Mr. President, distinguished ministers, delegates, elders and honoured guests from the circumpolar region ranging from the Bering Strait in the east to Alaska in the west. Ladies and gentlemen:
I am honoured and very pleased to be invited here today to address you on this 8th General Assembly of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference - during a Greenland Presidency and here in Nuuk. Where also the very first conference took place back in 1980.
Let us be clear from the beginning: At the global level many indigenous peoples today face a very difficult situation.
Political development combined with the general economic globalization racing all over the world often make it difficult for indigenous peoples to maintain their cultural origin on economically sustainable terms.
This is not an acceptable situation! Because - what is identity, without ones own culture and history? We believe, it is possible to unite identity and economic survival.
But it requires political will. We have that will. And we have shown it here in Greenland - together. Denmark and Greenland.
The world is beginning to wake up now. The nations are beginning to realise the necessity of a new global concencus of securing indigenous people. Here, at the beginning of a new Millenium.
It is vital that the rights of and respect for indigenous peoples are kept on the international agenda. The ICC and the General Assembly today make an extremely important contribution to this end.
Denmark and Greenland - international cooperation
We - Denmark - and Greenland have set up a strategy to ensure Danish support to indigenous peoples. The aim of the strategy is to ensure that indigenous peoples have real influence on all matters concerning their economic, political and cultural development.
Denmark and Greenland are working for and calling upon the United Nations and its member states to establish a Permanent Forum for indigenous peoples: At a prominent level within the UN system and with a broad mandate covering such issues as development, environment, culture and human rights.
It should be a permanent forum, because we want to ensure that indigenous peoples situation is a permanent issue on the UN agenda. Because this issue also is the practical realisation of minority rights and human rights.
Therefore we work together towards the adoption of the draft United Nations’ declaration on the Rights of indigenous peoples, - one of the main objectives of the International Decade of the World ́s Indigenous Peoples.
Under the Danish development aid-programme the Greenland Home Rule experiences are often called for. One such project for teaching and passing on experiences of this kind to indigenous groups is implemented by the ICC in Belize in Central America.
We believe, that we two partners - Denmark and Greenland - do know, what we are talking about! Good experiences, based on clear principles: Democracy. Mutual respect of identity and history. Education. Fight against unemployment.
The increasing consciousness upon the situation of indigenous peoples of the world has also led the European Commission to work out a strategy for the support of indigenous peoples. We have assisted the Commission in the preparation of its work. And together with the ICC and the Swedish Sami Council we have initiated a fruitful consultation among indigenous peoples about the draft of the European Commission.
This work continues and we will closely participate in the follow-up.
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The well being of mankind and nature is of the same kind, and mutual interdependent. In modern time democracy for all - one man, one vote - is generally accepted. But to become real in the sense of real opportunities for everybody, we have to go further. And we have to unite nature and human beings again. Here - indigenous peoples know. You do know how, from your history, experiences through generations and actual knowledge.
Denmark welcomes the establishment of the Arctic Council as an important forum for all circumpolar Arctic activities. We hope that the forthcoming ministerial meeting in September in Canada will provide the necessary guidelines for the future work. This is of utmost importance.
No real progress on co-operation among the Arctic states on important economic, environmental and cultural issues can be obtained without the involvement of the Arctic indigenous communities and other Arctic inhabitants.
This is recognised in the Declaration on the Establishment of the Arctic Council.
A very important task of the Council will be the establishment of a sustainable development programme to the benefit of the environment. Needless to say: It is quite clear that such a programme implies the active participation of the peoples of the Arctic region. In co-operation with Greenland the Danish Government will put much emphasize on this matter. We consider this to be a natural continuation of the work under the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy.
We find that the environmental co-operation should be one of the fundamental issues for the Arctic Council
For this very purpose, the Indigenous Peoples’ Secretariat has been established in Copenhagen. The Secretariat serves four permanent participants including the ICC, which all are indigenous peoples’ organisations. The Secretariat makes a valuable contribution to the promotion of the interests of the indigenous peoples. We hope that it will be possible within the Arctic Council, to reach an agreement on a financial arrangement with contributions also from other member states, enabling the Secretariat to expand its activities.
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Home Rule: The Danish - Greenlandic Model
There is no uniform nor simple solution to the question of how to create a constitutional framework for indigenous peoples within the limits set by nation-states.
Each country and each peoples must find their own solutions.
Greenland and Denmark have formulated one model - the Home Rule Agreement securing the self-government of the people of Greenland.
The Danish Government attaches great value to the Home Rule arrangement. We work together in an open political dialogue and - most importantly - in mutual respect and solidarity.
The relationship between Denmark and Greenland finds itself in a permanent process of development. Greenland have gradually taken over the responsibility for more and more policy areas of a modern society. Lately oil-activities and development continue. Still based on mutual respect, responsibilities and rights and duties.
We have been able to ratify the ILO Convention 169 on indigenous and tribal peoples - with the consent and encouragement of the Greenland Home Rule Government - without any changes to any laws and regulations governing the Danish-Greenland relationship. The ILO convention emphasizes the rights of indigenous peoples to exercise control over their own institutions, ways of life and economic development, and to maintain and develop their identities, languages and religions within the framework of the states in which they live.
I make this explicit reference to the convention because it covers - in a few words - the complexity of the matter.
We do not claim that our model of Home Rule can be transferred directly to other parts of the world.
We have noted with pleasure that Canada - prior to the forthcoming creation of Nunavut in the Eastern Arctic in 1999 - has studied the experiences of Greenland Home Rule.
We hope that the Home Rule arrangement may be an inspiration to other parts of the world. It is important to show to the rest of the world that this can be done : a peaceful settlement within the nation- state, - a recognition of an indigenous population within the nation-state. Based on mutual respect of culture and identity, own and common history, economic and social opportunities as we underline in the modern welfare society, but based on rights and duties. And first and foremost based on the common thinking that everybody counts, everybody can do something.
The ICC and conclusion
Mr. President, In the global work the ICC plays an enormous important role and has done so from the beginning.
You have opened the eyes of the world of nations and people.
You have led the world to see the special conditions for the Inuit in the Arctic: Your dependency on natural resources, land and sea mammals especially, through thousands of years under the harshest of climates in the circumpolar region. Your ability to deal with the natural resources in a sustainable way - a necessity for survival.
And you have been able to show the world the identity of the Inuit - you have preserved your heritage.
It is impressive that throughout the centuries you - the Inuit - have maintained your cultural heritage - your Inuit legends. They were handed down from 'mouth to ear' as we say, from generation to generation, like the sagas of Iceland. We owe our thanks to Knud Rasmussen, who recorded them down in this century only. And I learned, that out of 52 legends collected in Arctic Canada, he recognised 30 from Greenland.
This shows the links between the Inuit and how your cultural heritage was preserved.
Sharing a common knowledge and culture gives a ballast and confidence for meeting the challenges of tomorrow ́s world.
Finally, may I express my sincere hope that your important work in the Inuit Circumpolar Conference will continue and strengthen. I wish you a giving and productive General Assembly during this week.
Mr. President, honoured delegates, elders, ladies and gentlemen: You enjoy the privilege of being among friends.
Qujanarsuaq - thank you very much!