Sámi youth argue Fosen case at UN forum

Indigenous groups gather at United Nations in New York

Photo: Jenna Kunze / Native News Online
In April, Indigenous people from all over the world gathered at the United Nations in New York City for the annual United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

Marit Fosse

The United Nations has became a colorful place since Indigenous peoples from all over the world with their colorful traditional costumes arrived to attend the annual United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, held in New York, April 17–28. The theme of the session was “Indigenous Peoples, human health, planetary and territorial health, and climate change: a rights-based approach.”

One of the participants, a Sámi woman from Finland, shed light on what has become the talk of the town: the Sámi youth of Finland, Norway, and Sweden had joined forces and come out with very strong statements regarding the Fosen case.

As the informed reader might recall, there has been a conflict between the Sámi population and the Norwegian government centered on the Fosen case, which centers on the  huge wind turbines that have been built on traditional Sámi pasture land for the reindeer. According to the Sámis, with their perpetual noise, the wind turbines are creating tremendous noise that negatively affects the well-being of the animals. They have managed to win more and more support for their case, and negotiations with the current government are ongoing.

In the United Nations, the Fosen case has been the subject of several presentations by Sámi representatives. One of the Sámi youth representatives, Elle Rávdná Näkkäläjärvi, with other representatives of Sámi youth, asked the delegates to listen to their concerns.

“Norway may appear as a very diplomatic and good country, but we are telling you what the situation is, how they treat their own Indigenous people,” said Näkkäläjärvi, who is a member of NSR [Norske Samers Riksforbund] Nuorat, one of the organizations that has campaigned against the Norwegian state’s handling of the Fosen case.

Näkkäläjärvi pointed out that even though they won the Fosen case in court over 550 days ago, no concrete measures have been initiated.

“I expect the delegates here to hear what we say about the Fosen case and the current crisis we in Sápmi are in,” she said.

The Norwegian Sámi Parliament also raised the issue in the United Nations.

“As long as there is no solution to how we can stop the ongoing violation of human rights, there continues to be a pressing need to raise the matter in the United Nations,” said Sámi Parliament President Silje Karine Muotka.

She emphasized the importance of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues as one of the largest meetings organized for Indigenous peoples, where all United Nations member states can participate.

“We will work to ensure that this does not happen to other Indigenous peoples and also so that Norway will have to implement the Supreme Court judgment and give us a guarantee that this will never happen again,” said Muotka.

So, as the forum moved toward its conclusion, the overall impression was that the Sámis have gained considerable goodwill and that the spirits of the youth were high. Alluding to the age-old adage that in unity there is strength, one of them remarked, “It helps to come here and meet other Indigenous people and other Indigenous youth.”

This article originally appeared in the June 2023 issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE.

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Marit Fosse

Marit Fosse trained as an economist from Norwegian school of Economics and Business Administration in Bergen (Norges Handelshøyskole NHH) and then earned a doctorate in social sciences. She is the author of several books. Nansen: Explorer and Humanitarian, co-authored with John Fox, was translated into Russian/Armenian/French. In addition, Fosse is the editor of International Diplomat/Diva International in Geneva, a magazine set up 20 years ago for diplomats and persons working in the international organizations in Geneva but also elsewhere. In her free time, Fosse is an accomplished painter.