Innlegg på Barents urfolkstoppmøte

Utenriksministeren. Innlegg på Barents urfolkstoppmøte 8. juni 2021

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Excellencies,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Friends of the Barents region

I am very pleased to host the third Barents Indigenous Peoples’ Summit together with the Sámediggi (Sami parliament), the Chair of the Regional Council Västerbotten and the Barents Working Group of Indigenous Peoples. A special greeting to the representatives of indigenous people who are taking part today.

We had been hoping to be able to welcome you all to Bodø in the heart of Sápmi, our traditional Sami homelands. While I am sorry we are still only able to meet in this digital format, I am grateful for this opportunity to meet.

I would like to start by thanking Russia for initiating the practice of biannual Indigenous Peoples’ Summits. Daily contact between our respective indigenous peoples has been a core element of the Barents cooperation since the beginning. We must continue our efforts to further support and develop these networks. It is with this in mind that Norway and Finland are expanding the International Barents Secretariat to include two new advisers on indigenous issues.

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Ladies and Gentlemen,
In my introductory remarks, I would like to make five points about priorities for our cooperation:

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First, I would like to focus on identity. You have seen that today’s program is not only about policies, strategies and documents, but also about joik, art and festivals. Indigenous culture is a valuable part of Norway’s national heritage. We are proud to see that Sami art and culture have received much-deserved recognition the past few years. In our recently published white paper on the Arctic, the Norwegian Government underlines the importance of exploring new ways of further strengthening Sami culture and Sami businesses, through consultation with the Sami parliament. That’s why we appreciate and support initiatives like a business hackathon organised by the Sapmi Business Area. A strong and vibrant civil society plays a key role in indigenous issues – and in the Barents cooperation in general. That is why the government, through the Norwegian Barents Secretariat, has supported several projects such as a Sami media festival.

Language is another key part of our identity. It means a great deal to Sami parents that their children are able to watch movies like ‘Frozen’ in their native language, for a young gamer to access Minecraft in Sami or for the elderly to use their mother tongue when consulting a medical practitioner. It is encouraging to see so many entrepreneurs providing innovative solutions that facilitate language learning, such as the Giellatekno project from the Arctic University of Norway.

2019 was the International Year of Indigenous Languages with many events and projects throughout the year. The upcoming International Decade of Indigenous languages (2022-2032) will encourage the global community to make a long-lasting commitment to save and strengthen indigenous peoples’ languages.

A second point I would like to raise is the importance of listening to our young people. As one of the youth representatives stated in one of our events recently: “The future is here now, and we are the future”. Indigenous youth cooperation must be another key pillar in our common efforts. The helpful input and targeted insights we have received from young people, such as the members of the Barents Regional Youth Council and Sami representatives on the youth panel appointed in connection with our white paper on the Arctic, make me optimistic about the future.

Thirdly, I would like to underline the value of involvement. Cross-border cooperation among indigenous peoples is an essential part of international relations in the north. It is also valuable in our ongoing fight against climate change. We need to do more to showcase and learn from local knowledge of indigenous peoples in our efforts to address this threat. I am happy to see that an indigenous perspective has been incorporated in the update of the Barents Action Plan on Climate Change.

In this regard I want to highlight the importance of coordinated efforts on indigenous peoples between the regional councils in the Arctic. Cooperating - rather than duplicating – must be our common goal. Norway welcomes the projects on indigenous peoples that Russia has initiated as chair of the Arctic Council.

The fourth point I would like to emphasize is the need for political will. Dialogue is essential to ensuring that the Barents region continues to be characterised by peace, stability, and cooperation. The COVID-19 pandemic has entailed vast challenges for all of us, including our indigenous peoples. In the words of multi-talented Sami artist Nils Aslak Valkepää: ‘If it’s worries you want, the whole world is yours.’ It is true that the pandemic has halted many activities and forced our efforts onto digital platforms. However, as chair, I am proud to say that that our cooperation has continued to develop -- even in these demanding times.

And finally, ladies and gentlemen, I want to highlight the value of knowledge and of learning from each other. Knowledge is one of the priority focus areas for the Norwegian chairmanship. Today, we will listen and learn from the Sami, Veps, Nenets and Komi people, who represent the heart and soul of our cooperation. I am certain that our discussions will lead to new wisdom.
Thank you.

Punkter for Concluding remarks:

I would like to thank all our speakers. This summit brings together governments, regions, indigenous peoples, indigenous peoples’ organisations, researchers, performers and artists.

Hearing experts elaborate further on the situation for indigenous people will make us even more inspired to continue our joint efforts. New insights will help us expand future cooperation between indigenous peoples in the Barents region.

The support to our chairmanship’s work on on establishing a Barents Financial Mechanism is also extremely positive. Hopefully, the mechanism will be adopted at the ministerial meeting in October. This will make it possible to fund of more projects and add further substance to our work.

Let me thank our co-hosts the Sámediggi, Chair of the Regional Council, Västerbotten and the Working Group for Indigenous Peoples as well as the ever-supportive International Barents Secretariat. Collaborating on this event has been a true Barents adventure.

To quote an Inari Sámi proverb: ‘As many streams unite, a great river is born.’  Time and time again we have witnessed how friendship and collaboration built over more than 30 years across the borders in the Barents region continue to develop. I look forward to discussing new ways to strengthen Barents cooperation at the Barents Euro-Arctic Council ministerial meeting on 26 October in Tromsø.

Thank you.