RAIPON Policy Paper
Updated July 1, 2002

This policy paper is a regular overview of RAIPON activity and it includes the following issues:
- review of the state policy in relation to indigenous peoples of the North
- situation on the indigenous peoples of the North
- outcomes, comments and proposals

The year of 2001 has been more than abundant in different events, significant to indigenous peoples in Russia. First and foremost, it was the Congress of indigenous peoples of the North, Siberia and Far East of the Russian Federation, that took place on April 11-13 in Moscow. It has been organized in the RF President’s Administration office. The Congress hosted 335 delegates from over 700 communities, representing 40 indigenous nations of the North. It also hosted over 400 guests and international observers. The greetings were sent by the RF President Vladimir Putin, the Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, Chairman of the State Duma Gennady Seleznev etc. The main report to the Congress has been made by RAIPON President Sergey Haruchi, there were also presentations from the Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Arthur Chilingarov and the Deputy Minister on federative, national and migration policy Valery Kirpichnikov.

Sergey Haruchi in his report “Our destiny is in our hands” said about 1997-2001 as “an initial period of the essential organization establishment, such organization which is able to solve difficult tasks facing indigenous peoples, which is able to work in partnership with the government and state, but the next coming period of 2001-2004 is to be focusing on the regional work, and the main task is to protect the territories of traditional land use, indigenous communities and lifestyle”. In this report the role of Project Center for Indigenous Peoples (CIP) has been stressed and highly appreciated as a vehicle for establishing long-term partner relations with international and foreign organizations aiming at protection and development of the indigenous peoples through specific project activities. During the preparation and as a side event at Congress the CIP organized a number of seminars - on writing project proposals, on their presentation to the donors. It is noteworthy to mention in this connection such projects as establishment of the information centers in Kamchatka and Nenets autonomous regions, initiative by reindeers on trace mapping of their traditional pasture lands in Evenkiisky autonomous region (the project has been launched in 2002), organization of the ethnological assessment of the Gazprom project on gas site in Yamal-Nenets autonomous region, preparation of small grants and mini-projects in Kamchatka region, Primorsky kray, Koryak, Evenkiisky and Nenets autonomous regions. The particular interest lies in the establishment of the information centers in Kamchatka and Naryan-Mar. Activity of such centers is of great importance and continuously increasing: information flow from the regional and local sources is constant and the initial first-hand data on demography and health situation are arriving from the indigenous communities. Most important that this information is becoming a real instrument of regional policy for negotiations with the government.

The development of the information network, enhancement of the activity of the existing indigenous organizations and new information centers and incoming proposals from the regional and ethnic chapters require development and discussion of the Concept for establishment and activity of the Information Centers, discussion of their TORs, etc. Such task includes also tailoring and unifying approaches to interaction with the movement of the indigenous peoples led by their organizations (Associations) and determining the mechanism of their activity coordination. One of the results of CIP activity is the assistance to the Association in the strategic planning of its activity and a follow up changes in its political and executive structure. And finally, the most important output of the CIP activity is the acceleration of RAIPON activity, new projects’ development and funding and the continuation/prolongation of the existing ones. On this basis the cooperation with the State Duma, Council of Federation and Ministry for Economic Development and Trade of the RF, Arctic Council Programs (joint projects with the AMAP, CAFF, cooperation with the PAME, Arctic NPA), signing agreements with the Ministry for Economic Development and Trade and UN Programmes (joint projects with the UNEP/GRID-Arendal and UNDP), conducting two consultations with indigenous peoples in Khabarovsk krai and Nenets Autonomous region jointly with the World Bank.

The list of actions during the last 3 years (during the implementation of two major projects, funded by DANCEA and Canadian International Development Agency) that RAIPON in cooperation with the governmental agencies in Russia has implemented is far from complete and follows herewith:

The situation of the indigenous peoples of the North remains complicated and rather difficult. Here follow several examples. Due to the small size of peoples (7 indigenous peoples are numbering less than 1000 persons, and 12 peoples up to 2000 persons), and the insufficient legal protection of their rights, tuberculosis, and other reasons, indigenous peoples in Russia are at the brink of their physical extinction. The average life span of the Northern aborigines (46 years) is 20 years less than overall average index in Russia. Life expectancy for men in several regions is still about 41-42 years.

Statistical data for 1990-96 show a decrease of the number of newly born babies by 69% in the northern regions, while the mortality has increased by 35.5%. The index of natal mortality for indigenous peoples is 1.5 times higher than the average in the northern regions, and 1.7 times higher than the average index in Russia. For the last 7 years, in the Evenkiyskiy autonomous region, the of indigenous population decreased by 30%. At the same time, only 10% of them have emigrated from the region. Here is an example of verified data on tuberculosis, collected in the indigenous community of the Itelmen people (settlement of Kovran in Kamchatka):

No Year of
Number of
new cases
1 1976 1
2 1980 1
3 1982 1 7
4 1983 1 7
5 1985 1 7
6 1987 1 7
7 1989 1 3
8 1997 1
1 (died in 2000)
9 2000 1
1 (died in 2000)
10 2001 2 1

*Tuberculosis cases registered by the disease group
Group 1 – fatal state of disease
Group 3 – chronic cases with periodical clinical treatment
Group 7 – cases after clinical treatment in the state of remission

The total number of tubersulosis cases as per December 1, 2001 is 14. The total population of the settlement is slightly increasing, ca. 400 persons.

The last screening of the population was executed in spring 2000. The previous one was done by the itinerary medical brigade in 1990. During the intermediate decade there were no registered cases, but tuberculosis has not receded, as it appeared from the registered cases of 2001, when the disease has been discovered in its terminal stage and 2 persons died of tuberculosis in 2000.

(Data provided by the local hospital in Kovran).

This alarming situation is characteristic for every northern village and indigenous community.

Why the situation of the indigenous peoples of the North is not changing to the better, or – if the progress is taking place – is it far too slow? Possible reasons are explained below:

  1. First of all, there is lack of structured governmental policy in relation to indigenous peoples. Parliamentary hearings on the governmental policy on the North issues incorporate a component on the indigenous peoples as a part of this policy. In most cases indigenous peoples are used by the authorities as a gun for fighting each other: neither federal nor regional authorities are in reality concerned of the problems and life of our peoples or have the inner understanding that they are impoverished unlucky persons that are not capable of any thing. Here we need to note that part of the responsibilities on problems’ solution are located at the federal level (such as regulation of use of natural resources and traditional land use areas, tax regulation, registration of communities, indigenous enterprises etc.), rest of the responsibilities are located at the regional level (allocation of the valuable resources portion (quota) and issuing licenses for fish and ground resources for traditional handicrafts development, assistance to culture and education etc.), however, neither federal nor regional authorities are solving problems in the practice. Finally they do not convince each other, they blame indigenous peoples for their unsolved problems. Though there is much talking on indigenous peoples’ survival, there is almost no progress, because of the lack of a specific governmental agency or state body for monitoring indigenous peoples’ rights and making decisions on all relevant issues. A striking example in this area is the Federal Target Program implementation. In the present state its concept and the mechanism for its realization will never reach the ultimate goal – the survival of indigenous peoples. The reason is simple and clear – the indigenous peoples themselves are not agents of this program, they do not participate in its implementation, they are to be recipients of the aid, not the activators of its appliance and management. And moreover, taking into consideration the experience of the previous years, there are no guarantees that funding will reach these peoples. As the funding in essence is a nutshell and the problems are abundant and not prioritized, such assistance will never be effective.
  2. Second, there are no professionals or skilled persons among indigenous peoples who are able to continue and develop traditional land use under the market economy, who have qualities and responsibilities to organize self-management (project activity, small business, legal advice) in the modern situation. RAIPON is organizing courses and seminars through the Russian Indigenous Training Center (RITC), holds internships in the reservations of the First Nations in the USA in cooperation with the Pacific Environmental Resource Council (PERC). Recently RAIPON signed the agreement with the Arctic University and sent a representative from the Nenets autonomous region to the internship in Finland. However, this is a drop in the sea and it is very important to increase the number of training activities, to organize professional education and prepare specialists for expansion and development of the project activity, for protection of the traditional land use areas and effective networking among Arctic indigenous peoples.
  3. Third, RAIPON requires the urgent establishment of a formal legal body for representation of indigenous peoples of the North, Siberia and Far East in the Russian Federation. Such a commissionaire status would enable to solve different problems with the governmental agencies at both federal and regional levels. It would also consolidate and promote the movement of indigenous peoples in their fight for protection of human rights, and would positively influence the partnership between the state and indigenous peoples.