The New Diplomacy of Natural Resources

Two weeks ago I attended a conference held by the United Nations Association in Canada at the Sauder School of Business in Vancouver, BC. It was called The New Diplomacy of Natural Resources. I believe there were roughly twenty student delegates participating along with stakeholder experts to help guide us. We were divided into four different focus areas: Aboriginal, Government, Industry, and Environment.

Our first gathering of the two-day conference took place at the Bill Reid Gallery where there were introductions made by Kathryn White, President and CEO of the United Nations Association in Canada, and JP Gladu, President and CEO of the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business. There were several presentations and one memorable statement was the assertion there is a need to consult with First Nations people on resource development, and listen to their needs and try to meet them. It was so refreshing to hear this from a non-native who has experience working with natives! The rest of that evening was spent mingling so that the delegates would get to know one other and learn about our different backgrounds. Most of the delegates were MBA students, who were all prepared with their business cards and business suits: they were definitely in the running for whatever opportunity came their way.

The following day we were shown a little clip of our case study which was on the New Afton Mine in Kamloops, BC. There is an agreement in place with New Gold, Stk’emlupsemc te Secwepemc, and the Government of British Columbia. We were then placed in our designated stakeholder groups to discuss the clip. One of the things discussed in my designated group on Aboriginal issues was economic growth and development. There was another Aboriginal student there in my stakeholder group and we were both shocked to see the collaborative working relationship between the First Nations and New Gold. It isn’t often that you see companies seeking to make profit off Native land actually working with the community. We were impressed; it was almost unbelievable for us. At the end of the day we all put our thoughts together for ways all stakeholders could collaborate to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes in natural resource development. Kathryn White declared that she would share these ideas with stakeholder groups for their consideration.

I think more of these initiatives should be in place with the actual stakeholder groups so that each group has a chance to voice any concerns they might have because too often you don’t see or hear anything from an Aboriginal or environmental point of view. It was a privilege and an honour to attend this workshop.