The Saami of northern Europe are facing threats from all sides. Timber, pulp and mining companies are crowding into their ancestral land, clearing the boreal forests and destroying their livelihoods. Enough is enough: tell Finland to finally adopt the International Convention on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples (ILO 169).
By Rainforest Rescue*
We like to think of the Nordic countries as a group of wealthy, highly developed nations where the rule of law is unquestioned. Finland, however, has a major blind spot: the rights of its indigenous people.
Time and again, the Finnish government has refused to adopt the International Convention on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples (ILO 169). Years of negotiations and empty promises – including those of outgoing Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen – have raised expectations at home and internationally. The newly-convened government must now make this issue a priority.
ILO 169 is a binding international convention that secures the rights of indigenous people with regard to land access, education and other important issues. It has been ratified by 20 countries, including Norway and Denmark. Both the UN and EU have criticized Finland over the years for not adopting the convention, yet the Finnish government continues to ignore the rights of its first nation, the Saami people.
Environmental and Saami organizations have noted that by delaying the adoption of ILO 169, the government is putting corporate interests first: Big Business sees the convention as an obstacle to the unfettered exploitation of Finland’s natural resources without concern for its environmental and social impact.
ILO 169 would give the Saami their say about aggressive, unsustainable mining and logging projects on their traditional land. Tell the Finnish government to stand up for the rights of the Saami and a healthy environment by finally adopting the convention. Go here to sign the petition
ILO Convention 169
The Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention (ILO Convention 169) is the only binding international convention governing the rights of tribal and indigenous peoples. It was established in 1989 and has been adopted by 20 countries, mostly in Latin America.
Unlike previous legal standards that had been geared toward assimilation, ILO Convention 169 recognizes the aspirations of indigenous and tribal peoples to exercise control over their own institutions, ways of life and economic development and to maintain and develop their identities, languages and religions.
The Convention guarantees that indigenous peoples will be consulted and fully involved in establishing policy impacting their interests at all levels. It covers a wide range of topics such as land rights and access to natural resources — particularly with regard to logging, industrial agriculture and mining projects on indigenous land — as well as health, education, vocational training, labor law and supranational contacts.
*Rainforest Rescue is a nonprofit organization actively committed to preserving rainforests, protecting their inhabitants, and furthering social reforms. Since 1986, we have been interfering with the business interests of timber and cattle barons, oil and mining companies, Western banks and corrupt politicians. They all stand to make quick profits from the destruction of rainforests, while nomads, rubber tappers, indigenous tribes and small farmers are robbed of their livelihoods. Without international assistance, rainforest dwellers are often powerless. They frequently face discrimination as ethnic minorities and lack the financial resources to assert their rights.