Skip to content

Webinar on the rights and service provision of indigenous people with disabilities and dementia

Ministry of Social Affairs and Health
Publication date 31.8.2021 8.43
News item

As part of Finland's Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers, a webinar will be held from 31 August to 1 September that will focus on the rights of indigenous people with disabilities and diseases causing memory loss, and on the provision of linguistically and culturally sensitive services. The webinar seeks to raise awareness of rights, and share experiences to develop services.

Equal human rights for all

The purpose of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities. The main principles of the Convention are non-discrimination, inclusion and accessibility. The Convention emphasises the involvement of persons with disabilities in all decision-making concerning them. The obligation of the signatories to involve organisations of persons with disabilities also covers indigenous people with disabilities.

The rights of people with disabilities, people with diseases causing memory loss, and indigenous people are often treated separately. One important aspect of the webinar is intersectionality, in other words, how a combination of different factors affects the position and circumstances of the individual. 

One of the webinar’s main speakers is the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, Gerard Quinn.

‘When the CRPD was drafted, there was insufficient awareness of the situation and rights of indigenous persons with disabilities. However, unlike many previous treaties, the drafters did manage to open some small windows onto intersectional dimensions of disability discrimination – windows that have grown through time in the practice of the CRPD Committee. The time is right – if not long overdue – to give a much fuller consideration of the accumulated disadvantages that affect indigenous persons with disabilities,’ Quinn says, and continues:

‘More positively, now is the right time to value culture and the individual and overlapping identities of indigenous peoples. I have often said that the image of the person in the CRPD is that of the 'social self' and that belonging is just as important a goal as inclusion. That being so, the special connectedness between people and place, the heightened respect for nature and its bounty and the wisdom that indigenous cultures have developed over the centuries are assets for all humankind, as we try to develop a more sustainable future for all.’ 

Rights of Sámi persons with disabilities and diseases causing memory loss

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities guarantees that those with disabilities should have the right to live independently as part of the community. In additional to making basic services available to persons with disabilities, the service provision must include personalised special services, according to requirement.

When assessing the needs of assistance and support for people with disabilities and older people and planning such services, it is important to take the specific characteristics of Sámi culture into account. 

The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health is currently reforming the laws on services both for people with disabilities and for older people. People's involvement in their own lives and related decision-making, having the ability to live a life on one’s own terms despite functional constraints, and ensuring provision of services that meet individual needs, all represent the starting points for both projects. These aspects must also be realised for Sámi people with disabilities and diseases causing memory loss.

‘Both in the preparation of legislation and in its implementation, attention must be paid to the rights of the Sámi people, precisely because they involve specific linguistic and cultural characteristics,’ says Jaana Huhta, Senior Ministerial Adviser at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.

The webinar will be organised in cooperation between the Nordic Dementia Network under the Nordic Welfare Centre and the Council of Nordic Cooperation on Disability. Other organisers are the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, the Sámi Parliament in Finland, Sámisoster, the Advisory Board on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (VANE), and the Human Rights Centre.

The webinar is open to anyone interested, but participants are asked to register for the event. The language of the webinar is English, and the webinar will be interpreted into North Sámi.

Registration and event programme:
Indigenous peoples: language, culture, and life cycle (Nordic Welfare Centre)


Tea Hoffrén, Senior Specialist, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, [email protected]
Jaana Huhta, Senior Ministerial Adviser, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, [email protected]

Read more:
UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 

Back to top