Indigenous persons are especially vulnerable when it comes to climate change

The side event was arranged by The Norwegian Directorate for Children, Youth, and Family Affairs as part of the Norwegian presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers. Norwegian State Secretary to the Ministry of Culture and Equality, Gry Haugsbakken, opened the event by stressing the fact that indigenous people suffer disproportionately from loss of biological diversity and environmental degradation.  

– A recent report documents that a person’s disabilities sometimes are used as an explanation AND excuse for violating the person’s indigenous rights. A specific challenge is lack of knowledge and respect for indigenous person’s spiritual connection to land and nature, said Gry Haugsbakken. 

Minorities within minorities

All the Nordic countries have ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and voted in favor of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The challenge lies in the implementation. 

– All too often, indigenous cultural rights are forgotten for groups that have special needs, as they are minorities within the minorities, said Runar Myrnes Balto, Council member in the Sami Parliament in Norway, responsible for the health, equality, and visibility issues.  
 

All too often, indigenous cultural rights are forgotten for groups that have special needs, as they are minorities within the minorities,

 

Runar Myrnes Balto, Council member in the Sami Parliament in Norway

Listen to the people affected

One size does not fit all. Instead, it imposes the majority view on everybody, often excluding those who don’t fit the norm. Cultural sensitivity and language are important to correctly assess the individuals need for services, diagnosis, rehabilitation, and care. And then it important to listen to the affected groups.

– Persons with disabilities are the experts of their own lives, and their insights and experiences regarding disability issues are crucial to the effective development and implementation of policies that benefit persons with disabilities, underlined he Danish Minister for Social Affairs and Senior Citizens Astrid Krag. 

The largest minority on earth

Sif Holst, vice chair of Disabled People’s Organisations in Denmark, and Denmark’s representative on the Council of Nordic Cooperation on Disability, highlighted the fact that persons with disabilities often are grouped together by society. 

– People with disability make up a billion of the world’s population, making us the largest minority on earth. We come in every colour, every type of disability, every type of educational background, every kind of social background, said Sif Holst.She pointed out that we need an intersectional perspective that takes these differences into account.