Year: 1980 2000 2010 2020
Score: 1 2 3 4.5



    Partial, but limited.

Recognition of Land Rights/ Title Scores
Year: 1980 2000 2010 2020
Score: 0 0 0 0.5


  • In the late 19th century, Nordic countries, including Sweden, confiscated Sami territory under the Taxed Lapp Land system. The Swedish Reindeer Grazing Act of 1886 abolished any previously recognized Sami land rights and declared the Sami people's traditional land the property of the Swedish Crown. To this day, the Swedish government maintains that it alone owns all the lands of Sweden.
  • The Sami of northern Sweden have challenged the Government of Sweden's claim to their traditional territory. In the 1981 landmark judgment by the Swedish Supreme Court in the Skattefjall case, what is also known as the "Taxed Mountains case," the court confirmed Sami usufructuary rights to land for reindeer husbandry.
  • In the Taxed Mountains case, the court ruled that the Sami could conceivably acquire title to land by using it for traditional Sami economic activities. However, in this case, the Sami party did not have a proper evidential basis for their claim to ownership (UN 1997)..
  • In 1998, the Government of Sweden issued a formal apology to the Sami for the discrimination and injustice that they were met with by the Swedish state, including forced dislocation from their traditional lands.
  • Despite the Skattefjall ruling and the formal apology, no substantive or formal rights to land have been afforded to the Sami by the Swedish government. The United Nations Association of Sweden reports that the Sami right to land is ignored and systematically violated in Sweden (UNA Sweden 2010, 6).
  • The Nordic countries, including Sweden, maintain to this day that it is "beyond doubt that the Saami people's nomadic land use has not given rise to legal rights to land and that the Saami traditional lands, water, and natural resources belong to the [Swedish] state" (Ahren 2004, 93).
  • In a 2011 decision (the Nordmaling case) regarding a dispute between landowner logging rights and the grazing rights of Sami reindeer herders, the Supreme Court found in favour of the Sami, conferring common law rights to an area of land. The ruling provided important guidelines regarding Sami land rights more broadly (Sasvari and Beach 2011).
  • In January 2020, Sweden’s Supreme Court found in favour of the Sami, overturning a policy that restricted Sami hunting and fishing rights. In addition to affirming the cultural and traditional practices of hunting and fishing, the decision set a new precedent regarding Sami land use rights. The court ruling, however, only applies to the Sami people in Girjas sameby (for discussion of the “sameby” see self-government rights) (Hofverberg 2020).


    Partial, but limited to matters of language and culture, some local administration.

Recognition of Self-government Scores
Year: 1980 2000 2010 2020
Score: 0 0.5 0.5 0.5


  • The Sami Parliament of Sweden was established in 1993 under the Sami Parliament Act of 1992. The act states that the Sami Parliament's primary purpose is "to monitor issues that relate to Sami culture in Sweden."
  • Although the Sami Parliament is an elected body, by the Sami, it is regarded under Swedish law as a government agency to the central government. The Sami Parliament Act outlines the tasks of the Sami Parliament, placing them under the authority of the Swedish government.
  • As a state agency, the Sami Parliament must carry out the policies and decisions made by the Swedish Parliament. The Government of Sweden maintains the right to stipulate directives for the operations of Sami governance.
  • The Sami Parliament is controlled by the Swedish Parliament and the government through laws, ordinances and appropriation decisions. As a state authority, the Sami Parliament must follow the guidelines in the official appropriations documents that the Government of Sweden adopts each year.
  • Since 2007, the Sami Parliament has assumed responsibility for the reindeer industry from the Government of Sweden.
  • Swedish law has some mechanisms for Sami local self-governance. The Reindeer Husbandry Act (1971) created the “sameby” or “Sami village.” The sameby is an economic and administrative union within a geographic area. The members of a sameby have the right to participate in reindeer husbandry, and in some areas also have hunting and fishing rights.
  • The sameby administrative units have been important to advancing Sami hunting and land rights through the courts.



Upholding Treaties Scores
Year: 1980 2000 2010 2020
Score: 0 0 0 0


  • There is no evidence that Sweden has ever signed a treaty with the Sami people.
  • The Lapp Kodicill, an annex to a 1751 border agreement between Norway and Sweden, details rights and duties of the Sami people. The Sami have maintained that the Lapp Kodicill has status as a binding treaty under international law, and as such confirms the signatories' duty to respect the Sami nation.
  • In 2001, the governments of Norway, Finland and Sweden, and the Sami parliaments in each of the three countries, appointed an Expert Group to draft a Nordic Sami Convention. In November 2005, the Expert Group presented the draft text to the three governments and the three Sami parliaments.
  • All three Sami parliaments have endorsed the proposed Sami Convention. The actual process of negotiation did not begin until 2011, and a revised Nordic Sami Convention was presented in 2016. The revised proposal has been criticized by the Sami as being a weakened version of the 2005 draft, and as falling short of fulfilling international norms (Mörkenstam 2019).
  • The Sami will not be a formal party to the convention; doing so would deprive the convention of its status as a legally binding instrument under international law. However, the provisions of the convention stipulate that ratification and any amendments by the states shall not take place without approval by all three Sami parliaments (Henriksen 2008b, 75). 
  • In 2015, the Western Australia Government signed a $1.3 billion settlement with the Noongar people under the Native Title Act. The Native Title Act is primarily a mechanism for land claim., However, the final agreement addressed issues of governance, finance, and cultural heritage, among others, approximating modern treaties present in Canada and New Zealand.
  • When signed, the Sami Convention will be a legally binding treaty between Finland, Norway and Sweden on the rights of the Sami people, and can thus be viewed as a renewal of the Lapp Kodicill (Ahren 2004, 75; Ahren 2007, 12). However, ratification appears to still be several years away.


    Yes, with some limitations.

Recognition of Cultural Rights Scores
Year: 1980 2000 2010 2020
Score: 0.5 0.5 1 1


  • Funding has been provided for many years from the cultural budget to the Sami Parliament for grants to non-governmental Sami organizations at the local and national levels devoted to education, research and projects pertaining to Sami culture (UN 2006b, 86).
  • The Sami Parliament Act of 1992 invests the responsibility in the Sami Parliament over the direction of Sami linguistic work and preservation efforts.
  • The Sami language received formal status as an official minority language in Sweden with the enactment of the 1999 legislation, Act Concerning the Right to Use the Sami Language in Dealings with Public Authorities and Courts. This law stipulated the right to use Sami, both spoken and written, in proceedings with administrative authorities and courts. This law limited Sami language rights to the northernmost municipalities in Sweden.
  • The 1999 language legislation was replaced in 2009 with the Act on National Minorities and National Minority Languages. This new law protects the Sami language and expands the geographical areas where the right to use Sami in proceedings with authorities is accommodated.
  • In the same year, however, Swedish was proclaimed in a separate statute, the Language Act of 2009, to be the main language in Sweden, putting an emphasis on the minority status of Sami.
  • The Reindeer Husbandry Law, enacted in 1971 and last revised in 1993, regulates the rights of Sami in reindeer breeding. Only those Sami who are permitted to carry out reindeer herding enjoy special land and water rights. The land and water rights of Sami fishermen or other Sami have never been covered by the present legislation.
  • In 1992 the Swedish Parliament adopted legislative measures affecting traditional Sami hunting and fishing rights. The Swedish Parliament decided that all traditional Sami hunting grounds shall be accessible and open for all Swedish citizens. Since 2007, however, the Sami Parliament assumed responsibility for the management of the reindeer industry, taking over from the Swedish government's central administration.
  • The 2020 Supreme Court decision reaffirmed Sami hunting and fishing rights. The decision confirmed the authority of the Sami village (Girjas sameby) to confer hunting and fishing rights on others without the Swedish state’s permission. Moreover, the decision found that the state does not have the authority to confer these rights within the sameby.


    Partial, limited legal recognition.

Recognition of Customary Law Scores
Year: 1980 2000 2010 2020
Score: 0 0 0 0.5


  • With the abolition of the Taxed Lapp Land system in the late 19th century through the enactment of the 1886 Reindeer Grazing Act, the Swedish government revoked Sami legal traditions and customary law (Ahren 2004).
  • The 2011 Nordmaling decision by the Swedish Supreme Court found in favour of Sami reindeer-herder grazing rights, based on the principle of customary rights.
  • In Nordmaling, “the court confirmed that customary rights form the strongest legal principle for herding rights… and defined herding rights as collective rights that apply to the whole Saami reindeer herding population, and cannot expire” (Sasvari and Beach 2011)


    Partial, but very limited.

Guarantees of Representation Scores
Year: 1980 2000 2010 2020
Score: 0 0.5 0.5 0.5


  • The Sami Parliament is a consultative mechanism, and serves largely an advisory function. Unlike Finland and Norway, there is no legislated obligation on the part of the Swedish state to consult with the Sami Parliament. No mandatory action follows the hearing of the Sami Parliament in Sweden.
  • The Swedish Ombudsman against Ethnic Discrimination points out that the "Sami Parliament lacks real political influence as shaped through participation in decision making, the right of co-determination in legislative matters, the right of veto in administrative decisions or, the status of compulsory referral body in matters that concern the Sami interests" (Ombudsman against Ethnic Discrimination (DO) 2008, 23).
  • According to the Sami Parliament website, "the Sami have no representation in the Swedish Parliament" (Sametinget 2009). A 2003 research document notes that no Sami has ever been elected to the Swedish Parliament (Josefson 2003, 17)
  • Article 16 of the Nordic Sami Convention commits Sweden to negotiating with the Sami Parliament on matters of major importance to the Sami. The Article stipulates that “these negotiations must take place sufficiently early to enable the Sami parliaments to have a real influence over the proceedings and result.” The Nordic Convention has not yet been ratified by Sweden (Nordic Saami Convention 2016).



Affirmation of Distinct Status Scores
Year: 1980 2000 2010 2020
Score: 0.5 0.5 0.5 1


  • The Government of Sweden states that the Sami are recognized as an indigenous people and constitute a recognized minority in Sweden (UN 2006b, 5). The Sami were first recognized as an indigenous people by the Swedish Parliament in 1977. Currently, the Sami are recognized as one of five national minorities under the National Minorities in Sweden Government Act of 1998.
  • A new Swedish Constitution was drafted in 2010. The draft recognizes the Sami as a full-fledged people and not a minority. In a previous draft of the new constitution, the Sami were called an "ethnic minority." This description drew strong reaction from the Sami community, prompting the change by a parliamentary committee (Varsi 2010).
  • In 2011, the Constitution of Sweden was amended, recognizing the Sami as a people (Zeldin 2011; Sami Parliament, n.d.).
  • The Nordic Sami Convention recognizes the status of the Sami people as the only indigenous people of Sweden, as well as Norway and Finland (Scheinin 2007, 41). The Convention has yet to be ratified by Sweden.
  • In 2019, the Swedish government announced it would fund the creation of a Sami Truth Commission, that will shed light on the systemic injustices carried out by the Swedish state on the Indigenous group (CBC News 2020a).



Support for International Instruments Scores
Year: 1980 2000 2010 2020
Score: 0 0 0.5 0.5


  • Sweden adheres to the principle of duality, which stipulates that international treaties do not automatically become part of Swedish law. To become applicable, international treaties must either be converted into Swedish legislation or be incorporated through a special act.
  • Sweden voted in favour of adopting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This declaration is non-binding and does not impose duties or obligations on the Swedish state.
  • Sweden has not ratified ILO Convention C169 Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, 1989. Although the Swedish government has made attempts to ratify this convention, progress has slowed in recent years (UN 2008, 6).
  • Sweden, along with Norway and Finland, has been in discussion since 2005 with the three Sami parliaments on the adoption of the draft Nordic Sami Convention. The Expert Group that was commissioned to draft the convention makes clear that it is a rights convention, "with very few general or merely aspirational provisions" (Ahren 2007, 13). A revised Convention was agreed upon in 2016; as yet, the convention has not yet been ratified.
  • It is the view of the Government of Sweden that indigenous peoples have the right to self-determination insofar as they constitute peoples within the meaning of common Article 1 of the 1966 ICCPR and 1966 ICESCR.
  • However, Sweden has clarified for the UN that the right to self-determination shall not be construed as authorizing or encouraging any action that would dismember or impair, totally or in part, the territorial integrity or political unity of Sweden.


    No, but legislation requires "active measures" for equity in working life.

Affirmative Action Scores
Year: 1980 2000 2010 2020
Score: 0 0 0 0


  • There is no evidence that affirmative action for the Sami people exists in either law or policy.
  • In 2009, the new Discrimination Act was enacted, replacing several previous statutes, combining features of each into one comprehensive anti-discrimination law. The legislation entails provisions on "active measures" in working life in the areas of equal pay.
  • Although the law works to promote equal rights and opportunities, particularly in working life, it does not explicitly address the Sami people. Under this law, the Sami would be protected against discrimination on the grounds of ethnic origin.
  • Article 7 of the Nordic Convention addresses non-discrimination and special measures. The Convention (once ratified) will ensure the protection of Sami against discrimination, and establishes that Sweden (and Finland and Norway) “shall, when necessary for the implementation of Saami rights pursuant to this Convention, adopt special positive measures with respect to such rights” (Nordic Sami Convention, 2016).