Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Power for Development

By Gabriela Jimenez, 1st year MDP student

After one year of intensive learning, I am excited about the opportunity to be exposed to real life challenges in Indigenous development. I have the technical experience of working on engineering projects, and would like to increase my social understanding to practice sustainable development. 

Energy projects provide multiple benefits to community life; however the adverse effects could be significant if engineering optimal procedures are not followed and if social considerations are ignored. The footprint of these projects could be diminished if the impacts are accurately identified and addressed through effective mitigation and monitoring plans. Community participation is crucial for said assessment processes.

Since energy projects’ timelines last for decades, the goal should be to build stronger and more durable relationships between the proponent and communities. Understanding of the Indigenous practices, life styles and well-being of each community is essential for a comprehensive impact analysis. However, it is also known that culture is complex and the parameters that affect it in positive or negative ways cannot be easily broken-down; culture has to be holistically addressed. 

First Nations Water Rights Research Conference. May 26th, 2016. University of Manitoba.

In May, I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the First Nations Water Rights Research Conference, held at University of Manitoba by Create H2O. It had a broad approach of troubleshooting the current water problems experienced in Indigenous communities, which are mainly caused by deficient infrastructures and/or by the impacts of different projects in Canada. To recommend a solution, we need to comprehend the cause of the problem; so most of the studies focused on that understanding, and the presentations varied from technical proposals to socioeconomic research. 

I have realized that the biggest challenge in the implementation of any engineering project is to attain actual equality between the parties, and to overcome disproportionate economic circumstances. How do we successfully address power relations in order to have horizontal and effective agreements? How do we transform vertical power into power for development? Since building trust based relationships is key for agreements, I think that it can be achieved when culture is empowered by the promotion of knowledge exchange, education and the fulfillment of duties and responsibilities.

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