Comments from GÁLDU
Professor Bjørg Evjen
Board member, GÁLDU- Resource Centre for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Norway
Firstly, I would like to thank Mr. Petter Wille for introducing the New Guidelines for the Norwegian Foreign Service on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
I would also on behalf of Gáldu thank the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for including our Resource Centre for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples during the drafting of these guidelines.
As emphasized by both Mr. Wille and the guidelines themselves; Norway has still an important role to play in the protection and development of Indigenous peoples’ rights worldwide. Knowledge about Indigenous peoples, their situation, their history and their human rights, is of paramount importance for anyone who engages him or herself in international politics, business, or law.
The new guidelines are important, as they stress the need for more knowledge about Indigenous peoples’ rights within the part of the state that deals with international politics and the people that are strongly involved in various forms for diplomatic work, peace dialogue, and development policies. Further, these guidelines express a strong commitment from the Norwegian government to continue to contribute to the promotion of Indigenous peoples and their rights worldwide. We strongly hope that the new government of Norway will follow up this commitment.
The 2007 Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is the most recent, most up-to-date internationally accepted document that recognizes Indigenous people’s rights. I am glad that the guidelines have such a clear reference to the UNDRIP, and that the two former ministers, Jonas Gahr Støre and Heikki Holmås, so clearly state that this Declaration must be implemented, both nationally and internationally.
These guidelines are also an example for other states, one might even call this an example of “best practice,” all depending on how the guidelines are being implemented within the Foreign Service and the ministry itself.
For Gáldu, it has been important to give our input for these guidelines, based on the mandate that Gáldu has, which is to, inter alia, strengthen the knowledge about Indigenous peoples’ rights within our own country, but also beyond our national borders. We have stressed the importance of self-determination, prior, informed consent and consultations as a fundamental right for all Indigenous peoples. Although we have not reached all our goals yet, the situation in Norway can serves as a model for other countries.
It is most important that Norway through its Foreign Service ensures that Indigenous rights are taken care of and call attention to the right forums, such as Universal Periodic Review in the UN system.
These are guidelines given by the state, thus they must be understood in a general manner. Nevertheless, it is meant to guide people in meeting with or approaching a different culture or cultures, cultures representing a different view of the world, and with different priorities. Important knowledge could be of a different kind from what we know; and more importantly, what is and what is not legal.
In general, the guidelines could to a greater extent encourage the Foreign Service to have a dialogue with Indigenous peoples and seek their perspectives on their own situations.
A checklist of twenty-two bullet points for the diplomatic and consular missions is intended to help increase awareness of the situation of Indigenous peoples. The answers to these questions will help identify issues and challenges that should be addressed. The answers will also reflect the given situation.
The checklist reveals a thorough understanding of the situation of Indigenous peoples, but with a couple of exceptions. The situation of women is mentioned only once, and in the very last bullet point, (and children are not mentioned at all). However, I must add that women’s situation is included when it comes to consultations; it states that it is important to include Indigenous women in consultations. Many women face double discrimination, both as women in the Indigenous community and as Indigenous people in society at large. The reason for this being mentioned in the very last paragraph could be discussed, but I will not go more into it now. Fine in itself that this is said, and in addition, that the situation of women in our own country could be a mirror to reflect on in other parts of the world. The situation of children is missing.
As to consultations, this is an important means by which Indigenous peoples should be consulted in decision-making, which may affect them directly. This could be an effective tool if the Indigenous people in question is accepted as such and their rights are in place. If not and if the Indigenous people are also not organized, the situation will be different. It should be mentioned that the UN has established more organizations to help implement Indigenous peoples’ rights nationally and internationally, namely, Permanent Forum and the UN Special Rapporteur for Indigenous Rights.
The process of meeting or including Indigenous peoples is more than saying “we see you and want you to sit by the table with us taking part in the consultations.” The multicultural meeting is about communication and sharing a common understanding of the point of departure and the purpose of the meeting. In this it is not sufficient to turn to international declarations or law to pave the way for this to happen.
In the guidelines it reads: “Achieving consent or agreement is not an absolute requirement, but the authorities are to enter into the process in good faith and with the goal of achieving consent or agreement” (p.18).
Gáldu questions if this is a too strongly said, given the differences between states and Indigenous peoples on the matter, and the different cultural understandings that lie behind the differences.
We know the major challenges Indigenous communities are facing due to globalization and increased industrialization of Indigenous peoples traditional territories. Norwegian companies are managing their businesses all over the world, and they also need to be reminded of the obligations they have, not only to comply with national legislation, but also to comply with international human rights law.
We hope that these guidelines within the Foreign Service will strengthen the knowledge and awareness about Indigenous peoples, their way of life and their rights, and that this could also lead to inspiring other ministries to develop their own guidelines for how their representatives should properly interact with Indigenous peoples, representative bodies of Indigenous peoples, and Indigenous communities.