Norway to pay Sámi reindeer herders millions for violating their human rights

Norway to pay Sámi reindeer herders millions for violating their human rights

Sámi reindeer herders have reached a partial agreement with Norway over the Fosen wind farm, Europe’s largest onshore wind power project located in Central Norway, closing one chapter of a more than 20-year conflict over the wind turbines. 

In October 2021, Norway’s Supreme Court ruled that the Fosen wind farm violated the Sámi’s human rights, sparking multiple demonstrations in Oslo, the nation’s capital. The latest demonstration marked the two-year anniversary of the ruling and drew attention to Norway’s refusal to take on the case, resulting in 11 ministries being closed and entrances to Statskraft, the state-owned company behind the project, being blockaded by human rights campaigners. Sámi youth eventually met with King Harald V of Norway in a final effort to secure support.

“I am happy that those in south Fosen now have security and a guarantee that they can continue their livelihood and culture with reindeer husbandry,” said Silje Karine Muotka, President of the Sámi Parliament of Norway. “But what has happened here is gravely serious. It is a human rights violation.”

The agreement, reached earlier this week, only covers reindeer herders to the south of the Fosen wind farm, but there are two communities, known as “siidas,” that have been impacted by the project. For siidas to the south of Fosen, Statskraft will pay 7 million Norwegian crowns ($674,211) each year, for 25 years — the expected lifespan of the wind turbines. The wind farm will continue operating for that time, after which the south Fosen siida will be able to decide on the project’s future, preventing Statkraft from applying for license extensions or renewals at the site without Sámi consent. As well, the Norwegian government will help reindeer herders to use additional winter grazing areas near the Fosen reindeer-herding district with the aim of securing those lands by the winter of 2026. 

“The Fosen case has been challenging for all parties,” said Terje Aasland, Minister of Petroleum and Energy. “I am therefore pleased that the parties and the state, through the mediation process, have arrived at a mutually agreed, good, and forward-looking solution. My hope is that this will enable new generations to continue reindeer herding at Fosen.”

However, no agreement has been made with the impacted siida north of Fosen, which has continued to demand the demolition of more than 40 wind turbines which are owned by a different company, Aneo — a Norwegian renewables group.

“I do not want to criticize the south Fosen siida, though I do imagine that the government now sees this as a possibility to invade first and solve it later with payment,” said Terje Haugen, a reindeer herder from the impacted siida. “We in the north Fosen district are standing firmly in our decision.”

Stig Tore Laugen, communications director for Aneo and a spokesman for its subsidiary Roan Vind, said that ongoing mediation is confidential, adding that in the case of south Fosen “it has been crucial that the government, which is responsible for the violation of the reindeer owners’ rights, has taken responsibility for finding replacement grazing-areas, and that the reindeer owners have been positive about moving.”

Minister Aasland said that it’s the government’s position that the best solution for all parties will be to reach an amicable agreement. 

Around 98 percent of electricity in Norway comes from renewable resources, and nearly 20 percent is exported to the European Union. The Fosen wind park produces enough energy to power the nearby city of Trondheim, population 220,000. 

“I can’t imagine that it is a good business idea for governments and companies to invade, violate human rights, and then pay for it,” said President Muotka. “Never again Fosen is what I say, and hope, and expect from the government.”

Editor’s note: this story has been updated to include comment from Aneo and Roan Vind.


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