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



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

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)