The importance of natural resources for developing countries is widely acknowledged. It is also widely acknowledged that developing countries rarely receive adequate financial and economic returns for the natural resources extracted from their territories. Moreover, the exploitation of natural resources in developing countries is generally associated with negative social and environmental consequences. Thus, today, many regard the abundance of natural resources as a curse, which often has profoundly negative effects on the efficient operation of national legal systems and on the quality domestic regulatory structures. The resource curse is also generally regarded as one of the main causes of inter-state and intra-state conflicts. Paradoxically, but unsurprisingly, the groups that are most affected by the negative consequences of the exploitation of natural resources are those living in the regions where the resources are extracted.
The numerous problems associated with the exploitation of natural resources in developing countries have prompted a variety of responses from activists and policy-makers, development agencies, inter-governmental organizations and transnational corporations. In different ways, all these groups and organizations aim to improve the current situation by introducing legal reforms that will strengthen and improve domestic and international systems of governance and regulation.
The objective of this Workshop is to identify, examine and assess the nature and impact of the variety of legal and governance initiatives aimed at improving natural resource regimes in developing countries.
The issue of international governance and management of natural resources will become an increasingly key area for international research, law and policymaking in the coming years as the contestation and conflict over their ownership and use become more acute. Disputes over control and exploitation of natural resources are already becoming major causes of social conflict, political instability and armed conflict. The centrality of natural resources to global economic growth has meant that the ownership and control over natural resources have been at the forefront of legal, territorial and political disputes between states, particularly between the north and south. At the same time, the links between natural resource depletion and environmental degradation, impoverishment and human rights violations mean that the governance and management of natural resources remains a critical arena for local and transnational contestation. It is critical that these issues be addressed in a comprehensive and holistic manner with prominence given to voices from the south, where these tensions and conflicts are realised in the most acute and often devastating ways.
This workshop will bring together scholars, practitioners, campaigners and policymakers from different parts of the world and from a diversity of disciplines and professional practice to consider these issues with a view towards establishing a longer-term international network to foster research collaboration, dissemination and knowledge transfer.