Actualizing Sámi Rights: International Comparative Research
1. The Call for Research by the Finnish Government
Many attempts concerning the Sámi peoples’ legal status, such as the ratification of ILO Convention 169, has been prepared through many terms of government. These attempts have faced many challenges, especially when concerning issues of land rights and defining the Sámi people. The latest proposition, drafted during the last government term, is still pending in the parliament. To promote the ratification of the ILO Convention 169 and other legislation concerning Sámi people, background information of international instruments, as well as, their country-specific implementation and legal practice is needed. Therefore, there is a need for a concrete comparative legal study on the solutions states have found concerning indigenous people’s issues. Before this research, information on these issues have not been available in such a systematic and comprehensive way.
2. Objectives of the Research
This project produces comparative legal research, which, in addition to country-specific comparison, contains a study on international instruments and the most recent legal practice related to the rights of indigenous people. In comparison, relevant material relating to Finland will also be taken into consideration. This research also studies how international law impacts Finnish national law concerning the rights of the Sámi people. Even though the main focus is particularly on Nordic countries (Finland – Sweden – Norway), the research also maps legal solutions especially relating to land rights and definition issues in other relevant states such as Canada, New-Zealand, Australia and those states that have ratified ILO Convention 169 in Latin America. It is important to study whether their practices are relevant and could be applied in the Finnish context. The rights of indigenous peoples must be viewed as part of the legal and social system of each state. However, the best practices can be analyzed, and a comparative study gives the best opportunity to find solutions to the current situation in Finland.
This project produces information that is valuable for the ratification process of ILO Convention 169 and for other legal questions concerning Sámi people, including the promotion of the Nordic Saami Convention. This report aims to produce concrete information and working solutions/approaches to support decision-makers towards solving legal issues concerning Sámi people. Furthermore, it has a strong international focus that aims at strengthening the position of Finland as a promoter of human rights and the rights of indigenous peoples. The project will produce information in both Finnish and English.
3. Researchers, methods and schedule
This project is primarily conducted by two doctors of law (Leena Heinämäki, Arctic Centre, University of Lapland and Christina Allard, Luleå University of Technology) and one doctor of social sciences (Stefan Kirchner, University of Lapland). Also, M.Soc.Sci Laura Olsén, working as the project research assistant (Arctic Centre). In addition, there are doctors of legal and social sciences participating by commenting and complementing on the report: Nigel Bankes (University of Calgary), Alexandra Xanthaki (Brunel Law School), Jacinta Ruru (University of Otago), Jerémié Gilbert (University of East London), Sanna Valkonen (University of Lapland), Per Selle (University of Bergen), Ulf Mörkenstam (Stockholm University) and Audra Simpson (University of Columbia). This study is mainly legal dogmatic and comparative within legal studies, including interpretation of norms, analysis of cases and relevant literature. Nevertheless, it is important to include experts of social sciences in this study, in addition to information gained by legal comparison, because information and understanding of the sociological and political questions and aspects on Sámi and indigenous peoples’ positions and definitions are needed. The project is rather pragmatic than theoretical since it aims to provide information and concrete solutions to support the decision-making processes. The project will be carried out within a set timeframe by the Finnish Government in the year 2016.