Saturday, 16 October, 2021

Geopolitical dependency of small states for energy resources

The matter of trade, economics, land and diplomacy are important areas of geopolitics but since the last few decades the importance of energy resources has also increased and made a crucial place in geopolitics. Energy resources like oil, gas, coal and others have a big international market which can provide economic benefits and make a dominant position in global politics for nation-states owning them. Also, the resources are necessary in everyday life of the people. Therefore, energy became a game-changing factor for countries in the world of geopolitics. The geopolitics of energy was noticeable for a long time but it got new momentum after ‘90s. The world was facing scarcity of resources compared to demands at that time. New concepts regarding energy came up to rule the world, which increased the concerns of nation-states for energy resources.

The need for energy resources reached a situation where every nation-state wants as much as possible. Even if the larger countries somehow manage to fulfil their energy needs, small countries face huge problems in getting necessary energy resources for their development from the global market. Most small countries often are not able to have control over the energy resources within their own domain. As a result, they need the help of others for exploration and entering into the market.

The small countries face a problem of shortage of facilities to manage natural resources. They have to turn to foreign countries to store their resources. The reason is they do not have enough facilities to stock resources on their own. Also, small countries cannot enforce pressure on their suppliers at any time of emergency to fulfil contracts, and thus they have to accept unfair situations. Though breach of contract can be dealt with by legal action, most small countries do not have the courage to go against the big supplier companies having support of powerful nations. In the same scenario, the larger countries behave the opposite and create pressures on the suppliers. At the time of emergency, the same supplier ignores the small countries to fulfil the requirements of big ones.  

In addition to these, small countries also face the problem of exploration of their own natural resources because of the lack of technology and knowledge. They rely on foreign countries and suppliers for these things. The direct or indirect external influence on a nation-state with natural resources goes against its sovereignty. No matter how big or small, it is the nation-states which have the right to use and decide how to use their own natural resources at their own free will. General Assembly resolution 1803 (XVII) of 14 December, 1962, says that “The right of the people and nations to permanent sovereignty over their natural wealth and resources must be exercised in the interest of their national development and for the well-being of the people of the State concerned.” Along with this, it also talked about the inalienable right of all states to freely dispose of their natural wealth and resources following their national interests.

The small countries are dependent, that does not mean the suppliers and larger countries can do whatever they want. They should respect the sovereignty of a country. On the other hand, the countries are dependent because they have very few options and also have the fear that without any help their resources may remain underground. The problem of depending on the big countries and foreign suppliers is that they offer conditional contracts where these small countries have to sacrifice many things. Even these conditions open the doors for foreign nations to interfere in the national issues of a state.  Also, the small size of the market of these small states make it more difficult to diversify their energy imports. The fear of energy disasters force many small countries to turn into importers.

Many developed states try to say that small countries’ dependency is not a bad thing because they have ways to be self-sufficient for future energy explorations by sharing things but in reality, this view is an approach to hide the real intention. Though the small countries are dependent, there are incidents where they can successfully avoid full dependency. To reduce dependency, states need to develop domestic energy sources and find alternative means to manage the resources.

Also, the global governance approach may be applied where the energy resources will be managed in a way that all the states will get benefits through cooperation rather than competition. This approach will require collective actions where every state's right and portion in the global market will be ensured based on equity and equality. The approach is difficult to ensure as it demands the sacrifice of powerful nations and they would not do this because it will reduce their dominant positions. The small states need to raise their voices in unison, if they want to change the way of things. Though, it cannot be achieved all of a sudden but sometimes they can put forward their points through diplomacy against the injustices of big powers regarding energy resources. Also, the unity of small states in international forums can make a big difference on energy issues of these countries.


Rizowan Ahmed, student of LL.M at North South University