Kathleen Lahey, Eva-Maria Svensson, & Åsa Gunnarsson

This paper brings critical gender perspectives to the interrogation of northern human capital discourses, most of which tend to deploy gender-neutral concepts in analyzing productive capacities to perform labour and produce measurable economic value. From gendered and Indigenous perspectives, this concept of human capital excludes unpaid work relating to social reproduction, human welfare, and subsistence or in kind production, as well as the value of traditional and indigenous knowledges and processes. In Arctic/northern contexts, burgeoning interest in industrialized resource extraction, transportation, and fisheries affects labour market sectors mainly occupying men, and, not surprisingly, risks intensifying the social, economic, and political marginalization of women and Indigenous peoples.

As members of the TUAQ Arctic Gender Equality Network, the authors approach these issues from governance perspectives, noting that despite state obligations to mainstream gender issues in policy development and to respect Indigenous rights under domestic and international agreements, women’s and indigenous peoples’ voices are largely absent from discussions of the economic, environmental, and human development policies that shape human engagement in relation to the north. This paper outlines governance gaps, gender and indigenous women’s inequalities, and economic imbalances that flow from this situation. The paper concludes with an analysis of how the costs and losses of the ‘paradox of plenty’ borne by women, indigenous, and northern communities can be reversed, and calls on multilateral governance bodies to take firm steps to implement these measures.

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