Today I had the privilege to visit Sámediggi (Sami Parliament of Norway) in Karasjok.
A few key facts about the Sámediggi:
- Established in 1987, Sámediggi is an elected assembly that represents the Sami in Norway.
- The parliament consists of thirty-nine members who are elected from seven constituencies every fourth year.
- The purpose of the Sámediggi is to strengthen the Sami’s political position and promote Sami interests in Norway, contributing to equal and equitable treatment of the Sami people and paving the way for Sami efforts to safeguard and develop their language, culture and society.
My visit started with a tour of the Parliament building, guided by Mr. Anders Henriksen, Adviser at the Department of Communication of the Sami Parliament. There are multiple references to Sami culture both in the exterior and interior of the building, some of them rather subtle. A must-see for anybody interested in ethnically inspired architecture.
Highlight of the day was a meeting with Ms. Aili Keskitalo (President of the Sami Parliament) and Ms. Inger Johanne Mudenia (Adviser at the Department of Rights and International Issues of the Sami Parliament). In the course of the meeting we discussed multiple topics of mutual interest, such as expectations regarding the outcome of the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples (WCIP), progress on the Nordic Sami Convention that, among else, aims to harmonize legislations of Norway, Sweden and Finland with respect to the rights of Sami people, and the role of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) in advancing the rights and well-being of world’s indigenous peoples, including the Sami.
I took an opportunity to brief Ms. Keskitalo and Ms. Mudenia about my priorities as a Member of UNPFII for the term 2014-2016 that focus on culture and tourism. Specifically, I expressed an interest in preparing a report on tourism in indigenous communities, in line with the Article 22 of the recommendations of 12th Session of UNFPII in 2013. Such a report has the potential to trigger more systematic work by the UN system to equip indigenous tourism entrepreneurs with skills and tools needed to sustainably operate tourism businesses while being respectful for the cultural sensitivities of indigenous communities.
Lastly, we discussed the current state of the international Finno-Ugric movement and the prospects for Norwegian Sami – including Sami youth – to participate in it. It was agreed that further exchanges between Finno-Ugric organizations such as the Youth Association of Finno-Ugric Peoples (MAFUN) and the Sami Parliament of Norway will take place to identify potential areas of collaboration.
I would like to thank Ms. Keskitalo and the staff of the Sámediggi for a warm welcome, an excellent introduction to the work of Sami Parliament of Norway and for a constructive exchange of information and ideas. I am looking forward to continuing contacts with this important institution that through its work embodies many of the aspirations of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and as such, is a model institution for many indigenous peoples of this world.
Left to right: Ms. Inger Johanne Mudenia, myself, Ms. Aili Keskitalo and Mr. Rune Fjellheim.