Indigenous Peoples as International Political Actors: Indigenousness and Construction of Political Agency - INDIPO

Leader: Monica Tennberg                                                               Start of the project: 2005
Research group: Sustainable development                                End of the project:  2007

The project was funded by the Academy of Finland.

(Suomeksi)

Overview

Indigenous peoples have emerged as active participants in international relations. They claim a right to participation and to consultation in political decision-making and to represent their interests based on self-determination. Indigenous peoples’ organisations in the Arctic have been in the forefront of political mobilization of indigenous peoples internationally.

This research project draws on theories and practices in international politics and international law to study the construction of political agency of indigenous peoples and their participation in international policy-making. The research project analyses how indigenousness is used politically as a claim to self-determination and sovereignty in international system and what political consequences this claim has.

Results

Drawing on two different disciplinary starting points, international relations and international law, the project addressed two interrelated questions. 

  • The first of these was how relations between states, international organisations and indigenous peoples have been and are currently constructed as legal and political practices. 
  • The second was how indigenous peoples construct their political agency through different strategies to further their political interests.
These questions are addressed from the point of view of power relations. The power to act is the basic form of political agency. However, this power may take different forms of political action, for example, self-identification, participation, influence, and representation.

The main conclusions of the project are:
1) indigenous political agency is based on multiple forms of power;
2) practices of power that enable and constrain indigenous political agency change over time;
3) power circulates and produces multiple sites of encounters for states, international organisations and indigenous people;
4) indigenous political agency is a question of acting; and
5) there are new challenges ahead for indigenous peoples in claiming a political voice, in particular in global climate politics.

Research methods

The research group studied documents, statements, declarations and speeches by states’, international organizations’ and indigenous peoples‘ representatives. In addition, researchers used different interview techniques to elicit material for analysis, such as conversation analysis, Q-methodology and participant observation.

Participants

The research group:

  • Leader: research professor Monica Tennberg  (Arctic Centre, University of Lapland)
  • The research group at the Arctic centre: researcher Scott Forrest, researcher Marjo Lindroth, researcher Merja Pentikäinen (Northern Institute of Minority and Environmental Law), researcher Heidi Sinevaara-Niskanen (Faculty of Education, University of Lapland), and research professor Timo Koivurova (Northern Institute of Environmental and Minority Law) 
  • The members of the international INDIPO research network are: professor Bård A. Berg (Sami Studies Center, University of Tromsø), director Jens Dahl (International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs, Copenhagen),  professor René Kuppe (Institute for Law and Religion, University of Vienna), researcher Natalia Loukacheva (University of Toronto) and senior research fellow Tamara Semenova (Russian Research Institute for Natural and Cultural Heritage under the Russian Academy of Sciences). Academy of Sciences).

INDIPO events

  • INDIPO panel at the International Studies Association’s (ISA) annual convention, 28.2.-3.3.2005 Hawaii, USA
  • Presentation of the project in Inari, Finland, 19.11.2005
  • VAKAVA graduate course “Producing and Performing Collective Agencies, 30.11.-1.12.2006, Rovaniemi, Finland.
  • International INDIPO seminar, 1-2.2.2007, Rovaniemi, Finland.
  • INDIPO seminar in Moscow, April 18th, 2008.

Conference/seminar presentations

  • Jens Dahl, “United Nations as a platform for indigenous peoples” presented at the INDIPO seminar 1-2.2.2007, Rovaniemi, Finland
  • Scott Forrest, “From Definitions to Norms: Recasting conceptions of indigenous identity” presented at the VAKAVA graduate course 30.11.-1.12.2006, Rovaniemi, Finland. 
  • Scott Forrest, “People and peoples: Perceptions of indigenousness in Lapland” presented at the INDIPO seminar 1-2.2.2007, Rovaniemi, Finland
  • Elina Helander, “Traditional symbols as identity markers in modern Sami politics?” presented at the INDIPO seminar 1-2.2.2007, Rovaniemi, Finland
  • Timo Koivurova, “Legal personality in international law:  Problems and possibilities for indigenous peoples” presented at the INDIPO seminar 1-2.2.2007, Rovaniemi, Finland
  • René Kuppe, “The three dimensions of the rights of indigenous peoples. Recognition and obstacles” presented at the INDIPO seminar 1-2.2.2007, Rovaniemi, Finland
  • Marjo Lindroth, Intergovernmental organizations as political arenas for indigenous NGO presented at the VAKAVA graduate course 30.11.-1.12.2006, Rovaniemi, Finland.
  • Marjo Lindroth, “Indigenous NGOs and strategies of political agency” presented at the INDIPO seminar 1-2.2.2007, Rovaniemi, Finland
  • Marjo Lindroth, “Constructing indigenous political agency in the UN: Arctic indigenous NGOs and the global indigenous movement” presented at Knowledge and Power in the Arctic conference, 16-18.4.2007, Rovaniemi, Finland.
  • Natalia Loukacheva, “Indigenous internationalism in the Arctic: In search of a legal justification” presented at the INDIPO seminar 1-2.2.2007, Rovaniemi, Finland
  • Merja Pentikäinen, “International human rights and the ’right’ to be different - with a special focus on indigenous peoples” presented at the INDIPO seminar, 1-2.2.2007, Rovaniemi, Finland.
  • Tamara Semenova, “Sustainable Development: Views of Northern Indigenous Peoples” presented at the INDIPO seminar 1-2.2.2007, Rovaniemi, Finland
  • Heidi Sinevaara-Niskanen, “The political agency of arctic indigenous women – in and between the individual, collective and institutional agencies” presented at the VAKAVA graduate course 30.11.-1.12.2006 Rovaniemi, Finland. 
  • Monica Tennberg, “The Problem of agency in international relations” presented at the INDIPO seminar 1-2.2.2007, Rovaniemi, Finland.
  • Monica Tennberg, “Indigenous Peoples as International Politics Actors: The Problem of Agency in International Relations” presented at the Knowledge and Power in the Arctic conference, 16-18.4.2007, Rovaniemi, Finland.

Publications

  • Monica Tennberg (2010) Indigenous peoples as international political actors: a summary. Polar Record 46(238):264-270.
  • Koivurova, T. 2008. The draft Nordic Saami Convention: nations working together. International Community Law Review 10: 279-293.
  • Kuppe, R. 2009. The three dimensions of the rights of indigenous peoples. International Community Law Review 11: 101-116.
  • Loukacheva, N. 2009. Arctic indigenous peoples’ internationalism: in search of a legal justification. Polar Record 45(23): 51-58.
  • Pentikäinen, M. 2009. Creating an integrated society, managing diversity and human rights in Europe. In: Bloed, A., R. Hofmann, J. Marko, J. Maynall, and J. Packer (editors). European Yearbook of Minority Issues 2006/07 vol 6. Leiden, Boston: Martinus Nijhoff: 329-368.
  • Sinevaara-Niskanen, H. 2007. Pohjoisen poliittisissa yhteisöissä. Arktinen Neuvosto ja alkuperäiskansojen naisten toiminnan tilat [In northern political communities. Arctic Council and indigenous women’s spaces of  action]. In: Keskitalo-Foley, S., M. Autti, P. Naskali and H. Sinevaara-Niskanen (editors). Kuulumisia. Feministisiä tulkintoja naisten toimijuuksista [Feminist interpretations of women’s agencies]. Rovaniemi: Lapland University.
  • Monica Tennberg (2006), Introduction to INDIPO project. Polar Record 42(221):100.
  • Timo Koivurova & Leena Heinämäki (2006), The participation of indigenous peoples in international norm-making in the Arctic. Polar Record 42(221):101-109.
  • Scott Forrest (2006), Indigenous self-determination in Finland: A case study in normative change. Polar Record 42(222):229-238.
  • Marjo Lindroth (2006), Indigenous-state relations in the UN: Establishing the indigenous forum. Polar Record 42(222):239-248.
  • Jessica Shadian (2006), Remaking Arctic Governance: The construction of an Arctic Inuit polity. Polar Record 42(222):249-259.
  • Tamara Semenova (2007), Political mobilization of northern peoples in Russia. Polar Record 43(224):23-32)

More information

Research Professor Monica Tennberg
Arctic Centre, University of Lapland
firstname.surname@ulapland.fi