Arctic Challenge for Sustainability Ⅱ

ArCS II Research Program on

International Law

March 3, 2023 Press Release

Research Brief on the distinction between “indigenous peoples” and “local communities” in the Arctic governance discussion


ArCS II International Law Research Program has published, in Japanese, its eighth volume of Briefing Paper Series (BPS): “Distinction between ‘indigenous peoples’ and ‘local communities’ in the Arctic governance – 2020 Policy Paper on the Matter of ‘local communities’ by the Inuit Circumpolar Council–”. BPS has three categories, namely, Policy Brief, Fact Sheet and Research Brief, and the eighth volume is the first Research Brief in the series which is to provide the academic communities and the general public with an easy-to-read summary of research undertaken under the ArCS II International Law Research Program. This volume is written by Mr. Kaito Suzuki, a doctoral student of law at McGill University in Canada.

For ordinary Japanese, the distinction between indigenous peoples and local communities in the Arctic governance narrative is not easy to understand. In such context, this Research Brief, written in easy-to-read Japanese, first examines the 2020 policy paper by the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC) on the matter of local communities. Then, it examines how the actors ‘indigenous peoples’ and ‘local communities’ can be defined and how their rights have been developed under international law respectively. This analysis is conducted based on such developments brought by treaties and documents in environmental and human rights law. These legal settings are also referenced in the ICC policy paper on matters of local communities.

Although indigenous peoples' rights to land, natural resources, and culture have been developed and institutionalized by the nation-states and the international society, those of local communities have yet to be discussed. Consequently, while the term ‘indigenous peoples’ has not yet obtained agreed definition, the Inuit peoples, for example, have identified themselves as indigenous peoples. This paper compares the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities based on the International Bill of Human Rights and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

At the same time, it needs to be emphasized that the rights of local communities have also been required to be considered in the context of global environmental protection, such as climate change and biodiversity. This is because the provincial communities, whose livelihoods have been affected by the change in environmental conditions, need to be considered in the public decision-making processes about environmental concerns. Reflecting such limitations as well as potentials under current international law relating to the rights of indigenous peoples and those of local communities, this Research Brief concludes that, under the current structure of the Arctic Council, a prominent Arctic governance forum, the preference was given to the indigenous peoples and the protection of their rights.



is a doctoral student of law at McGill University, Canada, and a research collaborator of ArCS II International Law Research Program. His research interests include the rights of indigenous peoples, local communities, and peasants under international environmental law and human rights law.

<Relevant Information>
Inuit Circumpolar Council, Policy Paper on the Matter of “Local Communities”, October 12, 2020.
■ ArCS II International Law Research Program Briefing Paper Series