English translation from the official periodical of RAIPON “Мир коренных народов живая арктика” (Indigenous Peoples’ World Living Arctic) No. 18, 2005
Indigenous peoples of the North, Siberia and Far East and exploitation of georesources
The Constitution of the Russian Federation guarantees indigenous peoples’ rights concerning widely recognised principles and rules of international law and international agreements signed by the Russian Federation. Since the middle of the 1990s a series of federal laws has been passed which satisfy internationally recognised legal principles and rules. However, during the last few years, an inexplicable tendency of refusing or ignoring these principles has developed. Various already adopted laws aimed at guaranteeing the rights of peoples are gradually eroding, leading to the alienation of Russian legislation. This regrettable tendency is continued by the latest legislative initiatives of the Government of the Russian Federation, which aim at revising the Forest and Water Code as well as the Federal Law on Georesources.
International organisations, first of all the UN, currently develop and improve rules that secure indigenous peoples’ rights in relation to the development of georesources. In 2004 the UN system approved the “Akwé: Kon Guidelines - Voluntary guidelines for the conduct of cultural, environmental and social impact assessments regarding developments proposed to take place on, or which are likely to impact on, sacred sites and on lands and waters traditionally occupied or used by indigenous and local communities.” These are supposed to be instructions for the negotiating parts and governments, taking into consideration the national legislation, when developing impact assessments. The UN Commission on Human Rights is developing the principles of free, prior, informed consent of the indigenous peoples concerning development projects affecting their lands and natural resources. In 2005 the World Bank issued the new editition of the Operation Policy and Bank Procedure that delineates the requirements towards the loaners who are planning development projects in areas inhabited by indigenous peoples. Some of the leading mining companies that work in Russia were confronted with a lack of mechanisms regulating relations between indigenous peoples and extraction companies. For this reason they tried to develop their own guidelines based on international principles.
In spite of this general international movement the Russian government proposed the draft of the “Subsoil Law” to the State Duma in 2005, which completely ignores the issue of the relation between the state, georesource users and indigenous peoples.
The Russian Association of the Indigenous Peoples of the North (RAIPON) has brought up this question in the State Duma several times, during Parliament hearings and in working groups, and finally decided to address the guarantor of the Constitution, the President of the Russian Federation. Today, he status of the bill is uncertain. It has been withdrawn by the government in order to make it complete. Despite RAIPON’s address, none of their representatives are included in the working group on the bill. RAIPON’s address to the President of the Russian Federation concerning the draft “Subsoil Law” and the response of RAIPON to the bill remain relevant.
Dear Vladimir Vladimirovich,
The Russian Association of the Indigenous Peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East of the Russian Federation would like to express its concern because of the fact that the draft “Subsoil Law” (bill № 187513-4), submitted by the Russian Federation Government to the State Duma does not regulate nor even mention the issues related to the exploitation of georesources on the traditional residence and land use territories of the Northern indigenous people.
The life of the Northern indigenous peoples, which is based on traditional land use, depends totally on the condition of their environment. This bill’s ignoring the specific problems of the aboriginal environment and the traditional way of life contradicts the Constitution of the Russian Federation, the federal legislation, and international principles and rules concerning the protection of the rights of indigenous peoples.
Indigenous peoples’ rights issues connected with the exploitation of georesources in their traditional residence and land use areas are juridically regulated in all countries of the Artcic region. These issues are not solved in the Russian Federation, which is an anachronism inadmissible under modern circumstances.
Taking into consideration that the state programmes of exploitation of georesources and most of the economic deposits are located on the traditional residence and land use areas of the Northern indigenous peoples, those issues should be regulated by Russian legislation. Not solving these problems may cause social tensions during the implementation of projects and vigilance of the investors, who are interested in the development of georesources in the Russian Federation.
Dear Vladimir Vladimirovich, we urge you to delegate corresponding tasks to the Administration of the President and to the Government of the Russian Federation to study the issue and regulate indigenous peoples’ rights issues, connected with the exploitation of georesources in their traditional residence and land use territories, in the draft “Subsoil Law”.
Enclosure: 2 pages
Sergey N. Kharyuchi
List of most acute issues that need regulation when exploiting georesources on traditional residence and land use territories of the Northern indigenous peoples.
The following provisions should be included in the draft of the federal “Subsoil Law” to regulate the exploitation of georesources on traditional residence and land use territories of the Northern indigenous peoples:
Besides including the abovementioned provisions to the draft federal “Subsoil Law”, the following suggestions should be included as changes and completions to other federal laws and normative acts:
 2004, Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity