14 Development of the local community in Longyearbyen
14.1 Development of the community on Svalbard
The question of permanent settlement on Svalbard only arose with the development of the mining industry at the beginning of this century. Between the wars, settlements of some size were established in the neighbourhood of the largest coal mines - in Longyearbyen, Grumant, Barentsburg, Ny-Ålesund and Sveagruva. Mining operations at the last two were closed down in the 1930s. After the Second World War, mining began at Pyramiden and was resumed at Ny-Ålesund. Early in the 1960s, operations ceased both at Grumant and at Ny-Ålesund, and Pyramiden closed in 1998.
Traditionally the mining settlements were not so much communities in the usual sense as extensive industrial plants. They were organized in a functional way, on the basis of the needs of the local enterprise at any given time for personnel, infrastructure and services. This was reflected in the composition of the populations, which for a long time were male-dominated, with few women and children. Stays on Svalbard were linked to occupation, and most employees were appointed on short-term contracts. This applied to both the Norwegian and the Soviet settlements.
14.1.2 “Normalization” in the 1970s
The 1970s saw the beginnings of a family community being built up in Longyearbyen. One factor had been a growing demand for Svalbard, too, to change with the times, another was the mining companies' need for a stable workforce, and a third was a political wish to "normalize" conditions in Longyearbyen. This policy was clearly expressed in Report No. 39 (1974-75) to the Storting concerning Svalbard, which prepared the ground for rapid and extensive changes. The opening of a year-round airport in 1975 marked the beginning of a new era, and the local infrastructure and services were developed and better adapted to a family society along the same lines as on the mainland. These developments continued and accelerated through the 1980s and 1990s. The Longyearbyen of today is a modern and well-equipped community, with facilities which in some respects are well ahead of those available to mainland communities of a corresponding size.
Similar developments also took place in the Soviet settlements in the 1970s and 1980s, but with relatively less emphasis on families and longer stays; the system of fixed-term contracts has been retained. The collapse of the Soviet Union and growing economic problems have brought developments to a halt, at least for the time being. See also Chapter 3 Developments on Svalbard since 1985.
14.1.3 Development of the community in Longyearbyen
In the Government's view, the exercise of Norwegian sovereignty benefits from the permanent presence of Norwegian nationals. Maintaining Norwegian settlement on Svalbard has therefore been and still is an objective for the Norwegian authorities. The extent and kind of settlement are principally determined by the nature of the activities on the archipelago at any given time, and the prevailing national and foreign policy conditions under which they are carried out. During the Cold War, for instance, it made sense to maintain a Norwegian settlement that balanced the Soviet presence. In the current situation, this particular premise is of minor importance.
The form taken by Norwegian settlements on Svalbard has partly been a question of which purposes they should serve, and partly a result of political and economic choices. Since the 1970s, Norwegian political authorities have deliberately sought to develop Longyearbyen into a high-quality community for families, but without aiming to provide for a cradle-to-grave community. These efforts must be viewed as an instrument of Norwegian Svalbard policy, and they were until very recently directly controlled by the central government authorities.
In the 1990s, central government control has been less conspicuous. Private actors have increasingly established activities in Longyearbyen, contributing to a more varied economic and population structure. The local community has grown and become more self-sufficient in terms of resources and competence. Although the whole community still remains dependent on both direct and indirect state allocations, it is neither possible nor desirable to control developments in the same detail as before. It is natural for the local population itself to assume greater responsibility for the further development of the community. This is the consideration underlying the development of a more democratic form of government in Longyearbyen.
14.2 Local democracy in Norwegian settlements
The question of increased democratic local influence for the Norwegian population on Svalbard has been raised on several occasions. As early as 1925, when Norway assumed sovereignty, the Storting rejected a proposal to make Svalbard a separate municipality or county, and chose instead a special form of administration, cf. Chapter 5 The administration of Svalbard. In the debate on the Svalbard Act a number of representatives nevertheless held that, when conditions were suitable, a local government administration resembling that which applied to the rest of Norway could be appropriate.
During the Cold War, Norwegian policy towards Svalbard reflected the foreign and security policy situation, and the Norwegian authorities' need to control developments in this sensitive area. The introduction of local democracy in the Norwegian settlements was therefore not seen as an issue either at the local or at the central level.
The dawning détente of the late 1960s and developments in the Longyearbyen community during the same period laid a new and more promising foundation for the exercise of democratic local influence. The establishment of the Local Svalbard Council in 1971 reflected this. As the 1970s wore on, the Council became closely involved in developments in the local community. For further discussion of this subject see section 14.2.2 below, The Svalbard Council.
The question of local democracy was discussed in Report No. 39 (1974-75) to the Storting concerning Svalbard. The Government concluded that the time was not yet ripe for turning Svalbard into a county or introducing municipal self-government. The Report noted, however, that Svalbard was undergoing rapid development and that administrative reforms might be appropriate in the longer term. The Svalbard Council recommended that the existing institutions should be developed first, and proposed that the Council might be given executive powers in some areas. The Report recommended a strengthening of the Council's position accordingly. The development of the Svalbard Council in the 1971-85 period was described in Report No. 40 (1985-86) to the Storting concerning Svalbard.
The 1980s saw little change in the attitude of the central government authorities to local democracy. Report No. 40 (1985-86) to the Storting noted a series of political, practical and economic obstacles to the development of local democracy based on the mainland model. The Government saw a clear need for a study of the consequences, not least with regard to treaty obligations and relations with foreign settlements. But an opening was created for giving individual settlements some influence on their own development, as far as possible according to the traditional pattern of Norwegian local government administration. In the proceedings on the Report, the Enlarged Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Constitution stated in Recommendation S. No. 212 (1985-86) that an extension of local self-government for the Norwegian community on the archipelago ought to be considered, in the event by giving more authority to the Svalbard Council. However, the process would have to take into account the limitations that followed from the Svalbard Treaty, and must not lead to any change in the position of the Governor on the archipelago.
In the light of the rapid developments on Svalbard since the late 1980s, a solution to the question of local democracy in Longyearbyen has in a sense become overdue. Several reports on the issue were prepared in the 1990s. In 1995, the Storting asked the Government to submit a model for local democracy in connection with Document 8:85 (1994-1995). As part of the work on the present Report, therefore, extensive studies have been carried out, with the participation of both local and central government representatives. These reports are mentioned in section 14.3 below, Reports on local democracy.
14.2.2 The Svalbard Council
The Svalbard Council was established by Royal Decree of 12 August 1981. It is a continuation of the Local Svalbard Council established by Royal Decree of 6 August 1971. The Local Svalbard Council was the first step in the direction of the democratization of society in Longyearbyen, and was taken after the Norwegian population had for a long time demanded greater influence on developments on the archipelago. In the light of the developments that the Longyearbyen community had undergone since 1971, changes were made in the composition of the Council and the electoral system. The Council was also given new functions.
The Svalbard Council has 15 members with deputies. According to section 14 of the Instructions for the Svalbard Council of 12 August 1981, the Council is free to appoint sub-committees when suitable. At present it has an administration committee, a technical committee, a social and cultural committee and a wildlife and nature conservation committee. The Svalbard Council can appoint a permanent secretary, or enter into an agreement with Svalbard Samfunnsdrift AS whereby the company undertakes the functions of a secretariat. The latter has been the case until today. The Governor, Svalbard Samfunnsdrift and Store Norske Kulkompani AS (Store Norske) are entitled to attend and speak at meetings of the Svalbard Council.
According to section 2 of the Instructions for the Svalbard Council, the Council is to advise the central and local government administration on questions which they submit to the Council. The Council may raise matters with the central and local administration which are of importance to the population of Svalbard, and take decisions on matters for which it has decision-making powers.
As an advisory body, the Svalbard Council may comment on the land-use plans to be drawn up for Longyearbyen by Svalbard Samfunnsdrift. The Svalbard Council is also represented on the boards of Longyearbyen Hospital, Svalbard Museum, Svalbard Samfunnsdrift, the Svalbardposten foundation, the Church Council, Svalbard Science Forum, the Svalbard Collection Foundation, and the University Courses on Svalbard.
The Svalbard Council also takes decisions on particular matters. The Council grants taxi licences, and with effect from 1999 it has in addition been delegated authority concerning the licensing and surveillance of the serving of alcoholic beverages by the Governor. In connection with the changes made in 1998 to the system governing alcoholic beverages on Svalbard, responsibility for distributing the net profits on alcohol sales for welfare purposes was delegated to the Svalbard Council. The Council also played an active part in the preparation of the reports relating to the introduction of local democracy.
Allocations to the Svalbard Council are appropriated in the budget for Svalbard. For 1999 the allocation amounts to NOK 1 625 000. Of this amount, NOK 785 000 was earmarked for welfare purposes in Longyearbyen and Svea. The remaining NOK 840 000 is intended to meet wage and operating expenses. In the processing of the Svalbard budget for 1999, the grant for wage and operating expenses was increased compared with previous years, among other things so as to permit some remuneration to be paid to the chair of the Svalbard Council. Continuation of this appropriation for the year 2000 has been proposed.
The rules governing elections to the Svalbard Council have been amended several times, most recently in 1993. Until then, voting was carried out in three constituencies, defined according to whether voters were connected with Store Norske, with central government, or with others. In 1993, political elections in a single constituency were introduced. This entailed freedom to organize, and freedom to run for election on the basis of special interests, as in the rest of the country. To be eligible, a person must have reached the age of 18 in the election year, meet the conditions for voting in municipal council and county council elections in Norway, and be resident either in Longyearbyen or in Svea. The same requirements apply to the right to vote, except that the latter is irrespective of where on Svalbard one lives.
The level of activity of the Svalbard Council and its sub-committees has risen steadily since the previous general report on Svalbard was submitted to the Storting. In its annual report for 1987, the Council recorded five meetings at which 38 matters were dealt with. In comparison, 11 ordinary and 9 extraordinary meetings were held in 1998, at which 89 matters were dealt with. This trend can also be seen in the gradual increase in the transfer of funds to the Svalbard Council through the Svalbard budget, especially since 1995.
The increase in the number of matters dealt with by the Council is connected with the gradual increase in the tasks entrusted to the Council over the same period. The number and types of matters submitted to the Svalbard Council for consideration underline the Council's central position and importance in the local community, both as a spokesman for the Norwegian population and vis-à-vis the authorities. Although in many matters the Svalbard Council is formally only an advisory body, its real influence has increased steadily in recent years. This is especially true of matters on which there was a large degree of unanimity in the Council.
Members of the Svalbard Council are currently elected for terms of two years. This has to do with the relatively short average period of residence in Longyearbyen.
14.2.3 Studies of the legal position
In 1989, on the initiative of the Svalbard Council, the Ministry of Justice asked the then senior lecturer Geir Ulfstein to prepare a report on the question of introducing increased local democracy on Svalbard. Submitted in 1990, the report notes among other things that the Svalbard Treaty contains no provisions concerning the level of the central government administration at which decisions are to be taken or which procedural rules must be observed. This means that Norway, by virtue of its sovereignty, in principle has freedom of action in respect of increased local democracy. However, Norway has both the right and the obligation to exercise sovereignty, so that fully autonomous settlements cannot be established without conflicting with the Treaty. A basic assumption is that Norway must both formally and effectively have control of any exercise of authority which impinges on the treaty rights of other states. The Svalbard Council can have limited decision-making authority in matters relating to the Norwegian population, but only the right to give an opinion in matters which concern other states or which are of special importance. The report contains a number of specific proposals concerning how local democracy can be developed on the basis of the existing institutions. One possibility mentioned is that of giving the Svalbard Council more influence in the affairs of Svalbard Samfunnsdrift.
At the time when the study was written, participation in elections to the Svalbard Council was dependent on voters' employment. The report proposed instead the introduction of political elections to the Svalbard Council, corresponding to the municipal election system on the mainland. In the light of this proposal among other things, political elections with a single constituency were introduced in 1993. Under the election rules currently in force, people are therefore free to form organizations and run for election on the basis of special interests, as is the case in the rest of the country. See also section 14.2.2 The Svalbard Council.
In 1996, the Svalbard Council asked Professor Carl August Fleischer to report on the question of a municipal council on Svalbard and how it would relate to the Svalbard Treaty. In his report of the same year, Professor Fleischer does not consider the advisability of introducing local democracy on Svalbard, but considers the question from the point of view of international law. Like Geir Ulfstein, he notes that the Treaty says nothing about what kinds of bodies Norway must use in exercising various government functions on Svalbard. Norwegian sovereignty can accordingly be given normal application. In so far as government functions are delegated by central to local authorities within certain limits, as has happened on the mainland, both the local and the central governing bodies must as a matter of course respect the obligations Norway has undertaken under international law. Professor Fleischer is of the opinion that, subject to that proviso, municipal government on Svalbard is possible.
14.3 Reports on local democracy
14.3.1 Terms of reference and organization
In view of the proposal submitted by the Storting to the Government in Document 8:85 (1994-1995), work was begun in 1996 on developing a form of government for Longyearbyen which gives the inhabitants an opportunity to exercise democratic influence within the local community. The work on the report was entrusted to two working groups. A local working group consisted of local representatives in Longyearbyen, including three representatives of the Svalbard Council. A central working group was composed of representatives of the board of Svalbard Samfunnsdrift AS, the Ministry of Justice, and the Ministry of Trade and Industry , and chaired by an external consultant.
The terms of reference for the local working group read as follows:
“A working group will study the question of increased influence for the local population by considering the types of matters in which the Svalbard Council may enter into the decision- making process, and how this ought to be organized. Basic to the inquiry will be a survey of the duties of the Governor of Svalbard and of Svalbard Samfunnsdrift AS. The working group shall also consider the question of training for members of the Svalbard Council in local government models.”
The other working group was given the following terms of reference:
“A second working group will, in the light of the first group's work, report on the question of whether increased local influence can be catered for within the framework of the current organization of Svalbard Samfunnsdrift AS by means of new modes of cooperation between the enterprise and the Svalbard Council, or whether it will be necessary to change the organization of Svalbard Samfunnsdrift AS in order to make the best possible provision for shared influence. If it finds it necessary to change the organization of Svalbard Samfunnsdrift AS, the working group will propose alternative solutions, including solutions with respect to financing.”
The work of the two working parties has partly overlapped, necessitating coordination and cooperation. The central working group began cooperating with the Svalbard Council at an early stage of the process, the main purpose being to involve locally elected representatives in the work, so as to enable them to take part themselves in establishing the parameters for their own future influence. The working group organized its work in the form of seminars, attended by representatives of the working group, the Svalbard Council, the Governor, and Svalbard Samfunnsdrift.
14.3.2 The report of the local working group
In its report, the local working group concentrated on discussing in which areas decision-making powers might usefully be transferred to the Svalbard Council or a corresponding body. The point of departure in this connection was the tasks at present assigned to the Governor of Svalbard and Svalbard Samfunnsdrift. The working group listed tasks connected with technical infrastructure, transport, housing, economic development, competition surveillance, wildlife and nature conservation, culture and sports, conditions for children and adolescents, education and the church, and health and social services.
14.3.3 The report of the central working group
The other working group found it necessary to arrive at some more precise definitions of the wording in Document 8:85 (1994-1995). Document 8:85 asks among other things for a government model for "Longyearbyen" which gives the inhabitants an opportunity to exercise influence in the "local community". The working group found a natural point of departure in the delimitation contained in the Regulations of 24 January 1997 relating to land-use planning for the settlements on Svalbard. It traces a boundary around Longyearbyen enclosing what it is natural to regard as the "local community". In the working group's opinion, the management of nature conservation zones and wilderness in general should be a central government responsibility. This also applies to the wilderness on Nordenskiöld Land. The interests of the local community in such areas are therefore naturally subordinate to the national interest.
The working group has understood "democratic influence in the local community" to mean influence in relation to decision-making powers. The Svalbard Council is currently organized according to an influence model, in the sense that it does not have real decision-making powers, but exercises influence through its representation on boards and councils, through comments on consultation documents, etc.
In consultation with the Svalbard Council, the working group took the external parameters for a mainland municipality as its point of departure, and then considered conditions in and around the local community in Longyearbyen that distinguish it from local communities on the mainland. One factor is that a stable Norwegian presence on Svalbard has traditionally been regarded as an important prerequisite for achieving the objective of a firm exercise of sovereignty and for maintaining stability and peace. The exercise of Norwegian sovereignty has changed, becoming much more emphatic and extensive than before. The working group furthermore pointed out that by virtue of its sovereignty over Svalbard, Norway has the right and obligation to manage the area in accordance with the Treaty, among other things where the conservation of plant and animal life is concerned. Administrative and foreign policy considerations weigh more heavily in the choice of a local government model for Longyearbyen than they would in the case of a mainland community.
The working group also points to other characteristics that indicate that the local democracy to be built up in Longyearbyen cannot be quite like what we know from the mainland. Longyearbyen does not fall within the administrative structure that exists on the mainland. For one thing, it is not part of a county. For another, it will not border physically on another municipality, but on an area managed by the state. Thirdly, Norway's responsibilities and obligations under the Svalbard Treaty are a necessary premise for any viable solutions. This means that legislation which applies to a Norwegian municipality can neither apply nor readily be made applicable to Longyearbyen.
Nevertheless, the working group noted that in recent decades Longyearbyen has developed into a diversified family community with distinct similarities to local communities on the mainland. The Longyearbyen community is not, however, designed for lifelong residence, nor does it have a fully developed social welfare system. Inhabitants come and go more rapidly than elsewhere. A last feature to which the working group drew attention is that Svalbard is a special area where customs duties and taxes are concerned. State taxes are collected, but no taxes towards the running of the local community or to municipalities where inhabitants are permanent residents.
On the basis of these circumstances, the working group examined four possible local democracy models. Three of them are variants on systems with fully developed local democracy. The fourth consists of a process for the gradual introduction of local democracy, without describing what the final model should look like. The working group itself recommends this fourth alternative.
The four alternative models are described in detail in the working group's report.
The working group proposes "Longyearbyen Community Council" as a name for the models being considered. This indicates that the area in question is Longyearbyen, and that the organization proposed is an administrative body with authority.
14.4 Recommendations of the Svalbard Council
On the basis of the existing reports, the newly elected Svalbard Council was asked in the spring of 1998 to give an opinion on how it wished local democracy to be developed. On 18 May 1998, the Svalbard Council unanimously adopted a statement to the effect that where the question of democracy was concerned, the Council's objective was to acquire a decisive influence in the foresee-able future on questions which naturally fall within the scope of democratic local government. At the same time, the Svalbard Council resolved by a two-thirds majority (8 votes out of 12) to support a proposal entailing a procedural model for the gradual development of local democracy, while expressing a wish to have authority transferred to Longyearbyen Community Council both on a somewhat larger scale and more rapidly than the central working group had envisaged.
14.5 Recommendations of the Government
14.5.1 Community development in Longyearbyen
The Government aims to ensure that the Norwegian community on Svalbard is viable and of high quality. This means among other things that the local community should have a social and economic structure which makes it resistant to sharp fluctuations in the population. Longyearbyen's population currently stands at a good 1 300, a relatively large proportion of which consists of families. The economic sector is varied and there is a good range of services. Longyearbyen is generally seen as an attractive place to live for both families and single people, as can be seen from applications for vacant posts and from surveys of living conditions.
The Government does not wish to see the population of Longyearbyen rise beyond its present level. The latest report concerning economic development on Svalbard, from Svalbard Næringsutvikling in August 1999, suggests that the growth of recent years has now levelled out. The Government will adjust the instruments of Norwegian Svalbard policy so as to keep the population at an acceptable level.
In the Government's opinion, a local community which is well adapted to families is the best means of ensuring favourable community development. Facilities and measures which make it attractive for families to establish themselves and live in Longyearbyen will therefore be given priority. This applies not least to the supply of suitable housing and to facilities for children and young people. Should the question arise of discontinuing the mining operations, measures aimed at retaining a varied economic structure will also be considered. Longyearbyen will for the foreseeable future house considerable numbers of single workers and students who stay for shorter or longer periods. The community must therefore also make satisfactory facilities available to these groups, perhaps to a larger degree than in places of a corresponding size on the mainland.
The Government will not, however, take steps to turn Longyearbyen into a cradle-to-grave community. There is little demand at present for health and social services for the elderly and chronically ill, but the costs of expanding such services would be disproportionately high. The local community is unlikely to be able to meet such costs on its own. This would mean an increase in state transfers, to which the Government is opposed. The connections between inhabitants and their home municipalities on the mainland must therefore be maintained. The Government assumes that responsibility for health and social services beyond those which exist in Longyearbyen today will continue to rest with the home municipalities.
14.5.2 The introduction of local democracy in Longyearbyen
The Government is in favour of introducing local democracy in Longyearbyen.
The Government regards it as important for the inhabitants of Longyearbyen to be given influence on and responsibility for the development of the local community. Local democracy in Longyearbyen must be based on the fundamental values and overriding national parameters which also apply to municipal self-government on the mainland.
Although under the Svalbard Treaty international law places no restrictions on the choice of the form of local government, special conditions do apply on Svalbard. Account must be taken of foreign policy considerations, and of the special needs of central government to exercise control over the archipelago, among other things in view of the ambitious environmental targets set for Svalbard. The distinctive social characteristics of Longyearbyen are also important. Altogether, this amounts to a different set of parameters for the development of local democracy than those obtaining on the mainland.
Under Svalbard's special circumstances it is also inappropriate to use the term municipality. The Government believes that the local democracy to be developed on Svalbard must be specially adapted to the conditions there.
The present popularly elected body, the Svalbard Council, will change its name to Longyearbyen Community Council.
The tasks for which Longyearbyen Community Council will be made responsible will generally be such as are municipal on the mainland. Tasks will not be transferred which relate to central government functions and are state responsibilities on the mainland, or which are connected with rights and obligations under the Svalbard Treaty.
The Government intends Longyearbyen Community Council to take over ownership of the public corporation Svalbard Samfunnsdrift AS as soon as is practicable. At present, the corporation is responsible for a number of tasks which on the mainland are carried out by municipalities. Longyearbyen Community Council will assume responsibility for the corporation's budget, finances and employees as well as for the services it provides. The services comprise the production and distribution of electricity and district heating, water supplies, sewage management, refuse collection, land-use planning, surveying, waste management, fire services, and the running of daycare facilities, the youth club, the cinema, the library, the gallery and Svalbardhallen sports hall. Other responsibilities include maintenance of the road network in Longyearbyen, management of the town quay, and management of housing let to own employees and other priority groups in Longyearbyen.
Also being considered are transfers from the Governor of Svalbard of authority over child welfare and board of health work and as the case may be other "municipal" tasks. The same applies to the school and the church, which at present are under direct central government control. Such transfers of authority will among other things require amendments in legislation.
Responsibility for primary health services is an important feature of municipal self-government. In Longyearbyen these have been integrated into the functions of a small emergency hospital which is also responsible for the Norwegian population elsewhere on the archipelago. This arrangement has led to efficient utilization of health resources on Svalbard. The Government accordingly sees no need to change the organization of health services on Svalbard by hiving off the primary health ser-vices in Longyearbyen.
According to the Government's plans, the Governor of Svalbard will retain roughly the same supervisory functions as county governors have in relation to mainland municipalities.
The detailed practical procedure for the transfer of the corporation from the state to Longyearbyen Community Council must be a process that involves both central and local government authorities.
The transfer of responsibility for Svalbard Samfunnsdrift to Longyearbyen Community Council will as mentioned above involve the corporation's employees. The Government considers it important that the rules governing such a restructuring process are adhered to.
The geographical limits to the authority of Longyearbyen Community Council should, in view of foreign policy and environmental considerations, coincide with the boundaries of the Longyearbyen land-use planning area. The possibility should nevertheless be retained of extending the limits in certain types of matters where the central authorities find it appropriate to do so.
With regard to the term of election to Longyearbyen Community Council, in the Government's view weight must be given to the fact that average periods of residence in Longyearbyen are shorter than in comparable mainland communities. The Government therefore proposes to retain two-year terms for election to Longyearbyen Community Council.
Concerning the economic and administrative consequences of introducing local democracy in Longyearbyen, reference is made to Chapter 15 Administrative and economic consequences.
14.6 Some specific questions
14.6.1 A conciliation board on Svalbard
There is at present no conciliation board on Svalbard. All cases with legal venues on Svalbard must therefore be brought by issuing a writ of summons to the Nord-Troms district court in Tromsø. As a result, the simplified proceedings which conciliation board treatment implies for such cases cannot come into play.
In connection with the circulation for comment of the 1997 report on the "Future organization of the administration of civil justice at the basic level", the Governor of Svalbard stated that the introduction of conciliation board arrangements on Svalbard should also be considered. The Governor referred to the development in recent years of a local business community on Svalbard, and the resulting increasing demands for the simplified proceedings which a conciliation board entails. In the Governor's experience, creditors with smaller claims sometimes gave up pursuing their claims for precisely this reason.
In the Government's opinion, a conciliation board should be introduced for Svalbard. The increasing "normalization" of the community on Svalbard has also led to a growing number of outstanding claims. But the role of a conciliation board would extend beyond enforcing unpaid claims; it would also offer Svalbard's inhabitants a local facility for the arbitration of disputes. The establishment of a conciliation board on Svalbard would mean an increased democratization of society, since it would be possible to have civil law disputes dealt with on Svalbard instead of exclusively referring them for hearing to the court in Tromsø.
The conciliation board should cover the whole of Svalbard, so that all cases with legal venues on Svalbard fall within its scope. In practice, however, a large majority of cases will relate to companies or persons in Longyearbyen.
On the mainland there is a conciliation board in every municipality. It has three members, and the same number of deputy members, elected by the municipal council for terms of four years. The municipalities meet conciliation board costs and receive the revenues from court fees. County governors supervise the work of conciliation boards.
In the Government's opinion, the members of the conciliation board should be elected by the future Longyearbyen Community Council.
14.6.2 The selection of lay judges
Appointments made by the Governor according to section 11 of the Svalbard Act include lay judges and assessors. In practice, the current procedure is for the Svalbard Council to propose candidates, who are then appointed. Those appointed draw lots in each individual case. For reasons of principle, an arrangement ought to be instituted which more closely resembles that on the mainland, whereby lay judges are selected by the municipal council after each local government election. In each county, a panel of assessors is appointed by the county council.
The Government therefore proposes an arrangement whereby Longyearbyen Community Council selects panels of lay judges and assessors in the same way as on the mainland. In each case, the court will select the lay judges by lot. Assessors can be appointed by the court for each individual case.
14.6.3 Mediation boards
The Act relating to mediation by mediation boards has not come into force on Svalbard. The task of mediation boards is to mediate in disputes that arise because one or more persons have caused others injury or loss or have otherwise offended them. A prerequisite for hearing by a mediation board is that both the perpetrator and the aggrieved party are known. The parties must agree to have the matter brought before a mediation board. Mediation boards may deal with both civil and criminal cases. The parties meet with a neutral mediator for the purpose of reaching an agreement which presupposes some form of compensation to the aggrieved party.
In the Government's opinion, the mediation board arrangement ought to be extended to Svalbard. A need is assumed to exist, as on the mainland, for a body that can resolve conflicts outside the formal machinery of justice, especially conflicts involving children and young people.
On the mainland, mediation board mediators are appointed by a representative of the municipal council, a representative of the police, and the chairman of the mediation board, who is a municipal employee. This can be organized on Svalbard by having a member of Longyearbyen Community Council's administrative staff serve as chairman of the mediation board. He or she can then be given powers, together with a representative of Longyearbyen Community Council and a representative of the Governor, to appoint mediation board mediators.