New law to give the Sámi people greater influence

Samisk flagga, domstolsklubba.

For many years, the UN and the Council of Europe have sharply criticized how Sweden lives up to the international documents regulating indigenous rights such as the right to land, water and influence in the decision-making processes. As a result of this criticism, a new law is now coming into force, aimed at increasing the influence of the Sami people over issues that particularly affect them.

The consultation plan of action is valid from 1 March and means that the government and state authorities have an obligation to consult Sámi representatives before decisions that may have a direct impact on the Sámi language, culture, industries, or indigenous status.

– Despite the fact that the Sámi people were recognized as indigenous peoples already back in 1977, Sweden yet not have a system that adequately protects the rights of Sámi people, so we welcome the fact that Sweden has taken steps to change this, says Tilda Pontén, a lawyer at Civil Rights Defenders.

The law does not say how much influence the Sámi representatives will have over the decision-making process after consultation has been carried out. On the other hand, it is stated that the greater the negative impact a decision can be estimated to have on Sámi rights, the more important the Sami’s interests must weigh in relation to other interests in the case.

– It is positive that the consultation arrangement can contribute to making Sámi interests and rights, and that the knowledge is clarified to authorities. However, at Civil Rights Defenders, we lack legal regulations in regards to how Sámi positions should be weighed in the actual decision, says Rebecka Forsgren, Junior Legal Adviser at Civil Rights Defenders.

Civil Rights Defenders recommendations

The act on consultation and other national regulations on dialogue or influence need to be further strengthened. In order for the Sámi people to be able to assimilate their rights in practice and have access to justice, the government, which is ultimately responsible for compliance with Sweden’s international commitments, needs to take certain measures of action.

Click here to read our recommendations (in Swedish) and our full comment on the new law on consultation arrangements for the Sámi people.

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