Special Rapporteur James Anaya presents historic report on the Saami people to the UN
On 20 September, 2011, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Professor James Anaya, presents his Report on the Situation of the Saami People to the UN Human Rights Council. It is a historic document - both formally and in content.
The Saami Report constitutes the first example of the UN Special Rapporteur presenting a report not on the situation in a State – but on a people living across national borders. In addition, the report is the most detailed UN document to date outlining the human rights situation of the Saami people. Demonstrating formidable insight, the UN Special Rapporteur addresses the most pressing human rights violations the Saami people is facing through a number of highly relevant concrete recommendations to Finland, Norway and Sweden. The Saami Council particularly wants to highlight the following: 1. The UN Saami Report affirms that the Saami hold property rights to lands traditionally used, and calls on Finland, Norway and Sweden to allow the Saami to realize these rights. The Special Rapporteur particularly calls on Norway to finalize the process of securing and clarifying Saami land and resource rights, also south of Finnmark, and to give close consideration to the findings of the Coastal Fishing Committee. He calls on Finland to introduce special protection for Saami reindeer husbandry. He repeats previous calls by the UN and urges Sweden to employ a flexible burden of proof in cases concerning reindeer herding communities’ right to land and to provide reindeer herding communities with legal aid in such proceedings. 2. The UN Saami Report observes that laws and policies in Finland, Norway and Sweden with regard to natural resource extraction fail to meet international standards and do not provide sufficient protection for the Saami traditional livelihoods. The Special Rapporteur calls for the introduction of legislative and administrative mechanisms requiring the free, prior and informed consent of affected Saami communities. He also points to the lack of benefit-sharing with the Saami, in particular with regard to mining and oil and gas activities. 3. The UN Saami Report affirms that damage caused to reindeer herding communities by predator animals constitutes a human rights issue. The Special Rapporteur calls on Finland, Norway and Sweden to reduce the number of predator animals to a sustainable level and to fully compensate reindeer herding communities for damages caused by predators. 4. The UN Saami report underscores that the Saami people’s right to self-determination is not limited to participate in decision-making processes. On the contrary, the Special Rapporteur affirms, in matters of great importance to the Saami - like land and resource rights – the Saami might be allowed to determine the outcome of such processes, also against the interest of the majority population and/or the State. - This is just a selection from a number of highly relevant analyses and recommendations contained in the UN Saami Report, says Mattias Åhrén, Head of the Saami Council’s Human Rights Unit. – This report constitutes the most comprehensive and exact evaluation of the human rights situation of the Saami to date. When the report has been officially adopted by the UN Human Rights Council, the Saami Council expects Finland, Norway and Sweden to immediately commence the work with implementing the recommendations in the UN Saami Report, he continues. – The Saami Council looks forward to engaging in a dialogue with the States as to how the UN Saami Report can be most effectively implemented, Åhrén concludes. In connection with UN Special Rapporteur James Anaya presenting the Saami Report to the United Nations, the Saami Council arranges a side-event to discuss the significance of the Report. The side-event takes place at 1.30 pm-3 pm, Wednesday 21 September, 2011, in Room XVI at Palais de Nations. Participants at the event include UN Special Rapporteur James Anaya, representatives of the Saami parliaments, as well as of the governments of Finland, Norway and Sweden. For further questions, contact Mattias Åhrén, Head of the Saami Council Human Rights Unit, mobile phone; +47 47 37 91 61