The Ecoyuris Institute

by Galina Diachkova, November 2002

In the beginning of the 1990s, the political system was incapable of solving the problems of the indigenous peoples of the Russian North due to the absence of the necessary legislative basis and requisite political and social institutions. This obstructed the development of legislation concerning indigenous peoples’s issues. The elaboration of the legal status of indigenous peoples and territories of traditional nature use is of vital importance for Russia’s indigenous peoples.

Since the 1990s the following laws have been adopted:

As yet, no federal laws have been adopted which would define the status of indigenous peoples, forms of their self-organisation, institutions of self-administration, or the status of territories of traditional nature use. Meanwhile, at this stage, the difficult situation of the indigenous peoples prevents them from making more effective use of the (inadequate) legislation that does exist. The main reasons are the poor standard of rights implementation and the lack of legal expertise among indigenous leaders and public organisations. In the language of legal specialists, the reasons are the weakness of the normative legislative basis and its declarative character, the conflict between land, natural resource, ecological and civic legislation, the lack of practices with public prosecutional control and legal protection of indigenous rights. The critical socio-economic situation hobbles the legal abilities of indigenous leaders. In the 1990s, in an atmosphere of transition from a unitary to a federal state, from an administratively controlled management system to a regulative-market and decentralised management system, the indigenous peoples of the North found themselves in the worst situation. Under the absence of provision supplies and salary payments, along with high unemployment rates and informational starvation, efforts to safeguard physical subsistence came to a halt.

During the last years, through efforts by RAIPON – with the support of foreign organisations, information centres were established in a number of regions. These are meant to deal with legal and ecological problems of the local indigenous peoples. But, as before, there are not enough qualified legal specialists and others with the relevant knowledge and background to help to solve these problems. Let us hope that the information about Ecoyuris encourages our readers get into contact with this organisation and to get answers on their various questions.

Information about the Ecoyuris Institute

Compiled by Galina Diachkova, November 2002
Address: 103009, PO Box 172, Moscow, Russia
Phone/fax: +7 (095) 924-40-04; +7 (095) 921-51-74

Ecoyuris was established in 1991 as an independent organisation to gather lawyers specialised in ecology and defending public interests in the fields of ecological safety, environmental preservation and natural resource management. In connection with alterations in the legislation and in its staff the organisation was re-registered twice. Since 1996 it is called the “Ecoyuris” Institute of Eco-Juridical Problems. All projects of the organisation are non-commercial.

Main objectives of the organisation:
- to elaborate concepts and principles of legal protection of public ecological interests and to introduce these into Russian legislation and practice;
- to promote formation and realisation of effective legal mechanisms to regulate environmental protection, to guarantee ecological safety, reasonable resource management and sustainable development in Russia;
- to contribute to the consolidation of the legal status of Russia;
- to promote the significance and prestige of the profession of ecological lawyers.

Main directions of activity:
- collection, systematisation and analysis of normative and legal acts related to environmental protection and natural resource management;
- development and expert investigation of normative and legal acts;
- investigation and analysis of juridical and prosecutor’s practice for the protection of public ecological interests;
- protection of the rights of the citizens on a favourable environment and related rights (on access to information, to participate in state administration, etc.);
- protection of the rights of indigenous peoples on traditional use of natural resources and preservation of their native environment;
- legal investigations in the fields of environmental protection and public ecological interests;
- promotion of an eco-juridical culture and expertise in law implementation;
- coordination of the Network of Russian Ecological Lawyers Protecting Public Interests.

Main results of the work:
- published a collection of Russian laws on environmental protection and natural resource management (3 volumes in 7 books) 1993-2000;
- regular publication of a bulletin on legal practices on protection of public ecological interests;
- published two practical textbooks for citizens and public organisations: “How to protect your ecological rights” and “How to protect your ecological rights in court”;
- series of seminars on eco-juridical problems carried out in different regions of Russia with the participation of representatives from NGOs, state bodies and private businesses;
- more than 200 publications in regional, federal and foreign mass media;
- a monthly published electronic bulletin of eco-juridical practices;
- a website devoted to law application on the protection of ecological rights and interests of NGOs and citizens was published and is regularly maintained;
- organisation of the Annual Russian Conference on Legal Protection of Public Ecological Interests since 1994;
- practical courses for ecological lawyers from the Russian regions and representatives of indigenous people, carried out in Moscow and the USA (1996-2000);
- legal expert assessment of tens of draft laws and other normative and legal acts at federal and regional levels carried out;
- prestigious ecological cases of regional and federal importance have been won in courts, including the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation: three decrees of the Government of the Russian Federation related to conversion of land from 1st group forests into lands for economic activity have been declared illicit, as well as a decree of the Government of the Russian Federation on approval of a “Temporary order of drilling for exploration of submarine fields for oil, gas and gas condensate within territorial waters and the exclusive economic zone of the Russian Federation in the Far East”.

“Ecoyuris” is comprised of two centres. In the Eco-Juridical Consultation Centre qualified lawyers advise citizens and representatives of non-governmental organisations on particular questions concerning legislation on environmental preservation (from 3:00 to 6:00 pm). The Centre’s lawyers have won series of cases in court on protection of citizens’ and NGO’s ecological rights in Moscow and the Moscow Oblast. Proposals on improvement of the legislation and law application practice in the Moscow Oblast have been prepared and sent to state authorities. Appointments for consultation can be made by phone (095) 921-51-74 (from 11:00 am. to 6:00 pm on working days).

In the Centre for Indigenous Peoples Rights juridical consultations and projects on realization of the rights of indigenous peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East on traditional use of natural resources and native environments are carried out. The Centre’s lawyers and experts have held seminars for representatives of the indigenous peoples, lawyers and activists protecting their rights in Siberia, the Far East and Moscow; they render legal aid to national communities in the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug, establish regional legal centres and help regional lawyers specialise in this field. Now a programme on training of regional lawyers starts in Moscow. Appointments for consultation can be made by phone (095) 924-40-04 (from 11:00 am. to 6:00 pm. on working days).

In February 1997, the Network of Russian Ecological Lawyers Protecting Public Interests was established on initiative from “Ecoyuris”,. Today it includes more than 40 regional eco-juridical, non-governmental organisations and individual jurist-ecologists. Most of them run specific cases on protection of citizens’ rights for a favourable environment, consult citizens and NGOs, and contribute to the propagation of eco-juridical culture. The Institute “Ecoyuris” renders a methodical and informational support to regional jurists, involves them in joint projects, regularly organises seminars, conferences, and meetings. The e-mail address of the network coordinator is

Representatives of the Institute “Ecoyuris” work in Izhevsk, Novgorod, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy, Tomsk, Ufa and other cities.

The Institute “Ecoyuris” – as an eco-juridical and protection of rights organisation – is an integral part of the Russian ecological movement and maintains contacts with ecological organisations from the CIS, USA and other countries.

In April 2002, the president of the Institute “Ecoyuris”, Vera Leonidovna Mischenko, was awarded the International Ecological Goldman’s Prize for introducing legal protection of public ecological interests into Russian practice.