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NORUEGA. 2nd Barents Indigenous Peoples’ Congress

Two events have just taken place in the Kirkenes, the North Eastern most city of Norway, both of them organised by the Working Group of Indigenous Peoples (WGIP) under the interregional Barents cooperation. One was a conference on Indigenous Peoples, Business & Environment on 9 February. The other was the 2nd Barents Indigenous Peoples’ Congress the day after.

Undisputed top star in both events was Dr. James Anaya, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Mr. Anaya even took part in the full two days of gathering, a welcome practice hopefully characteristic of Indigenous contexts as opposed to the usual hit-and-run of keynote speakers in other contexts.

Among other things, Mr. Anaya spoke of corporate responsibility that is in the process of being formalised in international customary law. He reminded of the three main dimensions of it: the duty of states to protect indigenous peoples; the duty of corporations to respect indigenous peoples; and the need to have remedial mechanisms in place when states and corporations fail on the two first-mentioned accounts.

Photo opportunity with Dr. Anaya

Mr. Anaya also drew attention to three eras within modern times in terms of indigenous relations: the first one was characterised by the invisibility of indigenous peoples to industry and governments; the second one has been characterised by a widespread recognition of indigenous peoples, implementation and operationalisation of their rights, as well as mitigational initiatives and redress; the third era, one that according to the Special Rapporteur is only just shimmering in the horizon, will be characterised by the advent of true partnerships between indigenous peoples and business corporations and governments in extractive and other development projects.

The aim of the 2nd Barents Indigenous Peoples Congress was for the peoples involved – the Saami, Nenets, and Veps – to adopt two documents related to their common positions and policies: 1) a conference statement, and 2) an action plan for 2013 – 2016.

With the addition of some amendments, both document were unanimously adopted. Both of them reflect major upcoming events, first and foremost among them the UN World Conference on Indigenous Peoples in 2014 as well as related, preparatory conferences in 2013.

WGIP Chair Lars-Anders Baer charing the Congres drafting session

The business conference and the Barents indigenous congress both took place in parallel with the so-called Barents Days or Barents Spektakel ”Dare to Share”. The string of cultural events that made up the Barents days of February 8 - 12 included the, indeed very spectacular, ceremonial burning down of the world’s smallest hotel.

Mr. Bjarne Store-Jakobsen

Most mentionable was also a rock concert on the night of Friday 10 of February with the Muscovite band Mumiy Troll performing an absolutely mind-blowing act, to be followed only with the greatest of difficulty by the Norwegian band Forza.

WGIP Executive Secretary Christina Henriksen



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