According to international law, the Sami are an indigenous people. The Sami people have their own culture, own language, own livelihoods and above all, a clear connection to their traditional land and water areas.
The rights of indigenous peoples emphasize the peoples’ right to preserve and develop their societies parallel to the majority society. Minority rights are always individual while many of indigenous peoples’ rights are collective.
Internal aspect of self-determination
The internal aspect includes a right for all people to themselves decide on their financial, social and cultural development. According to international law, indigenous people have the right to steer, among others, the development of their language, education, information, media, traditional knowledge, traditional cultural expressions, health services, housing policy and social services. They own the right to form and preserve their identity as a distinct people. Included is also the right to be consulted in the capacity as a people, on all matters that concern the people in question.
External aspect of self-determination
The external aspect is connected to indigenous peoples’ traditional land and water areas and natural resources. A part of the right to self-determination is to give indigenous people the right to decide on and/or exercise influence over their land and water areas, natural resources and traditional forms of living. Several UN agencies have emphasized that indigenous people have the right to control their traditional land and water areas, natural resources and traditional forms of livelihoods.
Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
In 2007, the United Nations adopted a declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples that, among other things, recognizes indigenous peoples’ rights to self-determination and the right to own, use and control land and natural resources. According to the declaration, land areas traditionally used by Sami can no longer be regarded as property of the State. According to the declaration, the Sami shall have the right to restoration of, or compensation for, land and natural resources that have been used without Sami consent.
International right to representation
The right to self-determination is due the Sami as a people, independent of national borders. The Sami population on the Swedish side shall be able to exercise the right to self-determination together with Sami on Finnish, Norwegian and Russian sides.