The recognition of indigenous property systems within Arctic states – an issue that needs to be examined before the Draft Nordic Saami Convention can move ahead   

Project under the Arctic Cooperation Programme 2009-2011.

Duration 2009 - 2011

Project Description

The aim of the project is to strengthen the recognition of indigenous property regimes and to pursue the decolonization of the circumpolar Arctic. It builds on the legal chapter of the Arctic Human Development Report and engages challenges Arctic indigenous peoples have to face within the boundaries of the national states. In doing so, other legal systems, i.e. property regimes from Canada, Latin America and Australia are examined in order to assess the relevance of these systems for the Draft Nordic Saami Convention as well as Finland’s and Sweden’s ratification of ILO Convention No. 169 . The negotiations over the Draft Nordic Saami Convention were set to commence in November 2006. Due to problems especially in Finland and to some extent Sweden the start of the negotiations has been postponed. Finland’s reservations are essentially based on the provisions on ownership, self-determination and land-use rights. Therefore, the core questions which the project will answer are:

  1. What are the reasons why it has not been possible to commence negotiations on the Draft Nordic Saami Convention?
  2. How have the legal systems of the Nordic states and other states dealt with the difficult questions of recognizing the property and resource rights of indigenous peoples?
  3. What kind of general lessons we can draw from the various approaches of different legal systems and how do developments in international law (e.g. the norms of ILO Convention 169, the jurisprudence of the Inter American Human Rights System and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples ) challenge these different approaches? 

Project members

Leaders of the project are Prof. Timo Koivurova from the Northern Institute for Environmental and Minority Law (NIEM) of the University of Lapland and Prof. Nigel Bankes from the University of Calgary.

The Nordic research team consists of four researchers from NIEM, i.e. Juha JoonaLeena HeinämäkiKamrul HossainTanja Joona , furthermore Dr. Christina Allard from legal department of Luleå University of Technology, Tore Henriksen and Oyvind Ravna  from the University of Tromsø, Kirsti Strøm Bull from the University of Oslo, Malgosia Fitzmaurice from the Faculty of Law of the Queens Mary, University of London and Professor Gudmundur Alfredsson , a long-time observer of indigenous peoples’ law.

The Canadian research team will be Professor Jonnette Watson Hamilton and PhD student Veronica Potes from the University of Calgary while Professor René Kuppe from the University of Vienna provides the project-team with expertise on indigenous property and resource rights regimes in Latin America.

Moreover, links will be established with other research groups such as a group at the University of Oslo led by Hans Christian Bugge investigating customary rights in property law more generally

Project Implementation

The project-group will hold annual workshops where the ideas and research questions will be developed further. A start will be made with a workshop in Calgary in October 2009 where the project goals are defined more clearly and the researchers are given direction as to what are the most important areas of focus. At a second workshop in Tromsø in 2010 the researcher will present their allocated topics in order to ensure that they serve the main purpose of the project. The last workshop in will be held in 2011 in Rovaniemi to present the findings which then will be compiled in a report for policy-makers and academic journals. The International Journal on Minority and Group Rights will publish the project papers in a special issue to make the findings accessible for an international audience. The project will end in spring 2012.

The project will be carried out under the auspices of the Nordic Council of Ministers’ Arctic Cooperation Programme 2009-2011 and will be endorsed by NordRegio, the Nordic Centre for Spatial Development .

For more information , please contact Tanja Joona  at the Northern Institute for Environmental and Minority Law .