Sub-theme 2: Electric power controversies and Indigenous self-determination

Participants: Greg Poelzer (lead), Monica Tennberg, Sven-Roald Nystø, Else Grete Broderstad, Per Sandström, Hans-Kristian Hernes

Objectives: To compare governance interactions between Indigenous peoples and regional/national authorities, and to understand the drivers explaining why some regions are marked by conflict, while other are emerging regions of innovative arrangements for consultation processes, partnership and Indigenous equity ownership or revenue-sharing, and, in some case, Indigenous owned and managed power utilities.

Intergovernmental relations are tools in achieving two interdependent goals—ensuring sustainability of traditional lands and achieving greater Indigenous economic prosperity and social well-being through resource development on traditional Indigenous lands. The practical exercise of ensuring the inclusion of Indigenous rights through intergovernmental relations is a difficult process and one that has been proven to be successful in only a few places globally. The circumpolar north, however, has witnessed the emergence and institutionalisation of a number of intergovernmental arrangements between the state and Indigenous governance bodies. These include the First Nations Power Authority in Saskatchewan (Canada), enabling First Nations to develop and sell hydro, bio-mass, and other forms of electrical power to the state-owned utility company, SaskPower Corporation; an innovative consultation and assessment framework for industrial and resource development on Indigenous traditional lands in the Sakha Republic (Yakutia), and the emergence of Native owned power utilities in Alaska.

Motivated by a larger degree of local ownership in power production, the Finnmark Estate (FeFo) (Norway) in 2009 established Finnmark kraft AS (FK). With a proviso of not selling out ownership rights, FeFo gave the company priority to develop wind and hydro power on FeFo land for the next 15 years. FK is not an Indigenous corporation, but indirectly a result of the Sami rights development. Both the Sami Parliament in Norway and the Finnmark county council criticised the establishment of FK, based on arguments that business operations may clash with Sami collective and individual rights. Another example of electric power controversies is a complaint from a Sami reindeer herding community in Sweden against Statkraft about whether Statkraft had taken account of the Sami village interests in connection with a wind power project in Jamtland (Sweden), including carrying out risk-based human rights diligence and consulting with the Sami village. The OECD National Contact Points in Norway and Sweden did not find grounds for concluding that Statkraft had failed, but encouraged the parties to improve cooperation and negotiate an agreement (NCP Norway, website 09.02.16). The plans to extend energy production in Lapland, Finland, based on wind power are ambitious reflecting national commitments to develop renewable energy production, supported by the state financially and to reduce dependence on Russian imported electricity. For local reindeer herding communities, including both Indigenous and non-Indigenous reindeer herders, the construction of wind power mills is a controversial issue both disturbing the reindeer and increasing pressures in land use and conflicts in Lapland in addition to tourism, mining and forestry (Hannu 2015).

The researchers in this sub-theme will undertake comparative analysis of the practical exercise of Indigenous rights through the formal operationalisation of these intergovernmental cases, and compare the policy regimes on electric power. Comparative studies of public documents combined with theoretical analysis will be the main research methods used by this working-group. In addition, fieldwork and interviews are required for the comparative studies in Canada, Finnmark, Finland, Alaska, and Sakha Republic.