English translation from the official periodical of RAIPON “Мир коренных народов - живая арктика” (Indigenous Peoples’ World - Living Arctic) No. 9-10, 2002

To defend one’s rights means to know them and be able to use them

Olga Murashko

These words can well be the motto of all the educational workshops convened by RAIPON in 2001. In December 2001 the final workshop in the series focused on “Federal legislation and its practical application” was conducted. The workshop was organized by RAIPON with the support of the MacArthur Foundation.

The preparation for the workshop was carried out under the conditions of the recently passed Federal Law “On Traditional Subsistence Territories …”.

The experience of summer trips to regions had proved that neither local administrations nor indigenous peoples themselves were ready for implementation of the said law.

The law came out far too complicated and required clarifications and recommendations as to its execution on the part of the Government. The Government, however, failed to provide such clarifications and recommendations till the end of 2001. None of them are available now.

The Association was forced to prepare explanatory documents all by itself and approached P.N. Pavlov, leading expert in land laws and employee of the President’s Chief Legal Affairs Directorate for help. It was decided to work out commentaries on the law. At the same time, efforts were underway to prepare the draft appeal, which could be used as the basis for the RF Government’s decision making about the establishment of traditional subsistence territories. Lawyers of the Public legal center “Rodnik”, headed by Ms. Olga Yakovleva participated in wording this document.

Thus, the following materials and accessories were prepared and given approbation at the RAIPON Coordination Council in November, i.e. by December, the time the final workshop was slated for:
- Samples of documents for the establishment of traditional subsistence territories;
- Samples of documents for the registration of communities according to the new law on community;
- Commentaries on the Federal law on traditional subsistence territories.

The program of the workshop consisted of two parts.

The first round was called “How to make the Federal law on traditional use of natural resources work” and its first day was organized in the form of a roundtable at which the workshop attendees could hear the opinion expressed by representatives of all the branches of power about the prospects of implementing the law.

Having been convinced in the authorities being unable to solve the problems of formation of traditional subsistence territories, the workshop participants came to the conclusion that the solution of these problems depended on their own activeness. During the next four days (December 7-10, 2001), the workshop attendees got practical training in independent realization of rights stipulated by the law on traditional subsistence territories.

The lawyers of the Legal center “Rodnik”: Olga Yakovleva, Yekaterina Khmeleva, Irina Stromova, Yuliya Yakel and Olga Murashko, expert of the State Duma participated in the training process. Having received general information about the law itself, the structure of the required documents, realization of the right to apply to power bodies for information, the participants set about preparing documents for the establishment of actual traditional subsistence territories and typing appeals using a computer. To this aim, the participants were separated into five small groups, each of them focusing on their portion of documents concerning an actual territory of traditional use of natural resources, receiving a constant guidance from specialists. The workshop participants took the prepared documents both printed out and electronically stored away with them so that these documents could be approved at community meetings and then posted to the RF Government.

During the next three days, the workshop attendees could participate in its second round oriented at teaching skills to work out mini-projects of community and traditional activities development. The instruction was given by Thomas Køhler, representative of the Danish Environmental Protection Agency. The participants received information about foundations supporting similar projects, studied the structure of projects and writing technique. As a result, every participant prepared his or her project and recommendations as to where it could be sent. Three projects were immediately approved by the representative of the Danish Environmental Agency and received funds to implement their first stage.

As a result, the workshop participants have acquired knowledge of their rights, received literature with texts of the laws, their interpretation and practical guidance to implement them in practice.