The paper demonstrates how the evolution of international law on colonial and indigenous peoples, ... Read more
The paper demonstrates how the evolution of international law on colonial and indigenous peoples, in particular evolving rights to sovereignty over natural resources, shaped the changing relationship between Greenland and the rest of the Danish Realm. Greenland today is in a unique position in international law, enjoying an extremely high degree of self-government. This paper explores the history, current status and future of Greenland through the lens of international law, to show how international obligations both colour its relationship with the Kingdom of Denmark and influence its approaches to resource development internally. It considers the invisibility of the Inuit population in the 1933 Eastern Greenland case that secured Danish sovereignty over the entire territory. It then turns to Denmark’s registration of Greenland as a non-self-governing territory (colony) in 1946 before Greenland’s-purported decolonisation in 1953 and the deficiencies of that process. In the second part of the 20th century, Denmark began to recognise the Greenland Inuit as an indigenous people before a gradual shift towards recognition of the Greenlanders as a people in international law, entitled to self-determination, including the right to permanent sovereignty over their natural resources. This peaked with the Self-Government Act of 2009. The paper will then go on to assess competing interpretations of the Self-Government Act of 2009 according to which the Greenland self-government is the relevant decision-making body for an increasing number of fields of competence including, since 1 January 2010, the governance of extractive industries. Some, including members of the Greenland self-government, argue that the Self-Government Act constitutes full implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP 2007), but this view is not universally shared. The paper also considers the status and rights of two Greenland minorities: the North Greenlanders (Inughuit) and the East Greenlanders, each of whom has distinct histories, experiences of colonisation, dialects (or languages) and cultural traditions. While the Kingdom of Denmark accepts the existence of only one indigenous people, namely, the Inuit of Greenland, this view is increasingly being challenged in international fora, including the UN human rights treaty bodies, as the two minorities are in some cases considered distinct indigenous peoples. Their current position in Greenland as well as in a future fully independent Greenland is examined, and the rights that they hold against the Greenland self-government as well as the Kingdom of Denmark explored. Greenland’s domestic regime for governance of non-renewable natural resources (principally mining and hydrocarbons) is briefly analysed and compared with international standards, with a particular emphasis on public participation. The paper assesses the extent to which it complies with the standards in key international instruments.
Hydrocarbon activity can be both harmful and hazardous. It is harmful if, in the course of normal ... Read more
Hydrocarbon activity can be both harmful and hazardous. It is harmful if, in the course of normal operations, it damages its surrounding environment and/or the interests of other states. States and operators should implement a number of technical measures to ensure that the impacts remain below the legally relevant threshold of ‘significant’ harm. However, hydrocarbon activities are also inherently hazardous because there is always a risk of a low probability-high impact accident, e.g., an oil spill or an explosion. The harsh conditions of the Arctic coupled with its sensitive biodiversity mean that activities in the Arctic are more hazardous than in more temperate parts of the World.
This paper addresses three themes to clarify the rights and responsibilities of states pursuing offshore hydrocarbon development in the Arctic: international law regarding permanent sovereignty and constraints to protect the environment, the interests of other states and the rights of indigenous and other peoples; the role and limitations of the Arctic Council; and the challenge of indigenous sovereignty and indigenous rights.
Colonization of the Poles was driven, as in most of the rest of the world, by the promise of reso ... Read more
Colonization of the Poles was driven, as in most of the rest of the world, by the promise of resources. Living resources have long been exploited at both Poles,1 but only in the North have law, politics and economics aligned to permit exploitation of non-living resources. Diversity amongst the Arctic states in climate, terrain, resource potential, population density, infrastructure and political economy means that no single pattern could describe accurately the entire region. This Chapter will provide only a cursory summary before focusing on the freedoms and constraints of international law on governance of non-renewable, non-living natural resources. It will then explain the history, current status and potential challenges to the sui generis regime in the Antarctic, according to which extractive industries are entirely prohibited. Although non-living resources is a broad term that could cover renewable energy and ice-harvesting, this Chapter concentrates on traditional extractive industries: mining and hydrocarbons.
On February 25, 2019, the International Court of Justice issued its advisory opinion on Legal Con ... Read more
On February 25, 2019, the International Court of Justice issued its advisory opinion on Legal Consequences of the Separation of the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius in 1965. The judges held by a majority of 13:1 that the process of decolonisation of Mauritius is incomplete, owing to the separation of the Chagos Archipelago shortly before Mauritian independence, that the United Kingdom should end its administration of the Chagos Archipelago as rapidly as possible, and that all Member States of the United Nations should cooperate to complete the decolonisation of Mauritius.
The (partial) decolonisation of Mauritius in 1968 and the treatment of the Chagos islanders (Chagossians) have important parallels with the purported decolonisation of Greenland in 1952–54. In both cases, the consultative body of the colonised people was neither fully independent nor representative of all the people concerned. No real choice was given to either body; rather the colonial power offered only the continuation of the status quo or professed self-determination on terms defined by the colonial power itself. Furthermore, the process of decolonisation was inherently linked to the forcible transfer of people in order to make way for a United States military facility.
Nevertheless, there are some relevant differences. First of all, Greenland was purportedly decolonised in 1953, some seven years before the UN General Assembly Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples (UNGA Res. 1514(XV) 1960). Second, the UN General Assembly accepted the Danish government’s representations regarding the full decolonisation of Greenland (UNGA Res. 849 (1954), in contrast to their position regarding Mauritius that decolonisation was and remains incomplete, owing to the separation of the Chagos Archipelago (UNGA Res(XX) 1965). Third, though the Chagossians have been recognised as indigenous at the UN, the British government has continually denied this status and (mis)characterises them as a transient people, while Denmark has accepted the status of the Greenlanders as both an indigenous people and a colonial people, entitled to self-determination.
This article examines the implications for the judgment for the Greenland case as well as broader questions of self-determination of peoples. It concludes that the colonial boundaries continue to govern in decolonisation cases, with the consequence that the Greenlanders are likely to be held to be a single people; that the erga omnes character of the right to self-determination means that all States must cooperate to facilitate Greenlanders’ choices for their future; and that there remain significant procedural hurdles that prevent colonial and indigenous peoples having their voices heard, even in the matters that concern them most of all.