The international community assigns a high priority to helping impoverished societies, yet its efforts are currently lopsided. While it spends around U.S. $ 100 billion on aid and provides over 100,000 UN peacekeepers, to date it has largely neglected the potential of international codes and laws to raise standards of economic governance. This Essay analyzes the potential contribution of such codes and laws to increase the development impact of natural resource revenues. The current commodity booms make this a critical opportunity for assistance. This Essay reviews the evidence on the resource curse and its causes, including a prognosis for the long term consequences of the present commodity booms, concluding that where behavior patterns to stay unaltered the present booms would be a missed opportunity of quite staggering proportions. The Essay then anatomizes the decision process by which valuable natural resources in the territory of the society are harnessed for economic growth that benefits the society, delineating five key decisions and considering, for each, whether past failures were predominantly due to mistakes or to misaligned incentives. Next, the Essay turns to the scope for new international voluntary codes and discusses the potential need for new laws, the national promulgation of which would be coordinated across the OECD analogous to anti-bribery legislation. Such laws are difficult to introduce and so are a last-resort approach for the realignment of incentives.
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