Empowering Indigenous Culture Through Benefit Sharing Agreements: Study of Companies and Communities in the Alaskan Arctic
McCann, Macey A.
University of Cambridge
Scott Polar Research Institute
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McCann, M. A. (2021). Empowering Indigenous Culture Through Benefit Sharing Agreements: Study of Companies and Communities in the Alaskan Arctic (Masters thesis). https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.84043
This dissertation aims to contribute to the study of sustainable business in the polar regions by considering improvements to creating and maintaining corporate partnerships with indigenous communities through equitable benefit sharing. Benefit sharing constitutes a legal resource for local communities and a ‘social license’ for companies looking to operate on indigenous land (Wilson, 2016). Previous research on benefit sharing demonstrates that these agreements often lack proactivity, transparency, and perpetuate colonial relations (Tulaeva et al., 2019). These three issues often stir warranted environmental and human rights activism against industrial activities in the ecologically rich, but sensitive regions. However, while supported by international norms, this activism rarely results in sufficient benefits and empowerment for the communities. The historical inability of these agreements to appease indigenous communities aspirations and the difficulty of operating in the Arctic environment led me to consider the missing piece. Using indigenous methodology, my research explores the gap between policy and the corporate practices in the North American Arctic to evaluate how sustainable benefit sharing can empower indigenous expertise. As climate change increasingly disrupts the traditional livelihoods of Alaska Natives, leaders of these communities and Arctic scholars recognize the danger of losing essential Arctic knowledge. In trying to salvage this knowledge and rebuild traditional community life, leaders appeal for resources to conduct internal community development (Arctic Resilience Forum, 2020). Rethinking the constructs of benefit sharing in the Alaskan Arctic, provides an opportunity to discover sustainable, and farsighted partnerships for Arctic industry. Considering the variety of legal systems in the Arctic, this narrow re-evaluation of benefit sharing provides new perspective on these agreements. Expanding on previous scholarship, my research will test the following hypothesis: If companies invest in empowering indigenous expertise through equitable benefit sharing then companies can reduce risks and increase the sustainability of their operations. The sub-questions presented by this hypothesis include: • How is benefit sharing defined in policy? • What are the key considerations for benefit sharing agreements? • How can companies revise their approach to benefit sharing to produce sustainable development for communities and the environment? I will use a varied methodology of historical research, critical discourse analysis, case studies, and semi-structured interviews with both corporate representatives and indigenous people. Ultimately, the significant contribution of this dissertation is to provide empirical suggestions to companies prioritizing indigenous expertise on benefit sharing.
Alaskan Arctic, Indiginous culture, Benefit-sharing agreements, Sustainable business
This record's DOI: https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.84043
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