The duty of states to consult indigenous communities is a well-established legal principle, but its implications for practice remain uncertain. Sweden is finding itself at a critical juncture as it prepares to legislate a duty to consult the Sami people in line with its international obligations.

The authors present novel empirical material on the views of Sami communities and state officials in ministries and agencies, and demonstrate that there are considerable gaps in implementation linked to practice, sectoral legislation, and political discourse.

The authors argue that if state duties are to promote the intended intercultural reconciliation, then new measures are needed to ensure enforcement, e.g. via mechanisms of appeal and rules of nullification. In addition, sectoral resource regulations should be amended to refer to the duties set out in minority law, and/or there should be a new bill on consultation duty.

The authors recommend that the state should ensure that Sami communities are adequately resourced to engage in consultation and should also invest in its own authorities’ capacity for implementation, i.e. through competence development, staffing, intersectoral coordination, and independent evaluation. Much could also be gained if state agencies and Sami communities worked together to develop detailed consultation routines for relevant resource sectors.