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Collective Rights in a Modernizing North: On Institutionalizing Sámi and Local Rights to Land and Water in Northern Norway

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Sandberg, Audun
Conference: Building the European Commons: From Open Fields to Open Source, European Regional Meeting of the International Association for the Study of Common Property (IASCP)
Location: Brescia, Italy
Conf. Date: March 23-25
Date: 2006
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/174
Sector: Social Organization
Land Tenure & Use
Water Resource & Irrigation
Region: Europe
Subject(s): IASC
indigenous institutions
Sámi (European people)
water resources
land tenure and use
property rights
Abstract: "Devolution and the institutionalizing of indigenous and local rights in the northern areas of the world have been a lengthy process. Alaska, Canada, Russia and the Nordic countries have experienced long and painful constitutional processes that are far from resolved yet. Among these, one of the most interesting ones is the 25 year long Norwegian political and legal process to establish indigenous and local property rights to 'land and water' in the northern province of Finnmark, and to transfer all state property rights to a completely new owner-body: Finnmarkseiendommen, after 300 years of sovereign state ownership . This paper gives an update and an analysis of this process of the re-emergence of an underlying Commons - at the verge of the implementation of a new property rights regime in the north. "In this Northern Province, institutional developments have been distinctly different from the rest of Norway, something which today is visible in different legislation for the use of forests and mountains. This has been a meeting place between 'the three tribes' (the Sámi, the Háløygs and the Kven) at the same time as the state has had a significant and powerful presence in the area since the 16th century. This mixture has produced a cultural landscape with its own particular problems. The evolving institutions are also characterized by a customary collective use of the harvestable resources on land and in water in the entire area and the nomadic pasturing and managing rights of the reindeer herders which have evolved from ancient use. These ancient rights are now considered to have been independent of the rights of the owners of the ground. The national institutional solution also has had to be in accordance with international law, in this case in particular the UNConvention on Civil and Political Rights (Article 27) and the ILO-convention no. 169 on indigenous peoples in independent states. "In this complex web of diverse historical rights, multilevel usage and international considerations, a process of institutionalization has taken place that will be of considerable interest to both the rest of Europe and other circumpolar areas, but which still is open towards future developments."

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