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UNPFII side-event:

The Nordic Sámediggis: representative bodies for self-determination or expression of state cooptation of Sámi politics

The Sami Parliaments of Finland, Norway and Sweden are often highlighted as good examples internationally of how indigenous peoples’ right of self-determination can be achieved within democratic states, but there are some differences between the institutions when one compare the legal basis, status, authority and mandate of the Sámediggis.

From an international perspective, the popularly elected Sámediggis (Sámi Parliaments), established more than two decades ago in the Nordic countries of Finland, Norway and Sweden, represent unique institutional arrangements to enhance and safeguard indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination. However, it turns out to be several differences between the institutions when one compare the legal basis, status, authority and mandate of the Sámi people’s representative institutions, as well as the actual influence and autonomy of the Sámediggis in relation to the national political institutions in the respective country. These differences brings to the fore different ways in which nation-states may delimit indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination. 

Gáldu hosts a side-event at UN Permanent Forum for Indigenous Issues about this issues on Monday May 16th, 1:15-2:30 pm, at the FF-building Room 600 (also called FF 6th floor Conference room).

Gáldu have invited Ulf Mörkenstam, Eva Josefsen and Ragnhild Nilsson to write an article on the Sámi Parliaments as bodies for exercising the right of indigenous peoples to self-determination. They undertake a comparison of the Sami Parliaments, and cast a critical glance on how these popularly elected bodies function and in particular which limitations these bodies have in the exercise of Sami self-determination and self-government. Their article reveals several differences between the institutions and brings to the fore three problems manifesting different ways in which nation-states may delimit indigenous peoples` right to self-determination: 

1) how a popularly elected indigenous parliament that successfully gains political autonomy and influence through participation in national politics and institutions always run the risk of being set aside by the State on matters of conflict (Norway);

2) how the historical legacy of a divide and rule government policy may justify a continued paternalistic state politics by perpetuating power relations within the indigenous community (Sweden); and

3) how conflicts between an indigenous people and the State in which they live concerning the right to define the people may delimit the right to self-determination and further conflicts between groups claiming indigenous status (Finland).

The authors will be at the side-event, which will be conducted in English. 

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