Article | Last updated: 2007-05-21 | Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation
Thank you, Madam Chair
Land rights, access to land, and resources, are central for the cultural as well as material development of indigenous peoples throughout the world. In order to survive as distinct peoples, indigenous peoples and their communities should be able to own, use, conserve or manage their lands and resources.
The concept of free, prior and informed consent is of fundamental importance in relation to measures and activities affecting indigenous peoples’ lands or resources. Governments must establish or maintain procedures through which they should consult indigenous peoples, with a view to ascertaining whether and to what degree their interests would be prejudiced, before undertaking or permitting any programmes for the exploration or exploitation of resources pertaining to their lands. Adequate time and financial resources must be allocated for the impact assessment so that it can be performed in good faith.
In a planning process it is also of great importance that the affected indigenous peoples are consulted in an open process where all parties have access to sufficient information. Formal procedures for consultations between Norwegian state authorities and the Sámi Parliament where agreed upon in 2005.
Indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination regarding lands and resources and to exercise control over their own development, will sometimes have to be exercised through co-management arrangements with the States concerned. Procedures should be established, through which indigenous people can effectively exercise their part of such co-management, including environmental management.
Under international law, indigenous peoples also hold rights to natural resources located in the lands they traditionally occupy. These rights are recognized, e.g., by the ILO Convention No. 169. In relation to the natural resources within these areas, which they have not traditionally used, such as subsurface resources, the rights of indigenous peoples include, inter alia: 1) the right to be effectively consulted through their representative institutions, 2) the right to share the benefits, and 3) the right to mitigation for harm caused to their lands or environments. States have a positive obligation to realize these rights.
The Norwegian delegation notes with interest the report of the international expert group meeting on the international regime on access and benefit-sharing and indigenous peoples’ human rights of the Convention on Biological Diversity. Regarding the development of an international regime on access and benefit sharing, participants emphasized that such a regime, whether it be a legally or non-legally binding instrument, should conform to human rights, including the collective rights of indigenous peoples. Furthermore, Norway would like to highlight the groups’ emphasis on the concept of free, prior and informed consent.
Norway adopted, in 2005, a law regulating the management of lands and natural resources in the northern-most county of Finnmark, where most of the indigenous Sámis live. The Finnmark Act was elaborated in consultation with the Sámi Parliament and contains the following main elements:
- First, the explicit recognition that Sámi (and other local land users) have acquired rights to land through long standing use,
- Second, the state has passed title to all remaining land rights in the county to a new owner, the Finnmark Estate. Half of the members of executive board of estate are appointed by the Sámi Parliament and remaining members by the Finnmark County Council.
- And third, the establishment of an expert commission and a special court (both temporary) to deal with claims of title or rights of use within the county.
- The Finnmark Act is also an example of legal recognition of the indigenous people’s right to benefit-sharing with regard to mineral resources, within the lands of the Finnmark estate.
Finally, Madam Chair;
the Norwegian Government will underline the importance of partnership and dialogue between States and indigenous peoples.. In this connection we look forward to the adoption of the UN declaration of indigenous peoples which we believe will help to promote the protection of the rights of indigenous peoples worldwide.