The implementation of the right of indigenous peoples to participate in impact assessment (IA) has moved rapidly in many jurisdictions. To facilitate comparative learning, this paper offers a scalar framework of participation options through standard IA phases and examines five IA regimes in Sweden, Norway, Canada, Australia, and Aotearoa/New Zealand.
The paper shows how practice is moving toward co-management and community-owned IA, with developments driven by strong indigenous demands and political recognition of material rights to lands and resources. Yet while influence in IA has allowed for shaping project outcomes it has rarely supported the rejection of unwanted projects altogether. Moreover, some jurisdictions, such as Scandinavia, retain a much more limited consultation and notification approach.
Community influence tends to be in the area of generating evidence and follow-up, while developers or state authorities retain control over decisive phases of scoping and determining significance. The authors argue that indigenous participation is most meaningful through IA co-management that takes place directly with the state and throughout all IA phases, complemented with strategic community-owned IA.