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Finland / Indigenous peoples: New bill threatens Sami’s rights to their traditional lands and livelihood

GENEVA (17 December 2015) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, today expressed deep concern at the lack of consultation and the reduced protections to the Sami indigenous people in the current draft law on the Finnish Forest and Parks Service (Metsähallitus) to regulate the management of State owned lands.

“The new draft bill presented to the Finnish Parliament earlier this month no longer contains valuable safeguards for the Sami people’s rights to traditional livelihoods, lands, territories and resources, which had been included in the previous draft approved in 2014,” Ms. Tauli-Corpuz warned.

“I hope that the draft law will consider that the Sami Parliament and the Skolt Sami Village Council have had limited opportunities to take part in this process which is contrary to article 19 of the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples* which Finland has endorsed,” she said.

According to the new bill, most of the Sami Homeland will be transferred to a new State owned company that has yet to be established. This new company will have the responsibility for all logging carried out on State owned lands in Finland, including in the Sami Homeland region.

“States should consult with indigenous peoples concerned through their representative institutions to obtain their free, prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that may affect them,” the expert said quoting the Declaration.

“Without specific provisions safeguarding the Sami people, the revised Act will significantly weaken the rights of the Sami people, particularly their right to enjoy their own culture and to pursue their traditional livelihoods, and will further limit any recognition of their right to lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired,” the expert warned.

The UN Special Rapporteur also stressed that “it is crucial that with the transfer of liabilities to a new company, successfully negotiated agreements with the Metsähallitus and Sami reindeer herding cooperatives, such as land which has been designated as off-limits from forestry activities including logging, be transferred.”

(*) See the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/IPeoples/Pages/Declaration.aspx

The Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Ms. Victoria Tauli-Corpuz (Philippines), is a human rights activist working on indigenous peoples’ rights. Her work for more than three decades has been focused on movement building among indigenous peoples and also among women, and she has worked as an educator-trainer on human rights, development and indigenous peoples in various contexts. She is a member of the Kankana-ey, Igorot indigenous peoples in the Cordillera Region in the Philippines. As Special Rapporteur, she is independent from any government or organization and serves in his individual capacity. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/IPeoples/SRIndigenousPeoples/Pages/SRIPeoplesIndex.aspx

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, country page – Finland: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/ENACARegion/Pages/FIIndex.aspx

For further information and media requests, please contact Ms. Hee-Kyong Yoo (+41 22 917 97 23 / hyoo@ohchr.org) or write to indigenous@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, OHCHR Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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