Rights of indigenous peoples
Indigenous peoples are descended from ethnic groups which lived in the country or in a geographical area, to which the country belongs, at the time of conquest or colonisation or the establishment of present day state boundaries and who have retained some or all of their own social, economic, cultural and political institutions.
By virtue of their special relationship with land and water, indigenous peoples require different rights compared with other minorities to develop their identity and culture. In international law, the regulatory framework for indigenous peoples is more far-reaching than that for other minority groups in a country.
United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
In 2007, following more than 20 years of negotiations, the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Representatives of the world’s indigenous peoples, including the Sami people of the Nordic region, actively participated in the work. A total of 143 countries voted in favour of the declaration, while 11 abstained and four voted against it (Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA). However, those that voted against the declaration have changed their positions and now support it.
In connection with the adoption of the declaration, Sweden gave an explanation of vote which, on the one hand, clarified that the collective rights contained in the declaration are not human rights, since these can only be individual and, on the other, interpreted the term ‘right of self-determination’, particularly in relation to land rights and the responsibility to consult.
Read the declaration
Read more about the declaration on the UN website
The Sami are to be viewed as an indigenous people in Sweden and, according to the Instrument of Government, their opportunities to retain and develop their own cultural and social life are to be promoted. The aim of Swedish Sami policy is a thriving Sami culture based on ecologically sustainable reindeer husbandry and other Sami livelihoods, as well as greater Sami self-determination.
Read more about the Government’s Sami policy on regeringen.se
United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
The United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues was established in 2000 as an advisory body to the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) with a mandate to discuss indigenous issues related to economic and social development, health and human rights. The Forum has 16 members. Eight members have been appointed by indigenous groups and eight by states.
Website: United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII)
Within the framework of the UN Human Rights Council, there is also a ‘mechanism’ or expert group on indigenous issues comprising five members who meet for one week each year and report to the Council and to a Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples.
Read more about the UN Human Rights Council
UN International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People
In December 2004, the UN General Assembly decided that the Second International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People would begin on 1 January 2005. Among other things, the decade has the aim of working for non-discrimination and the participation of indigenous peoples in society, particularly in decisions affecting them.
The first UN International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People was 1994–2004. Two of the objectives within the framework of the decade were the adoption of an international declaration on indigenous peoples and the establishment of a permanent forum on indigenous issues within the UN system. The latter objective was met on 28 July 2000 when the UN decided to establish the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.
The objective concerning an international declaration on indigenous peoples was met in September 2007 when the UN General Assembly, with the support of 143 voting countries, adopted the declaration.
Nordic Sami Convention
In spring 2011, Sweden, Norway and Finland initiated negotiations on a Nordic Sami Convention. The aim of the Convention is to confirm and strengthen such rights for the Sami people as to allow the Sami people to safeguard and develop their language, culture, livelihoods and way of life with the least possible interference by national borders. Representatives of the three Sami parliaments are included in the negotiation delegations. The starting point of the negotiations is the draft Nordic Sami Convention which was put forward in 2005 by a Nordic expert group. The objective is to complete the negotiations within five years.
Read the draft (only in Swedish)