International Institutions and the Resource Curse

46 Pages Posted: 6 Nov 2013 Last revised: 28 Apr 2014

See all articles by Patrick Keenan

Patrick Keenan

University of Illinois College of Law

Date Written: September 30, 2013


Many countries that are richly endowed with natural resources have failed to turn that resource wealth into sustained development. In many places, a small coterie of elites have become rich while most citizens see little benefit from their country’s vast resource wealth. The principal cause of this problem, often called the resource curse, is weak domestic institutions that permit leaders to enrich themselves and ignore the development needs of the country. From this, most scholars and policymakers have concluded that the way to fix the resource curse is to reform domestic institutions.

This Article challenges the conventional wisdom and argues that international institutions can be harnessed to do the work of failed domestic institutions. The Article addresses the doctrinal and normative challenges that might arrive with this approach and concludes that international institution, even if they are not the principal cause of the resource curse, can be useful tools to address it in developing countries.

Keywords: natural resources, resource curse, domestic institutions, international institutions

Suggested Citation

Keenan, Patrick James, International Institutions and the Resource Curse (September 30, 2013). Penn State Journal of Law & International Affairs, Forthcoming, Illinois Public Law Research Paper No. 14-15, Available at SSRN:

Patrick James Keenan (Contact Author)

University of Illinois College of Law ( email )

504 E. Pennsylvania Avenue
Champaign, IL 61820
United States

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