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School of Law

Law and natural resources

Course Code:
Unit value:
Taught in:
Full Year

This course examines international, regional and national legal and institutional arrangements concerning the conservation and use of natural resources. It introduces legal principles relevant to the conservation and use of natural resources in international and national law. This course focuses on the international law aspects of natural resource use and conservation, the North-South dimension and on individual developing country case studies.

Natural resource regulation is analysed within the broad conceptual framework of the notion of sustainable development. As a result, this course examines simultaneously economic development aspects of natural resource regulation, social development aspects and environmental aspects. This course specifically seeks to make the links between the exploitation of natural resources for macro-economic development and subsistence and other uses of natural resources for food security and health needs as well as the links between use for economic development and conservation, for instance, in the context of broader policy challenges such as climate change.

This course starts with a background to natural resource regulation, including basic principles of international law relevant to natural resources, such as sovereignty and related concepts for natural resource appropriation, differential treatment/equity, sustainable development and human rights. It also examines the role of some of the main actors in natural resource use and conservation such as the World Bank and transnational companies.

The course then moves on to examine a number of more specific issues within the context of selected natural resources. Natural resources considered may include water, genetic resources, forests, marine living and mineral resources of the seabed, minerals and energy.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

  • To equip students with a broad understanding of the law related to natural resources;
  • To provide students with knowledge of basic concepts and principles underlying the conservation and use of natural resources at the international and national levels;
  • To examine, in particular, the regulation of natural resources within the overall framework of sustainable development;
  • To equip students with the ability to understand and analyse issues concerning natural resource conservation and use from a broad perspective encompassing their economic, social and environmental dimensions.

Method of assessment

  • Coursework: 50% (5000 words)
  • Unseen written exam: 50%

Suggested reading

  • Elena Merino Blanco & Jona Razzaque, Globalisation and Natural Resources Law: Challenges, Key Issues and Perspectives (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2011).
  • Gerald H. Blake et al, ed., The Peaceful Management of Transboundary Resources (London: Graham & Trotman, 1995).
  • Malgosia Fitzmaurice & M. Szuniewicz eds, Exploitation of Natural Resources in the 21st Century (The Hague: Kluwer, 2004).
  • Nico Schrijver, Sovereignty over Natural Resources: Balancing Rights and Duties (Cambridge University Press, 1997).
  • Donald N. Zillman, A. Lucas and G. Pring eds, Human Rights in Natural Resource Development: Public Participation in the Sustainable Development of Mining and Energy Resources (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002).