Explaining (non-)cooperation on disputed maritime resources

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Joint development agreements, disputed territory, and lessons from the Falkland Islands

In maritime disputes such as the South China Sea conflict, Joint Development Agreements (JDAs) are increasingly discussed as settlement mechanisms that can ensure the cooperative use of contested marine energy resources. However, to this day little is known about why only some states with competing claims opt to negotiate JDAs. This paper first proposes a theory that explains under which conditions states are willing to conclude JDAs and then investigates whether such resource-sharing agreements are a viable solution to the intractable maritime conflicts that involve disputed islands. The main argument is that where disputed territory is present, the political will to cooperate on sharing maritime resources is unlikely to materialize due the nationalist rhetoric employed by the claimant states, which frequently constitutes a lasting obstacle to compromise. To lend empirical support to this argument, an in-depth case study of the 1995 JDA between Argentina and the United Kingdom is presented.

This article originally appeared on the Australian Journal of Maritime & Ocean Affairs
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