Transparent contractual relations – a basis for building up interaction between indigenous peoples and consumers of the depths of the earth
Vladislav Peskov, President of the Association of Nenets People “Yasavey”

Presentation at Round Table:
“Mastering natural resources in the Nenets Autonomous Okrug -
Indigenous peoples and oil extracting companies -
Perspectives for interaction”
Naryan-Mar, 11 May 2002

Distinguished participants and guests to the Round Table!

I would like to commence with a discussion of the first topic which will also be the start of our work during the Round Table meeting.

At the same time allow me to express my gratitude to all the Round Table participants, who have made it possible to carry out this work in spite of various difficulties!

In my opinion, transparent contractual relations today are the most constructive and effective means to establish interaction between the indigenous peoples, government and oil extracting companies. With this approach, it seems to me that we will achieve the most meaningful results in solving the problems of the indigenous peoples of the Nenets Autonomous Okrug.

I shall start by talking about the circumstances of the indigenous peoples of the Nenets Autonomous Okrug.

It would be fair to say that the situation of the indigenous peoples of the Nenets Autonomous Okrug has not experienced any changes during the past 2 to 3 years. There is a lack of work at the settlement which is mainly inhabited by representatives of northern indigenous peoples, and a high rate of unemployment among indigenous peoples. The situation in the reindeer husbandry sector is deteriorating, e.g. a decrease in the number of reindeer, misappropriation (poaching, selling reindeer for alcoholic beverages and much more), a change of attitude among reindeer herders towards reindeer husbandry, the miserable existence of reindeer farms and an overall social decrease in the amount of livestock. There is also an absence of appropriate marketing schemes for reprocessing and selling reindeer husbandry products (this problem is particularly felt by private reindeer herders – no possibility to hand over the meat and the government scheme of acceptance does not suit the majority of herders). The problem of inebriated inhabitants is a major problem with all the consequences this carries with it, including the general degradation of society. This concerns mainly the representatives of the indigenous peoples. The problem is maintaining culture, language, and the traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples.

As a separate topic I would like to mention land use rights. In the current situation this issue is not specified in any manner. A phrase has been introduced into Article 17 of the Nenets Autonomous Okrug legislation, namely, “territories ranking in priority for nature usage”, but to my knowledge there has been no elaboration on this point in the okrug for the okrug legislation. As declared by the deputies of the Congress a federal law is expected to be passed. The land in the territory of the okrug is the possession of the government and is managed by those who utilize the land (reindeer enterprises and agricultural farms) and by the NAO Administration. In connection with the elaboration of natural resources in the Nenets Autonomous Okrug, land is being allotted for industrial purposes. The participation by the inhabitants who have a relationship to the lands allotted, mainly reindeer herders, receive miserly financial compensation in this land allotment process. According to information that has reached me, reindeer herders of the “Yerv” farm that are participating in these processes by means of holding general meetings. Unfortunately I have never had the possibility to participate in this process, but I am sure I will one day.

At this point we can state with certainty that the main work cut out for the “Movement to Realize the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples of the Nenets Autonomous Okrug” is immense: a great amount of effort must be applied to attempt to solve the problems we are faced with and to find the effective tools and means for a solution.
Returning to the main topic of my presentation, I should like to stop for a moment and take a more detailed look at analysing those contractual relationships which have evolved, in my opinion, between the indigenous peoples of the Nenets Autonomous Okrug, oil extracting enterprises and governmental organs.

Oil extracting companies and indigenous peoples in the NAO

I would like to utilize recently received observations and information as the basis of this part of my presentation. My impressions have been formed based on discussions with representatives of oil extracting companies, their employees, indigenous peoples’ rights campaigners, and representatives of governmental administration agencies. It is not possible for me to be completely objective since, to my regret, very little information on this topic is distributed in our okrug.

We can say that up until now, the position of the indigenous peoples as regards oil extracting companies, has been that of the NAO Administration. Information as to what is best and what is to be avoided in the case of indigenous peoples was received mainly from the government administration. There has not been any cooperation whatsoever with the oil extraction companies themselves. In an ideal situation this is probably appropriate. However, it must be noted that the interests of the NAO Administration, which are also intertwined with the acquisition of natural resources and which is the basis for l prosperity of the NAO as a whole, are formed bearing in mind this type of business.

In my opinion, interaction between the indigenous peoples and oil extracting companies in the NAO can be divided into several components:

1. Allotment of land for extraction or surveying of natural resources
This facet comprises rather tight-knit contacts. According to practice, when dealing with the allotment of land, the Nenets indigenous rights movement takes part in the work performed by the government committees. Documents related to land allotment must be signed by the President of the Movement. This is quite an achievement and is in full adherence with Article 8 of the Federal Legislation, namely “Concerning The Rights Of Indigenous Peoples Of The Russian Federation”. The procedure at present is the following: Before the President of the Movement signs the document, the land-user of this territory must sign first, i.e. the director of the farm from whose territory land is allotted.

Before land allotment takes place, a flight is made to aerially survey the land to be allotted; participants of the Movement must participate.

This occasion is the main tool and lever to establish interaction between the Movement and the oil extracting companies.

2. Receiving financial assistance from the sponsor and funds to render material assistance to the KMNS representatives:

The Movement applies for financial assistance to the oil extraction companies, mainly for the following reasons:

The greatest part of these financial funds is geared for social welfare.

3. Concluding cooperation agreements:

With some oil extracting companies, the Movement has succeeded in concluding agreements for financial support. These agreements are valid for one year. There are no long-term agreements, unfortunately. At present two agreements are valid:

As far as the Movement is concerned this is the entire contractual process.

There are also contractual relations in the okrug between companies and farms.

An agreement existed between companies working on Kolguyev Island and the municipal education system. Unfortunately, at this time we do not have any information as to its status and results.

At present there is only one operating agreement, recently concluded, between ZAO “Varandeyneftegas” and a Union of Family and Relatives of the “Yerv” communities. Based on this agreement, ZAO “Varandeyneftegas” gives support in the form of a certain amount of money. And as far as I know, there are negotiations in progress for concluding an agreement between the Union “Yerv” and the Kalmyz Oil Company, which refused to participate in the Round Table forum.

The government-controlled Nenets Oil Company which represents a special interest. The name itself is of interest but what is the participation of the Nenets people in this company? Unfortunately, we were not able to also invite this company to the Round Table.

During the IV Congress on Indigenous Peoples in the North, Siberia and the Far East of the Russian Federation, a meeting was organized, with the help of Artur Chilingarov, between the delegates from the Nenets Autonomous Okrug with Vagit Alikperov, president of the giant Lukoil Oil Company. I consider this meeting significant because the representatives of the Nenets people had an opportunity for the first time to meet directly with the President of a large-scale oil company interested in the Nenets Autonomous Okrug. Moreover, this meeting showed results. At the meeting the idea was expressed that indigenous peoples can also be partners and build cooperation in a normal way.

Here is something interesting involving the Polar Northern Lights company: While browsing through the Internet I noticed that this company was recently awarded a prize for the best environmental technology (see Mir korennykh narodov No. 9-10, “Vybor yest'” (in Russian), and ANSIPRA Bulletin No. 7A, “The choice is there” (in English)). Since they are working in our country and on our land and pay such significant attention to the land and to the territory of traditional nature utilization, this fact deserves attention and appraisal.

We can conclude this part of the presentation which deals with interaction between indigenous peoples and oil companies. In the next section of this presentation I shall make an attempt to explain the interaction between indigenous peoples of the Nenets Autonomous Okrug with the okrug’s administrative organs. Without more clarity of this topic, the picture as I see it will not be complete. These interactions have major influence on the entire situation concerning indigenous peoples in the Nenets Autonmous Okrug.

Government authorities in the NAO and indigenous peoples

The interaction between indigenous peoples and government authorities in the NAO are based on policies carried out by the Administration of the Nenets Autonomous Okrug. Frankly speaking, the approach is built by removing such problems and situations that crop up and demand an immediate solution. This reminds one of putting out the sources of a fire. For example, there is the case of resettling the inhabitants from the Varandey settlement. As a result of this resettlement an entire new set of problems arose. In essence the representatives of the indigenous peoples among the previous inhabitants of Varandey were in fact abandoned to fend for themselves after being resettled. The case is particularly relevant here because an oil terminal was built on the territory of the Varandey settlement and oil surveying is being carried out in this region.

A rather complicated relationship developed with the NAO legislative authorities and the Congress of Deputies. The Movement has the right to legislative initiatives (as defined in the Charter of the Nenets Autonomous Okrug) but at present the opportunity actually to apply this right does not exist. Interactions have taken on certain features due to the recent conflict concerning the acceptance of legislative initiatives as regards the quota of representatives in the Congress of Deputies. This situation is in need of further solutions and mutual cooperation from both the Movement and the Congress of Deputies.

As of this date, if we discuss contractual relationships between the indigenous peoples and the government authorities, then the following can be said:

It is true that when interacting with government agencies the main decision is made by the government . Thus, the Movement can only advise and recommend, draw attention to certain issues–possibly their recommendations might be considered when solving problems.

The Movement is not always asked to participate by the governmental structures when solving major problems in the Nenets Autonomous Okrug. An example would be the forming and realization of youth politics in the okrug (when establishing the Youth Forum the Movement was invited only when dealing with the accounting of trips made by agricultural participants and guests. The law in the okrug does not include any section or reference about the youth of the indigenous peoples).

It seems to me that when solving any problem of the Nenets Autonomous Okrug, it is mandatory that the interests and opinions of the indigenous peoples are taken into account. At the very least they must be invited to participate in them.

I must also mention positive aspects of the interaction between the Movement and the government administration in the Nenets Autonomous Okrug:

Conclusions and recommendations

What conclusions can we come to and what recommendations can we give?

It seems to me that what we need to do at this point is to re-evaluate the Movement’s strategies. We must work with all interested parties and work out our own opinion on all questions which concern the indigenous peoples. The guidelines for such a strategy should be the following: