Introducing the New Guidelines for the Norwegian Foreign Service on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
Mr. Petter Wille
Ambassador/Special Envoy of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
It is a pleasure to be here today and to stand behind the Sámi flag; I have had this flag in my office for over ten years.
Last year there was a seminar in Oslo with the purpose to take stock of the developments over the last decade in the UN’s work for Indigenous people. One of the conclusions is that a lot has been achieved and there have been many positive developments. The most important developments when it comes to standard setting is the adoption of the UNDRIP and ILO 169, also the Conventions on the Rights of the Child, which also has a provision on the rights to culture for Indigenous children. In addition to the standard setting, we have also seen that the general attention paid to Indigenous issues has also increased significantly and the UN now has three mechanisms focusing on Indigenous peoples: the Permanent Forum for Indigenous Issues, the Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Issues; and the expert mechanism established by the Human Rights Council. Thirty years ago, there was only a working group in the UN called the Working Group on Indigenous Populations and the old sub-commission on the protection of minorities. Indigenous issues are also on the agenda in climate change negotiations and other international processes, for example forest initiatives, business and human rights. We have come a long way.
In 2014, the UN will hold a high level meeting on the rights of Indigenous peoples. Despite these achievements, we must say that there is no room for complacency. Indigenous peoples are still among the most marginalized populations in many parts of the world. Norway will therefore continue to give a high priority to Indigenous issues. These activities will not only involve the Ministry but also many of our foreign representatives abroad. So this is one of the reasons why we have issued these guidelines and you have now had an opportunity to see them. The guidelines have been sent out and we were lucky enough to get them printed in time to send them here.
Why do we issue these guidelines?
These guidelines seek to ensure that Norway pursues a coherent, integrated policy that takes into consideration the rights of Indigenous peoples. Our overall goal is to foster respect for the rights of Indigenous peoples by ensuring that the Norwegian Foreign Service:
- is well-informed on this matter, and focuses on Indigenous peoples in all relevant contexts;
- works actively to put Indigenous issues on the agenda in both bilateral and multilateral context;
- bases development activities supported by Norway on relevant UN conventions, as well as the ILO Convention concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries (No.169) and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples;
- helps ensure that the rights of Indigenous peoples are integrated into relevant international normative work;
- focuses on the rights of Indigenous peoples in business activities that are supported by Norway, and in dialogue with Norwegian companies operating in countries that have Indigenous peoples.
The guidelines also have checklists:
- Are there Indigenous peoples in the country?
- Are they recognized as Indigenous peoples by the authorities?
- Does the legislation of the country reflect their international obligations towards Indigenous peoples?
- How are the living conditions for the Indigenous peoples?
- Is there political participation by Indigenous peoples?
The purpose of this list is to help increase awareness of the situation for Indigenous peoples. We often talk about awareness, but when it comes to Indigenous peoples, we know that it is very important because there is so little awareness about Indigenous peoples’ rights. Other questions refer to living conditions and whether they have recognition of cultural and linguistic rights. Other important questions are: How are they organized with regard to the authorities, and what is the situation for Indigenous women?
Who are Indigenous peoples?
Like some of you in the audience, I was involved in the drafting of the UNDRIP. When we started with this work in the UN, some states came out and said, “This is not relevant for us because we don’t have Indigenous peoples in our country.” Some countries worked for a definition that would exclude their Indigenous peoples from the definition. We ended up with no definition, which I think was the only viable solution. But it is still important to have some sort of guidance on who we are referring to when we talk about Indigenous peoples.
There is no internationally accepted definition of the term “Indigenous peoples” but in
Article 1b of Convention 169, it states:
This Convention applies to peoples in independent countries who are regarded as Indigenous on account of their descent from the populations which inhabited the country, or a geographical region to which the country belongs, at the time of conquest or colonisation or the establishment of present state boundaries and who, irrespective of their legal status, retain some or all of their own social, economic, cultural and political institutions. (ILO Convention Concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries, no. 169)
Another important part of our work, going back to the 1980s is on standard setting. Standard setting instruments include the following, among others:
- ILO Convention No. 169 Concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent countries
- UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
- The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination
- The UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Diversity of Cultural Expression
- UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP)
Promoting the rights of Indigenous peoples in Norwegian development cooperation will continue to include the following: bilateral cooperation; cooperation through NGOs; multilateral cooperation; and large-scale Norwegian priority initiatives.