Official visit to Mexico: Seminar on indigenous peoples
Ladies and gentlemen,
Senoras y Senores
Norggas ja Mexicos lea guhkes árbevierru ovttasbargat áššiiguin mat gusket eamiálbmogiidda, erenoamáit máilmmiviidosaš organisašuvnnain dego ON:as. Min riikkat barget garrasit šiehtadallat ja ovddidit ON:a deklarašuvnna eamiálbmogiid vuoigatvuođaid birra.
(Norway and Mexico have a long tradition of cooperation on issues relating to indigenous peoples, particularly in international organisations like the UN. Both our countries worked hard to negotiate and promote the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.)
The Sami people of Northern Europe inhabit an area that extends into four different countries – Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. They are recognised as an indigenous people in Norway. In spite of being separated by national borders – with differences in history, identity, language, culture, social structures, traditions and livelihoods – there is a strong common identity amongst the various Sami groups. Last month, the Crown Prince and I spent two days with the Sámi people, celebrating their national day. We got a valuable look into their challenges and views on life, their culture and language.
The Kingdom of Norway is founded on the territory of two peoples, the Norwegian and the Sami. The exact number of Samis living in Norway is not known, but it is estimated that there are between 50 000 and 65 000 out of a total population of 4.6 million.
Unfortunately, relations between the Norwegian majority and the indigenous minority have not always been characterized by dignity and respect. Yesterday some of you may have seen the film The Kautokeino Rebellion, which illustrates a dark period of our history.
A few decades ago, the official Norwegian policy was to assimilate the Samis into Norwegian society. A forced “Norwegianisation” led many to deny their Sami identity, and Sami culture was severely undermined. Although much has changed over the last 20 years, there are still difficulties. For example are there minor Sami languages in Norway that are in a real danger of extinction. But fortunately,,in 2009, it is quite common to meet young people who are very proud of their Sámi identity. A strong symbol was that a Sámi rock band of teenagers last year won the annual national song contest in competition with Norwegian musical artists.
The Sami have gradually strengthened their legal and political position. The Sámediggi, the Sami Parliament, was established in 1989. The objective was to enable the Sami people in Norway to safeguard and develop their language, culture and way of life. Any matter of concern to the Sami people can be freely raised in the Sámediggi.
In 2005, the Norwegian Government and the Sami Parliament entered into a formal agreement to ensure consultations on all legislative or administrative measures that could affect Sami rights and interests. This agreement was drawn up on the basis of ILO Convention no. 169 (on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples), which sets out the obligation to consult with indigenous peoples, and to develop a common understanding of their situation and developmental needs.
I hope that this seminar will further strengthen the cooperation between our two countries on issues related to indigenous peoples, and that it will deepen our understanding of how these issues can be dealt with in our different societies.