Law and Natural Resources

Key information

Start date
End date
Module code
FHEQ Level
School of Law, Gender and Media

Module overview

This module 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 module 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 module examines simultaneously economic development aspects of natural resource regulation, social development aspects and environmental aspects. This module 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 module starts with a background of 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 module 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.

This course is open to all Postgraduate Taught Students at SOAS.

Objectives and learning outcomes

  • 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


  • Weekly 2-hour seminar

Method of assessment

  • Briefing paper: 30% (1500 words)
  • Essay: 70% (5000 words)

Suggested reading

  • Shawkat Alam, Jahid Hossain Bhuiyan & Jona Razzaque eds, International Natural Resources Law, Investment and Sustainability (Routledge, 2017).
  • Francesca Romanin Jacur, Angelica Bonfanti, Francesco Seatzu eds, Natural Resources Grabbing: An International Law Perspective (Brill Nijhoff, 2016).
  • Carol Chi Ngang & Serges Djoyou Kamga eds, Natural Resource Sovereignty and the Right to Development in Africa (Routledge, 2022).
  • Elisa Morgera & Kati Kulovesi eds, Research Handbook on International Law and Natural Resources (Edward Elgar, 2016).
  • Melanie Pichler et al eds, Fairness and Justice in Natural Resource Politics (Routledge, 2017).
  • Celine Tan & Julio Faundez eds, Natural Resources and Sustainable Development – International Economic Law Perspectives (Edward Elgar, 2019).


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules.