The resource privilege we confer upon a group in power is much more than mere acquiescence in its effective control over the natural resources of the country in question. This privilege includes the power to effect legally valid transfers of ownership rights in such resources. Thus a corporation that has purchased resources from the Saudis or Suharto, or from Mobuto or Sani Abacha, has thereby become entitled to be—and actually is—recognized anywhere in the world as the legitimate owner of these resources. This is a remarkable feature of our global order. A group that overpowers the guards and takes control of a warehouse may be able to give some of the merchandise to others, accepting money in exchange. But the fence who pays them becomes merely the possessor, not the owner, of the loot. Contrast this with a group that overpowers an elected government and takes control of a country. Such a group, too, can give away some of the country’s natural resources, accepting money in exchange. In this case, however, the purchaser acquires not merely possession, but all the rights and liberties of ownership, which are supposed to be—and actually are—protected and enforced by all other states’ courts and police forces. The international resource privilege, then, is the legal power to confer globally valid ownership rights in a country’s resources.
Thomas Pogge, ‘Severe Poverty as a Human Rights Violation’, in Pogge (ed.), Freedom from Poverty As a Human Right: Who Owes What to the Very Poor?, New York, 2007, pp. 48-49