English translation from the official periodical of RAIPON “Мир коренных народов живая арктика” (Indigenous Peoples’ World Living Arctic) No. 6-7, 2001
by Mr S. Kharyuchi, President of RAIPON,
to the IV Congress of the Indigenous Peoples
of the North, Siberia and the Far East of the Russian Federation
Our life and future are in our hands
On activity of the RAIPON Co-ordination Council; analysis of the past activity, strategy and tactics for the future by the organisations of the indigenous peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East of the Russian Federation till 2005
MOSCOW, Conference Centre of the RF President's Office, 12 April 2001
Dear delegates to the Congress!
Ladies and gentlemen!
In these two days we are to discuss the complicated issues, concerning the life and activities of the Indigenous Northerners. We will attempt to determine the ways of development and the strategy for activities of our movement and its role in the life of the indigenous peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East of the Russian Federation till 2005. This means that we will have to analyse thoroughly all our joint work in the last four years. I would like to remind you that the scope of activity by RAIPON's Co-ordination Council covered the participation in the daily work of the grass-root organisations of our Association.
The past four years since the III Congress of indigenous peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East of Russia have shown that despite the challenges in the political, economic and social reforms accompanied by a number of crisis situations, we survived and managed to sustain the spiritual and moral bases of our life. We also participated actively in the integration processes at the international level. We were useful to our compatriots and to our peoples. This is a fact.
Today RAIPON is recognised at the federal level in Russia, as well as by the international community as the plenipotentiary representative of the indigenous peoples of Russia.
We managed to work more at the international, the federal and the regional levels, to establish relations of partnership with the governmental agencies, local authorities and with many corporations. In 1999 our constructive work on environmental protection was recognised by the UN Environmental Programme, who gave RAIPON the “GLOBAL-500” award.
On the 25th January 2001, the UN Committee on NGOs recommended that at the next meeting of the Committee in July 2001 to consider provision to RAIPON a Special Consultative Status at the UN Economic and Social Council. This status is significantly higher than the one we applied. This is the recognition of our work at the UN level.
Participation of the representatives of the Association as advisers and experts in the law making process at the federal level allowed to speed up the adoption of the federal laws "On guarantees to the rights of the indigenous peoples of Russia ", "On general principles for the indigenous communities in the North, Siberia and the Far East of the Russian Federation", and promoted consideration of the drafts for the federal laws "On reindeer herding", "On territories of traditional land use by the indigenous peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East of the Russian Federation" and of other laws in Russian Parliament. Much more work has been done at the regional levels.
However, dear delegates, we are concerned by the amount of problems and of the unfinished work that require our efforts in the future, since the majority of our compatriots are experiencing tremendous difficulties in their everyday life. We are still far away from solving their problems.
Perhaps, this is one of the main issues that demanded the establishment of the Association in the start of the 90s: to promote solving problems for every inhabitant of the taiga and the tundra, every family and every community, every indigenous settlement. These problems range from socio-economic issues to spiritual needs. This was the main direction or our work in the last four years.
Having created the appropriate opportunities and conditions, the management of Association has already begun working with our grass-root organisations in the regions. The Project Centre for Indigenous Peoples and the Russian Indigenous Training Centre established under the auspices of RAIPON started educational programmes for the indigenous people to educate them in modern ways decision-making in dealing with the social and the economic problems at a grassroot level.
The second phase of the Canadian-Russian project has been launched as well. It is designed to run to for the next five years. However our special hopes lie with the activities by our profile centres, which are there to respond to the needs of the economic development of the indigenous peoples in the Russian North and in the indigenous communities.
At the III Congress of the indigenous peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East of the Russian Federation in March 1997, the delegates defined the priorities to work with in the next four years. Based on these priorities, the management of the Association has determined the following directions for our activities:
I will attempt to report on the results of the work done on each direction. I will then present my ideas on further advancing of this work. I will also inform you on our successes and failures.
As you remember, at the time of the III Congress, 29 indigenous organisations were members of RAIPON. These organisations were created either by territorial or ethnic principles, uniting 32 indigenous peoples in 28 administrative divisions of the Russian Federation. These territories cover 64% of the country.
Absence of office space, funding, communication equipment, technological opportunities for information exchange not only with the foreign partners, but with the regional associations, shortage of the qualified personnel, empty bank account (plus large arrears in taxes) - all this paralysed activities of the Association. The governmental agencies, according to the federal law "On non-governmental organisations", had no right and could not afford to support us in the economic crisis.
Only due to the decision by Vladimir Kuramin, the then Chairman of Goskomsever (the Governmental Committee for the Development of the North), we could use the premises of the Committee for our central office. Only due to the implementation of the Canadian-Russian project (Phase 1) on institutional strengthening of the indigenous peoples of the Russian North in the framework of the Memorandum on Cooperation between Canada and Russia, the central and the regional offices of the Association were equipped with modern means of communication.
It allowed us to increase our efficiency and to start regular activities in the stable environment. My sincere thanks go to the Vice-presidents, to the members of the Co-ordination Council, to the members of the Council of the Elders, and to the employees at the RAIPON office. The development of the new projects allowed us to attract financial resources from the international organisations in order to develop our own activity.
The structure of the regional organisations - members of RAIPON - has significantly extended in the last four years. New ethnic, regional and professional organisations joined the Association, for example, the Society of the Veps Culture, the Society for Survival and Socio-economic Development of the Mansi in Sverdlovsk oblast, the Association of the Indigenous Peoples of the North Altay, the Society of the Eskimos JUPIK, and many others. The Union of the Indigenous Scientists (under leadership of Prof. Chuner Taksami), the Organisation of the Indigenous Youth (chairman - Andrey Isakov), The Union of Sea Mammal Hunters are very active in our movement. RAIPON renders them any support it can provide.
Today 34 territorial and ethnic indigenous organisations are members of RAIPON. These organisations unite 40 indigenous peoples with the associated membership of more than 200 000 people. 34 leaders of the member organisations are RAIPON's regional Presidents, according to our Charter. The regional leaders are also members of our Co-ordination Council. Further, the President, 11 profile Vice-presidents, and the chairman of Council of the Elders are also the members Co-ordination-Council.
In the last 4 years only one of the nine planned meetings of the Co-ordination Council was cancelled. This was a meeting scheduled to take place in Khanty-Mansiysk. It was supposed to be the first meeting after the III Congress. The man to blame is Mr V.B. Shustov, a former Head of RAIPON's Administration. He was fired.
According to our annual action plan, the Co-ordination Council has considered a number of actions to achieve the goals set in the Program of RAIPON, in the documents of the III Congress, in the Memorandums and Agreements, signed by the President on behalf of the Association with governmental agencies, with international organizations and industrial companies. However, this was done explicitly within the limits of competence described in the Charter of the Association and following the Russian legislation.
The Co-ordination Council has among other issues considered a number of questions that deserve attention of the delegates and visitors to this congress. These are:
We did not limit our activities to a simple discussion of the above issues, we made decisions and implemented them.
The Co-ordination Council worked closely with the federal governmental agencies. We organised seminars, conferences, meetings, joint working groups, thus promoting implementation of decisions on the major tasks set by RAIPON. Certainly, every idea of RAIPON did not become a law or a governmental standard. Our cooperation with the state did not advance so far as yet. Nevertheless, we formed a good starting point for the partner relations between the Government and our peoples.
After the III Congress it was important to obtain a clear understanding on the legal status of the indigenous peoples at the federal and the regional levels. In the same time, we needed the information on the relevant foreign experience. The second important task was to study the problems of the indigenous land-use. The third issue was the indigenous participation in the law-making process. Unfortunately, this issue still remains open.
In order to identify possible solutions, the Co-ordination Council organised international conferences "Human rights and the indigenous people in the ethnic policy of the Russian government" (together with the Presidential Commission on Human Rights and the Severnie Prostory magazine), "Current problems in the indigenous land-use" (together with Goskomsever and the Parliamentary Committee on problems of the North and Far East with the financial support by McArthur Foundation), and the International Seminar "Cooperation between the governmental agencies of Norway, Sweden and Finland with the Saami Parliaments" (together with Parliamentary Committee and the representatives of the Scandinavian countries). This work resulted in the laws I mentioned in the start of this report.
The III Arctic Leaders’ Summit on the environmental and health issues was a significant event for our movement and the Russian public at large. These issues were discussed in detail at the series of the national, regional and interregional seminars and conferences organised by RAIPON. We will continue working in this field, because the industry still effects the indigenous environment of the North, our health and our life. High levels of cancer and tuberculosis among the northern aboriginals show the lack of adequate concern by the governmental agencies.
Recommendations by the international seminar specified the necessity to establish the Indigenous Parliament of the North, Siberia and the Far East as a representative and a consultative body. This however requires both time to draft an appropriate federal law or a norm, and a sufficient funding. Therefore at the meeting of the members of the Co-ordination Council with the Mr Gennady Seleznev, the Chairman of the Russian Parliament, we decided upon an intermediate setup - to create a Consultative and Expert Council of the Russian Parliament with the indigenous representatives. The parliamentary leaders supported our suggestion.
RAIPON's Co-ordination Council developed the draft of the parliamentary resolution, the Statute of this advisory body, and its structure. These drafts were submitted to the Parliament. However 1,5 year later we received neither negative nor positive answer. Today, I hope, we will have a response from the representative Russian parliament to our constructive proposal.
The analysts from the Institute of the Northern Indigenous Issues developed a draft of a law on the indigenous Parliament based on the recommendations by the international seminar. Unfortunately, the draft did not meet the legal requirements and was therefore rejected. To develop so complicated projects requires involvement of well-qualified lawyers who specialise in the constitutional law. And this is very expensive. Here the efforts by the Association are obviously insufficient. The challenge lies in creating a law on establishment of a Parliament, a law that may be incorporated in the existing legal base of the Russian political system, yet without amendments to the Russian Constitution. The indigenous Parliament will not be a non-governmental organisation but will have advisory and consultative functions. It will ensure a permanent indigenous participation in the Russian parliament where currently no indigenous representatives work. I hope that the development of this bill will be included in the action plan for the Parliamentary Committee on problems of the North and Far East for autumn 2001.
Speaking on the status of work on establishment of the indigenous Parliament it is necessary to mention the implementation of the Federal Law "On guarantees to the indigenous minority rights", and in particular Article 13 that obliges regional governmental agencies to introduce a quota for the indigenous representation in the law-making bodies and the regional administrations. We believe the lawmakers were too modest in the use of the uncertain formula "they may". Perhaps this is the reason why no indigenous quotas were introduced in the law-making bodies of the northern regions.
In the same time, the indigenous representations in the Yamal-Nenets and the Khanty-Mansi autonomous okrugs, as well as in Sakhalin were introduced earlier and proved to be the right choice by the governor and the regional MPs.
Today we observe permanent reductions in the indigenous representation at regional law-making bodies. Suggestions to adopt law on the indigenous quota meet fierce resistance by the regional MPs. For example, in the Nenets autonomous okrug where the Yasavey Association that has a right to come up with legal initiatives has several times suggested a bill on two indigenous representatives in the regional Parliament that on March 30, 2001, has again refused to adopt this law. To protest this decision, Mr A.I. Vyucheisky, an MP and the former president of the Yasavey Association decided to resign from the regional Parliament. This was perhaps too emotional response since he was the only indigenous MP. This story shows that indigenous people want to enjoy their political rights, but the MPs do not want to allow it.
A similar situation develops in Kemerovo oblast. Here Ms Nadezhda Pechenina, the only indigenous MP, introduced a draft on the indigenous quota in the regional administration. The other MPs did not support this initiative. In fact, they said that Article 13 of the Federal Law "On guarantees to the indigenous minority rights in Russia" does not comply with the Russian Constitution. Ms Pechenina suggested her colleagues to resolve the matter in the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation, but the MPs did not accept this proposal as well. Curiously, they do not want to give us an indigenous quota because "it is against the Constitution" but they are afraid of the Constitutional Court. It is perhaps necessary to amend the formulation in the Article 13 of the Federal Law "On guarantees to the indigenous rights in Russia", to change the wording from "may" to "must".
In the context of relations with federal governmental agencies on problems of the Northern territories and the Northern indigenous peoples it is necessary to remind that these issues have to be resolved together at the federal level as they often depend on each other. Whatever names are given to the Northern territories as the administrative units of the Russian Federation, they are and will be the place where we, the indigenous people, live and work. Here we maintain the tribal way of life and our traditional economy. It is impossible to separate our economic base from our way of life or to solve our problems and the problems or our territories separately.
It is also difficult to solve problems of the northern economic development separately from the problems of the indigenous people. Goskomsever and the interdepartmental Commission co-ordinated the actions by various governmental agencies. They formulated the Northern governmental policy. The issues were considered together but within authorities of every governmental agency. We have several times suggested and will repeat it today - we insist on establishment of a Ministry for Northern territories. We suggest that this Minister should have a status of a Deputy Prime Minister. Many regional governmental agencies support us.
Our arguments are: the most essential natural deposits are where indigenous peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East live and work. This means that in forthcoming decades, even centuries, the Russian economy will be based upon the industrial development of our subsoils. The clash of the two civilisations, two mentalities, two incompatible environmental views will be hard to avoid. We have the traditional norms and rules formed and established in the thousands of years on one side, and the industrial effect on the places of traditional living on the other side. Hence, a central co-ordinating agency is needed to develop the vast northern territories. A serious conflict may otherwise arise.
Certainly, the dominant side equipped with the modern technology and supported by the governmental authority will take over. Perhaps nobody will notice the disappearance of a small tribe at the federal level. But we are sure that disappearance of a bird, an animal or a plant in result of industrial development will be definitely entered in the Red Book. However we do not want to follow this trend.
In the western countries the problems of the indigenous people lie in the competence of the Security Councils. In the West they clearly understand that the problems of the indigenous people are first of all problems of territories, land and natural resources. Unfortunately, in Russia the indigenous issues are co-ordinated at a much lower level, in the Ministry for the Federative, Ethnic and Migrational Policy, in the Department of the indigenous peoples at the Ministry of Trade and economic development.
There is yet another issue to consider. In the eleven years of our work in RAIPON, the 3rd Federal Program on socio-economic development of the indigenous peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East of the Russian Federation is implemented. The Ministries and the regional governmental agencies report on the work they did, including housing etc. However, according to our information that indigenous peoples are worse off every year. And it proves to be true. There are two reasons to it, in our view. The first lies in the amount of funding. For example, the federal programme on the Northern indigenous development received RUR 81,7 million of the planned RUR 83,5 million in the year 2000. It was almost 100% funded. But when we divide this amount between the 28 regions of the Russian Federation, and divide it further between dozens of indigenous settlements, and take into account the Northern prices for construction materials with transport expenditures, we can clearly see what we get in result, especially in the regions funded from the federal budget.
The second reason is, in our view, the deficiencies of the funding channels and weak monitoring of spending. The recent experience shows bad practice in the implementation phase and the lack of funds to monitor the implementation locally.
What is the present state of the Federal Programme? The Programme-2000 was prolonged to 2001 in December. Since January 15, 2001 the functions of a governmental procurement were transferred to the Ministry for the Federative, Ethnic and Migrational Policy. The Ministry is also to administer the programme "The Children of the North ". Here several questions arise. What are the implementation tools of these programmes? What is the degree of participation by the indigenous people in the implementation phase? The regional structure of Goskomsever was left to the Ministry of Economy, and this Ministry has other functions.
The Ministry for Federative, Ethnic and Migrational Policy is going to involve its regional Migrational Services who have absolutely no knowledge on the problems of the indigenous people of the North. How does the Ministry envisage the monitoring of implementation phase by the indigenous people? Recently we have received an answer from those who implement the programme "The Children of the North" that RAIPON is an NGO, and therefore they are not obliged to report to us. What is then the future of this programme?
Now on the Programme-2011. It was developed by Goskomsever. When it was abolished, the materials were also handed to the Ministry for Federative, Ethnic and Migrational Policy. The Ministry was to administer the governmental procurement. However, today the Ministry of Agriculture wants to fill in this role on one Section of the Programme. The Programme is not yet approved by the Government, and if it is not done by the end of April, there will be no funding for 2002.
RAIPON shall develop an efficient tool of monitoring the implementation phase of the Programme till October - November 2001. This is not related to mistrust in the work of the regional governmental agencies. We strive to involve and develop initiatives of the indigenous peoples, to involve them in process of their own development. We want tools to monitor the Programme in order to counteract local irresponsibilities that we all know takes place. RAIPON wants and has capacities to become a worthy partner to governmental agencies and local authorities in decision-making process that effects our present and future lives.
Dear delegates and guests!
In order to strengthen relations with our partners, RAIPON has entered into Agreements on cooperation with the Ministry for Federative, Ethnic and Migrational Policy, the Ministry for Economic Development and Trade, the Ministry of Natural Resources. RAIPON has working contacts with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The principles of cooperation were formed to work with the indigenous organisations of the Northern countries: the Inuit Circumpolar Conference, the Saami Council, the Aleut International Association, the Council of Yukon First Nations (Canada), the Gwich’in Council International and the Arctic Athabaskan Council. Together with these indigenous organisations we are the permanent participants of the Arctic Council. Since 1998 we take part in the work of the Permanent Parliamentary Committee of the Arctic countries.
RAIPON has established working relations with the divisions of the United Nations, first of all with the Work Group on the indigenous affairs and NGOs. Our congress will select a candidate to the post of a representative to the Permanent Forum on the indigenous issues at the UN Economic and Social Council. I hope we will make the right choice, since we have plenty to choose from.
We started constructive cooperation with the Presidential Administration, first of all with its Legal Department. We intend to establish close cooperation with Presidential Representatives in those federal okrugs where indigenous people live and work.
I hope that this will be a fruitful cooperation to benefit our country. We may inform the President on the true situation in the Russian North while the President and his Representatives may effectively influence the regional policy to promote sustainable economic development.
A relationship with the industry that works on the indigenous land is a matter of our special concern. For the last 4 years we worked closely with the Arctic Gas Company (Mr V.N. Baranov is its Director General). The company works in Yamal-Nenets autonomous okrug. Mutual responsibilities, permanent information exchange, follow-up on mutual advice and personal relations are the features of this cooperation.
Many positive words may be told about the employees of Nadymgaspom, the eldest Arctic gas company (Mr L.S. Chugunov is the former Director General, Mr V.I. Kononov is the present Director General). This is perhaps the first industrial corporation that in early 90s realised the necessity to establish the partner relations with the northern indigenous communities and NGOs. In order to work with the indigenous population, a Department on Indigenous Affairs and a position of an Advisor to the Director General on Indigenous Communities were introduced. Mr H.M.Ezyngi works successfully in this capacity from the very start. He is the former president of the association "Yamal to the Future Generations". Recently he has been elected to the Regional Parliament of Yamal-Nenets autonomous okrug for the third time.
One has to experience the mutual relations of the representatives of the two civilisations. However it is possible to tell the others that the traditional knowledge in the land use and the moral norms of the indigenous people are in demand. They became basic rules for everyone who lives and works in the severe Arctic conditions of the Yamal.
I gave you the examples various it their significance but united by the same tasks and goals. Our delegates may tell many other positive stories. However I am concerned with something else. In the last four years we managed to provide technological and communication equipment to the central and regional offices, we have trained all leaders to use the equipment. However most of them do not use this equipment. In result, our work suffers.
The important sphere of the activity by the Co-ordination Council was and will be work with the youth. Since January 15, 2000, a post of a Vice-president on Youth was introduced.
Half a year before this decision was made the Congress of the Indigenous Youth took place. Its delegates discussed a wide spectrum of issues, not only limited to the life of the young people, they have discussed the general problems of the North and its indigenous population. The major result was widening the group of the young people who desire to change the indigenous life to the better. It is a clear sign that our youth has organised to use the creative potential in the interests of the society. It shows as well that we have to strengthen our work with the younger generation. Our fathers and grandfathers told us repeatedly to care about tomorrow, about the future of our land, our children, and nations. If we do not show our concern with the youth, do not support their initiatives, we will deprive our movement and our nations of the future. Support to the youth shall become one of our main strategic tasks for the long term development.
Today we attract more young people to the daily work in our central office and to the activities of the Co-ordination Council. They work successfully on the given tasks, they have also volunteered to work in the information exchange with the regional associations. The doors of RAIPON are always open to the young people and students, including those who come to us from the regions. Here they will always receive support, information and advice.
Any activity and its final result depend upon effective operational structure. We understood that from the very beginning of our work. As you know, following the suggestion of the President, the Co-ordination Council authorised introduction of 11 positions of Vice-presidents. Ten showed good organisational skills in their daily duties. You might have time to read about results of their work in the information leathlets distributed at this Congress.
Some will perhaps find so many political appointees in the management of the Association to be excessive. I was reproached for it many times. However this decision proved to be correct. We had to achieve recognition at the national and the international levels. Without appropriate status for my assistants it was difficult to achieve these results. Today the situation requires other approaches to the organisational structure. It is the task of the leaders and the Co-ordination Council set priorities for the future. RAIPON is well established at the federal and the regional levels, from now we have to focus on the grass-root level (the indigenous communities and settlements). The new organisational structure shall be devised and adopted. Since the political management of the Association is elected by the Congress, the new organisational structure shall be oriented towards establishment of a strong executive structure. The proposal on the new structure is available in your information materials. I hope that it will be approved.
The intensive work on restructuring RAIPON and creation of the new office practice resulted in successful completion of projects that will be a base for new international projects. We work hard in this direction. Since the last Congress, a three-year long project known as the Danish/Greenlandic initiative was accomplished. Ten other short-term projects were implemented as well. Two long-term projects (the Canadian and the Norwegian) together with six short-term projects are in the implementation phase. RAIPON will continue working internationally as any large indigenous NGO does in other countries around the world.
Today the Association has three basic executive divisions:
·The Project Centre is responsible for the co-ordination of projects implementation, for collection of information on the proposed regional projects and Research of international funding opportunities;
· The Training Centre is responsible for education of activists to work with regional organisations and for implementation of community projects;
· The Information Centre is responsible for collection and distribution of information about indigenous people, about our work for the indigenous people of Russia. Here the magazine "Indigenous Peoples’ World - Living Arctic" is published, the RAIPON Internet site is updated.
Dear delegates and guests to the Congress!
Together we went through another four challenging years. These were the difficult times of economic crisis and of political struggle with strong emotions. Nevertheless we are a success as an organisation that represents the interests of the indigenous peoples at the national level and in the international organisations.
The time of ambitions and emotions is over. Today is the time for actions. Everybody starts to realise that our lives and our future are in our hands. Together we have always been and will be strong.
I wish you successful and constructive work at the Congress, I wish you to be optimists and to stay together. Let our Gods care for you - the Gods of the tundra and the taiga, of the mountains and the steppes, of the water and the fire, of the earth and the heaven!
Thank you for your attention!