Joining the Northern Commons: Lessons for the World, Lessons from the World (Opening Address)

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From the Introduction: "The invitation to this conference starts by asking 'Who owns the Arctic?' It is an important question, but how do we answer such a question. To me it seems rather difficult. I have occasionally asked the appropriate experts in Norway to answer the question 'Who owns Norway?' As yet there is no answer to the question for all of Norway, only for bits and pieces. Recently I was asked to answer the question: 'Who owns the mountains of the world?' As far as I have been able to determine it is impossible to give an answer in terms of types of owners and quantities of land owned: for example how many square kilometres are owned by governments, and how many are owned by individuals or groups of citizens. "So how come it is so difficult to answer meaningfully such a simple question? After all, in Britain they made a complete survey of all the owners of lands of England already in 1081-86, and again in 1874-76 (Cahill, Kevin 2001). Well, maybe the question is not simple at all? Ownership of lands is nothing like owning a car. The records of England from 1086 and Britain from 1876 showing owners and ownership are possible only because they employ a simplified and for most purposes inadequate concept of ownership. It is based on what lawyers would call the dominium plenum concept of land ownership. A modern capitalist society could not function if the dominium plenum conception of land ownership was the dominant way of organising land ownership. The ability of assigning, within the same land area, property rights to some specific resource to different persons is essential."



IASC, property rights, common pool resources, tragedy of the commons, land tenure and use, mountain regions, law