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238. The Sami people are defined as an indigenous people according to ILO Convention No 169 concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples. The basis of the Government’s policies towards the Sami people is that the Norwegian State was originally established on the territory of two peoples: the Norwegians and the Sami. They both have the same right to maintain and develop their language and their culture. The aim of the Government’s policies is thus not to give the Sami a special position, but to reverse the negative effects of the previous policy of Norwegianising Sami culture.
239. The decision-making competence of the Sami Parliament has steadily increased in fields such as education, kindergartens, language and culture. In 2004 approximately NOK 542 million of the government budget was allocated for special measures and programmes for the Sami people in Norway. The Sami Parliament administers NOK 227 million of this, while the rest of the allocation includes economic support to the reindeer herding Samis and special measures established for Sami educational purposes, health care programmes and a legal aid office. These funds are administered by the respective ministries in charge of the various sectors.
240. Chapter 6 of the 1998 Education Act (Appendix 12) gives all Sami pupils in Norway and all pupils in Sami districts at the primary and lower secondary level the right to receive tuition both in and through the medium of the Sami language. Outside Sami districts, if at least 10 pupils in a municipality wish to receive tuition in and through the medium of the Sami language, they have the right to such tuition as long as there are at least six pupils in the group.
241. In order to ensure that the Sami people themselves can decide how their culture is to be transmitted, the Education Act empowers the Sami Parliament to determine the Sami content of national curricula and to establish syllabuses in Sami language subjects, and in specific Sami subjects (duodji, i.e. handicrafts, and reindeer husbandry) within a time frame and resource framework set by the ministry. As from January 2000, the Sami Parliament is responsible for developing specific Sami teaching aids and materials.
242. A Resource Centre for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples has been established in Kautokeino in Finnmark, the northernmost county of Norway. The purpose of the Centre is to increase knowledge about the human rights of indigenous peoples. One of the Centre’s main tasks will be to provide information to schools and other institutions and organisations that need information about indigenous peoples.
243. The Sami flag has according to provisional regulations been flown at official events at the Sami Parliament and along with the Norwegian flag in celebration of the Sami People’s Day, 6 February. A resolution adopted on 5 December 2003 introduced the Sami People’s Day as an official flag day in Norway, with the possibility of using the Sami flag together with the Norwegian flag. By an Act adopted on 11 April 2003, the Act 29 June 1933 relating to the use of flags on public buildings was amended to allow the Sami flag to be used along with the Norwegian flag on all public buildings in Norway. The use of the Sami flag on public buildings should help promote the recognition of the Sami people as the indigenous people of Norway and the Sami culture, language, institutions and way of life.
244. The Government has allocated NOK 6 million for the development of a Sami proof-reading programme for electronic word processing. This type of technology, in this case a grammar and spell check, word division programme and thesaurus, is very important for the preservation and development of the Sami language.
245. In May 2004, the Government launched its Sami language website. In addition to providing the Sami-language population with the choice of receiving information in Sami or Norwegian, it is important for the Government that the Sami language is made visible in a public context.
246. The Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development has established a competence base and a dedicated website for the Sami language and IT. Public agencies can use the website for assistance in using the Sami language.
247. In January 2004, a new district court was established in Tana, in inner Finnmark, where a majority of the population are Sami-speaking or bilingual. The Inner Finnmark District Court is staffed with a judge and officers who are fluent in the Sami language, and is the first and only bilingual court in Norway. The Ministry of Justice and the municipality of Tana have also established a project for developing Sami legal terminology.
248. Since 2002, Finnmark County has had an official bilingual Norwegian-Sami name, Finnmark-Finnmarkku, which must be used in all official contexts. Since 2004, the municipality of Porsanger has an official multilingual name in Norwegian, Sami and Kven/Finnish: Porsanger, Porsáhggu, Porsangin. The Act of 19 July 2002 relating to Personal Names entitles everyone to take back their great-great-grandparents’ family name. This will make it easier for the Sami people, the Kven and other national minorities to use their former family names.
249. In 2003, the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK Sami Radio) broadcast 1 727 hours of radio programmes in Sami, 100 of which were reruns. In addition NRK Sami Radio broadcast on the DAB network a total of 4 855 hours including reruns. In the same period NRK Sami Radio broadcast 65 hours of television programmes in Sami. NRK Sami Radio also contributed a total of 175 items to national and regional broadcasts, an increase of 137 on the previous year.
250. As regards the problem described in paragraph 16 of the concluding observations on Norway’s fourth periodic report, reference is made to the Supreme Court’s judgement in the “Selbu” case (a plenary judgement by the Supreme Court published in Norwegian Supreme Court Reports 2001 p. 769). In this case the Supreme Court stated that when considering whether the conditions for establishing a right to reindeer herding in a particular area based on immemorial usage are met, one has to take into consideration the special conditions for Sami reindeer herding, including the nomadic lifestyle and the lack of visible signs of activity due to their traditional way of life. Prior to this judgement it had been difficult for people engaged in reindeer herding to obtain rights in cases where there was competing use of the land in question. The “Selbu” case is considered to be a milestone and will be an important source of law in similar cases.
251. On 4 April 2003, the Government put forward a bill relating to legal relations and management of land and natural resources in the county of Finnmark (Proposition No 53 (2002-2003) to the Storting). The proposed Finnmark Act is based on the report from the Committee on Sami Legal Matters (Official Norwegian Report, NOU 1997:4), submitted in 1997, and extensive comments on this submitted by the Sami Parliament, Finnmark County and several other public bodies and non-governmental organisations.
252. The bill proposes the establishment of a new, independent body to which shall be transferred the right of ownership of the land that currently lies under the State (i.e. Statskog SF). This constitutes about 95 per cent of the land in Finnmark county. The new body will be called “Finnmark Estate” (Finnmarkseiendommen, in Sami Finnmárkkuopmodat). It is to have a board with an equal number of members elected by the Sami Parliament and by Finnmark County Council, three members elected by each body. The six board members shall reside in Finnmark. In addition, the King (i.e. the Government) shall appoint a board member without the right to vote who will be responsible for ensuring a continuous dialogue between Finnmark Estate and the central authorities. In the event of a tied vote, the government-appointed member may have the matter in question referred to the Ministry for a decision if the operation of Finnmark Estate depends on a decision being taken.
253. Finnmark Estate will be a legal entity independent of the central government, which will have no authority to instruct or control its activities. Finnmark Estate’s legal status will be the same as that of other landowners with the following exceptions: National parks may be established on the land without compensation to Finnmark Estate. Finnmark Estate may not claim compensation in the case of expropriation of land for public purposes for the benefit of the county or municipalities in the county. Finnmark Estate is entitled to compensation when land is expropriated by the State with the exception of expropriation for hospitals, churches and cultural and educational purposes. The Storting may change the legal status of Finnmark Estate by law.
254. Section 5 of the proposed Act clears up a possible concern that State ownership may have precluded the acquisition of independent rights on a law of property basis. The provision states that established rights shall be respected and that the Act does not interfere with such rights.
255. The proposed Act provides for joint management without making distinctions on the basis of ethnicity and with equal representation of indigenous peoples and the remainder of the population. The proposed Act, however, also establishes other instruments to ensure the practical and genuine influence of indigenous peoples on land management. Both the Norwegian Constitution and international law commit the Norwegian Government to creating favourable conditions for the preservation of the Sami people and further development of its culture.
256. In addition to its influence on the composition of the board, the Sami Parliament is empowered to issue guidelines for considering the effect on Sami culture, reindeer husbandry, commercial activity and social life of changes in the use of uncultivated land. The guidelines will enter into force when the Ministry has approved them. The guidelines are to be used by Finnmark Estate when considering matters concerning changes in the use of uncultivated land. Should two members of the board hold that a decision is incompatible with the guidelines, they may request to have the matter submitted directly to the Sami Parliament, even if a majority of the board votes in favour of the decision. If the Sami Parliament supports the minority, the majority may bring the matter before the King for a final decision. Public authorities shall also use the guidelines when considering matters concerning changes in the use of uncultivated land.
257. The reindeer herding Sami population has been secured representation on the board of Finnmark Estate, and the independent statutory basis of reindeer husbandry is laid down in the Act. The Sami Parliament’s guidelines and the rules of procedure for the board will also help to ensure that the interests of reindeer husbandry will be safeguarded in connection with the future management of uncultivated land.
258. The relationship to the provisions of international law concerning indigenous peoples and minorities is regulated in section 3. The provision stipulates that the Act shall be applied in accordance with the provisions of international law concerning indigenous peoples and minorities. The provision has been included as a natural consequence of the central role of international law in the area to be regulated by the Act.
259. For a more detailed description of the proposed Finnmark Act, reference is made to the enclosed translation of the text of the proposed Act and of Chapters 1 and 7 of Proposition No 53 (2002-2003) to the Storting (enclosed at Appendix 18).
260. The Sami Parliament discussed the proposed Finnmark Act at its plenary meeting in May 2003. The Sami Parliament required several changes to the proposed Act, but did not reject the bill. (The views of the Sami Parliament are available in English on the Sami Parliament’s website: www.samediggi.no.)
261. The Storting is currently considering the bill. In June 2003 the Storting’s Standing Committee on Justice arranged oral hearings where the Sami Parliament, Finnmark County Council, municipalities and various organisations presented their views on the proposition. As part of the preparation, the Committee has also travelled to Finnmark and to Canada. Both the Sami Parliament and Finnmark County Council were represented on the trip to Canada.
262. In June 2003, the Standing Committee on Justice asked the Government for additional information and proposals on several points. The Government was also asked to provide an “independent legal opinion” on the proposition, based on international law. The Ministry of Justice gave this task to two law professors at the University of Oslo, Professor Hans Petter Graver and Professor Geir Ulfstein. The professors’ report was submitted to the Storting on 3 November 2003.
263. The main emphasis of the report is on the relationship between the proposed Finnmark Act and Norway’s obligations under ILO Convention No 169 concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries. However, the relationship between the bill and Articles 1 and 27 of the Covenant is also studied, and the professors conclude:
“Individuals and groups of individuals whose interests are affected must […] have rights as a party to cases where Finnmark Estate makes decisions on the management and utilisation of the Estate’s land. This follows from the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 27.
“Apart from the requirement as to rights as a party, we have no significant objections to the law proposal with a basis in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Article 1 or 27 […].”
264. The Government does not concur with the study’s conclusions as regards Article 27 of the Covenant. In a letter to the Standing Committee on Justice from the Minister of Justice, the following is stated in this regard:
“It is not possible to see that Article 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights provides further guidance on how the protection of land rights should be implemented. If the provision requires effective protection of individual rights necessary for maintenance of specific ways of life and the economic base, it is not possible to deduce specific requirements regarding the models to be selected for resolving issues concerning land rights.”
265. In October 2003 the Standing Committee on Justice decided to have consultations with the Sami Parliament and Finnmark County Council as part of the preparations for the Finnmark Act. The Committee based this decision on Article 6 of ILO Convention No 169. During the first session of the parliament in 2004, the Committee organised two rounds of consultations. The parties to the consultations are currently discussing possible amendments and additions to the proposed Act.
266. When it comes to Sami areas south of Finnmark, the Committee on Sami Legal Matters continues its work and is expected to submit a report within three to four years.
Recent immigrant groups
267. Some of the information provided under Article 26 is also relevant here as well.
268. Recent immigrant groups run a great variety of voluntary organisations. These are mainly local organisations, although regional and national ones exist. Immigrant organisations, including religious communities, receive a substantial part of their funding from various government sources. Eight of the national organisations received government funding in 2004.
269. The Government allocates funds for the special educational needs of linguistic minorities, including recent immigrant groups. A substantial proportion of these funds is used for mother tongue teaching, mainly in the primary and lower secondary school.
270. Since September 1997, the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation has broadcast a multicultural television series called “Migrapolis”. This weekly programme is shown in prime time on NRK1, as well as on the second NRK channel, NRK 2, and averages 310 000 viewers a week. “Migrapolis” is produced by a multiethnic staff in the Oslo regional office of the Broadcasting Corporation.
271. In 1999 Norway ratified the Council of Europe Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. The groups of persons considered to be national minorities in Norway are Jews, Kven (people of Finnish descent living in northern Norway), Roma/Gypsies, the Romani people/Travellers and Skogfinn (people of Finnish descent living in southern Norway).The Sami people in Norway are also a national minority in terms of international law. However, the Sami Parliament has declared that it does not consider the Framework Convention to be applicable to the Sami people, since as an indigenous people the Sami have legal and political rights that extend beyond those covered by the provisions of the convention.
272. In December 2000, the Government presented a white paper on national minorities in Norway to the Storting (Report No 15 (2000-2001) to the Storting). Among other things, it contains a review and evaluation of Norway’s international obligations in this field, and examines the principles and legal foundation on which policy is based. The white paper discusses ways of ensuring equal conditions for participation in society and the preservation of language, culture and cultural identity, and describes the Government’s plans for further work in this field.
273. The Ministry of Local Government and Regional development administers financial support to minority non-governmental organisations and support for projects relevant to national minorities. In 2004 this amounted to NOK 2.9 million.
274. The presence of the Kven is the result of immigration from Finland and northern Sweden from the 16th century to the first half of the 19th century. The Kven/Finnish language is used in Troms and Finnmark, the two northernmost counties of Norway. Estimates of the number of speakers of Kven/Finnish vary from 2 000 to 8 000, depending on the criteria and methods used. There is a growing interest in learning Finnish in the area with a Kven population. The Ministry of Education provides special funds enabling local municipalities in these two counties to teach Finnish as a second language to primary and lower secondary pupils of Finnish or Kven descent. The Government is considering whether oral Kven should be considered a separate language or a Finnish dialect. The Kven organisation Norske Kveners Forbund receives financial support from the Government. A newsletter financed by the Government is published with articles written in Norwegian, Finnish and Kven. The Kvæntun Centre in Porsanger is a centre for the Kven language and culture, and receives government funding. The Government has signalled its intention to support the expansion of the premises of the Kvæntun Centre. Nordreisa municipality also has plans to establish a Kven cultural centre for the documentation and presentation of Kven culture and traditions, particularly in Troms County.
275. The Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation has weekly broadcasts for the Kven minority. The programmes, which are in Finnish, are produced by NRK Troms and are broadcast in Troms, Finnmark and parts of Nordland every Wednesday.
276. The Roma people (Gypsies) largely live in the Oslo area and travel during the summer. All the special measures were phased out in the beginning of the 1990s, partly because they were expensive and partly because they did not seem to be successful.
277. The Romani people (Travellers) have been part of the Norwegian population for centuries. For a long time the Romani people were regarded by the majority population and by society at large as a group with a different, aberrant way of life, and as representatives of an alien culture. Official policy long consisted of heavy-handed attempts to bring the group under control by criminalising their itinerant lifestyle and subjecting members of the group to criminal prosecution. One of the methods used was sterilisation, and children were taken away from their families and relatives and grew up with no knowledge of their own background. Families were sent to Svanviken Labour Colony in an attempt to induce the group to settle down. On the whole, the policy pursued in respect of the Romani people, particularly in the 1900s, has been one of active assimilation. The policy has actively contributed towards undermining the traditional way of life and culture that were characteristic of the ethnic group, with the result that even today many people are reluctant to pursue their way of life and culture openly. In February 1998, the Government officially apologised for the abuses committed by the Norwegian authorities against the Romani people through the years. The cultural history of the Romani people has long been ignored by the majority culture. The construction of a permanent centre for documentation and presentation of Traveller culture at the Glomdal Museum in Elverum is thus an important measure. Organisations representing the Travellers receive financial support from the Government.
278. The Jews in Norway represent an ethnic as well as a religious minority. There is no particular policy regarding the Jews except for the general public grants to religious congregations and a particular State grant for a Jewish home for old people in the Jewish community.
279. The Skogfinn community in southeast Norway is a result of extensive emigration from southeast Finland northwards and westwards from the 16th century onwards. Like the Kven, the Skogfinn were subjected to a stringent policy of Norwegianisation. By the mid-1900 the use of the Finnish language had practically fallen into disuse in this community.
Apologies, funds, compensation, etc.
280. In March 1999 the Storting decided on a historical and moral settlement for the treatment in Norway of the economic liquidation of the Jewish minority during World War II. This took the form of collective and individual financial settlements. The collective compensation amounted to NOK 250 million. Of this, NOK 150 million was granted to the Jewish minority to secure the culture and future of the Jewish community in Norway. This settlement was more than a purely financial settlement based on assets confiscated from Jews during the war. The sum was paid to Jewish communities in Norway, which will decide how the funds are to be used. As part of the collective settlement, NOK 40 million was allocated for the establishment of a centre for studies of the Holocaust and religious minorities in Norway. The purpose of such a centre is to build up expertise in Norway on the Holocaust in general and on the Norwegian chapter of Holocaust history in particular, as well as to lay the foundation for broad knowledge of the history, beliefs, traditions, culture and status of religious minorities in Norwegian society. A standard amount of NOK 200 000 has been granted to each person who was born before the end of 1942 and who suffered under anti-Jewish measures in Norway.
281. In a white paper submitted to the Storting in December 2000 (Report No 15 (2000-2001) to the Storting), the Government strongly condemned the abuses committed against the Romani people. Moreover, the Government expressed regret for the Norwegianisation policy to which all the national minorities and the Sami people have been subjected, and apologised on behalf of the State for the way in which the minorities have been treated.
282. In 2000, the Storting established a fund for the Sami people, with a capital of NOK 75 million. The Sami Parliament will administer the profits of the fund. The fund has been established in order to compensate for some of the negative effects of previous assimilation policies, which have weakened the position of the Sami language and culture. The purpose of the fund is to improve the situation of the Sami people by enhancing their opportunities to practise their own language and culture, which will help to preserve and develop the Sami language and culture. The intention is not to give individual compensation to people who have suffered from the assimilation policy. The profits of the fund will be allocated to projects that are not financed by existing public budgets and are in accordance with the Sami Parliament’s priorities. The establishment of the fund signifies an assurance on the part of the Norwegian Government that the policy of assimilation towards the Sami people will not be continued or reintroduced.
283. In the summer 2004, the Norwegian authorities established a NOK 75 million fund as collective reparations for injustices done to the Romani people. The returns of the fund will be used for initiatives and activities to promote the preservation and development of the Romani people culture, language and history, and will cover the costs of a secretariat and a counselling service.
284. In a white paper submitted to the Storting in July 2004 (Report No 44 (2003–2004) to the Storting), the Government proposed simplified requirements of proof for the awarding of damages through the Storting’s ex-gratia payment scheme in cases concerning damages for injustice done to the Romani people by the authorities, and in cases concerning Sami people and Kven people who have lost their schooling and been victims of the Norwegianisation process. The Government has proposed that the current starting point regarding injustices of the past, i.e. that they be judged on the basis of prevailing norms at the time of the injustice, should not be absolute.