Who Owns the Land? Norway, the Sami and the ILO Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention

in International Journal on Minority and Group Rights
Restricted Access
Get Access to Full Text
Rent on DeepDyve

Have an Access Token?

Enter your access token to activate and access content online.

Please login and go to your personal user account to enter your access token.


Have Institutional Access?

Access content through your institution. Any other coaching guidance?


In 1986, the International Labour Organization (ILO) started a process aimed at revising its 1957 Indigenous and Tribal Populations Convention (C107). This process was completed in 1989 with the adoption of the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention (C169). Simultaneously, national legal and political processes in many Western states addressed the rights of their own indigenous populations. These states voted in favour of C169, but only Norway chose to ratify it – indeed, as the first country in the world, in June 1990. This article details the internal political processes within the Norwegian government, to shed light on the significance of the domestic situation in Norway for its support for C169. We find that a low degree of perceived need for domestic changes may enable states to take a leading role in creating new human rights conventions. Furthermore, the participation of government officials in international horizontal and vertical policy networks may shape the policies of their ministries and thereby those of the state.

Who Owns the Land? Norway, the Sami and the ILO Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention

in International Journal on Minority and Group Rights




Petersonibid. pp. 201–202; Barsh ibid. p. 369; Sanders ibid. esp. pp. 414–415.


As of February 201322 states have ratified C169: <www.ilo.org/dyn/normlex/en/f?p;1000:11300:4227926804783738::NO:11300:P11300_INSTRUMENT_ID:312314> visited on 7 February 2013. See A. J. Semb ‘Why (not) Commit? Norway Sweden and Finland and the ILO Convention 169’ 30:2 Nordic Journal of Human Rights (2012) pp. 122–147 for a comparative analysis of the ratification behaviour of these Nordic countries.


IWGIA Yearbook 1986Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights (IWGIA Copenhagen 1987) p. 3.


Petersensupra note 10 p. 204; Barsh supra note 10 p. 384; Sanders supra note 10 p. 410. For personal accounts see A. W. Díaz ‘How Indigenous Rights Reached the UN’ in Charters and Stavenhaven supra note 10 p. 16 et seq.; A. Eide ‘The Indigenous Peoples the Working Group on Indigenous Populations and the Adoption of the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples’ in in Charters and Stavenhaven supra note 10 pp. 32 et seq.


Mindesupra note 16 p. 229.


Tarrowsupra note 20 pp. 32 59 et seq.


St.prp. nr. 36 1958p. 4; Innst. S. nr. 68 1958. On the concept of ‘indigenous populations’ in the 1950s see Peterson supra note 10 pp. 210–211.


Mindesupra note 10 p. 65.


NOU 1980:53pp. 16–24. For documents pertaining to the inter-departmental work in preparation for the 1980 report see MFA 76.14/20B F 1.


NOU 1980:53pp. 38–41.


NOU 1984:18pp. 309–310.


NOU 1984:18p. 44.


NOU 1984:18pp. 15 264–265.


NOU 1984:18pp. 19 342–344.


Rodríguez-Piñerosupra note 2 p. 273 and esp. ch. 8 for an analysis of the factors that triggered the initiative to revise C107 as well as the main actors involved.


Rodríguez-Piñerosupra note 2 pp. 285–286 fn 141.


Report VI (1)supra note 57 p. 1.


Interviews: Arnesensupra note 68; Wille ibid. The Nordic Sami Council was established in 1956 as a joint coalition between Sami organizations from Finland Norway and Sweden. When Russian Sami organizations later joined the Council it changed its name to the Sami Council.


Report VI (1)supra note 57.


NOU 1980:53p. 39. On the efforts to improve national control over Northern Norway after the dissolution of the union between Sweden and Norway in 1905 see O. Riste Norway’s Foreign Relations: A History. (Universitetsforlaget Oslo 2004) pp. 84–85. On the security dimension of minority policies in Northern Norway see K. E. Eriksen and E. Niemi Den finske fare: Sikkerhetsproblemer og minoritetspolitikk i nord 1860–1940 (Universitetsforlaget Oslo 1981).


NOU 1980:53p. 40.


Interview Arnesensupra note 68.


Niezensupra note 2 esp. pp. 6 et seq.; interview with Jon Gauslaa Oslo 24 April 2010. Gauslaa served as the secretary of the Sami Rights Commission from 1988–1996.


Interview Høgetveitsupra note 69.


Report VI (2)supra note 61 p. 47. For brief summaries of indigenous groups’ land claims in Canada Australia New Zealand and elsewhere see e.g. NOU 1984:18 pp. 321–332. See also R. P. Hill ‘Blackfellas and Whitefellas: Aboriginal Land Rights the Mabo Decision and the Meaning of Land’ 17:2 Human Rights Quarterly (1995) pp. 303–308.


Report VI (2)supra note 61 pp. 48–49.


Interview Swepstonsupra note 51; interventions by Dunfjeld and Dalee S. Dorough at Oral History Conference 8 March 2012. Dorough represented the Inuit Circumpolar Conference during the 1988 and 1989 ILO conferences and served as one of two lead spokespersons on behalf of the Indigenous Rights Group.


Interview Swepstonsupra note 51; Interventions by Dunfjeld and Wilton Littlechild at the Oral History Conference 8 March 2012. Littlechild is Cree and an active advocate for indigenous issues at an international level. He was a member of the Canadian Parliament from 1988 to 1993.


Dorough‘Revision’ pp. 5 and 19; MFA 76.14/20B F 3 Memorandum by IWGIA ‘Concerning Revision of ILO Convention 107 and Questionnaire’ p. 2.


Interview Arnesensupra note 68.


Interview Arnesensupra note 68.


Interviews: Høgetveitsupra note 69; Arnesen supra note 68; Wille supra note 71.


Interview Gauslaasupra note 84; Norwegian National Archive (hereafter RA) unsorted archival material ‘Samerettsutvalget 1’ [Sami Rights Commission 1] including minutes of meetings 1987–1992 and correspondence 1987–1993.


Interview Høgetveitsupra note 69.


Interviews: Høgetveitsupra note 69; Arnesen supra note 68.

Index Card

Content Metrics

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 14 14 10
Full Text Views 19 19 19
PDF Downloads 3 3 3
EPUB Downloads 0 0 0