Speech by Alice Bah Kuhnke at the 17th Session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

Agenda item 4: Implementation of the six mandated areas of the Permanent Forum with reference to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
Monday April 16th 2018
Nordic statement

Delivered by: Alice Bah Kuhnke, Minister for Culture and Democracy of Sweden
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Thank you Chairperson,

I have the honour to make this statement on behalf of the Nordic countries:  Denmark together with Greenland, Finland, Iceland, Norway and my own country Sweden.

What does it mean to be forced to forsake your heritage, to be forced to speak another language than your own? Indigenous peoples all over the world has been exposed to racism as well as human rights violations and abuses through history and to this day. As state representatives we must listen, engage and act to pave the way for a better future.

For us, the Nordic countries, promoting and protecting the rights of indigenous peoples remain longstanding priorities. We are committed to do our part to ensure the realization of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples – a milestone in recognizing the status and rights of indigenous peoples.

As the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples has pointed out on several occasions: establishment of formalized procedures that give indigenous peoples the opportunity to participate and the ability to genuinely influence decision-making in issues that concern them is crucial.

At the UN, efforts to enhance Indigenous Peoples’ participation are a concrete way to make their voices meaningfully heard. The Swedish government is currently drafting a proposal for a more comprehensive procedure for consultations between public authorities and the Sami people.

One measure to implement the declaration has been taken by Norway, Finland and Sweden in the negotiations of a Nordic Sami Convention. The proposed convention is under consideration at the Sami Parliaments in our respective countries and we hope for a positive outcome.

In Denmark, the Act of Greenland self-Government has facilitated the transfer of a long range of competences and responsibilities to the Self-Government and ensures consultation procedures regarding regulation relevant to Greenland. The Act furthermore describes Greenland’s access to independence, stipulating that if the people of Greenland takes a decision in favor of independence, negotiations are to commence between the Danish Government and Naalakkersuisut regarding the introduction of independence for Greenland.

Human rights defenders, particularly those working to protect the rights of indigenous peoples, are increasingly under attack around the world. According to the organization Front Line Defenders, more than 300 human rights defenders were murdered in 2017. A majority of them were engaged in the defense of land, environmental and indigenous peoples’ rights. At the same time, the levels of impunity remain alarmingly and unacceptably high.

Attacks on human rights defenders must come to an end. A clear message on this was sent in December last year when the General Assembly by consensus adopted a Norwegian-led resolution reaffirming the importance of the work done by human rights defenders.

As many others, we have noted with great concern reports on the current situation for the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We reiterate our strong support for this mandate as well as the other special procedures mandate holders under the authority of the UN Human Rights Council. We would like to thank the Special Rapporteur for her consistent engagement to strengthen the promotion and protection of the rights of indigenous peoples.