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Last update: December 16, 2015

Summaries of the Work of the International Law Commission

Shared natural resources (oil and gas)

See also: Transboundary Aquifers | Analytical Guide | Texts and Instruments

At its fifty-second session, in 2000, the Commission, on the basis of the recommendation of a Working Group on the long-term programme of work, concluded that the topic “Shared natural resources of States” was appropriate for inclusion in its long-term programme of work.1

The General Assembly, in resolution 55/152 of 12 December 2000, took note of the Commission’s report concerning its long-term programme of work. In resolution 56/82 of 12 December 2001, the Assembly requested the Commission to further consider the topic having due regard to comments made by Governments.

At its fifty-fourth session, in 2002, the International Law Commission decided to include the topic “Shared natural resources” in its programme of work, to appoint Chusei Yamada as Special Rapporteur for the topic.2

The General Assembly, in resolution 57/21 of 19 November 2002, took note of the Commission’s decision to include the topic in its programme of work.

From its fifty-fifth to sixtieth sessions, 2003 to 2008, the Commission focused on the law of transboundary aquifers.

At its fifty-ninth session, in 2007, the Commission considered the fourth report of the Special Rapporteur, which focused on the relationship between the work on transboundary aquifers and any future work on oil and gas and recommended that the Commission to proceed with the second reading of the draft articles on the law of transboundary aquifers independently of any future consideration of oil and gas. The Commission also established a Working Group on Shared natural resources which addressed, inter alia, issues involved in the consideration of oil and gas, and in particular prepared a questionnaire on State practice concerning oil and gas for circulation to Governments.2

The General Assembly, in resolution 62/66 of 6 December 2007, invited Governments to provide information to the International Law Commission on the topic and drew the attention of Governments to the importance for the International Law Commission of having their comments and observations by 1 January 2008 on the draft articles and commentaries on the law of transboundary aquifers adopted on first reading by the Commission at its fifty-eighth session.

At the sixty-first session in 2009, the Commission decided to again establish a Working Group on Shared natural resources, chaired by Mr. Enrique Candioti. The Working Group had before it a working paper on oil and gas, prepared by Mr. Chusei Yamada, Special Rapporteur on the topic, before he resigned from the Commission.3 The Commission took note of the oral report of the Chairman of the Working Group on Shared natural resources and endorsed the recommendations of the Working Group. In order to assist the Commission in assessing the feasibility of any future work on oil and gas, the Working Group decided to entrust Mr. Shinya Murase with the responsibility of preparing a study to be submitted to the Working Group on Shared natural resources. The study will analyze the written replies received from Governments on the subject of oil and gas, their comments and observations in the Sixth Committee of the General Assembly, as well as other relevant elements.4

At its sixty-second session in 2010, the Commission decided once more to establish a Working Group on Shared natural resources, chaired by Mr. Enrique Candioti. The Working Group continued its assessment on the feasibility of future work on oil and gas5 on the basis of a working paper prepared by Mr. Shinya Murase6 as well as its previous discussions on the subject. The Working Group considered all aspects of the matter taking into account the views of Governments, including as reflected in the working paper by Mr. Murase, and recommended that the Commission should not take up the consideration of the transboundary oil and gas aspects of the topic.7 The Commission took note of the oral report of the Chairman of the Working Group and endorsed that recommendation.8

The work of the Commission on the topic as described above has been proceeding in accordance with the successive resolutions adopted by the General Assembly under the item relating to the report of the International Law Commission.9

1 See Official Records of the General Assembly, Fifty-fifth Session, Supplement No. 10 (A/55/10), paras. 726–728 and 729 (3). For the syllabus on the topic, see ibid., annex (3).

2 See Official Records of the General Assembly, Sixty-second Session, Supplement No. 10 (A/62/10), para. 14.

3 Document A/CN.4/608. (see Analytical Guide)

4 See Official Records of the General Assembly, Sixty-third Session, Supplement No. 10 (A/63/10), paras. 188 and 192.

5 See Official Records of the General Assembly, Sixty-fifth Session, Supplement No. 10 (A/65/10), paras. 378–383.

6 Document A/CN.4/621. (see Analytical Guide)

7 See Official Records of the General Assembly, Sixty-fifth Session, Supplement No. 10 (A/65/10), para. 384.

8 Ibid., para. 377.

9 General Assembly resolutions 57/21 of 19 November 2002; 58/77 of 9 December 2003; 59/41 of 2 December 2004; 60/22 of 23 November 2005; 61/34 of 4 December 2006; 62/66 of 6 December 2007; 63/123 of 11 December 2008 and 64/114 of 16 December 2009.