Greenland’s independence to some extent pivots on the exploitation of natural resources, includin ... Read more
Greenland’s independence to some extent pivots on the exploitation of natural resources, including offshore hydrocarbon resources. The exploitation of oil and gas is inherently hazardous and offshore activities and marine oil transports bring a risk of a serious pollution incident affecting the interests of other States. The long-established principle of full reparation for injuries indicates that should a major accident occur under an independent Greenland’s watch, Greenland would bear a potentially unlimited liability to compensate affected parties. However, for a post-colonial State of under 60,000 souls, an overwhelming compensation claim could be disastrous: indeed, it could be sufficiently overwhelming as to compromise the rights of the Greenlandic people to self-determination and permanent sovereignty over their own resources, as well as a number of fundamental human rights found in international customary and conventional law. This chapter examines how such a conflict between the principle of full reparation and the rights of peoples to self-determination might be resolved in practice in light of the ILC Articles on State Responsibility, international customary law and ius cogens, international human rights treaties and the few pertinent, though limited and distinguishable, cases that have been decided to date. The chapter concludes by finding that the principle of self-determination has a peremptory status and thus in the event of conflict with the principle of full reparation, the latter must be considered subservient. However, there may be scope for greater flexibility in the mode and timescale of reparation than in its quantum.