Landlocked Bolivia Takes Chile to the International Court of Justice Seeking Access to the Pacific Ocean.

Bolivia contends that Chile is under an obligation to negotiate in “good faith and effectively with Bolivia in order to reach an agreement granting Bolivia a fully sovereign access to the Pacific Ocean.” Bolivia argues that “beyond its general obligations under international law, Chile has committed itself, more specifically through agreements,diplomatic practice and a series of declarations attributable to its highest-level representatives, to negotiate a sovereign access to the sea for Bolivia. Chile has not complied with this obligation and, what is more, at the present date Chile denies the very existence of its obligation.”

What could be Chile’s “general obligations under international law”? Are coastal states obliged under general international law to negotiate in good faith arrangements that would allow the access of neighboring land-locked states to the sea? From the perspective of “sovereignty as trusteeship” the answer would be positive. As I argue in my forthcoming Article:

“The sovereign as trustee must yield to the interests of others when such a concession is costless to itself. This obligation draws heavily on the concept of limited ownership of resources. A coastal state, for example, must allow access to a landlocked neighbor if such access entails no harm to itself (for example, a one-time emergency flight over its airspace, or even a tunnel below its territory). This is a “restricted Pareto outcome,” namely an outcome from which “one benefits and the other sustains no loss” without resort to compensation. ”

Bolivia’s application instituting proceedings from 24 April 2013: