This essay reflects on what has happened to the principle of the common heritage of humankind (the CH principle whereby all manage resources and share in the rewards of exploiting them, even if they are not able to participate in that exploitation) including recent developments affecting its implementation and its possible future. Part II of this essay discusses what the CH principle means in international law. This discussion involves three questions: To what situations does the principle apply? What are its components or elements? And what is its legal status? Parts III and IV suggest that "context" is essential to understanding the CH principle, or indeed any principle of international law. Part III places the CH principle, which was promoted especially in the late 1960s and the 1970s, in historical context. Part IV notes that the CH principle has been incorporated in some treaties. The most notable of these is Part XI of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea ("LOS Convention"), as revised by its associated 1994 Implementation Agreement, concerning seabed mining beyond the limits of national jurisdiction. An additional development has accompanied the translation from principle to detailed rule in the law of the sea: the practice of states and international legal institutions has reinforced aspects of the CH seabed mining regime. Finally, Part V of this essay evaluates the current status and significance of the CH principle or concept. What, if anything, remains of it?
John E. Noyes, The Common Heritage of Mankind: Past, Present, and Future, 40 DENV. J. INT’L L. & POL’Y 447 (2012).