Impacts of climate change on the participatory rights of indigenous peoples and women (2012-2013)

The Northern Institute for Environmental and Minority Law at the Arctic Centre, University of Lapland, has been granted 25 000 euros by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Unit for Human Rights Policy, to study the impact of climate change on human rights, especially on vulnerable groups. A particular focus will be placed on indigenous peoples and women, who worldwide often bear a heavy burden in coping with the effects of climate change.

The final report has been released! 
Read the executive summary or download full report here.

“Many international environmental regimes are cautious in using human rights language, although a clear and profound link exists between human rights and environmental changes, particularly of climate change”, says project leader, Dr. Leena Heinämäki, the Northern Institute for Environmental and Minority Law (NIEM), Arctic Centre.

“This project provides a unique opportunity to strengthen particularly participatory aspects of human rights, in multi-level governance related to climate change. In the case of indigenous peoples, a right to participation is tied to many broader issues such as a question to have control over their traditional lands and resources. Effective participation is a key to ensuring equitable climate policies that consider such marginalized groups”, Dr. Heinämäki notes.

The impacts of climate change demonstrably manifest themselves in many forms – from storms to droughts. Highlighting the indivisibility and importance of political, cultural, social, and economic rights, these consequences especially underline the discrepancy between human rights and environmental governance. Already marginalized groups are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change due to minority status, geography, gender, age, indigenousness, or disability. Finland’s international human rights policy prioritizes and emphasizes the equal realization of the rights of five marginalized groups in particular – women, the child, gender and sexual minorities, indigenous peoples, and persons with disabilities.

This 9-month project will consider how to strengthen particularly the participation of indigenous peoples and women by mapping Finland’s promotion of human rights values at two levels: internationally, in the development of international standards; as well as locally, where it will focus on guidelines and requirements set by international regimes with regard to public participation at the national and local level during the implementation of policies and projects.

“Our ultimate goal is for the report to serve as a guide of concrete entry points and recommendations for Finnish negotiators and policy makers, in various fields, to strengthen these vulnerable groups’ participation in meaningful ways”, says Tahnee Prior, the main author of the research.

The research will be undertaken by a team of researchers at the Northern Institute for Environmental and Minority Law (NIEM). NIEM that has been in existence since 1985 specializes on the rights of indigenous peoples and other minorities, and national and international environmental law, particularly with an emphasis on Arctic and Northern region.

More information:
Project leader Leena Heinämäki,
tel. +358 40 484 4280,
leena.heinamaki (at)

Text/Teksti: Jenni Lintula/Arctic Centre