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German bank finances giant wind power project in breach of Saami rights

By Saami Council | Sweden, Apr 16 2010
Saami Council has today lodged a complaint over the German KfW IPEX-Bank's
financing of a giant wind power project on Saami reindeer herding
territories. The wind power project risks making reindeer herding unviable
in the area and is therefore in breach of the OECD Guidelines for
Multinational Enterprises. In their complaint the Saami Council argue that
the project is socially unsustainable and in breach of Saami rights.

The Swedish government has granted planning permission for the world's
largest land based wind power park to be built in the municipality of
Piteå, Sweden, where the Saami community of Östra Kikkejaur have their
winter reindeer herding pastures. The wind power park will consist of over
1000 wind turbines, an 800 km road, and extensive infrastructure, which
means that reindeer herding in the area will be severely restricted.

"The Swedish state has admitted that the project will destroy at least 25%
of the Saami community's winter reindeer herding pastures, but the state
has argued that renewable energy is more important than Saami rights. The
financier of the project's first phase, the German bank KfW IPEX-Bank, has
defended their investment by referring to the Swedish state's approval of
the project. But the state planning permission, and thereby KfW
IPEX-Bank's financing, are in breach of international law because Saami
rights are not being respected", says Mattias Åhrén, president for the
Saami Council.

The Saami community has been in contact with the German bank, KfW
IPEX-Bank, and highlighted the fact that the bank's financing of the
project is not in line with the bank's commitments regarding human rights,
indigenous rights, and environmental sustainability. The Saami community
has also requested a meeting with the bank, but the bank has ignored the
community's request.

In their communication with the community KfW IPEX-Bank claim that the
bank's commitments do not apply to projects in OECD countries, and
therefore are not relevant to Sweden. The bank argues that they follow
Swedish law and the decisions of Swedish public authorities, and that this
is guarantee enough that Saami rights are respected.

"The OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises apply of course to
projects in all countries, and Sweden is no exception. We look forward to
a dialog with the German government regarding KfW IPEX-Bank's investment
in this controversial project. It is a myth that Sweden respects human
rights", says Mattias Åhrén, president for the Saami Council.

Sweden has received repeated and harsh international critique from the UN
Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination and the UN Human Rights
Committee because Sweden breaches Saami land rights by not regulating
resource development activities on traditional Saami lands and does not
give Saami communities the opportunity for effective participation in
decisions that affect them.

Mattias Åhrén, President, Saami Council
Tel: +47 47 37 91 61


KFW IPEX-Bank is a subsidiary of the KfW banking group, and it is responsible for international project- and export finance. The bank competes directly with commercial banks,…

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