Development Assistance Plan for the indigenous peoples of Sakhalin
Continuing the discussion on the situation in Sakhalin

Olga Murashko, RAIPON Information Center

previous article on this topic (July 2005)
previous article on this topic (December 2005)

From 26 to 30 May 2006 a workshop titled “The protection of rights of the indigenous peoples of Sakhalin in terms of the industrial use of territories of traditional land use and husbandry” took place[1]. This legal workshop for the indigenous population of Sakhalin was linked to another important event: the launching of the Development Assistance Plan for the indigenous peoples of Northern Sakhalin. The main objectives of this plan are the following: “Prevention or decrease of possible negative impacts of the Sakhalin 2 drilling project; contribution to the improvement of indigenous peoples’ life quality by means of social development programs, taking into consideration their cultural distinctiveness and sustainable development conditions; development of the Northern peoples’ potential to participate in the management of the plan and similar development programmes”.

At the same time a memorandum was signed between the Regional Council and the company Sakhalin Energy, as well as a trilateral Agreement on Collaboration of the IP Regional Council, Sakhalin Energy and the regional Administration. According to the latter, Sakhalin Energy is engaged to finance the Development Assistance Plan with the amount of $ 300 000 for five years from 1 June 2006 to 1 June 2011. The Development Assistance Plan is managed by the Supervisory Board formed of the Regional Council’s representatives, Sakhalin Energy and the regional administration. Indigenous peoples’ representatives have the majority in the Supervisory Board.

Sakhalin’s experience

The signed trilateral agreement and the Development Assistance Plan are the results of collaboration between the Regional Council of plenipotentiary representatives of the indigenous peoples of the Sakhalin region, Sakhalin Energy and the regional Administration. However, it was preceded by a period of serious confrontations. A year and a half ago, Sakhalin’s indigenous peoples demanded an ethnological expert evaluation of Sakhalin Energy’s projects — this means assessments of the projects’ impact on the traditional way of life of Sakhalin’s indigenous peoples and the natural environment on which they depend. They also demanded the creation of a formalised dialog among Sakhalin’s indigenous organisations, industrial companies and the regional Administration. Sakhalin Energy had ignored indigenous peoples’ demands for a long time, leaving it all to the Administration. The Administration believed itself best-suited to manage, on behalf of indigenous peoples, the funds Sakhalin Energy invested into their development, so the Administration tried to force the indigenous peoples to sign a vague agreement on collaboration. Ignoring the indigenous peoples’ demands caused notorious protest actions by the indigenous peoples and Greenpeace’s “The Green Wave”. It took place in January 2005, in the Nogliki district, where a pipeline was being constructed. It contradicted the interests of the company in all ways, notably with respect to the company’s claim for a credit in the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). The bank’s demand was that they should use the requirements of the World Bank Operations Policy 4.10 “Indigenous Peoples” as guidelines for the implementation of the project.

The negotiations between Sakhalin Energy representatives and Sakhalin’s indigenous peoples represented by the Regional Council of Plenipotentiary Representatives began in the summer of 2005. They started the collaboration on the Development Assistance Plan. The regional Administration represented by its Department on Indigenous Peoples of the North also took part in it, providing the necessary information on social and economic development.

The plan was not easy to develop; it took a lot of time and effort from both sides to work out an agenda that would be convenient for everyone. The plan was meant to be ready by 1 January 2006, but the delegations continued working on it until May. The text was finished and sent for printing the day before it was to be presented to the representatives.

It was a good move that the company provided 200 copies of the plan for the indigenous peoples’ representatives to bring home to their regions. However, the question is whether the people would be able to understand this complicated document. RAIPON closely examined the Development Assistance Plan, asked for information and offered help for its preparation. But unfortunately, our suggestions were not supported by Sakhalin Energy’s representatives. The company’s website was our only source of information.

On 14 March 2006, during the preparation of the Development Assistance Plan, public hearings on the Sakhalin 2 project took place in Moscow. The future creditors of the company, EBRD, and other NGOs’ representatives took part. It is important to mention that the project was heavily criticised by scientists and lawyers, who found that it contained many elements that posed potential environmental hazards..

RAIPON assessed all the correspondence connected to the project with respect to indigenous peoples’ rights and the World Bank’s demands to the borrower in the areas in the indigenous peoples’ traditional residence areas. We had to ascertain that all the demands of Operations Policy 4.10 “Indigenous Peoples” were reflected in the documents. In our opinion, the sociological assessment does not correspond to the Operations Policy demands. The only well-surveyed group of the indigenous population is the small reindeer herder group of the Val settlement, which only makes up 10% of the indigenous population in the project impact area. The state and risks of other indigenous groups (about 1500 people involved in fishing, sea mammal hunting, gathering of wild plants and hunting) have not been examined thoroughly. Most of the information on them are official statistics provided by the Department on the Indigenous Peoples of the North, and the results of a few consultations with the representatives of these indigenous groups. There are no results from the poll on the special features of the traditional land use of these groups. There are a few other requirements of Operations Policy 4.10 “Indigenous Peoples” which have not been satisfied. RAIPON’s conclusion also contained the remark that the beginning of the direct dialog between Sakhalin Energy and the indigenous peoples and their collaboration on the Development Assistance Plan are in fact progressive and RAIPON is ready to assist it as much as possible. But the developers of the plan seemed to have only perceived the negative part of RAIPON’s statement and felt offended. At least, before the workshop began, the plan developers had been apprehensive regarding any intervention by RAIPON.

It is important to mention that the Regional Council of authorised representatives, presided by Aleksey Limanzo, Head of the Sakhalin Association of Indigenous Peoples and the initiator of the protest action, united and consolidated during the collaboration and was firm in its demands. But the members of the Council were not used to the kind of work required for the preparation of the Development Assistance Plan and, certainly, they needed more basic legal information to formulate their demands and development plans.

I was indeed surprised when each of the workshop participants (including indigenous developers of the Plan of Assistance) took several copies of Operations Policy 4.10 “Indigenous Peoples”, the federal laws “On environmental impact assessment” and “Regulation on environmental impact assessments for planning economic and other activity in the Russian Federation”. It was the first time they had seen these documents. Strange as it may seem, the company had not previously provided this documentation to the indigenous peoples and plan developers and had not organised a workshop about their interpretation. Those documents are the main guidelines the developers should have based their work on.

The workshop helped its participants understand, at last, that the Development Assistance Plan is no charity act, but partial implementation of the Russian legislation on the part of “defining possible negative impact, assessment of ecological consequences, taking into consideration public opinion, working out impact mitigation and prevention measures” (Environment Impact Assessment), and of the World Bank Operations Policy’s 4.10 “Indigenous Peoples” (hereafter OP 4.10) requirements, which have replaced the Operations Directive of the World Bank (hereafter - ОD 4.20), used by the company as guidelines.

I hope that the workshop participants, having familiarised with the documents, will now be able to sum up which of the requirements of the OP 4.10 have already been implemented and which ones remain to be implemented.

In particular, the workshop participants were surprised to learn that the OP 4.10 definitely indicates the necessity of developing a programme that would assist in preparing legal grounds for lands that indigenous peoples own or use in a traditional way (OP 4.10 section 17, and section 15 of OD 4.20). Moreover, it is indicated that this procedure is usually carried out before a project is started. This means that the company should have implemented an assistance programme to establish traditional land use territories for the indigenous peoples of Sakhalin. The OP 4.10  defines directly the kind of assistance, “e.g. projects to implement land title registration, to assist in the development of corresponding regional normative acts.”

 The workshop participants also found out that the plan should envisage mechanisms that will “allow the indigenous peoples to have a fair share of the profits obtained from the commercial development of resources. These mechanisms should stipulate obtaining profits for indigenous peoples, in a way compatible with the indigenous culture, compensations and reconcilement rights, at least no less than those due to a land user owning a full legal title for the land, if the commercial development was being carried out on his/her lands” (OP 4.10, section 18, and sections 15, 17 of the OD).

For the indigenous peoples of Sakhalin to get fair compensation in the future, it is essential to assess the damage to and losses of traditional land use and lost profits from craftsmaking and other traditional activities. For such assessment basic information on all the kinds of traditional activities of the indigenous peoples is needed, as well as on all the kinds of natural resources they use for their subsistence. The information that the project currently provides is insufficient. But it is obvious that no one else but the indigenous peoples themselves possess this knowledge. One of the workshop decisions was that specialists will help indigenous peoples carry out a questionnaire survey of traditional land users, traditional hunting areas and sacred site locations, and information on genealogy and clans settling. Dozens of representatives of Sakhalin's indigenous peoples can be involved in this work, and they should get paid for it. This necessary and fascinating work could be one of the indigenous peoples’ projects for the following years. However, it should not be financed from Development Assistance Plan funds, but from other sources of the company, because the results will cover the project’s knowledge gaps in the domain of sociological assessment.

I hope that the information the workshop participants have obtained will help them formulate and ground their demands and work more skillfully with the adopted Development Assistance Plan. I also hope that the Development Assistance Plan is only the first stage of the collaboration of the indigenous peoples of Sakhalin with industrial companies and authorities with respect to the conditions of industrial utilisation of their traditional lands.

[1] for previous articles on this topic see ANSIPRA Bulletin No. 13 and 14