The principle of the common heritage of mankind
Scientists discovered polymetallic nodules on the deep seabed in the late 19th century. The problem, however, was that the deep seabed did not lie within the jurisdiction of any state. Consequently, to regulate access to these resources, a legal regime had to be established. The regime adopted was the ‘common heritage of mankind’ (CHM). The concept of common heritage of mankind governs the deep seabed. The CHM principle has not only been accepted as essential element of the Convention on the Law of the Sea (LOSC) from where it found its way into the national legislation relating to sea bed activities but was also introduced into outer space regimes and to a lesser degree into the legal framework for the protection of the Antarctic environment. However, the principle of the common heritage of mankind has differing interpretations and consequently lacks legal force. This paper attempts to give content to the common heritage of mankind principle, as it applies to the deep sea, by examining existing principles in international law. It then deals with the question of whether the CHM principle has to be regarded as a part of customary international law, regardless of its incorporation into the Convention on the Law of the Sea.
Keywords: Common heritage of mankind, International Law, Sea, Controversy