Laponiatjuottjudus: a participatory management system in the Laponian Area World Heritage, Sweden

Magnus Kuhmunen
Published: 04 October 2020
Last edited: 05 May 2021
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The Laponian Area was inscribed in 1996 in the World Heritage List under criteria (iii), (v), (vii), (viii) and (ix). It is composed of four national parks and two nature reserves containing two dominant landscape types: an eastern lowland comprising marshlands, hundreds of lakes, and mixed woodlands; and a western mountainous landscape with steep valleys and powerful rivers, which contains about 100 glaciers. This mosaic of protected areas is situated in Sápmi, region settled about 7,000-8,000 years ago, and used by Sámi people as summer-grazing areas for their reindeers for many generations, a culture which has shaped the landscape in a smooth way. In 2012, Laponiatjuottjudus was established to be in charge of the management of the property and the implementation of the management plan adopted in 2011, allowing an integrated management of cultural and natural values. This management board, composed in its majority by Sámi representatives, functions by consensus decision-making.


North Europe
Scale of implementation
Forest ecosystems
Freshwater ecosystems
Pool, lake, pond
Rangeland / Pasture
River, stream
Temperate evergreen forest
Wetland (swamp, marsh, peatland)
Indigenous people
Land management
Local actors
Protected and conserved areas governance
Protected and conserved areas management planning
Traditional knowledge
World Heritage
Glacial retreat
Increasing temperatures
Shift of seasons
Conflicting uses / cumulative impacts
Invasive species
Poor governance and participation
Sustainable development goals
SDG 10 – Reduced inequalities
SDG 11 – Sustainable cities and communities
SDG 15 – Life on land
Aichi targets
Target 10: Ecosystems vulnerable to climate change
Target 11: Protected and conserved areas
Target 17: Biodiversity strategies and action plans
Target 18: Traditional knowledge
Target 19: Sharing information and knowledge


Norrbotten, Sweden


The conservation of the region operated under the guidelines of national parks since the early 20th century and was largely associated with the image of wilderness prevailing in outsiders perspectives. The area is State-owned and conserved as natural protected areas, even though it has been fully used for reindeer husbandry and covers nine samebyar, reindeer herding communities and their territories. Furthermore, the area also comprises sacred places, important in traditional Sámi culture called sieidi, rock formations and reliefs that herders encounter when they move or migrate within their territories for reindeer transhumance. The establishment of the Laponiatjuottjudus (Tjuottjudus: to manage, administrate something) addresses this social challenge by enabling Sámi people to have some stewardship over the land, including the non-Sámi in the management so all stakeholders could value the World Heritage.


Sámi and non-Sámi local peoples

How do the building blocks interact?

The establishment of the Laponia Process (BB1) allowed for the dialogue to start between the diverse stakeholders involved in the management of the Laponian Area World Heritage property. This dialogue used traditional working methods for the decision-making process based on consensus (BB2). The involvement of the diverse stakeholders in the Laponia Process enabled the development of a participatory management plan (BB4), that through the creation of the Laponia Ordinance (BB3) granted the implementation of the plan and responsibility for the management of the Laponian Area World Heritage to the Laponiatjuottjudus.


  • Laponian Area World Heritage Participatory Management Plan including Sámi and local values. 
  • The different parts in Laponiatjuottjudus have agreed upon that they do not have a common opinion regarding the ownership of the area inside the World Heritage.
  • More people feel included in the management of Laponia and that they have a possibility to influence what Laponiatjuottjudus should be working on – the World Heritage is theirs.
  • Strong decision-making process involving people, learning by doing, and the possibility to try new solutions based upon local and traditional knowledge.
  • A system which is working with values and questions that are closely connected to the people, see the people and what they are interested on (not so bureaucratic as an ordinary authority).
  • Decision-making close to the local people.



As the site manager of the Laponian Area, I need to take decisions everyday regarding the conservation of the World Heritage property. Whenever there is an emergency, I am the first to be informed and need to coordinate the response.

Some years ago, there was a forest fire in Laponia. The rescue team called me late during the evening and informed me about the situation, and that they could not do anything about it that evening because it was too dark outside. They said they were heading up there the next day in the early morning. I summoned representatives of the board and informed them about the situation. After the meeting, I also contacted the head of the Sámi village where the forest fire was situated. He already knew about it because he was in that area working with the reindeers. Later on that evening he called me back, and said: "If you are at that place at 7 o’clock in the morning, we will pick you up in the helicopter, so you can see where the forest fire is, because we will be flying in the area, we are working with the reindeers there”. In the early morning, I was at the pick-up place and we flew away with the helicopter. After a while, the  head of the Sámi village, said to me: “This is the difference between the management in the old way through Swedish authorities and Laponiatjuottjudus. Now we are involved in the management and need to take responsibility for the work. To be able to take the right decisions about this forest fire, you must have a possibility to see it from above. That is why I asked you to follow us in the helicopter today".

This is one of the main impacts of the Laponiatjuottjudus: local people feel responsible for the World Heritage site and feel that they can contribute. Especially in an emergency, this can be crucial. (Åsa Nordin Jonsson​, Laponia World Heritage Site Manager)

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Åsa Nordin Jonsson Laponia

Other contributors

ICCROM-IUCN World Heritage Leadership