16 April 2010 European Nordic Governments agreed in principle today to restart talks on a convention with the Sami people in a move hailed by a United Nations human rights expert as potentially enhancing indigenous rights and self-determination.
“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,” UN Special Rapporteur on indigenous people James Anaya said. The Sami are the indigenous people in the northern parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia.
“The challenges ahead in Sápmi (the land of the Sami) are no doubt significant, and to meet them requires serious commitment, political will, and hard work,” he added at the end of a three-day conference of Sami representatives and State officials from all European Nordic countries in Rovaniemi, Finland, which is located close to the Arctic Circle.
“However, I am encouraged by the commitment of all parties and the progress that has already been made in advancing the human rights of indigenous peoples within the region.”
During the conference Mr. Anaya met with indigenous and State representatives to discuss key issues affecting Sami people across the 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,” he said.
An independent, unpaid expert mandated by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to monitor the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, Mr. Anaya will now draft a report with recommendations on central issues to help tackle ongoing challenges.
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