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UN expert on indigenous people supports restart of negotiations on Nordic Sami convention

ROVANIEMI, FINLAND (16 April 2010) – The UN Special Rapporteur on indigenous people, James Anaya, welcomed the agreement in principle of the European Nordic governments to restart negotiations on a Nordic Sami convention with the participation of Sami leaders. The Sami of north-western Europe are the indigenous people in the northern parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia.

“The proposed convention has the potential to strengthen Sami self-determination and protections for their rights to lands, natural resources and culture, in the face of ongoing human rights challenges,” Mr. Anya said after a three-day encounter with representatives of the Sami parliaments and NGO’s, as well as State officials from all the Nordic countries in which Sami people live.

“The challenges ahead in Sápmi are no doubt significant, and to meet them requires serious commitment, political will, and hard work,” noted the independent expert mandated by the UN Human Rights Council to monitor the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people. “However, I am encouraged by the commitment of all parts and the progress that has already been made in advancing the human rights of indigenous peoples within the region.”

From 14-16 April, Mr. Anaya met with indigenous and State representatives to discuss key issues affecting Sami people across the Sápmi region, including their right to self-determination; rights to land, water, and natural resources; and issues involving children and youth, specially education and language.

“I hope that this novel visit will be regarded as a good practice for addressing the human rights concerns of indigenous peoples that continue to live within their traditional territories spanning the formal boundaries of several States,” the Special Rapporteur said.

“I am grateful to the Sami Parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland and to the Nordic Governments for their participation in this important conference,” said Mr. Anaya, who also expressed his gratitude to the Sami Parliamentary Council for their help organizing the visit and to the Government of Finland for hosting it.

The Special Rapporteur intends to draft a report with his observations and recommendations on central issues, which he hopes will help advance solutions to ongoing challenges, while building on relevant progress and good practices already achieved.

On 26 March 2008, the Human Rights Council appointed Professor S. James Anaya as Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples, for an initial period of three years. Professor Anaya is the James J. Lenoir Professor of Human Rights Law and Policy at the University of Arizona (USA).