English translation from the official periodical of RAIPON “Мир коренных народов - живая арктика” (Indigenous Peoples’ World - Living Arctic) No. 13, 2003
International Decade of the World's Indigenous People: Preliminary results
At the Moscow meeting of the Government of the Russian Federation on 6 March 2003, dealing with “Activities Within the Framework of the International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People”, the President of the Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North (RAIPON), Sergey Nikolaevich Kharyuchi, made the following report.
Eight years of the International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People have passed. Its preliminary results can be summed up. A significant effort has been carried out in Russia during the recent past. The preceding speakers have outlined the events.
We would consider it appropriate to express our gratitude to Vladimir Yurevich Zorin, Minister of the Russian Federation, who, one would say, has reactivated the activities of the National Organising Committee to prepare for and conduct the International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People. In 2002, RAIPON took an active part in the efforts of the National Organising Committee. We dealt with such important issues as education and healthcare of indigenous peoples of the North, cooperation experience of indigenous peoples’ organisations with state authorities, and guarantees of indigenous peoples’ representation in legislative bodies. We convened a meeting of the Organising Committee and the Association’s Coordination Council in Yakutsk. The Organising Committee’s results were envisaged by the President of the Russian Federation and the Chairman of the Government of the Russian Federation. We hope that, in the future, we will be able to count on fruitful cooperation with the National Organising Committee for the International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People.
We suggest the following to be included among the measures and events of the remaining two years of the International Decade:
The World Conference on Indigenous Rights.
We are grateful to the Government of the Russian Federation for the support of the Association’s initiative to convene the World Conference on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in summer 2004 in Moscow. We know today that the question of a World Conference in 2004 is included in the agenda of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues planned for May 2003 in New York. The offer to host such a conference would enhance the international reputation of the Russian Federation. This conference is essential to sum up the results of the International Decade. Moreover, Russia can put forward a proposal for the declaration of a Second International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People.
Identification of the official position of the Government of the Russian Federation on the UN Universal Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
The development of a new international standard on the rights of indigenous peoples has been underway in the United Nations since 1984. From the very first days of this work the Russian Federation has been in favor of the adoption of a universal, comprehensive document able to defend effectively the rights of indigenous peoples. For the last eight years intensive efforts have been carried out by the ad hoc Working Group to elaborate the Draft Declaration, but consensus has been reached on only two out of the total of 45 articles. Unfortunately, at the last session in December 2002, the position of the Russian Federation submitted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs seemed unacceptable, and caused a sharp negative reaction of all the indigenous representatives. It would have been better to preliminarily coordinate such initiatives with the Government of the Russian Federation or with a state agency whose terms of reference cover the problems of indigenous peoples. RAIPON, in its turn, is ready to make its own positive contribution to this work. As an example of such an approach of partnership we can mention the participation of the Minister of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Yurevich Zorin, in the first session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in May 2002 in New York: On the eve of his flight to New York Mr Zorin found time to have necessary consultations with representatives of RAIPON as well as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. As a result, all the delegations from Russia reflected unified positions in their reports.
The Association considers it highly essential to concentrate every effort during the remaining time on the achievement of the major objective of the International Decade: the establishment of partnership relations between the state and indigenous peoples. So far, regretfully, we have not achieved such partnership in Russia. As an example we would refer to relations first now taking shape between the Association RAIPON and the Ministry of Economic Development which is in charge of the problems of indigenous peoples.
The Federal Target Programme (FTP) of “Economic and Social Development of Indigenous Numerically Small Peoples of the North for the Period of up to 2011”.
RAIPON has repeatedly directed the attention of the Government of the Russian Federation to the necessity of making adjustments to the programme. The concept of the adopted programme makes it impossible to obtain the expected result. The FTP is not working for the peoples. It is essential to change the FTP’s concept. RAIPON’s proposal is to consolidate the basis of FTP by regional development programmes of economy and culture of indigenous peoples with regard to every respective region while FTP would combine all these regional programmes.
There is another important aspect: Year after year the budget share of the FTP will decrease whereas the share not passing through will grow. There is no indication, though, what sort of extra-budgetary financing is being planned.
Under the above conditions, we propose:
Territories of Traditional Nature Use of indigenous peoples.
We are convinced that the realisation of indigenous peoples’ rights to Territories of Traditional Nature Use is a key to the solution of their numerous problems. Despite the adoption of the federal law “On Territories of Traditional Nature Use of Indigenous Numerically Small Peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East of the Russian Federation” in May 2001 the indigenous peoples have so far failed to gain access to their primordial lands.
In execution of the given law the Government of the Russian Federation authorised the Ministry of Economic Development and Commerce to work out draft model regulations for Territories of Traditional Nature Use of federal significance and submit them for approval to the Government of the Russian Federation by the end of 2002. We are now in early March 2003 with not a sign of the regulations being approved.
Meanwhile, several dozens of appeals have already been sent to the Government of the Russian Federation by representatives of indigenous peoples of the North and their communities with regard to the establishment of Territories of Traditional Nature Use. By dragging out the fulfillment of the RF Government’s commission under various pretexts the Ministry of Economic Development virtually blocked the implementation of provisions stipulated in federal law # 49 FZ dated 7 May 2001 “On Territories of Traditional Nature Use …”.
Due to the lack of a mechanism to realise the above federal law communities of indigenous peoples of the North are today unable to have lands with their hunting grounds, reindeer pastures and commercial fishing areas on Territories of Traditional Nature Use legally established. Without documents confirming their right to use hunting grounds and Territories of Traditional Nature Use, indigenous individuals and communities engaged in traditional natural resource use do not stand a chance of obtaining a long-term license to harvest game, or keep non-recurrent fur trade licenses or fishing quotas. Referring to the new RF Land Code regional authorities make the aborigines pay a lot of money or forfeit their right to use hunting grounds, declaring lifelong land ownership acts null and void on the basis of Ordinance of the Government of the Russian Federation # 919 (23 December 2002).
In May 2003 it will be two years since the federal law came into effect. The Government of the Russian Federation has established not a single traditional subsistence territory on a federal level since then. The lands previously allotted to indigenous peoples of the North are now being put out to tender by the regional authorities, and hunting grounds of indigenous peoples are sold to timber companies. Kinship lands taken from indigenous peoples are leased to other users. Indigenous peoples of the North which hunt or fish on their primordial lands are turned into poachers, their guns, fishing gear, catch of fish and hunters’ bags filled with the sweat of their brow are confiscated.
If taking into account that traditional economic activities and traditional natural resource use are the only source of subsistence for the majority of indigenous peoples of the North, since there is no possibility of creating other jobs, then this population seems to be deprived of their means of subsistence. What government assistance can one talk about if we put up artificial barriers which block the legitimate rights of indigenous peoples? There is a standing federal law which is not implemented for some unknown reason. At the same time, land plots in the areas inhabited and used by indigenous peoples for their economic activities are easily allotted to extractive companies for industrial development.
Dear Mikhail Mikhailovich!
We have already discussed the matter with you in Salekhard during the first meeting of the Council on the problems of the Far North and Arctic. However, we have to revert to the subject again.
On 26 November 2002 the Deputy Minister of Economic Development and Commerce, Mukhammed Mukhadinovich Tsikanov, reported in his speech about his Ministry elaborating a new draft version of the law on Territories of Traditional Nature Use. We had no information about such efforts of the Ministry of Economic Development; therefore, we could not make out what it was all about. Our experts at the time were involved in the work on this subject along with the RF President’s Commission chaired by D.N. Kozak. We submitted our proposals awaiting final results.
It was only in February 2003 (only) when we found out that the elaboration of the new draft version of the law “On Territories of Traditional Nature Use of Indigenous Peoples …” had been commissioned by the RF Government to the Ministry of Economic Development, and that it had been engaged in this work starting in September 2002. We were totally unaware of that, though. The Ministry of Economic Development was busy elaborating the new draft version of the law without inviting RAIPON’s experts to participate. RAIPON received one of the last versions of the draft law only at the meeting held on 20 February 2002 in the Department of Regional Development.
I am obliged to state that such practices of “partnership” relations of the Ministry of Economic Development with RAIPON are not adequate, do not fulfil the purpose and are not up to the objectives of the International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People. Unfortunately, the elaboration of the draft law without invitation of RAIPON’s experts went on even after you, dear Mikhail Mikhailovich, had signed the RF Government’s instruction # MK-P11-16833 of 3 December 2002 about the necessity of involving representatives of RAIPON to the preparation of federal draft laws or making amendments and supplements to the existing laws. This would include the federal law “On Territories of Traditional Nature Use of Indigenous Peoples …”.
Having examined the proposals of the Ministry of Economic Development, we sent our conclusion with regard to the draft law straight away. RAIPON is not in a position to support it for a number of reasons, primarily the conceptual ones: the indigenous peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East are in need of a federal law oriented toward the defense of their rights to traditional subsistence activities, preservation of their traditional lifestyle, protection of their primordial habitat from any other non-traditional economic activity causing irreparable damage to indigenous peoples. The existing version of the law meets these requirements.
The elaborators of the new version of the law from the Ministry of Economic Development have proposed something opposite: to declare a legal regime with regard to the lands of indigenous peoples allowing various economic activities with no rights for indigenous peoples, except for public servitude. Public servitude means a limited right to use on somebody else’s land. This is unacceptable for indigenous peoples. The draft law is clearly in pursuit of easy access to traditional territories for all the possible subjects of economic activities. Lobbying for the interests of extractive companies is also clearly seen instead of showing concern for the future of indigenous peoples. Hence, the introduction of a new conceptual framework, for example, “subjects of traditional natural resource use”, including, apart from representatives of indigenous peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East, other individuals and, in the first variants, even legal entities.
It would be enough to read the draft law’s preamble to understand what its objectives and tasks are. Compared with the preamble to the existing federal law, emphasising that “the federal law shall stipulate the legal basis for the establishment, protection and use of Territories of Traditional Nature Use of indigenous peoples for them to be engaged in traditional natural resource use and traditional lifestyle on these territories”, the authors of the proposed draft law outline the legal framework of “the use and protection of natural resources, land plots and isolated natural objects on Territories of Traditional Nature Use and general principles regulating the system for and procedures of their establishment and abolishment”.
In the first case, the state demonstrates its concern for the preservation of a traditional way of life and traditional subsistence activities of indigenous peoples; hence Territories of Traditional Nature Use are to be established. In the second case, concern is shown for the protection and use of natural resources on abstract Territories of Traditional Nature Use; even their attachment to indigenous peoples is omitted.
Nor do we agree to the form of the draft law in the new version of the federal legislation. It runs counter to the concept adopted with regard to this law by the Commission of D.N. Kozak: making amendments and supplements to the existing federal law. Besides, we believe that the RF Government’s decision making about submitting the new version of the draft law to the State Duma, which means abolition of the existing law, would be politically wrong. The law was adopted in 2001; the Ministry of Economic Development has done nothing during the next two years as to practical realisation of its provisions. We regard this step as an attempt of the Ministry of Economic Development to avoid responsibility for the non-execution of the federal law, hence its new version.
The proposed version of the draft law makes human rights and basic freedoms vested in the current legislation substantially weaker. For example, the elaborators of the draft law have totally excluded representatives of indigenous peoples from identifying the boundaries and sizes of Territories of Traditional Nature Use, and from the elaboration of regulations of the legal regime. Indigenous peoples and their communities are to be deprived of their exclusive right to lodge appeals on the basis of which decisions could be made about the establishment of Territories of Traditional Nature Use. The possibility of legal regulation of the establishment, protection and use of Territories of Traditional Nature Use on the basis of traditional law of indigenous numerically small peoples is excluded. The draft law elaborators have also omitted the notion of “authorised representatives of indigenous numerically small peoples”. In this case, there is direct evidence of the infringement of provisions contained in Article 55 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation.
A major drawback of the authors producing the draft law is the lack of proposals with regard to making necessary amendments and supplements to other federal laws, such as the Land Code, the Forestry Code, and the Water Code, “On Guarantees of the Rights of Indigenous Numerically Small Peoples of the Russian Federation” and others, while the given draft law is planned to be submitted in one package with other land laws.
And finally, the analysis of the draft law makes it possible to conclude that the work accomplished bears no relation to the delimitation of responsibilities between the bodies of state power which is, in fact, the major objective of the current reform.
RAIPON proposes to postpone the submission of the draft law to the State Duma until this fall and until after elaboration and adoption of the Concept of State Policy with regard to indigenous peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East by the Government of the Russian Federation. We have been emphasizing the necessity of elaboration and adoption of such a fundamental document for a long time at various forums. See what is happening: from 1990 the Russian Federation has realised federal purpose-oriented programmes of economic and social development of indigenous peoples of the North, several federal laws have been adopted; but the position of indigenous peoples is still deteriorating disastrously. The areas inhabited and used by Northern indigenous peoples are still exploited by extractive companies without due regard for the people’s interests. There is frequent resort to barbarous methods. However, Russia still has no well-defined and distinct state policy with regard to indigenous peoples.
We propose to set up an interdepartmental working group with participation of representatives of the regions, RAIPON, as well as independent experts. It should determine concrete terms for the elaboration of the state policy concept regarding indigenous peoples, which subsequently should be discussed in the National Organising Committee of the International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People (which has the status of a Governmental Commission), or at the Council on the Problems of the Far North and the Arctic. Within this framework it should give instructions for the draft law on amendments and supplements to the federal law “On Territories of Traditional Nature Use of Indigenous Peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East of the Russian Federation”. Besides, we think it is necessary to expedite the work oriented toward the establishment of TTNUs on the basis of the existing legislation; and to transfer the lands currently used by indigenous peoples of the North for traditional economic activities to a reserve fund so that these lands would not be removed for long years to benefit other users. RAIPON is ready to make its constructive contribution to this work.
A Federal Service to deal with problems of numerically small peoples of the North.
Today we must have a critical look at the efficiency of federal authorities, ministries and departments in sorting out the problems of numerically small peoples. It looks like too many cooks spoil the broth.
Dear Mikhail Mikhailovich!
The current system of vesting the Ministry of Economic Development with the right to deal with the problems of indigenous peoples has proved its inefficiency. We do not find proper understanding not because the Ministry’s officials do not wish to cope with our peoples’ problems, but because this Ministry is excessively overloaded with heaps of other, also important problems. For example, Mukhammed Mukhadinovich Tsikanov, Deputy Minister of Economic Development and Commerce, as a curator in charge of our problems, is constantly busy. You know quite well what a huge amount of work he has to cope with concerning Chechnya, while accompanying the President of the Russian Federation on his trips. Almost every month the Ministry of Economic Development is busy preparing examination of this or that problem by the Government of the Russian Federation. As to German Oskarovich, we have no chance of meeting him whatsoever. Is it really possible to sort out any problems with a head of a department we have been routinely sent to?
The top executives of the Ministry of Economic Development are excessively preoccupied with other tasks. Responsibilities concerning the problems of indigenous peoples are disseminated across the various departments of the Ministry of Economic Development which often do not interact with each other the aforementioned example of the draft law is illustrative evidence for this. They are even disseminated between several ministries. These facts have led to a situation where RAIPON cannot perceive the Government of the Russian Federation as a permanent and reliable partner for solving the problems of the indigenous peoples.
The urgent necessity of taking responsibility for the solution of the problems of the indigenous peoples from the Ministry of Economic Development and passing them over to an independent federal agency is long overdue. I hope that the members of the Cabinet of Ministers present would support me. Many ministries and departments are similarly up to their eyes with letters and complaints coming from indigenous peoples. There is a vital necessity to coordinate this work. We do not talk about the reconstitution of the State Committee of the North. We try to bring your attention to the rich experience of the 1920s-1940s when the activities of the Committee on Northern Affairs was basically concentrated on the solution of indigenous peoples’ problems.
I would like to suggest to include this item in the minutes as a decision of the RF Government’s meeting.
Thank you for your attention.