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Common goods and the common good: Transboundary natural resources, principled cooperation, and the Nile Basin Initiative


Transboundary natural resources present particular problems for the international community, and the community of African States presents no exception. The peaceful management and utilization of these resources is a universal aspiration, but the principles and norms governing international cooperation over natural resources are often just as contested as the ownership of the resource itself. In Part One, the emergent practices, norms and principles applicable to transboundary freshwater and petroleum are reviewed, along with the possibility of further development of these norms through the current mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on Shared Natural Resources, Ambassador Chusei Yamada. The history of the UN Convention on the Law of Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses is reviewed, with an emphasis upon the foundational principles which it contains. The emergence of the petroleum Joint Development Agreement is also analyzed, again emphasizing the fundamental norms of cooperation upon which this practice has been built. Part Two addresses the specific example of the Nile River Basin, examining theories of distributive justice in the light of State practice in the Nile River Basin to date. A vision of distributive justice and state action is advanced, drawing on the theoretical bases of the morality of states, and cosmopolitanism. A combination of pragmatic and theoretical perspectives permits the development of recommendations for future action by States engaged in the Nile Basin Initiative, for the common good.

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