Impact and Benefit Agreements: The Role of Negotiated Agreements in the Creation of Collaborative Planning in Resource Development

Author +
Adam J. Wright

Year: 2013

Over the past twenty five years exploration and development of northern Canadian mineral and petroleum resources has steadily grown. With predictions of continued growth in resource development, there is mounting concern regarding the associated negative environmental and social impacts. In particular, there are concerns that the impacts of increased development will be felt acutely by Aboriginal and Northern communities. While the duty to consult and accommodate and public engagement via environmental assessment (EA) do require for consultation to occur, they do not specify engagement outcomes, and typically do not require follow up to ensure agreements are honoured. 

As a result, benefits are often not distributed appropriately and the existence of ‘poverty in the midst of resource abundance’ continues in many Canadian Aboriginal communities. In response to these failures as well as environmental concerns, there has been increased political contention in resource development. Consequentially, there is growing recognition of the importance in obtaining community support (i.e. ‘social license’) for individual development projects. Bilateral private negotiations between private industries and potentially affected Aboriginal communities, also known as Impact and Benefit Agreements (IBAs), have been progressively used to obtain this highly valued ‘social license’. Due to their recent emergence as well as the variability of their outcomes, many questions surrounding IBAs remain, including how they are used in conjunction with other public engagement processes, and their contribution, if any, to collaborative land-use planning processes. This executive summary outlines the findings of my masters’ major research paper which presents a current state of knowledge regarding the interactions and effectiveness of IBAs in the creation and facilitation of collaborative planning.

Major Themes

Four major themes were identified through an in-depth literature review and interviews with 11 IBA practitioners. These themes were researched with the objective of identifying the ways IBAs contribute to or detract from the creation of collaborative planning processes. Below are the summarized findings in relation to each major theme.

  1. The Relationship between IBAs and the Duty to Consult and Accommodate
  2. IBA Effectiveness
  3. Collaborative Negotiation Processes and Implementation of Agreements
  4. Capacity Development via IBAs

The Role of IBAs in Collaborative Planning

In its simplest form, collaborative planning has the potential to empower communities in shaping the procedures, processes, and agendas that influence development in their region. This research found that the communities who benefited the most from IBA processes were those who worked in collaboration with other potentially affected communities. In addition, it was noted that communities with existing negotiation capacity who have secured some form of authority over their traditional lands largely benefited from IBA negotiations. Observers of IBA processes remarked that through collaboration both a community’s capacity and the ability to secure land rights are increased due to pooled resources and shared regional authority. With this in mind, it is important to note that IBAs are intentioned to only serve as a tool within a larger collaborative planning framework and as such they possess inherent limitations or boundaries to what they can affect.

Further Research: The Utility of IBAs in CEA Processes

The need for cumulative effects assessment (CEA) was highlighted by multiple research participants and identified as a ‘gap area’ where much research is needed. Overall, key informants identified the need for CEA and expressed doubt regarding the achievement of sustainable resource development without an impact assessment method that takes into account multiple projects over longer timeframes. IBAs were suggested by one key informant as a potential consultation mechanism for CEAs as they are flexible enough to consider both socio-economic and environmental concerns. While largely a theoretical consideration, further research into the utility of IBAs in the creation of collaborative CEA processes could yield unique insights.

Impact and Benefit Agreements – Executive Summary

Impact and Benefit Agreements – Full Report

Table of Contents

List of Figures
List of Tables
List of Vignettes
Section 1 – Introduction
1.1 Introduction
1.2 Identified Knowledge Themes
1.3 Overview of Research
Section 2 – The Role of Public Engagement in Collaborative Planning
2.1 Increasing Contention and the Need for Social License in Resource Development
2.2 Planning for Sustainability through Collaborative Planning Processes
2.2.1 Collaborative Planning Defined
2.3 Public Engagement with Aboriginal Communities
2.4 Frameworks for Collaborative Planning with Aboriginal Communities
2.4.1 Collaborative Planning via Environmental Assessment
2.4.2 Public Engagement in EA Processes
2.5 Section Summary
Section 3 – Impact and Benefit Agreements – Background
3.1 IBA Background
3.2 What do IBAs discuss and what Triggers Them?
3.3 Section Summary
Section 4 – IBAs in Relation to Canadian Legal/Constitutional Frameworks
4.1 Legal Frameworks that Affect Aboriginal Peoples in Canada
4.1.1 Duty to Consult and Accommodate
4.1.2 Duty to Consult: Obligation to Discharge Replaced via IBAs
4.2 Unique Arrangements for Collaborative Planning – Land Claims Agreements
4.4 Summary – Contribution to Collaborative Planning
Section 5 – IBA Effectiveness in the Creation and Facilitation of Collaborative Planning Processes
5.1 IBA Effectiveness
5.2 Challenges facing IBAs
5.2.1 Challenges – Transition of Regulatory Powers
5.2.2 Challenges – Capacity Gaps
5.2.3 Challenges – Community Concerns
5.2.4 Challenges – Summary
5.3 Benefits of IBAs
5.3.1 Benefits – The Contribution of IBAs to Collaborative Planning
5.3.2 Benefits – Economic Opportunities
5.3.3 Benefits – Contribution of IBAs to EA Planning Processes
5.3.4 Benefits – Summary
Section 6 – Negotiation Processes and Implementation of Agreements
6.1 Negotiation Processes
6.2 The Need for Follow Up and Implementation
6.3 IBA Negotiation: Business Rationale
6.4 Summary – Contribution to Collaborative Planning
Section 7 – The Role of IBAs and NAs in Creating and Delivering Capacity
7.1 IBAs and Capacity Delivery
7.2 Defining Capacity
7.3 Success of Negotiation Processes Dependent on Existing Capacity
7.4 Summary – Collaboration and Cooperation between Communities via IBAs
Section 8 – Discussion and Further Research
8.1 Current Knowledge
8.1.1 IBAs Legal Frameworks – Duty to Consult
8.1.2 IBA Effectiveness
8.1.3 Collaborative Negotiation Processes and Implementation of Agreements
8.1.4 Capacity Development
8.2 Further Research
8.2.1 IBA/NA Contribution to Cumulative Effects Assessment
8.2.2 Case Studies for Further Research
Section 9 – Conclusion
9.1 Concluding Thoughts
Appendix A – Research Participants (key informants)
Appendix B  – Key Informant Interview Discussion Questions
Appendix C – Lukus – Amulung’s Interaction of negotiated agreements and regulatory processes in the NWT