Statement Ilulissat

Statement by Saami Council President, Ms Åsa Larsson-Blind at 10th Anniversary High-Level Meeting in Ilulissat 23. May 2018.

Thank you Minister,

I am very pleased to have been invited here today, at the occasion of the 10 years anniversary of the Ilulissat declaration. I am equally pleased to be joined by all the Arctic Council member states. It is regrettable though, that not all our fellow Arctic indigenous peoples’ organisations have been able to prioritize this high-level meeting. I think we collectively should be concerned about that. 

Revisiting the Ilulissat declaration today and looking back at the development over the 10 years since its signing, several of the intentions expressed in Ilulissat 10 years ago has been signed off – mainly through the Arctic Council cooperation: [among other things, we have a Search and Rescue Agreement, Agreement on Enhancing International Arctic Scientific Cooperation, established an understanding of the sovereignty questions with the outside world and the ​IMO has adopted the International Code for Ships Operating in Polar Waters (Polar Code)] most of them have already been mentioned by previous speakers. Saami Council also welcomes the new agreement on Arctic Scientific Cooperation now entering into force. 

The Saami Council notice with satisfaction that everyone with interests in the Arctic refer to the Arctic as a region of peace and stability, and an area of low tension. I think we all agree that we should all do our outmost to keep it so into the future. 

Looking back over the past ten years though, we see a line-up of Saami people in the court rooms in Norway and Sweden, people that are faced with situations on their land that put their livelihoods at risk, and most of the verdicts are in disfavour of the Saami people. There are a number of demonstrations against mining, forestry and windmill projects all over Sápmi that are putting Saami livelihoods under pressure – and that might get to court at a later stage. 

Mr Chair, does the call for stability and low-tension area only apply at the government level and not for the indigenous peoples? Does peace and stability only mean the absence of military conflicts? Wouldn’t a region of peace and stability be in the best position to also ensure stability for the diversity of Arctic cultures, livelihoods and Arctic societies? 

Arctic friends, we have lost count of how many actors express that they are looking to the Arctic and seeing the opening of all the new economic opportunities.I guess it is positive that so many want to be a part of the future of the Arctic region.  But what about the existing economies in the Arctic? Economies that have proven to be sustainable and being protective of the environment for millenmnia. For Saami Council it is essential that the opportunities in the Arctic are opportunities for all. The mantra of the UN Sustainable Development Goals is that no-one should be left behind – not the traditional livelihoods either. Their potential need to have a share of the opportunities. They should not have to defend their existence in court because their opportunities are constrained due to other economic development.

Is the world looking to the Arctic only for new sailing routes, responsible extraction of natural resources, and mass tourism.I don’t think so. Or do we have the potential to deliver something different – something unique? Arctic is the region that have the structures in place to do so. 

As many of you are aware, there is a delegation of Arctic Indigenous Peoples on their way to China now to attend the Gourmand Awards ceremonies – the Oscars of the cookbook world, later this week. The nominated book is a product of an Arctic Council project entitled “EALLU: Indigenous Arctic Change and Food Culture”, led by World Reindeer Herders Association, in partnership with 5 Arctic states and 6 indigenous peoples organisations of the Arctic Council.

In this unique and acclaimed food book, a team of 50 young indigenous authors present 14 different Arctic indigenous peoples´ food cultures in one volume, the first of its kind. The book has been nominated in as many as 4 categories at the Gourmand Awards: Food Heritage, Sustainable Food, Arctic Food, and the main prize itself – Best Food Book of the World, across all categories. The book is 1 of 16 nominees for the main prize, selected from contributions from 116 countries. This is something that we all can be proud of.

This is also a potential for Arctic Economic Development. This is the potential of the cultures of the Arctic region delivering valuable knowledge about life in the Arctic. Valuable knowledge that contributes to the understanding of what sustainable resource use mean in the Arctic and beyond. Knowledge that need to be incorporated in the future planning of the development of the Arctic region. Only then we can truly say that it will be a development for the peoples of the Arctic.


Thank you, Mr Chair.