The Saami conferences have been an arena for discussions and spreading of information for over 50 years where common Saami policy and culture milestones and strategies have been shaped. The first Saami Conference was arranged in Jokkmokk, Sweden, in August 31st – September 3rd, 1953. This conference appointed a working group to prepare for the establishment of the Saami Council. It was then founded on the second Saami Conference, which was held in Karasjok, Norway, on August 18th. In 2053, a hundred years will have passed since the first Saami Conference. The theme of the first Saami Conference was to activate the Saami. The conference stated, amongst other, the following:
- "The issue how the Saami could secure their rights to the use of natural resources in the lands they inhabit is therefore decisive for their future. It is closely related to the active adaptation of the Saami to our time."
This became the start of the Saami movement to establish and organize a cooperation cross the national borders. The Nordic Saami Council was established and the second Saami Conference in Karasjok, Norway, in 1956, approved the decision. The work of the Saami Council and the Saami Conferences has been very important for the status and organization of the Saami people. The need for this work has only grown as time has passed.
The Saami Council is an important voice in the Saami civil society, since it is a cooperation forum of Saami organizations in four different countries. The Saami Council’s position on the international arena is strong. Even though the Saami Parliaments and the Saami Parliamentary Council are increasing their participation and fulfilling their roles more and more on the international arena, it is important that the Saami Council’s independent and free voice still remains strong.
The Saami Conference is the highest body of the Saami Council and therefore the most important forum of the Saami Council. It is to be arranged every four years. The official delegations of the Saami Conference consists of the member organizations of the Saami Council, in all 72 delegates representing member organizations from Finland, Norway, the Russian Federation and Sweden, with 18 delegates from each country. The Saami Conference approves the Saami Council’s annual and economic reports from the last four years, appoints the Saami Council’s representatives and adopts the Saami Conference’s declaration and resolutions to issues brought to the conference.