Friday, July 30, 2010

The Role of UN in Sovereignty over Natural Resources

By the late 1950s, the Third World Countries had fully realized the significance of exercising permanent sovereignty over their natural wealth and resources and started adopting a well concerted approach to safeguard their interests. They realized that though they had gained political independence the imperialist powers were still exploiting them and treating their raw materials and natural resources as appendages of the imperialist powers resulting in backwardness of their economies. Therefore they decided to press for the recognition of their sovereignty over their natural resources on account of this feeling of their Third World countries on 21 December 1952 the UN General Assembly passed a resolution asserting “the right of peoples to sue and exploit their natural wealth and resources is inherent in their sovereignty.” The UN Covenant on Human Rights adopted in 1955 also incorporated this right in Article 1 which provided. “The peoples may, for their own ends, freely dispose of their natural wealth and resources without prejudice to any obligation arising out of international economic co-operation based up to the principle of mutual benefit and international law. In no case may a people by deprived of its own means of subsistence.”

The developing countries made full use of the UN mechanism in their struggle. In view of the growing pressure from the developing countries on 12 December 1958 the UN General Assembly adopted resolution No. 1314 which recommended the setting up of a commission to examine the status of permanent sovereignty of states over their natural wealth and resources. In pursuance of the above resolution in December 1958 the UN General Assembly established a Commission on Permanent Sovereignty over natural wealth and resources ‘to conduct a full survey of the permanent sovereignty over natural wealth and resources as a basic constituent of the right of self-determination’. Two years later in December 1960 the UN General Assembly further recommended that the ‘sovereign right of every state to dispose of its wealth and natural resources be respected’. In 1962 the General Assembly on the recommendations of the Commission on Permanent Sovereignty adopted resolution 1803 (XVII) in the form of a Declaration on Permanent Sovereignty over Natural Resources. The Declaration dealt comprehensively with the inalienable and inherent right of developing nations to exercise permanent sovereignty over their natural resources and recorded the fundamental principles of sovereignty of states over their natural resources. The Declaration was of immense significance because it was negotiated within the framework of the respects conflicting, interests of capital-importing countries-the owners of natural resources, and capital exporting developed countries.

The principles outlined in the Declaration on Permanent Sovereignty. Over Natural Resources were complemented and Nations. One of the reports of the UN Secretary General observed that the sovereignty includes the right of every state to dispose all of natural resources and to determine what economic structures ____ make its best use possible, and to determine the sphere and character of direct foreign investment and their conditions:

The assertion of the principle of permanent s sovereignty over natural resources was of immense significance for the developing countries because it provided a basis on which these countries could claim to change the inequitable and uneven legal arrangements under which foreign investors enjoyed right to exploit natural resources available within the territorial boundaries of developing countries. Such an alteration could be facilitated through an exercise of (i) the right to nationalise i.e. to acquire the rights enjoyed by the foreign investors of (ii) the right to envisage changes particular terms of the arrangements including the right to repudiate an arrangement already made with the foreign investors.


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