States and Sovereignty: Competing Claims to Natural Resources

States and Sovereignty: Competing Claims to Natural Resources

natural resources

Natural resources have become the latest battle ground between states, where competing notions of sovereignty often play out. As states search for new sources of energy to meet growing demands, the boundaries between them have become blurred.

The understanding of sovereignty as ‘permanent’ makes it applicable to the resolution of debates over the resources in projects between states aiming to take advantage of them. The doctrine of ‘Permanent Sovereignty’ is seen as historically linked to the process of decolonisation and the right to self-determination and the ability of states to exercise control over the resources and economic growth.

The recent announcement that the EU will be pushing ahead with a strategy to create an Energy Union has raised eyebrows and furrowed brows amongst member states who see this as further divesting their sovereignty.

Perhaps the most appropriate prism through which to approach the issue of natural resources is that of international law, particularly the ways in which it can resolve contested claims.

In this the second part of the “Resources for Democracy” podcast on sovereignty, we start with Professor Harry Tzimitras outlining the context of international law that frames disputed claims over resources.

Supplementary Resources

General Assembly resolution 1803 (XVII) of 14 December 1962, “Permanent sovereignty over natural resources”


Politics trump economics in the complex game of Eastern Mediterranean hydrocarbons

The Role of International Law in Intrastate Natural Resource Allocation: Sovereignty, Human Rights, and Peoples-Based Development

The Cyprus Hydrocarbons Issue: Context, Positions and Future Scenarios



States, Sovereignty and the Case of Cyprus

States, Sovereignty and the Case of Cyprus


In this edition of the “Resources for Democracy” podcast we unpack the concept of sovereignty.

The primary understanding of sovereignty – as considered within the discipline of international relations – is that it is the central organising principle of the Westphalian state system.

However, debates over sovereignty have increased as the nation-state has aged, while there are a number of contemporary issues that place limit on the exercise of sovereignty. The rise of non-state actors is just one of those issues.

In this first part of our podcast we have enlisted the support of three experts to help us present and delve into different perspectives of the concept of sovereignty while on the second we hear how the debate over sovereignty is shaped, in the case of Cyprus, by the discovery of natural resources and the ways in which competing claims to these are articulated.

Supplementary Resources:

State Responsibility, Sovereignty, and Failed States

The Concept of Sovereignty Revisited

What is Sovereignty?

Sovereignty in Theory and Practice

Sovereignty – Modern: A New Approach to an Outdated Concept

The Changing Structure of International Law: Sovereignty Transformed?

Civil Society Cyprus Context

Civil Society Cyprus Context



The concept of civil society means a range of things to many different people. This video focuses on different concepts and explanations as to what civil society means with specific reference to Cyprus, and the peace, re-unification and reconciliation process.

Supplementary Resources:

Mahallae: Mapping of Civic Initiatives in Cyprus

Policy Paper on the Empowerment of Civil Society in Cyprus

Civil Society in Reconciliation: beyond the ‘Cyprus problem’

Cyprus Civil Society: Developing Trust and Cooperation

Building Trust and Reconciliation in Cyprus: a civil society toolkit

NGOs in Cyprus


Civil Society Theories and Perspectives

Civil Society Theories and Perspectives


According to the Yearbook of International Organizations, the number of international NGOs was reported to have increased from 6,000 in 1990 to more than 50,000 in 2006. Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) exist in many countries throughout the world. This video reflects on what some CSO’s do in three different contexts, Egypt, Lebanon and Cyprus.

Supplementary Resources

Mapping Civil Society Organizations in Lebanon

MIDDLE EASTERN DEMOCRACY Is Civil Society the Answer?

Civil mobilisation and peace in Lebanon

State crime, civil society and resistance: lessons from Tunisia

The obliteration of civil society in Egypt

Civil Society’s Fundamental Role in Egypt

Civil Society and Democratic Transformation in Contemporary Egypt: Premise and Promises

Civil Society in Egypt under the Mubarak Regime

The Cyprus Problem

The Cyprus Problem

Small cyprus086

The Cyprus Problem has remained unsolved for decades. It has been likened in many ways to a Rubric Cube puzzle that cannot be worked out. This video looks at different definitions of what the problem is – how it could possibly be resolved and considers a number of research findings on the past and possibilities for the future.

Supplementary Resources:

The True Story about the Geopolitical Role of Cyprus: David or Goliath? [Audio]

East Mediterranean Hydrocarbons Geopolitical Perspectives, Markets, and Regional Cooperation

Predicting Peace: The Social Cohesion and Reconciliation Index as a Tool for Conflict Transformation

The Stream: Cyprus: On the road to unification? (vid)

Consociational Democracy: Civic Participation within a Power Sharing structure

Consociational Democracy: Civic Participation within a Power Sharing structure


For societies divided by ethnic conflict, the practicalities of achieving a functioning democratic polity are all the more difficult. Characterised by a political culture that does not favour compromise, the options for securing a more prosperous future are limited.

In order to change the conflict dynamics in these contexts, the concept of power sharing often presents itself as the most viable solution, where systems of governance attempt to incorporate all major segments of society, relieving tensions through consensus.

The implementation of power sharing models raises interesting questions about the resolution and management of conflicts. Indeed, is power sharing a tool for ending intractable conflict? Or is it simply a way of bringing it – and the different players involved – under control?

In this edition of the Resources for Democracy podcast, we talk to Chrystalla Yakinthou, Research Fellow at Birmingham University with an extensive research background in power sharing between communities in divided societies, particularly in Cyprus and Lebanon.


Supplementary Resources:

Democracy and Power-Sharing in Multi-National States

Complex Power Sharing as Conflict Resolution: South Tyrol in Comparative


Consociationalism (vid)

Seymour Martin Lipset Lecture: Ethnic Power-Sharing and Democracy  (vid)

Seymour Martin Lipset Lecture: Ethnic Power-Sharing and Democracy Part 2 (vid)

Seymour Martin Lipset Lecture: Ethnic Power-Sharing and Democracy Part 3 (vid)


Explaining Citizenship, Identity and Participation: The Case of Cyprus

Explaining Citizenship, Identity and Participation: The Case of Cyprus


There are a number of debates on citizenship, particularly in Europe, where the need for active participation is highlighted as a means of expressing what is to be a citizen.

But what do normative ideas of what citizenship is translate into everyday actions?

Can we really speak of one notion of citizenship?

How far does one identity – or even multiple identities – condition their understanding of citizenship and affect their actions within a society?

In what ways do changing demographics, with the constant mixing of cultures and ethnicities, affect citizenship in the present day?

These are some of the issues we address in this edition of the Resources for Democracy podcast. First, we speak to Dr George Iordanou, who PhD in Political Theory focused on alternative notions of citizenship.

Supplementary Resources

On the Borders of Europe: Citizenship Education and Identity in Cyprus

World Heritage as a Model for Citizenship: the case of Cyprus

Transitional Justice & Citizens’ contribution to Dealing with the Past

Transitional Justice & Citizens’ contribution to Dealing with the Past


Since the turn of the century, the practice and discipline of transitional justice has spread as an effort to apportion justice in times of transition from conflict or state repression. According to the International Centre for Transitional Justice – a global non-governmental organisation based in New York – the term refers to the set of judicial and non-judicial measures that have been implemented by different countries in order to redress the legacies of massive human rights abuses. They all aim to bring perpetrators to account, while at the same time provide recognition of the rights of, and redress through reparations for, the victims. Transitional justice also seeks to promote trust across societies, and the strengthening of the democratic rule of law so as to avoid repeats in the future.

Moreover, the evolution of transitional justice as a social science discipline has enabled research to shed light on some of the previously under-explored impact of legacies of conflict and violence.

What scholars have identified however is that in post-conflict situations there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution. The transition from conflict is always a unique experience, and the challenges faced by each country are always greater than expected. Transitions provide an opportunity for change i.e. for the establishment of modern democratic structures, however there is also the potential for the consolidation of old power structures.

Civil society has a very important role to play in transitional justice processes. Indeed, it is from civil society that much of the input towards transitional justice comes from. The International Day of the Disappeared, celebrated every year on August 30, was the result of efforts by the Latin American Federation of Associations for Relatives of Detained-Disappeared, a non-governmental organisation founded in 1981 in Costa Rica that brought together local and regional groups working against state practices such as arbitrary imprisonment and enforced disappearances in Latin America.


Supplementary Resources:

Coming to Terms with the Past

The Disappeared and Invisible: Revealing the Enduring Impact of Enforced Disappearance on Women

United Nations Approach to Transitional Justice

Whose Justice: Rethinking transitional Justice from the Bottom-up

Gender, Exclusion and Conflict

Gender, Exclusion and Conflict


For a large majority of people, the terms “gender” and “sex” are used interchangeably. However, the idea that we are born, assigned a sex, and that is that, is now being questioned and challenged.

In fact gender is all around us, and we are conditioned from a very early age to think in a ‘gendered’ way. Meanings and messages are transposed through the way we bring up children, through the education system, through the media, as well as religion, affecting our view of the world.

In most societies, exclusion on the grounds of gender is widespread, both directly and indirectly. This exclusion restricts people’s economic mobility and equality, stops them from gaining positions of political significance, and can deny access to benefits accorded to other members of society.

In this edition of the Resources for Democracy podcast, we talk to Magda Zenon, a women’s rights activist, who tackles the issue of gender from the perspective of women, and explores the interrelation with conflict and how this has played out within the context of Cyprus.

Supplementary Resources

Gender Politics in Trade Unions. The Representation of Women between Exclusion and Inclusion

Women’s Peace in Cyprus

Exclusion of Women (vid)

“Suitably Dressed? How women’s choices have become symbols of belonging or exclusion” (vid)

Gender Inequality and Power (vid)

LSE Gender Institute Podcasts