The Rovaniemi Declaration

The 19th Saami Conference

http://www.saamicouncil.net/includes/file_download.asp?deptid=1153&fileid=2924&file=Rovaniemi_DeclarationfinalEN.pdf&pdf=1

The 19th Saami Conference, which represents the Saami Council’s member
organizations in Finland, Norway, the Russian Federation and Sweden, gathered in
Rovaniemi 29 to 31 October 2008:
Reiterates that the Saami constitute one people, and that national borders shall not
infringe on our national unity;
Emphasizes that the Saami people has inhabited its traditional homeland – Sápmi –
since time immemorial and long before national borders were drawn;
Underlines that through the immemorial use of our traditional territories, we have
developed a rich, living and constantly evolving culture, distinct to the Saami people;
Underlines further that it is this culture that defines the Saami as a people and gives us
our collective identity, and that the states have an obligation to respect the Saami
people’s right to a distinct culture, language and identity and shall take effective
measures to prevent any forms of assimilation and reverse the effects of past injustices
Emphasizes that our history, culture and traditions learn us to survive harmoniously
and sustainably and to adopt to changing environmental conditions;
Reiterates that as a people, the Saami have the right to self-determination, including
the right to determine our economical and social development, through which our
culture continues to be living and constantly enriched
Reiterates further that through the right to self-determination, the Saami people have
the right to freely dispose over our natural resources and under no circumstances shall
we be deprived of our means of subsistence;
Recalls that the Saami people, as a part of the right to self-determination, have the
right to maintain and strengthen our distinct political, legal, economic, social and
cultural institutions;
Places particular emphasis on that traditional livelihoods and utilization of our lands,
waters, including Sea waters, and natural resources constitutes an integral part of the
Saami culture and identity;
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;
Underscores that have the Saami people has the right to establish and control our own
educational systems and institutions, providing our children and youth with education
in our own languages, in a manner appropriate to our cultural methods of teaching and
learning;
Underscores further the vital roles of women and elders as custodians of and educators
in Saami cultural practices and knowledge;
Emphasizes that the Saami language hold unique cultural, historical and ecological
knowledge, reflecting profound understanding of local flora, fauna, ecological
relations and ecosystem dynamics in our homeland;
Welcomes the adoption by the UN General Assembly of the Declaration on the Rights
of Indigenous Peoples containing minimum universal standards on indigenous -
including the Saami - peoples’ rights, and supported by this Declaration and the
Nordic Saami Convention declare our unity on the following:

Land, waters, including Sea waters, natural resources and self-determination
1. By using its traditional homeland since time immemorial, the Saami people has
established ownership and usufruct rights to lands and natural resources. The
states must recognize this right, and effectively implement it through national
legislation and policies. This right must not be impeded by the national borders
today dividing Sápmi;
2. By establishing itself as a distinct people on its traditional territory, the Saami
people is further entitled to the right to self-determination, encompassing a right
to freely determine over its land and natural resources, obliging the states to
adopt effective measures that ensure the full implementation of Saami
autonomy. The Saami people wishes to exercise this right within existing state
borders.
3. The Saami people has the right to maintain and develop our political,
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economic and social systems and institutions, to be secure in the enjoyment of
our own means of subsistence and development, and to engage freely in all our
traditional and other economic activities. Saami traditional livelihoods and
other cultural based utilization of lands and natural resources are fundamental
to the preservation and development of the Saami culture. The states shall take
effective measures to secure this right.
Saami reindeer husbandry is based on traditional knowledge and skills. It shall
have legal protection in the legislation in the four states, and be provided with
the possibilities to be self-subsistent. Traditional Saami reindeer husbandry is
unique as carrier of important and integral parts of the Saami culture, and its
traditional various practices shall enjoy protection in national legislation. To
effectively implement this right, Finland and the Russian Federation shall
render reindeer husbandry as an exclusive right of the Saami people in the
Saami traditional territories.
4. The Russian Federation must establish a Saami parliament also on the Russian
side of Sápmi
5. State authorities and the private sector shall consult and cooperate in good faith
with affected Saami communities and representative institutions and must
obtain their free, prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing
legislative or administrative measures or engage in activities that may affect us.
Respect for this right is particularly important with regard to industrial activities
that have the potential of causing considerable harm to the environment and
health, such as uranium and thorium mining.
6. The states shall provide means for the financing the Saami autonomy, including
by ensuring the Saami a fair and equitable share of benefits from any industrial
activity in the Saami territories, including from oil, gas and mining. . States
must provide Saami representative bodies and organisations with extra financial
resources –independent of current compensation schemes based on already
existing encroachments (e.g. Samefonden)- so that Saami people are able to
develop appropriate and strategic responses to increasing industrial activities.
Such remuneration will also partly compensate the Saami for past extraction of
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natural resources from the Saami traditional territories, taken without the
consent of or benefits being shared with the Saami.
7. Court proceedings concerning Saami rights to land as well as in land
demarcation processes must respect and recognize that Saami traditional land
use often leave no permanent traces in the environment. In cases of conflict
between Saami and non-Saami laws, norms and protocols, Saami perspective
shall prevail. The states are obliged to provide the Saami with adequate
financing, ensuring a fair and due process in cases concerning Saami rights to
land.
8. States must pass/clarify national environmental legislation so that
environmental and social impact assessments for proposed natural resource
developments in Sápmi are undertaken in accordance with international
standards, such as those developed by the World Bank, IFC, and as enshrined in
AkweKon Guidelines.
9. States must clarify national planning legislation so that the cumulative impacts
of industrial developments on Saami communities are taken into account in
strategic planning at a local, regional and state level. Furthermore, the states
must co-ordinate cross-border planning so that the cumulative impacts of
industrial developments across the Saami homeland as a whole can be assessed
and managed in co-operation with Saami representative bodies.
10. State’s climate change adaptation strategies must also be based on the
traditional knowledge of the Saami, recognizing its equal value with other
forms of sciences.
11. Attempts to mitigate the effects of climate change, such as the establishment of
windmills, must not be used as an excuse to further exploit the Saami traditional
territories, absent our consent.
12. The Saami people must be entrusted with the managing of predator animals in
their traditional territories;
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The cultural heritage
13. The Saami people has the right to own, control and develop its cultural heritage,
both tangible and intangible, including its genetic resources, traditional
knowledge and traditional cultural expressions. The states shall respect this
right, and implement it through national legislation and policies. Such
legislation shall demarcate the sphere of the Saami cultural heritage, and direct
any non-Saami that wishes to utilize elements of the Saami culture to relevant
Saami institutions identified by the Saami ourselves. To further this right, the
states shall also ensure that its own and the private sectors’ practices that
potentially can affect the Saami culture are only pursued following thorough
assessments of the impact on this culture.
14. The private sector shall also respect the Saami people’s ownership right over its
own culture, and shall not use elements of the Saami culture without obtaining
the Saami people’s free, prior and informed consent. The private sector,
including the tourism industry, shall particularly refrain from derogatory uses of
the Saami culture, since it constitutes an imminent threat to the Saami cultural
identity, and is specially harmful to the Saami youth.
15. The intention is not to establish absolute exclusivity to the Saami culture. The
Saami are proud to share many elements of our culture, provided that we have
consented to such sharing and that it is on our own terms.
16. The Saami cultural heritage is a living culture and exists primary in the Saami
people’s traditional livelihoods and use of land and natural resources. The
states shall respect that through providing for that Saami traditional land based
activities can be preserved and developed.
17. Measures to protect the Saami cultural heritage shall respect that the Saami
culture is a living, integral part of the Saami identity. It is first and foremost a
cultural asset, and must never be freezed in any particular period of time.
18. Important parts of the Saami cultural heritage vest in the Saami people as a
whole. Consequently, no national Saami representative institutions may
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unilaterally take decisions on such parts of the Saami cultural heritage without
consulting the Saami people as a whole.
19. The tourism industry must not portray the Saami cultural landscape as a picture
that does not concur with the reality. It must in no instance stereotype the
Saami culture, and respect that the Saami are a people and not a commercial
product. The Saami culture shall first and foremost be presented through the
living local Saami communities, and not in museums.
20. The Saami traditional dress – in its various forms - is an integral part of the
Saami people’s collective identity as well as the identity of Saami individuals.
It must therefore never be worn by non-Saamis in violation of Saami protocols
for such use. The tourism industry, in particular in Finland, must immediately
stop any further misappropriation of the Saami traditional dress.
21. States and their cultural institutions, such as museums, must be aware of and
acknowledge the secret, sacred, spiritual and cultural meaning of Saami
artefacts in their collections, such as interviews containing Saami storytelling,
traditional music etc. Such objects should further be returned upon the Saami’s
request. If the objects remain in the collection, they must be displayed in a
culturally appropriate manner in accordance with the Saami people’ norms
pertaining to such objects.
22. Whenever elements of the Saami culture are used for commercial purposes, the
Saami shall be entitled to a share in the benefits from such activities.
23. The states can learn a lot from the Saami culture, particular in the context of
environmental management. Traditional Knowledge must be equal with
western science in the formation of regulations, laws and policies and decisionmaking
on the environment and natural resource management;
24. The Saami languages hold unique cultural, historical and ecological knowledge,
reflecting deep understanding of local flora, fauna, ecological relations and
ecosystem dynamics in Sápmi. Hence, the states must provide the Saami people
with the opportunity to preserve and develop the Saami language, including the
lesser used dialects, as a prerequisite for preserving Saami traditional
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knowledge and other parts of the Saami cultural heritage. For the same
purposes, the states also have the responsibility to ensure that means are
available for the Saami to preserve and establish their own educational
institutions.
25. The Saami people’s right to use its language and develop and transmit the
language to future generations must be recognized and effectively implemented
by the states. The Saami language shall be recognized as an official language
in the entire Saami area. Saami children and youth must be provided with
education in and on the Saami language, in a manner adjusted to their cultural
background and enabling to continuously be active in the Saami traditional
livelihoods.
Implementation
26. The states are obliged to provide the Saami with resources so that all the rights
contained in this Declaration can be effectively implemented, without further
delay.
27. To further the realization of the rights in this Declaration, Finland, Norway and
Sweden must ratify the Nordic Saami Convention. These countries must also,
jointly with Saami representatives, find solutions through which the rights in
the Saami Convention can also be realized on the Russian side of Sápmi.
Finland, the Russian Federation and Sweden must ratify the ILO Convention
No. 169. Norway must comply with its provisions.
* * * *
The Saami Council’s member organizations confirm their membership in the
Saami Council by ratifying this Declaration by their highest representative
bodies.

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