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  2. Indigenous northern peoples want to have more influence in the use of land

Indigenous northern peoples want to have more influence in the use of land

Now their interests are not comprehensively met, even though they are fixed in the UN Declaration

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Sami politicians believe that the interests of indigenous peoples in the use of land are taken into account formally. Representatives of the Sami Parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Russia shared with the correspondent of «7x7» such an opinion.

Lars Anders Baer is a former chairman of the Swedish Sami parliament. Today he works as a consultant of the parliament, participant of working groups on specific issues. According to him, now, after the change in the composition of parliament in Sweden, Sami community lives in the idle state: no one knows in whose favor legislation changes.

Photo: Yevgeniya Volkova

“Today, the most pressing questions for the Swedish Sami are the use of natural resources and its management, activity of extractive industries. If the Swedish government decided to start development of the field, then we wouldn’t be asked. Our opinion doesn’t mean anything. The only difference is that if the company causes damage to nature on private land, the compensation is paid to the individuals. The peculiarity of the Swedish situation: industrialists can just buy a license for the exploration of mineral resources. Everything they find — ore, gold, nickel, aluminum — it is owned by the company. The state gets only a small percentage. We don’t have even a tax on subsoil use. Such liberal legislation adversely affects the lives of the Sami. In general, society has begun to understand that Sweden can’t offer its resources to everyone. Society even began to understand us, Sami, and share our views! Basic tools in work with the authorities are social organizations that are working on specific plots of land, and the UN Committee on Racial Discrimination, where Sami apply to make the government publicly explain their position.”

According to Lars Anders Baer, about six months ago, the Swedish legislation was brought in line with international standards. Now politicians are obliged to consult on any certain new industrial project. Soon this regulatory document will be in the Sami language.

The principle of free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) of indigenous peoples is enshrined in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Along with the right to land, to development, environmental safety, it is the most important international principle of respect for the rights of indigenous peoples, which should be taken into account in the educational and research projects. It is the term "co-management" in international law, which means the participation of indigenous peoples in all the processes occurring in the territory of residence. The principle of FPIC was introduced as an effective tool of negotiation that would balance the interests of the state, business and indigenous peoples "on the basis of mutual respect, openness, partnership and equitable distribution of income needed for local development and a serious contribution to the development of human potential" (quote from the Declaration). However, in practice the principle of free, prior and informed consent of indigenous peoples is done formally.

“In Norway, there is an agreement between our Parliament and the Government to consult on issues that affect our interests,” the deputy of the Sami Parliament of Norway Christina Henriksen said. “Their range is wide. The most pressing issues now are the coastal marine fisheries. Sami, who are engaged in fishing, are under pressure from the authorities in the regulation of quotas. Our opponents are also companies engaged in fish farming in the fjords. As for reindeer herding, problems arise not only with representatives of the mining industry, but also with those who build cottages, airports — any projects on Sami lands. In such matters, the government should consult with the Sami Parliament, before giving consent to businesses or individuals to carry out works. This rule is not followed strictly yet. There are situations when the Norwegian government and the Saami Parliament face in their interests, then we are looking for a compromise solution. In particular, in 2005 we took the Finnmark Act. We were not disagree with it, but lawmakers have compromised. I can’t call the final version optimal. This is a compromise: the concession for concession. As for the mining industry, now we need to make changes to the law on subsoil use, since it doesn’t meet modern requirements of international law. Namely, principle of free, prior and informed consent is not prescribed there.”

The chairman of the Sami Parliament of the Kola Peninsula Valentina Sovkina told about the dialogue between business and indigenous peoples in the Murmansk region:

“Foreign companies who came to the territory of the Kola Peninsula ("Stockmann", "Barrick", "Gold Corporation") created receiving offices and held public hearings. We evaluated the project and specified possible amends. Hearings were held together with environmentalists, and they were a great support for us. Companies made us known of such events before hand, so we could get acquainted with the materials and attend meetings. It is all different with the Russian companies. I don’t know if there are such hearings or indigenous peoples are notified. We learn about the plans of industrialists through "word of mouth" and have to act according to circumstances. This applies to new developments of the company "Lovozero ore-dressing and processing enterprise" (Lovozero district), "OLKON" (Olenegorsk), SZFK (Apatity). We have counter proposals for the "Norilsk Nickel". Several meetings were already held, but they are only appointments so far. Today in our region they don’t coordinate with Sami, whether to give rivers for a fishing tourism, to isolate areas for geological surveys or under construction of recreations."

Sami of Russia, Finland and the Scandinavian countries are trying to build relationships with business and government in accordance with international law.

In early February, conference to be held in the Norwegian city of Tromsø, which will focus on the mining industry in the Barents Region. Perhaps President of the Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East Grigory Ledkov will attend it. The keynote speaker is an Associate Professor at the University of Saskatchewan (Canada), adjunct professor at the Centre of Sami Studies at the Arctic University of Tromsø Greg Poelzer. Sami activist from Finland Paulina Fedoroff will tell about the consequences of the activities of the mining industry in the territories of reindeer herding. Indigenous peoples and industrialists will discuss the most pressing issues. It is expected that it will be attended by representatives of the mining companies of the NAA and Sweden.

Yevgeniya Volkova, «7x7»


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