Roundtable discussion between the indigenous peoples of the
Nenets Autonomous Okrug and the oil industry

Thomas Køhler, TGK Consult

NARYAN-MAR, 11-12 April 2001: Representatives of 14 oil companies were present when the regional branch of RAIPON in the Nenets Autonomous Okrug "Yasavey" carried out the first meeting of this kind in Russia between the indigenous people and the oil industry. The initiative had been taken by the newly elected president of "Yasavey", Vlad Peskov. Representatives of the administration, politicians and the press were present as well. The Moscow office of RAIPON was represented by Anatoly Mikhaylov, from the lawyer’s union "Rodnik" Leyla Zeylanova took part, and from Denmark, Thomas Køhler, was present as an observer.

The discussions quickly led to the conclusion that both the oil industry and the indigenous peoples would be interested in an open dialogue. As reflected in the Resolution of the Roundtable, the oil companies urged "Yasavey" to make use of their right to take legislative initiatives and to carry out control with the regional budget. The oil companies also agreed on the need to create a fund for indigenous peoples in the Nenets Autonomous Okrug, but whether this would mean that the oil companies should pay extra money - besides the taxes they already pay - remained unclear. The parties agreed to create a working group to follow up on the meeting and to meet again next year.

The local administration did not seem pleased with the situation and accused a specific community "Evr" for having made a secret deal with an oil company "Varandeyneftegaz", ensuring some compensation for the reindeer herders in their area in the eastern part of the Okrug where the company had started up their oil extraction. The representative of "Evr", Andrey Vyucheyskiy, refused to reveal the details of the agreement which frustrated the administration so much that one deputy accused "Evr" of profiting at the expense of the western part of the Okrug, the Kanin Peninsula, the poorest part of the region.

There is no doubt that this Roundtable was the first step in a very interesting process, not only for the Nenets people, but for all of RAIPON. The experience made by "Yasavey" can become of great importance for the rest of Russia.