Just over a year ago, Professor Thomas Heller, Director of CDDRL's Rule of Law Program, had just launched a new project on oil dependent producer states. The project has now become one of the mainstays of the CDDRL law program.
The project assesses the performance of oil dependent producer states in maximizing economic and social development through the generation and utilization of petroleum revenues. With oil prices moving from one record level to the next the question as to whether and how petro-states manage to turn their wealth in black gold into sustainable development has moved back to the center of debates in academic and policy circles. While a significant body of literature shows that oil states tend to grow slower and to suffer from weaker political institutions than non-oil states few studies have so far analyzed and explained the marked differences we can observe among oil states.
Christine Jojarth, a recent PhD from the London School of Economics came to CDDRL in October 2005 as a post doctoral fellow, but has stayed on at the Center to serve as project manager. Heller and Jojarth devoted the first quarter of the academic year to developing the research strategy and the syllabus of a new interdisciplinary research seminar taught at the Law School on oil and development. Seminar participants, including law, economics and political science graduate students, wrote initial country case studies based on the research template that they had helped to refine in the first half of the term. Encouraged by the success of this seminar Heller and Jojarth selected four of the seminar participants to assist them in the in-depth analysis of eight oil exporting states, covering the Caspian (Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan), Northern Africa (Algeria and Libya), Western Africa (Angola and Nigeria), and Latin America (Venezuela and Mexico). The research team embarked on a first round of field trips during the summer and unearthed a wealth of additional information.
In May 2007, their initial findings were presented and discussed at a two-day conference hosted by CDDRL. Participants of this conference were drawn from academia, the oil industry, NGOs, and foreign governments. The central goal of this conference was to obtain critical feedback on the country case studies conducted by the team and to advance the debate on the proper management of oil revenues. Ultimately, the findings of this research project will be presented in a book that is planned to be submitted by fall 2007.