A human rights approach to Ireland’s natural resources

A forthcoming article in the Irish Yearbook of International Law by Josh Curtis provides an excellent human rights based analysis of natural resource management in Ireland. The essay comes at a time of increased focus in Ireland on the ‘ownership’ of oil and gas reserves (see Eddie Hobbs’ Our Own Oil for example), as well as the possibility of the introduction of fracking for the extraction of shale gas. In his article, Josh argues that human rights must be taken into consideration to ensure that natural resources are managed in a way that provides benefits for all. Here is the abstract:

This paper proceeds from the premise that international human rights law provides both an important counterpoint to mainstream economic theory and a paradigmatic context that can enlighten the proper place of foreign direct investment (FDI) in national development. The people’s rights to self-determination and permanent sovereignty over their natural resources can ground a response to the prevailing economic wisdom, emphasising the duties thereby assumed by states in achieving a balance between attracting FDI and ensuring an actual benefit to the people from that investment.

Following the latest global financial crisis, an international bail-out loan for Ireland strictly conditioned drastic austerity measures and the continuation of an ‘investment friendly’ tax and regulatory environment. This neo-liberal formula is being sold from all quarters as the ‘economics of necessity’. Ireland’s current oil and gas licensing regime provides the discursive terrain for an application of a human rights response to this supposed necessity. The analysis concludes that the terms of the current regime, the intransigence of the government regarding change, and the lack of opportunities for public participation combine such that the situation may be viewed as a prima facie violation of the people’s rights to self-determination and their sovereignty over, and use of, natural resources.

An advance copy of the article, ‘The ‘Economics of Necessity’, Human Rights and Ireland’s Natural Resources’ is available here.

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