Climate Governance in the Arctic

Volume 50 of the series Environment & Policy pp 207-262


Rethinking the Status of Indigenous Peoples in International Environmental Decision-Making: Pondering the Role of Arctic Indigenous Peoples and the Challenge of Climate Change

  • Leena HeinämäkiAffiliated withNorthern Institute for Environmental and Minority Law, Arctic Centre, University of LaplandLapin yliopisto, Arktinen Keskus, PL 122 Email author 

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Global environmental problems – climate change being a major one – pose challenges to state-controlled international governance in many ways. One of the inherent limitations of present international law – particularly from the viewpoint of indigenous peoples – relates to international decision-making concerning the environment. The focus of this article is the rights and role of indigenous peoples in this context.

The problem of climate change, particularly in relation to Arctic indigenous peoples has been taken as a special case. The aim of this article is to show how impacts of climate change threaten many fundamental human rights of indigenous peoples, particularly in the Arctic area. However, as will be discussed, traditional human rights mechanisms are not necessarily capable of offering effective protection of the rights of indigenous peoples against global environmental interference such as climate change. For this reason, the aim of this article is to examine the possibilities for indigenous peoples to participate in international environmental decision-making.

One interesting and a unique exception to the general NGO model is found in the structure of the Arctic Council. The model of the Arctic Council in relation to indigenous peoples will be studied in this article, keeping in mind the possibilities of also using this model in other international environmental regimes.