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The First Investigation Report of the Norwegian Finnmark Commission

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The Alta case and the Sámi struggle for “rights to lands and waters” put political pressure on the Norwegian government to broadly explore the rights of the indigenous Sámi people to such resources. Both Norway’s ratification of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention No. 169 concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries in 1990, and the 2005 Finnmark Act are results of that exploration. To meet the obligations Norway undertook by signing the ILO Convention, the Finnmark Act authorises the Finnmark Commission to investigate land rights held by Sámi and other people in the most central part of Sámi areas in Norway. In March 2012, the Commission submitted its first report, which is the first specific legal clarification of a particular area after 30 years of examinations and discussions of Sámi rights. The report is therefore met with high expectations. This article analyses the main findings of the Commission, including the interpretation of its mandate and thus also Norway’s obligations in regards to the ILO Convention. The article concludes with reflections as to whether the investigation fulfils Norway’s commitments to identify and recognise the lands of the Sámi, both under national and international law.

Affiliations: 1: Professor of Law, Faculty of Law, University of Tromsø, Norway


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