English translation from the official periodical of RAIPON “Мир коренных народов живая арктика” (Indigenous Peoples’ World Living Arctic) No. 4, 2000

Meeting of RAIPON representatives and Minister for Natural Resources

20 October 2000, Ministry for Natural Resources, Moscow

Tamara Semenova, RAIPON Project Coordinator

Collaboration within Arctic Council programmes as well as the joint agreement on cooperation signed by the Ministry and RAIPON in January 2000 were among the topics discussed at the meeting. The Minister has confirmed his support for the international project, “Contaminants, Food Security and Indigenous Peoples of the Russian North“, initiated by AMAP and RAIPON and approved by the Arctic Council. The endorsement of this project by the Ministry for Natural Resources is a decisive factor in allocation of core funding from the Global Environmental Facility, and could help in the search for co-funding sources.

Furthermore, an issue related to the recently signed agreement was raised in the context of collaborative development. Mr. Pavel Sulyandziga, RAIPON Vice-President, noted that the main problems of indigenous peoples are connected either with land use or natural resource utilization. He pointed out that in many regions representatives of indigenous peoples are included in the fishing commissions. Mr. Sulyandziga said that it would be highly advisable to incorporate them into forest economy management bodies as well. Responding to this proposal, Mr. Boris Yatskevich observed that according to the Law on Environmental Impact Assessment, types of nature use (fishing, wood cutting etc.) are a subject for coordination both at the regional and federal level. He proposed that RAIPON should interact with the Ministry territorial bodies with respect to decision-making on natural resource use. “Then, no decision will be made without RAIPON's approval on vital indigenous issues, and this is a more powerful tool than the requested participation. However”, he continued, “indigenous people cannot attempt to hold the position of a ‘tundra land-lord’ – it is mine, do not touch! All joint work shall be based and developed on the mutual agreement and cooperation of indigenous peoples and the state. On behalf of the Ministry, I am ready to sign any documents aimed at such cooperation”. Furthermore, the Minister continued: “we are not interested in accelerating and augmenting mineral resource extraction if the grazing is more economically sound, or other land use type is more profitable. We will support such use of natural resources that is most rational. We recognize that one cannot put a price tag on cultural reproduction; plainly, it is the dearest thing in the world. Peoples that survived on their lands for ages, and have adapted to harsh natural conditions during millennia on the basis of sustainable production, deserve the highest respect. We understand that we don’t talk about compromises, it is the consensus that counts. You will find partners in us”.

Concerning the conflict between Yuriy Vella, the reindeer herder from the Khanty-Mansi region, and the Lukoil Company, Mr. Yatskevich proposed writing a letter to the Lukoil President Vagit Alekperov and demand that they propose specific measures for the resolution of such conflicts . Boris Yatskevich considers that the basis for this conflict lies in the lack of legal mechanisms or definite forms of compensation available to the aboriginal populations in the oil and gas regions. Compensation funds are currently established by voluntary agreements between the companies and indigenous populations, but there is as yet no compulsory funding allocation or enforcement. However, the Minister looks at this problem with the optimism to say: “Let’s think together. As it was possible to solve these problems in Alaska and Canada, we shall be able to do the same in Russia”. In conclusion, Minister Yatskevich declared that the Ministry for Natural Resources takes its agreement with RAIPON seriously and is committed to working with RAIPON to implement it.