“Indigenous peoples are calling for a comprehensive approach, once and
for all,” says 23-year-old Isak Utsi, who is participating in the major UN
World Conference on Indigenous Peoples in New York. Photo: Laila Duran
Isak Utsi will represent the Sami Council in the Church of Sweden at the UN’s major World Conference on Indigenous Peoples (WCIP) on 22–23 September in New York.“The Church of Sweden has considerable legitimacy and can influence countries in the right direction regarding the future of indigenous peoples,” says Isak Utsi.
“The work of the Sami Council in the Church of Sweden fits in well with the work of the UN conference. The World Council of Churches adopted an indigenous peoples programme during the global Assembly in Busan last autumn, which states, among other things, that indigenous peoples must gain a greater presence in UN bodies. The Church is a major actor. The perhaps most important aspect is the Church’s ability to provide support and legitimise changes and improvements for indigenous peoples,” says Utsi.
The goal of the UN conference is to promote the fulfilment of the rights of indigenous peoples as set out in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which was adopted in 2007. This declaration and Convention 169 of the International Labour Organization (ILO) are two accords that clarify the rights of indigenous peoples to their country, their culture and their development.
“Indigenous peoples are calling for a comprehensive approach, once and for all. Sweden played an active part in drawing up ILO Convention 169, but when it came to the crunch, Sweden did not ratify the convention. Sweden has been criticised by UN bodies, the European Council and other organisations for not fulfilling human rights. According to the UN, this right also means that indigenous peoples are entitled to say yes or no to the establishment of mining operations.”
“Swedish legislation concerning the Sami people should live up to the demands that Sweden once placed on other countries,” says Utsi.
Isak Utsi hopes that the world conference will put pressure on Sweden, and that the international community will demand that Sweden does the right thing in response to the criticism it has received for such a long time.
Isak Utsi comes from a reindeer herding family in Porjus in Jokkmokk Municipality and has worked with reindeer herding throughout his childhood and upbringing. He attended a Sami school and studied the Sami programme of subjects at upper secondary school. Utsi is studying politics and pursues lobbying and youth issues. He is a member of the Sami Council of the Church of Sweden and vice chair of Sáminuorra, the Sami youth federation.
Utsi is also an observer at the UN Climate Summit in New York on.
Follow Isak Utsi on Twitter from the UN’s World Conference on Indigenous Peoples on 22–23 September.