Natural Resources Governance and the Right of Self-determination of Indigenous Peoples: Institutional Approach on the Implementation of Article 1 of CESCR in China and Norway [PhD] (completed)

The starting point for Zhou Yong's PhD project is the right of self-determination.

About the project

The right of self-determination is adopted as the common and the first article in both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (CCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR). Although it is considered as one of the most important ‘roots’ of modern international human rights protection and ‘an essential condition’  for the effective guarantee and observance of individual human rights, the right of self-determination has been one of the main political obstacles for member states of the UN to adopt the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples during the last two decades. However, milestone events happened recently which lead to strengthen the implementation of CESCR and the recognition of indigenous peoples’ rights in the international level. The further realization of the right of self-determination for indigenous people will remain dependent on the domestic respect and implementation of this rule.

The transitional period of the domestic institution-building for respecting the self-determination of indigenous peoples took place in the mid of 1980s in China and in Norway. However, these forms of exercising ‘internal self-determination’ are different. China’s Regional National Autonomy is a territorial based autonomy for national minorities. In contrast, Norway chose to take a non-territorial based autonomy of the Sami people to deal with their own affairs. A study of these two alternative forms of domestic institution-building for the realization of self-determination has its special significance in contributing to the understanding of the implementation of international law in domestic practices.



Theoretically, the project aims to:

  • Establish a descriptive-analytical perspective with rigorous concept (“institutional approach”) to observe the process of institutionalizing the peoples’ right of self-determination in relation to natural resources governance.
  • Construct a typology of exercising group rights especially concerning group representation, participation and autonomy for exploring the good governance mechanisms on natural resources management based on respecting the indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination.

Empirically, the project aims to:

  • Trace the contemporary evolution of institutionalizing peoples’ self-determination right in China and Norway.
  • Understand the territorial and non-territorial based institutions based on the rule of self-determination both in China (regional national autonomy) and in Norway.
  • Describe how the Art. 1 of CESCR especially in relation to natural resources and other relevant norms are institutionalized and implemented in China and Norway and explain why the differences.
  • Assess the various means or options of good governance for inspiring the institutional building on sustainable, effective and accountable domestic mechanism of indigenous people’s self-determination, especially for the Chinese constitutional reform in the process of democratic transition.

Normatively, the project aims to:

  • Clarify the controversial aspects of the legal content of the right of self-determination in Art. 1 in the Covenant in regards to how to define the term “peoples” and “indigenous peoples” in China. 
  • What are the concrete substantive contents of this right in relation to natural resources?
  • What are the procedural mechanisms or methods for exercising this right? By which means can peoples enforce this right on the domestic and international levels?
  • Describe how the self-determination related norms such as autonomy, FPIC, effective participation are proposed, adopted and applied in the natural resources management activities
  • Assess the legitimacy of existing institutional and procedural arrangements of self-determination rule in relation to group representation, participation and autonomy
  • Explore the possibilities of innovative institutional designs based on self-determination during the decision-making and exploitation process with embedding the rules of democracy (such as transparency, accountability and participation)



Financing: NORAD

Outcome: A PhD thesis.

Supervisor: Kirsti Strøm Bull

Published Mar. 30, 2012 10:46 AM - Last modified Nov. 18, 2016 3:19 PM