Indigenous Peoples and the Right to Participate in Decision

23 March 2010
Government Offices
Office of the High Commissioner for
Human Rights
Information from Sweden regarding the Study on
"Indigenous Peoples and the Right to Participate in
Please find below relevant information prepared by the Swedish
Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Gender and
Integration pertaining to indigenous peoples and the right to
participate in decision-making related to the questionnaire by
the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,
dated 22 February 2010.
Question 1.
Sweden adheres to a dualistic system, which means that conventions
that Sweden ratify do not automatically become part of national law.
There are two main methods for giving legal effect to international
conventions in Swedish law: incorporation and transformation.
International conventions are usually transformed into Swedish law by
the enactment of equivalent provisions in an existing or a new Swedish
statute. In certain cases, a convention can be incorporated by means of
general law, stating that the convention shall apply in Sweden as
Swedish law and be directly applicable.
The above-mentioned framework applies to giving legal effect in
Sweden to international human rights law at large. Consequently, it
applies to the implementation of international human rights
frameworks with regard to persons belonging to indigenous peoples.
A basic element of Swedish Sami policy is to support and promote the
rights of the Sami people and issues directly affecting the Sami people
and reindeer herding. The Sami parliament has been given special
responsibilities related to participation in decision making. For
example it shall:
decide the distribution of state grants and the distribution of
other financing made available for the Sami;
appoint the Board of the Sami Schools;
manage Sami language projects;
participate in social planning and monitor compliance with
Sami needs, including interests of the reindeer industry as
regards land and water; and
disseminate information of Sami conditions.
The Sami parliament has been given new responsibilities with regard
to reindeer herding issues.
The Government submitted a bill on increased Sami influence in 2006
where the Government proposed designation of the Sami Parliament
as the central administrative agency responsible for reindeer
husbandry and transferred a number of administrative task from the
County Administrative Boards and the Swedish Board of Agriculture.
Question 2, 3.
At the regional level the County Administrative Boards have a special
Reindeer Herding Delegation. The delegation consists of
representatives from the Sami villages and politicians from the
regional level. The head of the delegation is the County Governor. The
mandate is to decide on land lease and other matters of concern for
the Sami villages.
The Sami Parliament, as being the central administrative agency
responsible for reindeer herding husbandry together with the Reindeer
Herding Delegations at the regional level constitute important tools
for consultation at different levels.
As regards decision making at the local level Sami villages affected by
e.g. application for geological survey must be given the right of
consultation before prospecting is permitted.
The reindeer owners have protection against interference with their
rights as land owners with the same procedure of consultation as
described above. Consequently, they are regarded as parties when it
comes to granting permits for building roads, airports , power stations
and other exploitations.
No special permits is needed before logging but when it comes to
larger areas consultation is required between the concerned Sami
village and the forest company /private land owner. The consultation
focuses on the size of the area and how to best take reindeer herding
into consideration. The reindeer herding area is divided into year
around reindeer breeding land and winter grazing land. There is,
however, no obligation to consult before logging on winter grazing
The Sami is recognized as a national minority in Sweden on the basis
of Sweden's ratification of the Council of Europe Framework
Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. According to
article 15 of the Framework Convention parties shall create the
conditions necessary for the effective participation of persons
belonging to national minorities in cultural, social and economic life
and in public affairs, in particular those affecting them.
As a part of the Government's new strategy for national minorities a
new Act (No. 2009:725) regarding national minorities and minority
languages entered into force January 1, 2010. The new act states that
administrative authorities shall give the national minorities the
opportunity to have influence on matters which concern them and
shall, as far as possible, consult with representatives for the minorities
in such matters.
Question 4.
A bill on Swedish Sami policy was intended to have been addressed to
the Swedish Parliament (Riksdagen) in March 2010.
Due to criticism from the Sami parties the Government has postponed
the process for the purpose of entering into a closer dialogue regarding
the content of the bill with Sami groups.
A proposal concerning introducing a Swedish consultation process
regarding questions which are of interest for the Sami was one of the
key issues to be included in the bill. The consultation process aimed at
strengthening Sami influence in questions regarding their interests
and implementing international human rights framework pertaining
to indigenous peoples. The Swedish Government would not oppose
transferring new responsibilities to the Sami Parliament on issues
directly affecting the Sami people. In a situation where autonomous
decision making is not possible, participation in decision making could
be an alternative.