Human Rights and Arctic Resources

33 Pages Posted: 22 Aug 2010

See all articles by Rebecca M. Bratspies

Rebecca M. Bratspies

City University of New York - School of Law

Date Written: August 20, 2009


Because the res nullius, the unowned thing, is potentially the property of whoever successfully claims it, the scramble to claim and exploit resources deemed “unowned” has been a black chapter of human history. Cherished social and human values have been trampled in the rush for riches. The very idea of an “owned” versus an “unowned” resource, be it land, oil or living organisms, is, of course, a political construct, fraught with unspoken value judgments about the kind of use or possession worthy of that recognition. Throughout history, biases and prejudices have morphed judgments about the uses sufficient to demonstrate ownership into an assessment of whose use or possession will be dignified with the label of ownership. This latter assessment, implicit in the first whenever there are competing claims to a resource, has been wielded to systematically dispossess indigenous peoples around the world.

This article explores how the developing international human rights jurisprudence might translate into a better, more just, more environmentally responsible process for deciding the fate of Arctic resources.

Keywords: human rights, property, indigenous rights, Belize, Arctic, regulation, decisionmaking, energy, climate change, natural resources, Chukci Sea

JEL Classification: K1, K10, K23, K32, K33

Suggested Citation

Bratspies, Rebecca M., Human Rights and Arctic Resources (August 20, 2009). Southwestern Journal of Law and Trade in the Americas, Vol. 15, 2009. Available at SSRN:

Rebecca M. Bratspies (Contact Author)

City University of New York - School of Law ( email )

2 Court Square
Long Island City, NY 11101
United States

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