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Indigenous people: UN expert to assess situation of Sami people of the Nordic countries

GENEVA (12 April 2010) – The UN Special Rapporteur on indigenous people, James Anaya, will meet with representatives of the Sami parliaments and governments of Norway, Sweden and Finland to discuss cross border and other issues affecting the Sami people in the Sámpi region of the Nordic countries. The encounter will take place at a special conference in Rovaniemi, Finland, from 14-16 April, which will gather indigenous representatives and State officials from all the Nordic countries in which Sami people live.

"I believe the visit will provide a unique and valuable opportunity for consultation and dialogue regarding issues throughout the Sámpi region," said the independent expert mandated by the UN Human Rights Council to monitor the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people.

The Sami of north-western Europe are the indigenous people in the northern parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. Demographic patterns make it difficult to give exact numbers for the Sami population today, but there are at least 30,000 in Norway, about 20,000 in Sweden, and just over 7,000 in Finland. Some 2,000 Sami live in the Russian Kola Peninsula.

The conference will give Professor Anaya the opportunity to hold open discussions on issues ranging from the status of Sami self-determination, and the right to land, water and natural resources in the Sámpi region, to the situation of children and youth, with a particular focus on education and language. He will also assess the various contributions by Nordic Governments on indigenous issues to the UN Human Rights bodies.

During his visit to Finland, the independent expert will hold both joint and separate meetings with indigenous non governmental organisations, governmental representatives and the Sami parliaments.

Following the conference, the UN Special Rapporteur will issue a report on the human rights situation of the Sami people in the Nordic countries.