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.