Collaboration between indigenous communities and states in the governance of cumulative effects assessment (CEA; assessment of the likely combined environmental impacts of past, current and future activities) is often hampered not only by legacies of colonialism and inequality but also by disagreement on what the “CEA governance problem” is in the first place.

This paper draws on critical theories on dialogue and collaboration to present a novel approach to joint problem analysis between Sami reindeer herders and civil servants in Swedish permitting authorities on mining, wind energy and forestry. It discusses process design choices, insights on CEA governance and ways to tackle these barriers in practice. It argues that indigenous-state collaboration may play a constructive role in improving CEA governance, including the recognition of indigenous peoples’ rights. However, this requires a process that carves out new spaces for exploring divergent problem definitions and supports the participants in challenging institutionalized inequalities within their positioned realities.

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