keskiviikko 9. toukokuuta 2012

Speech by Laura-Maija Niittyvuopio on United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues/ SIde event Engaging and Empowering Indigenous Youth

Respected participants. You are most welcome to participate to this side event behalf of Saami youth Council and Saami Parliament of Finland.
My name is Laura Niittyvuopio and I come from Utsjoki at the border of
Finland and Norway where 1200 people live. My family and I are
reindeer herders, but I'm also studying education in the
University of Lapland in Rovaniemi. My mother tongue is north Sámi.
I am the leader of the Sami Parliament's Youth Council IN FINLAND and
I would like to tell you little bit of our council and what we do.

The Sami Parliament (Samediggi) is the self-government body of the
Sami, legislated at the beginning of 1996. Its main purpose is to plan
and implement the cultural self-government guaranteed to the Sami as
and indigenous people in the constitution of Finland. Youth council is the newest council of Samediggi. Youth Council was established of 2011 and there are 15 members between ages 15-25. In Finland we have three sami languages, north, anar and skolt saami.  All three sámi languages and cultural groups from around Finland are represented in the council.

The Sami Parliament has prioritized the development of Sámi youth
participation in the Sámi parliamentary work. It considers that it is
important to hear Sami youth voice and it has made it possible
that we have really good possibilities to impact. The Sámi youth in
Finland have better possibilities to participate in Sámi parliamentary
work at the highest level than the Sámi youth in other Nordic
countries. Our Sámi youth council is unique, because it has a right to
speak at the Sámi parliament plenum that meets 4-5 times a year.  The
Plenum is highest political organ of the Sami. The
Sámi youth council is also free to decide its agenda and priorities.
This way the voice of the Sámi youth can truly be heard in Finland.

The youth council has recently started its work. So far our main
priorities have been to improve linguistic and cultural rights and bring
Sami youth together. It's one of our biggest challenge because
saami people live all over Finland  and 65 % of saami youth
lives outside of the saami home area. Traditional Saami home area is defined in the act of Sami Parliament.     It covers the area of municipalities Enontekiö, Inari and Utsjoki and Lappi reindeer herding district in the municipality of Sodankylä. The task of the youth council is also express the opinion of young saami people in matters concerning them.

One of our purposes is to arraign meetings for saami youth all over
the Finland. Last year our youth council organized Nordic Sami Youth
conference where sami youngsters from Finland, Sweden, Norway and
Russia were represented.
Theme of the conference was traditional knowledge and tourism,f.e
how Finnish tourism industry abuses Sami culture in tourism. There were lots a conversation about this theme and it was really interesting to hear what kind of opinions other youth have.
The Sami Parliamentary Council (SPC) is the co-operational body for the Sami parliaments in Finland, Norway and Sweden and in the conference we had an idea to establish a joint youth council under it. !! The common youth council is really important for us because we are the same Sami people although
borderlines of countries are separating us. Common organ would strengthen sense belonging and communality of Sami youth

Many youth doesn't know their rights as an indigenous people,
especially youth who are living out side of the saami area. That's
why youth council considers that is important to increase knowledge of
their linguist and cultural rights so that they can demand them. Also is really
important to inform representatives of majority culture  about the saami people and our rights.
Members of majority culture have very little knowledge on saami people. Youth council is going to organize in the near future a seminar and a campaign on the rights of Sami youth in Finlands capital Helsinki.
The Sami Parliament of Finland is very concerned
about the situation of all three saami languages in Finland. ALL saami
languageS ARE endangered and two of them are extremely endangered.
Finnish government should react to this alarming situation immediately
and give us enough resources to act. Language is so big part of a
culture that if it disappears we lose first big part of our culture
and finally rest of it will disappear.

Saami parliament has demanded that Finland improves Saami people right to self-determination.  According to the act of Saami parliament authorities are obligated to negotiate with the Saami parliament on matters concerning Saami people. Unfortunately the authorities aren’t obligated to take into consideration saami parliament’s views. This hampers saami people’s right to self-determination.  Act of saami parliament defines who is a saami.   The highest decision power lies with the Finnish supreme administrative court. This is clearly a violation of the sámi cultural autonomy
granted to us in the constitution of Finland.
We should have more authority and Finnish government should be
required to discuss about issues considering Sami with Sami Parliament that we would  be satisfied  with the conclusion.

We expect and hope that the government will ratify ILO (International
Labour Organization) convention 169 concerning the rights of
indigenous peoples. Ratification of ILO will secure sami’s traditional
cultures, for example reindeer herding, and it would also have
symbolic meaning, and as we have understood, would improve the
reputation of Finland abroad in terms of its human right record.
Ratification of the ILO convention 169 is written in the political
programme of the Finnish government so the momentum for the
ratification is there and we have high hopes that it will come true
in the next few years.

We are proud to have been given the opportunity to represent the Sámi
youth through the youth council and also to present our work here at
the Unpfii. We also know that we have big responsibility because the
sámi parliament of Finland has high expectations of us as future
leaders of the Sámi people in Finland. The future holds a lot of
challenges and there is a lot of work to improve the rights of the
Sámi people in Finland. It is however a privilege to be part of the
youth council because our culture means so much to us.

Laura-Maija Niittyvuopio
Leader of Sámi Parliament's Youth Council

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