Speech by President Näkkäläjärvi at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) in New York 15.4.2024

Speech by President Pirita Näkkäläjärvi at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) in New York, 15 April, 2024.

Mr./Madame Chair,  

I am speaking in my capacity as the President of the Sámi Parliament in Finland. 

I think that many in this room, perhaps each and every one of us, would agree that forcing an Indigenous People into assimilation is wrong, especially in this day and age. However, this is unfortunately exactly what is happening in Finland. We Sámi are being forced into assimilation into the majority population. We are forced to include outsiders as electors in the Sámi Parliament in Finland – a representative body that is supposed to for and by the Sámi. 

A couple of weeks ago we received devastating news. Finland’s Supreme Administrative Court ordered 65 persons – outsiders from our People’s point of view – to be included in the electoral roll of the Sámi Parliament in Finland. These are persons that our Sámi Parliament bodies do not recognise as Sámi, and who do not fulfill the criteria for the right to vote. 

On account of these 65 outsiders not having been able to vote and run in our 2023 election, the Supreme Administrative Court also ordered a repeat Sámi Parliament election this June. 

The view of the Sámi Parliament in Finland in clear. These decisions constitute – again – a violation of the right to self-determination of the Sámi in Finland and a violation of human rights. 

I say again because this is not the first time this has happened. Luckily the world is watching. UN treaty bodies stated in 2019 and 2022 that on the matter of the electoral roll of the Sámi Parliament, Finland violates international human rights conventions, namely the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. 

UN treaty bodies have obliged Finland to review the Sámi Parliament Act in a manner that respects Sámi self-determination. As a result, we have negotiated a new proposal of the Sámi Parliament Act with two consecutive governments headed by Prime Ministers Sanna Marin and Petteri Orpo. Mr. Orpo’s government unanimously passed the bill to the Parliament. 

We urge the Finnish Parliament to finalise the amendment of the Sámi Parliament Act as soon as possible. In our view, the recent court decisions rather increase the pressure to amend the Sámi Parliament Act in accordance with the UN treaty body decisions than to drag one’s feet with it. Finland must prevent similar human rights violations regarding the Sámi Parliament electoral roll in the future. 

We Sámi do not want to be assimilated in the majority Finnish population. We might feel left down following the latest court decisions. However, we are not going to give up. We owe it to the Sámi people and all the Indigenous Peoples in the world to continue defending our right to self-determination as an Indigenous People. 

Thank you for your attention. 

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