A negotiation support system for resolving an international trans-boundary natural resource conflict

Document Type


Publication Date



Post-Soviet legal governance regime of Caspian Sea - the largest inland body of water on earth - remains a source of conflict among the five coastal states of Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Turkmenistan. Although different division methods have been suggested for sharing the sea and its valuable resources, the actual gain of the countries is unclear as the proposed methods focus either on the oil and gas or the areal share of the parties. The Caspian Sea Negotiation Support System (Caspian Sea NSS) is developed in this study to delineate optimal boundaries for sharing the sea through simultaneous consideration of the countries' areal and resource shares under different sharing methods. This NSS is a complex optimization model, with a solver engine that provides reliable results with a reasonable computational effort using a heuristic method. The model is run under different division scenarios to evaluate the sensitivity of each party's gain and locations of nautical boundaries to the division rules and the economic values of the resources. Results show a high sensitivity of the optimal nautical boundaries to the division rules and an indirect relationship between the allocated area and resource shares. The findings highlight the necessity for considering utility shares in negotiations as opposed to adopting areal division rules which ignore the utilities and might result in unfair resource allocation. The main policy implication of the study is that clarification of the countries' resource and areal gain under any suggested legal regime for governing the Caspian Sea is essential to the success of the negotiations. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.

Publication Title

Environmental Modelling and Software