Against ‘Permanent Sovereignty’ Over Natural Resources

CHRIS ARMSTRONG
POLITICS, PHILOSOPHY AND ECONOMICS 14.2 (2015): 129-151

Abstract: The doctrine of permanent sovereignty over natural resources is a hugely consequential one in the contemporary world, appearing to grant nation-states both jurisdiction-type rights and rights of ownership over the resources to be found in their territories. But the normative justification for that doctrine is far from clear. This article elucidates the best arguments that might be made for permanent sovereignty, including claims from national improvement of or attachment to resources, as well as functionalist claims linking resource rights to key state functions. But it also shows that these defences are insufficient to justify permanent sovereignty and that in many cases they actually count against it as a practice. They turn out to be compatible, furthermore, with the dispersal of resource rights away from the nation-state which global justice appears to demand.