Hydrocarbon Humanitarianism: Ibrahim Shihata, ‘Oil Aid’, and Resource Sovereignty

In: Journal of the History of International Law / Revue d'histoire du droit international
Umut Özsu Associate Professor, Department of Law and Legal Studies, Carleton University Ottawa Canada

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This article revisits Ibrahim Shihata’s role in developing the financial aid policies of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) after the formal inauguration of the New International Economic Order project (NIEO) in 1974. As director of the OPEC Special Fund, subsequently the OPEC Fund for International Development, after its establishment in 1976, Shihata spearheaded the development of the organization’s aid policies. He also defended the NIEO as a set of sensible reform measures for redistributing wealth, resources, and technology. This article contends that Shihata’s vigorous defence of OPEC’s aid record aimed to demonstrate that the NIEO – an enterprise OPEC supported – involved not simply structural reform of the inter-state system but direct engagement with questions of intra-state distribution, and that OPEC aid was designed partly to keep the ‘Third World bloc’ from disintegrating due to the growing distance between oil-producing and non-oil-producing countries.

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