Sami children and the right to a future

Children’s rights in general are stated in the Norwegian Constitution, article 104, in domestic legislation as well as in international law, as the Convention on the rights of the child (1989).  Sami children as members of the Sami people has additional constitutional rights, which the state has a duty to respect, protect and fulfil (article 108). There is an urgent need for strengthened research on Sami children's rights in general.

Within the fields covered by the research school, the project can be developed through two different strands.

One strand could be how climate change may influence the resource base of the culture and hence the right to a future within the culture. The various UN (United Nations) human rights bodies are increasingly devoting attention to the effects of climate change on the realization of human rights in general and especially for indigenous people.

Another strand could be how Sami children's right to respect for their culture could influence their right to health and welfare. A new Child welfare law was adopted in June 2021 and will come into force in 2023. There is a new section on culture, sec. 1-8: “In its work, the child welfare service shall consider the child's ethnic, cultural, linguistic, and religious background in all phases of the case. The special rights of Sami children shall be safeguarded.”

For Sami children questions following both these strands could be important in respect to their right to a future. Violations of the right to respect for Sami children’s culture could have major welfare and health consequences, and thus consequences for their right to a future as Sami. As a project within legal science the PhD-student would have to analyze how different human rights treaties, international soft law instruments and national law meet these challenges. Sustainable Development Goal no.3 Good health and well-being for all would also be of relevance.  

For both these strands one main objective is to contribute to operationalize and safeguarding Sami children’s rights by analysing the different human rights framework and the national legislation. An important task in this context is assessing how different legal instrument could ensure that Sami children’s rights are respected, protected, and fulfilled.

Another main objective for both strands is analysing how basic principles and rights turn out for Sami children. Most relevant is the right to participation and non-discrimination/equality. For both rights, there are well developed models that can be used in the analyses, see for instance, Laura Lundy’s article “‘Voice’ is not enough: conceptualising Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child” British Educational Research Journal, 2007 pp 927–942 and Sandra Fredmans article “Substantive equality revisited” International Journal of Constitutional Law, 2016 s. 712–738. Sami children may experience intersectional discrimination both as children and as indigenous people. On the right to participation, one question concerns how Sami children themselves may influence on their right to a future in the Arctic.

There are several international institutions and stakeholders that could be possible collaborating partners. Norwegian institutions that one for obvious reasons could mention are:  

The Norwegian National Human Rights Institution (NIM) that works with a wide range of human rights, including the rights of vulnerable groups such as asylum seekers, indigenous peoples, children, and the elderly. Their task is to provide expert advice and guidance, so that the State authorities can best fulfil their human rights obligations. A recent report from NIM look upon climate and Human rights.

Samisk høgskole is another possible collaborating partner. Samisk høgskole is a member of University of the Arctics, UArctic, a network where the focus is indigenous peoples’ activities. It is also a member of the World Indigenous Higher Education Consortium, WINHEC, which has official recognized the School as an Institution for indigenous peoples.

The PhD student will be included in the child law research group Child law | UiT and be affiliated with the Project  Childrens right to health - Prosjektbanken ( see also  Prosjektbeskrivelsen Fripro.pdf . The student may also benefit from taking part in the research groups Sami and Indigenous Peoples Law | UiT  as well as having contact with  Norwegian Centre for the Law of the Sea | UiT on questions about Climate change.


Mona Martnes (Principal investigator)
Gilbert Ajebe Akame (Principal investigator)