The Sami Parliament Council has paid nearly NOK 1.5 million to the Burson-Marsteller PR agency in the battle against the Nussir mining company and the depository licence that the Norwegian government granted in 2016. From the left: Mikkel Eskil MIkkelsen, Berit Marie P. E. Hætta, Aili Keskitalo (president of the Sami Council), Silje Karine Moutka and Henrik Olsen. (Photo: Kenneth Hætta)
The Sami Parliament Council has paid nearly NOK 1.5 million to the Burson-Marsteller PR agency in the battle against the Nussir mining company and the depository licence that the Norwegian government granted in 2016. From the left: Mikkel Eskil MIkkelsen, Berit Marie P. E. Hætta, Aili Keskitalo (president of the Sami Council), Silje Karine Moutka and Henrik Olsen. (Photo: Kenneth Hætta)

Norwegian Sami Parliament Uses Millions and PR Agency to Fight Mining


The Norwegian Sami Parliament used the PR and lobbying company Burson-Marsteller to keep Nussir from mining in Kvalsund, Finnmark County. The Sametinget used millions of Norwegian kroner to oppose the government’s decision to allow mining.

In fighting the Nussir mining corporation, the Sami Council has used the international PR agency Burson-Marsteller to create a strategy towards the Norwegian parliamentary elections in 2017.

In total, the PR agency has received nearly NOK 1.4 million to advice on how to stop mining.

– Not sensational

– This is not a sensational sum for a two-year agreement on communication assistance, says Sami Councilor Silje Karin Moutka says to High North News. (See article to the right.)

In December 2016, the Norwegian Ministry of Climate and Environment allowed Nussir of Kvalsund, Finnmark County to depose tailings in the Reppar fjord.

The decision was controversial and completely against the desire, repeated decisions and objections of the Sami Parliament, and the Sametinget did not intend to let the government’s decision to be the end of the discussion. One of its initiatives was engaging external counsel from the Burson-Marsteller PR agency.

Among the largest PR agencies in the world

According to its own web site, Burson-Marsteller is one of the largest communication agencies in the world, having more than 130 offices in 98 countries.

In a Burson-Marsteller presentation to which High North News has access, it says that “Nussir’s project is perceived as an environmental violation and as one of the major interventions against indigenous people in Norway”.

The strategy was presented to the Sami Councilor with one clear and explicit goal: Stopping Nussir.

Make it harder for the government

“As the Ministry’s decision cannot be overturned, we will make it hard for the government to stand by its decision in an election year” is one of the main messages from the PR agency.

Various ways and means for achieving this political goal are sketched up; amongst them there is to be an “accumulation of a sufficient number of allied partners” to side with the Sami Parliament and who will be willing to keep the issue hot throughout the election campaign.

Allied partners are also to be “produced” in Stortinget, the Norwegian parliament, with the goal of demonstrating a potential majority against the Ministry’s decision.

The Sami Parliament makes use of several means to thwart the Norwegian government’s decision to grant a depository license to Nussir at Kvalsund. The Burson-Marsteller PR agency actively contributed to creating a political strategy to thwart mining. (Map: Nussir)

The Sami Parliament makes use of several means to thwart the Norwegian government’s decision to grant a depository license to Nussir at Kvalsund. The Burson-Marsteller PR agency actively contributed to creating a political strategy to thwart mining. (Map: Nussir)

Leaning on key political persons

In the strategy, the PR agency points out individual politicians in parliament who are to receive extra attention from the lobbyists. A series of names of Members of Parliament are listed, all of whom are more or less well-placed in their respective parties.

Except former Socialist Left Party cabinet member Heikki Holmås, whom the agency has placed in the Labor Party.

Key persons will be Jonas Gahr Støre (Labour), Trine Skei Grande (the Liberal Party) and Knut Arild Hareide of the Christian Democratic Party, the advisors argue, and also points out three cabinet members of the then-government of Erna Solberg;

The Minister of Local Government (Jan Tore Sanner), the Minister of Climate and Environment (Vidar Helgesen) and the Minister of Trade, Industry and Fisheries (Monica Mæland).

Indigenous people and environmental considerations

Youth organizations, environmental groups, fisheries organizations, counties and worker’s union organisations such as LO and KS are other targets for the Burson-Marsteller campaign.

In particular, two main lines are pointed out for the strategic approach to this political campaign; indigenous rights and environmental concerns.

In addition, they want to apply “social economic and legal expertise” to spread doubts about the entire project.

Fact-based communication

The expertise to which Burson-Marsteller refers is drawn from a report written by Vista Analysis, based on an assignment from Sametinget in 2016, where questions were raised about the social economic profitability of mining.

In its self-presentation, Burson-Marsteller writes that the company has an “analytical approach to the discipline of communications. We call it ‘Fact-based communication’. In addition to experience and knowledge, our advising shall always be based on verifiable facts, acquired through thorough investigation and analysis”.

- NOK 1.4 million to Burson-Marsteller over the course of 2 years is not a sensational amount for cases like this, says Sami Councilor Silje Karine Moutka. (Photo: Kenneth Hætta).

– NOK 1.4 million to Burson-Marsteller over the course of 2 years is not a sensational amount for cases like this, says Sami Councilor Silje Karine Moutka. (Photo: Kenneth Hætta).

– Part of a framework agreement

– Not sensational and a modest amount for this kind of advice, Sami Councilor says about the Burson-Marsteller agreement.

Sami Councilor in charge of a.o. mineral issues, Silje Kristin Moutka, says the advise from Burson-Marsteller is part of a larger framework agreement that the Sami Councilor has regarding various communication services.

– The line of arguments that High North News refers to comes from a powerpoint presentation about how to promote our views and affect decision-makers – just like communication agencies often work, Moutka says.

– The input from Burson-Marsteller is part of a larger picture that also includes the report from Vista Analysis that was written on our requiest, the Sami Councilor points out.

– It is, furthermore, important to stress the fact that the Sameting itself makes its own decisions about what to do, based on input from a variety of stakeholders. Burson-Marsteller does not decide what our position is.

Silje K. Moutka says the Sami Parliament Council had a two-year framework agreement with Burson-Marsteller that expired in March this year.

– The tender for this agreement has been publicly announced according to formal procedure requirements and it is anchored in our administration, Moutka says.

– How usual is it for the Sami Councilors to use external PR advisor in this kind of political processes, in order to affect decisions made by the Norwegian parliament and government?

– That varies greatly, and largely depends on the capacity of our own information and communication apparatus. The level of pressure on a given issue also matters, of course. But it has been known to happen before, such as during the processing of the Finnmark Act, Moutka says to HNN.

The agreement between the Sami Parliament Council and Burson-Marsteller is a standardized consultancy agreement designed by the Norwegian Agency for Public Management and eGovernment.

When the Sami Parliament announced the tender of professional communications assistance, a frame of NOK 1.5 million for a period of two years was set, the agreement commencing in March 2016.

– In my opinion, this is not a sensational sum when viewed in the perspective of two years. The bulk part of it was the report from Vista Analysis about the social economic viability of the Nussir project.

This surely has to be one of the smaller agreements of Burson-Marsteller, to put it mildly, Silje K. Moutka says in closing.

Invoiced nearly NOK 1.4 million

Figures High North News has received from the Sameting administration shows that Burson-Marsteller has invoiced nearly NOK 1.4 million to the Sami Parliament during the 2015-2018 period for advice on mineral issues.





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