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Nature: The Common Heritage of Mankind (CHM)?

Arne Kalland
Department of Social Anthropology
University of Oslo
During the last 20!0 years there has "een a gro#ing recognition for the needs to
"ring local populations into the management of rene#a"le natural resources$ and
many have "een lo""ying for co-management regimes #here "oth users and
professional managers participate %e.g. &'(D )*+,- .U'/ et al )**)- U/'(D
)**20. 1o#ever$ it is not al#ays clear #ho the 2users3 are. .n addition to original
users #ithin the primary sectors %people engaged in agriculture and forestry as
#ell as in professional fisheries and hunting0 ne# groups %e.g. recreational fishers
and hunters$ tourism entrepreneurs and environmental groups0 have signalled their
interests in natural resources and demanded rights to participate in their
management. One of the central 4uestions no# is not only #ho ought to
participate in resource management "ut #ho should "enefit "y such management.
&ho 2o#n3 the resources5
6#o trends can "e o"served regarding rights to natural resources7
privati8ation and gro#ing state and international intervention %corresponding to
1ardin9s t#o solutions to the 2tragedy of the commons3 pro"lem0. .t is #ith the
latter . am concerned here. .n /or#ay and else#here there is a tendency that a
gro#ing part of nature %used here to mean our nonhuman physical environment0
is perceived as 2our national heritage3. :any are also talking a"out a 2glo"al
village3 %or 2spacecraft ;aia30 #here nature is the 2common heritage of mankind3
and #here people participate in a 2glo"al culture3. :ost people hardly reflect over
#hat these concepts actually mean or imply. 6he concepts have received some
attention from la#yers %<aslar )**+- ;untrip 200!0 "ut have hardly "een noticed
"y social anthropologists. .t is taken as a positive recognition that some resources
or sites are particularly valua"le$ and most people feel a sense of national pride
#hen a site in their country is added to the U/(S'O list. .t #ill "e argued in this
presentation that this language is an important rhetoric device in order to
appropriate natural resources at the e=pense of original users.
. #ill use t#o empirical cases. . #ill "riefly outline ho# natural resources
in /or#ay have "een turned into a common national heritage "efore . take a
closer look at ho# the international environmental movement has tried to convert
#hales from "eing perceived as no"ody9s property or an openaccess resource %res
nullius0 to "ecome every"ody9s property or the common heritage of mankind %res
communalis0. 6he difference "et#een these t#o regimes is the e=istence of
institutions. .n the latter case resources are ideally managed "y glo"al "odies
according to international treaties and agreements.
6he use of #hales as a case is especially appropriate "ecause the term
2heritage of mankind3 %patrimoine de lhumanit0 #as first coined in )*2, on
"ehalf of the >eague of /ations "y the Argentinean la#yer ?os@ >eAn SuBre8 #ho
had marine life C and #hales in particular C in mind %Soci@t@ des /ations )*2,7)2!0.
<ut it is Arvid Dardo$ :altese am"assador to U/$ #ho is given the credit for the
term #hen he at the U/ ;eneral Assem"ly in )*E, suggested that resources at the
high seas should "e conceptuali8ed as '1: %Dardo )**!0. 6he rational for
replacing the traditional concept of 2freedom of the sea3 "y that of '1: #as to
prevent a fe# po#erful countries that possessed the technological and economic
strength to monopoli8e marine resources. Dardo argued that all nations$ #hether
coastal or landlocked$ should e4uita"ly share the "enefits. According to 6ullio
Scova88i %200E0$ professor of international la#$ the concept implies a third kind of
regime in addition to sovereignty %or state property0$ #hich applies in territorial
#aters and the scheme of freedom$ #hich applies on the high seas. 1o#ever$ #hen
the concept #as incorporated into the U/ >a#s of the Seas %U/'>OS0 its
applica"ility #as limited to commercial e=ploitation of minerals located on the deep
sea"ed. >iving resources #ere e=plicitly e=cluded. 6he .nternational Sea"ed
Authority %.SA0 #as esta"lished to organi8e and control the e=traction activities. As
of Fe"ruary 200,$ .SA had )G! mem"er countries and USA #as the only po#er that
When Hugo Grotius in the early 17
century wrote that [w]hat
cannot be seized or enclosed - such as the open sea - cannot be
reduced to property of individual tates! "hus# these zones re$ain
%co$$on to all $an&ind'( )*uoted in +aggio , -ynch 1../0 he did not
$ean everybody1s property! 2n the contrary# he argued strongly for
free access to $arine resources and for the freedo$ of the sea(! He
wrote his se$inal Mare Liberum )134.0 at a ti$e when Holland was
beco$ing a $a5or $arine power!
had not ratified U/'>OS and hence #as not a mem"er of this truly glo"al
management "ody.
6he '1: concept #as first coined to address management pro"lems
related to res nullius situations C i.e. resources that had not "een claimed and #ere
under no"ody9s Hurisdiction7 the e=ploitation of outer space$ sea"ed "eyond
national economic 8ones$ and Antarctica. 6he concept #as picked up "y U/(S'O
in its #ork to preserve sites #ith important cultural or natural value to humanity at
large$ and not only of national interest. 6hese sites are$ ho#ever$ located #ithin
national "orders and are therefore managed "y national "odies. 6he concept is
today not limited to res nullius situations and U/(S'O &orld 1eritage list "ut
has according to Iusen Keles %n.d.0$ Director of (nvironmental Studies at Ankara
University$ "ecome one of the mostly pronounced concepts in modern
6he idea of a 2common national heritage3 appeared in many countries$
including /or#ay$ long "efore the environmental movement. 6he trend to turn
local resources into national ones can "e seen as an aspect of the emergence of the
nation state. <y defining resources commons$ the state created for itself an estate
that gave su"stance to the nation "uilding proHect. And "y giving itself a monopoly
of force the state had the means to enforce its decisions on potential users of the
commons. .n /or#ay the process received momentum in the 20
century #hen
national "odies took over the management of more and more of the natural
resources$ not least marine resources. Some resources #ere opened to ne# groups
of "eneficiaries. 2Allemannsretten3 can "e mentioned as an e=ample-
the right to
move and harvest resources %e.g. #ild flo#ers$ "erries$ mushrooms0 freely on
other people9s land is steadily "eing strengthened.
6he state9s appropriation of originally local resources have gone hand in
hand #ith C some #ould say it has "een legitimi8ed "y C our discourses on nature.
During the last couple of centuries nature has on the cognitive level changed from
"eing landscapes carrying meanings for the local fe# to "ecome sym"ols of
national significance. :any people have contri"uted to this. Authors$ poets$ story
tellers$ painters$ composers$ photographers$ scientists and friluftsfolk %lit. 2openair
people3$ i.e. those #ho seek nature for the sake of recreation0 have mediated
8 note about the di9erence between allmenning and
8 note about current con;icts over the shoreline: <orway is one of
the few countries that recognize private ownership to the shore!
nature in ne# #ays to an increasing num"er of ne# consumers$ #ho may attach
ne# meanings to the landscape. At the same time$ affluence and more leisure time
have allo#ed more people to venture into nature. 6he original users of the area or
resources in 4uestion have therefore "een challenged at t#o levels. At the material
level they have faced increasing competition over territories and their resources$
and at the cognitive level they have faced ne# landscape meanings and
interpretations. <oth enter in a clear national C if not nationalistic C discourse.
:ountains$ valleys and sea are important elements in most of the popular national
songs and hymns$
and an image of the tourgoing /or#egian and of outdoor life
as something special /or#egian have "een created. 1ence "oth the use of nature
and thought a"out nature has "ecome important aspects of our national identity.
&e have reached a point #here 2nature as our national heritage3 %vr nasjonale
fellesarv0 has "ecome do=ic- i.e. something that is taken for granted and that
people do not reflect upon. /ot even professional fishermen challenge the state9s
rights to manage the marine resources as our national heritage. :ost of them only
challenge ho# the state distri"utes fishing licenses and impose fishing restrictions
in general. 6he same situation applies for the management of #hales in /or#ay.
&hales are no longer a local resource #ith meanings only to the #halers
"ut have ac4uired sym"olic significance for millions of people$ most of #hom
have never seen a #hale. &hales have increasingly "een regarded as a '1: that
should "e managed "y international organs. &hale protectionists have to a great
e=tent managed to turn the .nternational &haling 'ommission %.&'0 into the sole
"ody for the management of large #hales. Such a glo"al "ody can "e seen as an
important step C even a prere4uisite C for a 2glo"al3 appropriation of #hales. <ut
unlike nation states that possess means of po#er to e=propriate individual rights
and claims to resources #ith references to a common good$ .&' at present lacks
such means. <ut direct actions carried out "y /;Os and American threats a"out
trade sanctions against countries that 2diminishes the effectiveness of an
international fishery or #ildlife conservation agreement3 have forced most
#haling countries to comply.
.t is the concept of '1: that in the eyes of many protectionists legitimi8e
their actions and coercion. &hales have "ecome our common heritage through the
ee e!g! Fedrelandssalmen and Barndomsminne fr Nordland by >lias
?li@# Nordmannssang )2le Aig0# Ved Rondane og Mellom bakkar og
berg )Bvar 8asen0# Gud signe Norges land )8rne Garborg0# e Norges
blomsterdal )8ndreas 8abel0# Der ligger et land )?5! ?5Crnson0 and Mot i
brystet )Dohan <icolaisen0!
same processes as physical environs in many countries have "een transferred from
a local to a national level. &hales are attractive as '1: "ecause there already
e=ists an intergovernmental "ody for their management %.&'0$ "ecause the costs
of preservation can "e e=ternali8ed as only a fe# marginal peoples catch #hales$
and "ecause #hales can easily "e given sym"olic significance. .ndustrial #haling
has a history of reckless depletion of many stocks and has come to represent
human greed to#ards nature. 6here has "een spun a general mystique around
#hales. &hales are good to think #ith. 6hey are #idely descri"ed in scientific and
popular literature$ and they move across 6Jscreens #hile narrators tell a"out the
animals9 intelligence and social life. 6hrough numerous #e"pages people can "uy
"ooks and movies in addition to 2#hale music3$ 6shirts$ soft toys and other #hale
em"lems. &hales have "ecome a resource for the 2glo"al village3. And as #ith
sites of national significance$ people penetrate the #orld of #hales thought #hale
tourism$ s#im programs and #hale rescues. .n this #ay images of #hales are
produced that are 4uite different from those possessed "y the #halers. 6o care for
#hales represents for millions of people the mark of civili8ation and people9s
relations to #hales have "ecome important aspects of their identity as glo"al
Iedefining a resource from open access to '1: invites ne# stakeholders C
or 2outsiders3 as they are perceived "y the original "eneficiaries C #ho may
demand full participation in its management$ often "ased on alternative values.
6hey may "e motivated "y economic interest such as ecotourism$ "y aesthetical
and recreational considerations or "y safeguarding "iodiversity. &hen a '1:
resource C #hich means that it is also mine C is pictured as endangered and
there"y may threaten the life 4uality of my descendents$ this may legitimate my
intervention in other persons9 access to the same resource. Often such "ehaviour is
e=plained #ith references to "iodiversity. .t is generally taken for granted that
"iodiversity is of undisputed value. <ut is it5 :ost of us fight against "iological
diversity on the "ody$ in the house and even in the garden. 6he point is that #e
value "iodiversity on the other side of the fence. 6he value of "iodiversity is also
conte=tual and should "e considered in relation to other values. 6he pro"lem #ith
the concept is that #hen it is taken as the prime value and a 4uestion of our
survival as a species it legitimi8es intervention in other people9s daily lives.
&halers have "een confronted "y ne#$ and to them incomprehensi"le #ays
to claim rights to #hales$ #ith other rules and sanctions. 6hey have to a great
e=tent "een displaced "y ne# and more po#erful stakeholders #ho have not "een
content "y offering ne# #ays to appreciate #hales "ut demand a closure of the old
#ays$ i.e. a full diversion of the #hale9s commodity path %Appadurai )*+E0.
6his raises important 4uestions a"out participation and democracy. 6urning
resources into our common heritage opens them to ne# stakeholders #ho then can
legitimately claim a voice in their management. At the national level$ a maHority
can through democratic processes decide ho# nationali8ed resources are to "e
used. A person living in Oslo may have the same right to participate in the
management of e.g. 1ardangervidda as a farmer in the upper reaches of
1allingdalen. And "ecause more people live in cities$ the interests of rural people
are often pushed aside. At the national level it is in the po#er of the maHority to
decide #hich resources are to "e regarded as 2common3. 1o#ever$ the political
process may take time$ "ut #e are often told that the matter is urgent and #e have
no time to #aste. .n such a situation democracy easily "ecomes a lu=ury$ and
many environmental /;Os are rather antidemocratic in their organi8ation.
6his is even more pronounced at the international level #here political
processes are slo#er. At this level$ democracy may "e understood in t#o #ays7
either one nation one vote or one person one vote. .n the .&' each mem"er state
has one vote$ #hether they are #haling or not. 6his gives landlocked countries like
S#it8erland$ :ali$ :ongolia and San :arino more influence than #haling nations
like ;reenland$ the Faro .slands and the Alaskan .Kupiat #ho have no delegations
of their o#n and therefore have no voting rights. 1o#ever$ Ioger Dayne$ a #ell
kno#n American researcher of hump"ack songs and former .&' commissioner
for Antigua$ argues for a glo"al democracy #here each person has one vote. .n this
perspective .celand "ecomes small$ as there for each .celander are 2)$000 non
.celanders %Dayne )**G72*E0. And he continues "y making a list of )!E cities in
.ndia and 'hina #ith larger populations than that of .celand.
&hen /e# Lealand
in the opening statement to the )**M .&' meeting Hustified her resistance to
commercial #haling #ith reference to the 2#orld opinion3 %.&'NMENOS /L0 it is
unclear #hether the #orld opinion referred to the situation in the .&' %#here only
a minority of the countries in the #orld are mem"ers0 or to democracy in Dayne9s
/o study actually tells us #hat the #orld opinion is. 1o# is 2#orld opinion3
6he irony here is that this argument comes from a person #ho has represented one of
the smallest countries in the .&' and after the moratorium decision in )*+2 failed to pay
her mem"ership fees until the anti#haling "lock in )**M needed her vote to esta"lish the
southern sanctuary.
defined and ho# is it formed5 A minority of the #orld9s nations is mem"ers of the
.&'$ and other international "odies #ith larger mem"erships have not taken
.&'9s position. A maHority at '.6(S has voted for a declassification of the
/ortheast Atlantic minke #hale$ and "oth the >a# of the Sea and U/'(D )**2
recogni8e #hales as a natural resource. :oreover$ opinion polls in maHor anti
#haling countries sho# that people are not over#helmingly against #haling if
they are informed that the #hale stocks in 4uestion are not endangered. .n )**+
the US "ased Iesponsive :anagement released a survey sho#ing that ,) percent
of the American respondents endorsed regulated catches of minke #hales #hen
they #ere told that this can "e done sustaina"ly. 6he similar figures for Australia$
United Kingdom and ;ermany #ere G!$ E) and E! percent %cited in Aron et al.
)***$ 20000. 6o most ?apanese this #orld opinion is the opinion of some #estern
activists #ho for du"ious reasons are supported "y certain governments. <ut even
if a maHority of the people on earth is opposed to #haling it does not follo# that
this maHority has the right to enforce its perceptions on the minority. 6o impose
this opinion on the rest of mankind is$ according to the vie# of most #halers$
cultural imperialism.
6he attempt to turn #hales into a glo"al resource under the sole management of
the .&' has so far only "een a 4ualified success. .f a '1: regime is to #ork
properly it is necessary to make compromises and seek consensus. Democracy C
#hether the .&'9s onenationonevote or a glo"al onepersononevote kind C is
ill suited to handle such situations. Any institution that har"ours am"itions to
manage the utili8ation of natural resources must give the minority a feeling that
they are heard and their future secured. Any institution that #ants to manage
common property resources must secure the interests of the minorities. 6his is
#here .&' has failed.
6he appropriation of #hales "y outsiders$ although it has gone further than for any
other natural resource$ is "ut a part of a more general trend. Since the da#n of the
industrial revolution$ the industrial #orld has laid claims on more and more of the
#orldOs natural resources$ not only through their e=traction C "y #ay of mining$
fishing$ cattle ranching$ food e=port$ and so on C "ut through nature preservation as
#ell. 6he process started #ith the emergence of the nation state$ #hich has "een very
apt at defining itself as a commons e=actly "ecause the state possesses institutions
that "y force "oth can control access to and regulate the use of resources. 6he
process gained momentum in the 20
century as the state appropriated more and
more of the natural resources at the same time as these #ere opened to ne# groups of
"eneficiaries. A similar process has occurred at the international level$ particularly
regarding rain forests$ large terrestrial animals and marine mammals. <ut there is
one fundamental difference "et#een the national and international levels7 (ven
#here glo"al management "odies e=ist C as is the case #ith large #hales and
sea"ed minerals C the glo"al community lacks the po#er of the nation state to
enforce its decisions upon dissidents and must rely on the #illingness to e=ternal
po#ers like the United States and environmental and animal #elfareNrights
activists in enforcing its #ill on #hat to many people looks like a neocolonial
attempt to appropriate other people9s natural resources for their o#n ends.
'ontrary to Dardo9s intention to secure that e=traction of natural resources
"enefits all$ it can "e argued that the 2common heritage3 concept has "ecome an
important rhetoric device in order to appropriate resources at other people9s
e=penses. A pro"lem #ith the concept is that it opens up natural resources for ne#
kinds of interest groups. .f rainforests or #hales "elong to every"ody$ every"ody is
potentially a stakeholder and may have a legitimate right to participate in their
management. 6his is particularly the case in comanagement situations. A
management regime that #as introduced to safeguard the interests of local people
visPvis the state %Dinkerton )*+*0 has opened doors for ne# stakeholders. A
typical e=ample is the Alaska <oard of Fisheries #here three of seven the
mem"ers in )**2 #ere recreational fishermen. As a conse4uence local
communities have lost influence and even access to natural resources on #hich they
have depended.
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!arine olicy 2M7),*)*).
<aslar$ Kernel. )**+. The Concept of the Common "eritage of !ankind in #nternational
La$% 6he 1agueN<ostonN>ondon7 :artinus /iHhoff Du"lishers.
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managing the deep sea"ed53 !el&ourne 'ournal of #nternational La$ Jol.M.
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?os@ >eAn SuBre8 %Soci@t@ des /ations )*2,7)2!0.
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%###."iopolitics.grN 16:>NDU<SNJO>EN16:>N keles.htm$ )E.0E.200,0.
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<ritish 'olum"ia.
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0MSScova88i.pdf$ do#nloaded )E.0E.200,0.
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