Indigenous adress to the Barent Euro-Arctic Council
Your Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen, Allow me first of all to thank the member states of the Barents Council for providing the indigenous peoples representatives through the Working Group of Indigenous Peoples (WGIP) the opportunity to address Barents Euro-Arctic Council 13th session 2011 of the role, views and the aspirations of the indigenous peoples in the Barents region. It is also a great pleasure to wish you all very welcome to Sámiland and to the underground of the Sámi traditional territory.
This mine is the oldest extractive industry project in the Barents region that is still in full swing. The project as such can and should be uses as an example both of best and worst practice in relation with indigenous peoples. In the contemporary international political discourse concerning the rights of indigenous peoples a paradigm shift has taken place in the beginning of the 21 century. The establishment of the Barents co-operation almost 20 years ago is one dimension of this paradigm shift. A more recent example of this paradigm shift is the newly revised Swedish constitution were the Sámi people are recognized as a distinct “people”. When the UN General Assembly adopted the UN Declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples, September 13th 2007, the Nordic states fully supported the adoption. Only 4 states voted against, among them Arctic states as USA and Canada. Russia abstained. In recent years this 4 states have changes their position and now fully support the principles in the declaration. All thought Russia abstained the Russian government have been working in the spirit of the declaration, especially highly sensitive questions concerning the rights of indigenous peoples in relation to extractive industry. We of course welcome an elaboration of the Russian positions vis-à-vis the UN Declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples The establishment of the Barents Euro-Arctic Council where the indigenous peoples were invited to participate in an innovative way is an important milestone in the acceptance and restorations the rights of the indigenous peoples. Since the Barents Euro-Arctic Council 12th session in we can see new trend were indigenous peoples both at given space and economical possibilities to co-operate cross-border in the framework of Barents Euro-Arctic Council (BEAC) and the Barents Regional Council (BRC). The First Barents Indigenous Peoples’ Congress was held in Kirkenes on February 4th 2010. Altogether 60 delegates, representing the Nenets, the Veps, and the Sámi peoples, took part. The Congress agreed on a resolution regarding the role of the indigenous peoples within the formal structure of the Barents cooperation. The resolution states among others that: •By virtue of the rights to self-determination, the Nenets, Sámi and Vepsian peoples have the rights to represent themselves in international affairs, which include participatory rights in international bodies that address issues of relevance to them. •At the very least, these participatory right amounts to the level of participation indigenous peoples enjoy as Permanent Participants to the Arctic Council. •The Nenets, Sámi and Vepsian peoples´ participation in the BEAC and the BRC must first and foremost be achieved by being granted status as Permanent Participants in BEAC and BRC. If BEAC and BRC will embrace this initiative and extend the indigenous participation as Permanent Participants this will be a major step to enhance full indigenous participation of these international bodies. This initiative have so far received positive response from ´the concerned stakeholders and the WGIP are now invited to participate in the BEAC senior officials meetings. The 2nd Barents Indigenous Peoples congress will be held in Kirkenes on 10th of February 2012. I will take the opportunity to invite you to attend the Congress, and also to the International Conference on industrial activities and environmental Challenges in the Barents Region, which will be held back to back, February the 9Th, 2012 also in Kirkenes. Allow me also to express our gratitude for the financial contributions from Sweden and Norway the last two years. Due to this indigenous peoples in the region have been able to participate in the various working groups, and in the Barents Regional Council meetings. The view and the contributions of indigenous peoples’ representatives has been an added value to the co-operation. The WGIP looks forward to take an even more active part in future co-operation. In this context will especially mention the Indigee –the indigenous Entrepreneurship project? This project is an excellent example of co-operation between indigenous entrepreneurs and their businesses, their communities and he Barents region. More than 70 indigenous entrepreneurs from four countries gather and shared experienced and learned from each others. Already now we can see good results from the Indigee initiative and we foresee a continuation of this project. Allow me to make a critical remark in the context of recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples, unfortunately, as we all know, there is often a gap between such universal norms and the reality which indigenous peoples are faced with on the ground. This is often referred to as “the implementation gap” – between ideals and the reality. The implementation gap is often a consequence of the fact that some governments and national parliaments do not possess the necessary political will to effectively implement their international obligations towards indigenous peoples The Barents co-operation has an important role to bridge this gap. In closing I want to express that the indigenous peoples in the Barents region have of course the same high expectations on the incoming Norwegian chairmanship as the outgoing Swedish chairmanship. We welcome the initiative from the Norwegian chairmanship to arrange a meeting in Moscow about the indigenous people’s issues in partnership with the Russian government and the indigenous peoples, December 16th this year. This will be so to speak an excellent kick off in matters related to indigenous peoples by the incoming the Norwegian Chairmanship of the Barents Council. Thank you