uses the concept of the ´cosmopolitan...

The principle that the state possesses the right to control the resources found on its territory has a long history, but was only relatively recently enshrined in international law. Permanent Sovereignty over Natural Resources (PSNR) is referred to by the United Nations in the landmark 1962 Resolution as "a basic constituent of the right to self-determination." This forceful resolution marked the culmination of decades of wrangling between the states in the Global South and the industrialized North over how natural resources could be exploited, and established a firm foundation for the demands for a New International Economic Order. But rather than being natural ending point in the struggle for self-determination, the PSNR resolution also highlights the enduring importance of competing modes of resource ownership, in which authority of a state possessing mineral wealth is subsumed under the interest of a greater good. This paper uses the concept of the ´cosmopolitan claim´ to investigate alternatives to PSNR as a mode of resource ownership since 1870. We track how a succession of colonial, liberal, and environmental demands have been put forth to demand access to and influence over natural resources on behalf of humankind.

Power and principles of resource nationalism before ‘Permanent Sovereignty’ 1870-1939

Andreas Sanders

This paper seeks map the spread of resource nationalist policies from 1870 to the outbreak of World War II, defined as policies aimed at asserting national control over domestic natural resources and the rents generated from their exploitation. Through this broader term, this paper goes beyond just nationalizations and expropriations and joins a wide set of policies set to achieve similar goals. These include: restrictions on ownership nationality, discriminatory concession policies, export tariffs and down- and upstream production requirements. Bringing together a series of examples around the world, the paper also addresses the international legal background against which these initiatives took place and the responses and countermeasures these policies provoked from resource importing states.

This paper seeks map the spread of resource nationalist policies from 1870 to the outbreak of World War II, defined as policies aimed at asserting national control over domestic natural resources and the rents generated from their exploitation. Through this broader term, this paper goes beyond just nationalizations and expropriations and joins a wide set of policies set to achieve similar goals. These include: restrictions on ownership nationality, discriminatory concession policies, export tariffs and down- and upstream production requirements. Bringing together a series of examples around the world, the paper also addresses the international legal background against which these initiatives took place and the responses and countermeasures these policies provoked from resource importing states.

Supply security, resource internationalism and collective action: 1950s-1980s

Hans Otto Frøland

The fear of losing access to raw materials upon which industrial economies depend has generally brought businesses and governments together to defend ‘the national interest’. Whereas much scholarship have studied perceptions of risk and mechanisms within the national polities leading to strategic commodity policies (stockpiling, FDI in producer countries, diversification of sources of supply etc.), this work-in-progress paper elaborates how such perceptions and mechanisms have been translated into ‘resource internationalism’ and collective action among resource dependent consumer countries. The paper elaborates empirically how Western consumer countries responded to increasing resource nationalism (climate of antagonism, expropriations, nationalizations) within producer countries, and a specific form of ‘resource internationalism’ (OPEC-like cartels) among them. Special attention will be devoted to risk and criticality perceptions pertaining to Intergovernmental producer organizations like the Council of Copper Exporting Countries and the International Bauxite Association. Distinguishing theoretically between commercial and military supply security, the paper argues they were...

The fear of losing access to raw materials upon which industrial economies depend has generally brought businesses and governments together to defend ‘the national interest’. Whereas much scholarship have studied perceptions of risk and mechanisms within the national polities leading to strategic commodity policies (stockpiling, FDI in producer countries, diversification of sources of supply etc.), this work-in-progress paper elaborates how such perceptions and mechanisms have been translated into ‘resource internationalism’ and collective action among resource dependent consumer countries. The paper elaborates empirically how Western consumer countries responded to increasing resource nationalism (climate of antagonism, expropriations, nationalizations) within producer countries, and a specific form of ‘resource internationalism’ (OPEC-like cartels) among them. Special attention will be devoted to risk and criticality perceptions pertaining to Intergovernmental producer organizations like the Council of Copper Exporting Countries and the International Bauxite Association. Distinguishing theoretically between commercial and military supply security, the paper argues they were intertwined during the Cold War. Whereas the US strategic stockpiles served as a last resort governments and business saw international commodity agreements as the preferred solution. Yet a collective action problem lingered among the Western countries.

2nd half

Paying for the Coastline

Glen O´Hara

Britain’s very long and complex coastline has usually been thought of as a source of wealth and opportunity – its ports critical to the country’s trade, its estuaries the home of a very large shipbuilding sector, its very existence a barrier against invasion. But in the years following the Second World War, the question of its inherent worth, and the economic cost of any requirement for physical and environmental protection, rose steadily up the political agenda. The East Coast flood disaster of 1953 showed how poorly organized Britain’s defences against the ocean really were; increased agitation about the dangerous polluted state of her rivers, estuaries and beaches among a population increasingly insisting on clean leisure and access to amenities put pressure on successive governments to act on that front; constant at-sea dumping and accidents, including the wreck of the oil tanker Torrey Canyon off the coast of Cornwall in 1967,...

Britain’s very long and complex coastline has usually been thought of as a source of wealth and opportunity – its ports critical to the country’s trade, its estuaries the home of a very large shipbuilding sector, its very existence a barrier against invasion. But in the years following the Second World War, the question of its inherent worth, and the economic cost of any requirement for physical and environmental protection, rose steadily up the political agenda. The East Coast flood disaster of 1953 showed how poorly organized Britain’s defences against the ocean really were; increased agitation about the dangerous polluted state of her rivers, estuaries and beaches among a population increasingly insisting on clean leisure and access to amenities put pressure on successive governments to act on that front; constant at-sea dumping and accidents, including the wreck of the oil tanker Torrey Canyon off the coast of Cornwall in 1967, directed attention at the potentially catastrophic effects of any accident near Britain’s coasts. Against this backdrop, and in the context of episodic public sector spending austerity, UK governments had increasingly to struggle to account for the costs of new preparedness against flood, pollution and wreck – and then decide how to pay for it. They struggled not just with budgeting for these unexpected needs, but with the basic work of calculating how important they may be. Fundamental questions of the cost of pollution, the monetary value or otherwise of human lives at risk from drowning, the worth of the travel and tourism industries, and the insurance risks involved in shipping oil and other potential pollutants, all proved extremely challenging: methodological and theoretical challenges that this talk will track. In a warming world, and given the near-inevitably of rising oceans, this paper will also suggest some of the more and less successful ways of mobilizing public support for just such acts of governance.

Risk, uncertainty and security

Martin Chick

This paper examines the perceptions of risk and security which underpinned the development of UK fisheries policy between 1945 and 1990. It pays particular attention to the establishment of property rights under successive United Nations Law of the Sea Conferences and examines the mechanisms which were used to manage the size and sustainability of fisheries. The argument made is that fisheries were not simply another instance of the establishment of proxy property rights being used to address technologically-based negative externalities in fishing, but as much that the negotiations of the property rights enshrined in the Exclusive Economic Zones(EEZ) reflected local and national concerns with security. Security is concerned principally with the long-run sustainability of the managed natural resource, but there is also political concern with the managed transition of the local industry. In the case of the UK, a major switch in its negotiations of the extent of EEZs was...

This paper examines the perceptions of risk and security which underpinned the development of UK fisheries policy between 1945 and 1990. It pays particular attention to the establishment of property rights under successive United Nations Law of the Sea Conferences and examines the mechanisms which were used to manage the size and sustainability of fisheries. The argument made is that fisheries were not simply another instance of the establishment of proxy property rights being used to address technologically-based negative externalities in fishing, but as much that the negotiations of the property rights enshrined in the Exclusive Economic Zones(EEZ) reflected local and national concerns with security. Security is concerned principally with the long-run sustainability of the managed natural resource, but there is also political concern with the managed transition of the local industry. In the case of the UK, a major switch in its negotiations of the extent of EEZs was prompted by the discovery of North Sea oil which, although principally affected by Continental Shelf legislation, did in its turn affect perceptions of what constituted a secure EEZ. This in turn raised questions as to how such EEZs were to be managed, which in turn raised the questions of what mechanisms were efficient and effective. This section of the paper notes how a political preference for administered quota schemes reflecting the Total Allowable Catch approach to fisheries management steadily gave way to a more decentralised, market-based approach such as is seen in the Individual Transferable Quota system. This raises a further final question as to how a balance is struck between administrative and market-based approaches to the security of natural and strategic resources, with some often counter-intuitive conclusions.

A British Empire in metals abstract

Andrew Perchard, Roy Macleod, Jeremy Mouat,

This paper examines the contested nature of access to, and exploitation of, mineral reserves within the British Empire before and between the two world wars. It considers the various political economic arguments emerging in the metropolitan core, the ‘settler economies’, and colonies throughout this period, which highlighted the complexities of the ‘global colonial commons’. Against the shifting politics of empire during this period, these arguments also reflected diverging, and converging, interests. Any accord had to acknowledge the ways in which both legal rights and the roles of institutional actors varied across the British Empire. The paper views these mineral rights debates through attempts to forge an imperial minerals strategy in the closing years of WWI, chiefly arising out of decisions taken by the Imperial War Conference of 1917. This led in turn to the Non-Ferrous Metal Industry Act of 1918 and the formation of the Imperial Minerals Resources Bureau. These...

This paper examines the contested nature of access to, and exploitation of, mineral reserves within the British Empire before and between the two world wars. It considers the various political economic arguments emerging in the metropolitan core, the ‘settler economies’, and colonies throughout this period, which highlighted the complexities of the ‘global colonial commons’. Against the shifting politics of empire during this period, these arguments also reflected diverging, and converging, interests. Any accord had to acknowledge the ways in which both legal rights and the roles of institutional actors varied across the British Empire. The paper views these mineral rights debates through attempts to forge an imperial minerals strategy in the closing years of WWI, chiefly arising out of decisions taken by the Imperial War Conference of 1917. This led in turn to the Non-Ferrous Metal Industry Act of 1918 and the formation of the Imperial Minerals Resources Bureau. These actions reflected wartime security of supply issues as well as longer running concerns over German control of, and increasingly US competition for, imperial minerals reserves. A key objective, as the British Board of Trade noted in 1918, was to free ‘the Empire from dependence on German-controlled organisations in respect of non-ferrous metals and ores’ (Imperial War Conference, 1918: 63). The experiment that followed would attempt to mobilise state and non-state actors in order to assert the control by ‘British capital’ over imperial mineral resources. Ultimately the diverging interests of the main political actors proved insurmountable and attempts at an imperial minerals strategy foundered.