“This paper explores a possible new local-to-global system for the equitable governance of the “common pool resources.” As normally understood, the “Commons” refers to resources that are owned or shared among communities. Such resources (forests, fisheries, etc.) when located within national boundaries are subject to that country’s laws. Areas beyond national jurisdiction, including the high-seas, Antarctica, the ocean sea-bed, outer space and the Earth’s environment, are known as “Common Heritage of Mankind” (CHM) and subject to Public International Law (PIL). The object and subject of traditional PIL is the nation-state. However, since the 1972 Conference for the Human Environment, individuals and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s) have been legally recognized under PIL as having direct responsibility for protection of the global environment, by working for transparency and accountability in its management. With this opening for direct participation by individuals and NGOs in working for sustainable management of the global Commons, it may be now feasible to extend the precedents identified by Nobel Laureate Elinor Ostrom for successful economic governance of local common pool resources to wider CHM areas.
A recently developed legal concept – nondominium – offers a framework for recognizing user rights toward this end. Combining Ostrom’s principles with this new approach for shared use of the Commons promises to give a more solid legal grounding for the 5 “As” (Architecture, Adaptiveness, Accountability, Allocation and Access) in the governance of the global commons for the benefit of humanity.”