Information on the Saami Council

by Mr Stefan Mikaelsson, member of the Saami Council

'We, Saami are one people, united in our own culture, language and history, living in areas which, since time immemorial and up to historical times, we alone inhabited and utilized". (Saami Political Program 1986 /Saami Council statements)

Information on the Saami Council activities Purposes of the Saami Council Saami Council was established in 1956 and in general its purposes are:

* to promote the interests of the Saami as a nation
* to consolidate the feeling of affinity among the Saami people
* to attain recognition for the Saami as a nation and to maintain the economic, social and culturat rights of the Saami in the legislation of the four states. (Nonrray, Sweden, Russia and Finland). This objective can be achieved through agreements between these states and the bodies representing the Saami people, the Saami parliaments.

How to realise goals?

Saami Council renders opinions and makes proposals on questions concerning Saami people's rights, language and culture and especially on issues concerning Saami in different countries. These issues include i.a. draft decrees, environmental issues etc. Saami Council is involved in international works. Participation in international processes is a necessity for indigenous peoples and has brought substantial results: Saami Council has attained Nco-status at the IIN Ecosoc and ILO. Also work with and through direct contacts with other indigenous organisations and other NGOs provides a better chance of reaching common goals. Saami Council has participated in UN works since the I980's and has contributed e.g. to the revision of the ILO Convention no 169, the IIN Working Group on Issues Concerning Indigenous Peoples. Saami Council also is an active partner in the work of the Arctic Council (established 1996), which is a collaborative body of the eight Arctic states. Saami Council has, together with five other Arctic indigenous organizations (Inuit Circumpolar Conference/ICC, Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of North /RAIPON, Aleut International Association, Arctic Athabaskan Council and Gwich'in Council International) obtained a Permanent Participant status at the Arctic Council. At the Arctic Council, Saami Council takes part in meetings of officials and ministers and in working groups.
Saami Council has a representative at the Executive Council of World Council of Indigenous Peoples (WCIP) from the very beginning in 1975.

Saami Gouncil organization

The highest decision-making body of Saami Council is the Saami Conference, which takes place every fourth year. The conference appoints a fifteen-member body that constitutes the Saami Council. Delegates to conferences are nominated by the member organizations of Saami Council. Saami Council meets once or twice a year. In the intermediate period the executive board of the Council makes decisions on most issues.
The secretariat of Saami Council is located to Ohcejohka (Utsjoki), a rural municipality in the Northern part of Finland. It has presently four employees. The Secretariat is financed through appropriation granted by the Nordic Council of Ministers.

Saami Council's cultural efforts are an important share of the work of Saami cultural organizations. Saami Council annually allocates financial support to Saami artists and other culture organizations. This is the only pecuniary support to Saami in all the four countries.

Saami Gouncil and Parliaments

The Governments of the three Scandinavian countries have established Saami Parliaments (S6mediggi) as Saami official representative bodies. The status and mandate of these governmental advisory bodies are of importance to indigenous peoples' endeavours. Parliaments use their voice as official representatives for Saami while organisations (NGOs) work at the grass root level. The Saami in Russia have their
Saami Association, which also is a member of Saami Council, but they do not yet have a popularly elected Saami parliament.

Participation in new integrations

Also new integrations such as the European Union and the Barents Region Cooperation constitute new challenges to the Saami. How to favourabty utilize these possibilities is an important question to Saami. Small resources, however, limit possibilities to draw advantage of these offers and therefore other Saami organizations also have to make efforts to penetrate the new integrations and strategies.

International projects

Saami Council leads projects particularly focusing on Middle America, channeling them through the domestic sections of Saami Council. Even other projects are canalized through Saami Council. The Council thus serves as a practical link for some projects, e.g. Information Centre Initiative. Further Saami Council programme of aid to the Russian Saami.