The delegates had applied for visas to attend the Indigenous Terra Madre conference in Jokkmokk, the world’s first conference for indigenous people from around the world to discuss sustainable agricultural practices.
The Embassy of Sweden in Addis Ababa claimed that, despite guarantees issued by conference organisers, the “risk of flight was too high” and that the “individuals were assessed as unestablished in their country and are largely lacking resources.”
In addition, indigenous delegates from Kenya, Cameroon and Niger, who also intended on participating in the conference, were denied from travelling out of their homelands, however these decisions did not involve Swedish embassies.
In a statement, the conference organisers accused Sweden of violating the United Nation’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which states that indigenous peoples, especially those who are divided by international borders, have the right to maintain and develop contacts, relations and cooperations, and that member nations shall facilitate the exercise of this right.
“This is contrary to the human rights that the UN has established and is applicable to indigenous people as well as for all people. It is discriminatory under the UN Declaration on Discrimination and from the European Convention,” Ol Johan Sikku, president of Slow Food Sápmi, the main organizer of the event, said in a statement.
The Indigenous Terra Madre took place at the weekend in Jokkmokk and brought together more than 200 delegates from 50 different groups of indigenous peoples from around the world to discuss food, climate and sustainable living.
The forum was organised by Slow Food Sápmi, Slow Food i Sverige, and Slow Food International.
Many delegates at the conference, which included farmers, sheep farmers and small-scale producers from the different indigenous groups, had never been outside their home countries.
The goal of the forum was to exchange expertise and traditional knowledge about sustainable use of natural resources that can contribute to developing good, clean and fair food systems.
“We indigenous people have more in common than what divides us. We need to speak with one voice and share a common strategy. We hope to organize ourselves to determine our strength,” Sikku said in the statement.
One of the main contentions raised during the weekend’s conference was the issue of biodiversity and the risks to the mono-culture that is spreading in context of large-scale food production, which has become increasingly common in many countries.