Report from the 2nd Planning Workshop of the Saami/Nordic Programme:

"Capacity building and participation of Russia's indigenous peoples in the sustainable development of the Arctic"

February 2001

Winfried Dallmann, ANSIPRA / Norwegian Polar Institute

Helga Pedersen, GRID-Arendal


The Saami/Nordic Programme was initiated by UNEP/GRID-Arendal in close cooperation with RAIPON [1] and the Saami Council in 1998/99. The main purpose of the programme is to develop the capacity of the regional and central IPOs[2]of Russia in the fields of communication, information, environmental knowledge and awareness raising[3]. Issues to be addressed are networking, communication, environmental impact assessments, regional environmental information, legal issues and small business development. The executive agency of the programme is GRID-Arendal, while the advisory board is composed of representatives for the Saami Council (chair), RAIPON, GRID-Arendal, the Barents Region, ANSIPRA and the McArthur Fund/Moscow.

The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs granted a budget of 1 million Norwegian crowns (ca. 120,000 US$) in the autumn of 1999, which was earmarked for information and network building in 2000. A continuation of funding was made dependent on the success of the first year. The results (see below) of the first year's work led to a renewed funding of the same amount for 2001.

Journal and web-site
With this budget, RAIPON was given the opportunity to establish a quarterly journal in the Russian language ("Mir korennykh narodov - zhivaya arktika" [4]) which fills the vital need of information and public discussion between the federal and regional chapters of the association. Four issues were produced in 2000, and the number of subscriptions has by now reached approximately 1100.

An agreement regarding the publication of English translations of selected articles was signed by RAIPON and ANSIPRA, where draft translations are paid from the above-mentioned budget, while the ANSIPRA Secretariat takes care of the editing and publishing.

The other main achievement of the programme funding is RAIPON's Internet web-site (, which already provides a lot of information about the organisation and Russian indigenous peoples' issues. Money from the fund was also used to establish the web-sites of two of RAIPON's regional associations: Yasavey of the Nenets A.O., and Khaborovsk. Technical support for the ANSIPRA web-site is also provided through this fund.

The workshop
The second planning workshop was carried out on 29 and 30 January 2001, organised by GRID-Arendal, at Svanhovd Environmental Centre in northern Norway, and was followed by an Advisory Board meeting on 31 January in Kirkenes.

The workshop focussed on, among other things, the coordination of the various international support programmes, namely those of ICC [5]-Canada and Denmark-Greenland[6]. While the ICC-Canada programme has been instrumental in building the institution and structure of RAIPON, and the Danish-Greenlandic Project has contributed to a number of associated issues, it was stated that contributions of the other Nordic countries (Norway, Sweden, Finland) until now have been very modest.

Main topics of the workshop were three of the objectives of the Saami/Nordic Programme which until now not have been started due to the lack of funding: legal issues, small business development and environmental issues. Each of them were introduced by invited speakers from Russia and/or the various other support programmes and subsequently discussed in working groups and in the plenary.  


Coordination with other support programmes
It has often been said that there is competition between executive agancies of support programmes in different countries rather than coordination, and also a lacking willingness of donors to fund projects when similar projects already are carried out elsewhere. Although it looks like RAIPON is coordinating available resources in a good way, this is not necessarily a transparent process for the involved agencies, and even less for the funding institutions. It is therefore important to document coordination at the level of project development and description, and to make it clear therein in what way the individual international activities complement each other.

The CIDA [7]-funded ICC-Canadian Programme "INRIPP [8]" has completed its first phase in 2000, and has received a total five-year funding of CA$ 5 mill. - plus CA$ 1 mill. from other sponsors - (US$ 3.25 / 0.65 mill.) for the second phase. The first phase consisted of institution-building at RAIPON, in training indigenous people in relevant issues, and providing basic electronic eqiupment. The two fundamental objectives of phase 2 are: 1) to support the political, economic and cultural development of the indigenous people by establishing a training centre (RITC [9]) managed by RAIPON; and 2) to assist the Russian government in its Northern and Aboriginal Development Programme by strengthening the government's capacity to promote community development and nurture indigenous co-management.

The DEPA[10]-funded Danish-Greenlandic activities have undergone structural changes after the conclusion of the "Danish-Greenlandic Project" last year. DEPA is using on the order of 8 million Danish crowns (US$ 1 mill.) this year for Arctic indigenous peopless issues. Of this budget, 2.5 mill. crowns finance the Arctic Council Indigenous Peoples' Secretariat, while 3.5 mill. crowns will be used for individual projects. TGK Consult has been granted an additional 1 mill. crowns (from the 2000 budget) for the creation of a project centre under RAIPON coordination as an umbrella for a number of minor support projects in various regions of the Russian North. TGK Consult has also worked out plans for establishing an information centre in Kamchatka[11]. Furthermore, Denmark is also financing a sacred sites registration project under CAFF[12].

The Barents Euro-Arctic Region (BEAR) has an indigenous peoples' support programme for north-western Russia, which spends an annual amount of approximately 2 mill. Norwegian crowns (210,000 US$). After having focussed on environmental and health issues in the past, new fields of special attention will be culture, infrastructure and information in the coming years. In contrast to the other programmes, the BEAR activities do not involve coordination by RAIPON.

Several workshop participants expressed their fear that the establishment of coordinating centres around RAIPON might lead to increased adminstration and to less centralised control. Pavel Sulyandziga, vice-president of RAIPON, did not share these concerns, but stressed the necessity to delegate the increasing amount of work connected with project development and coordination away from the central RAIPON administration. He said this would be possible without losing control as long as the centre leaders are appointed by RAIPON.

Legal issues
Pavel Sulyandziga opened this session by saying that legal matters have the utmost importance. He referred to several current examples of laws being used against the interests of indigenous people[13], as in the case of Yuriy Ayvaseda, the establishment of indigenous communes, or the degradation of hunting grounds. A highly prioritised issue is to achieve an appropriate indigenous participation when it comes to developing legal norms for the relevant legislation. High priority is also attached to improving common peoples' literacy in legislation.

Olga Yakovleva, of the Indigenous Peoples' Legislative Centre "Rodnik", said in her talk that the main challenge would be to live with the existing laws. There are useful mechanisms that allow them to be used in favour of indigenous interests. The general attitude towards human rights in Russia is positively changing, and there has been noticed an increasing - though small - indigenous participation in legislation development. She said that a major issue is to use the existing legislation to demand a fulfilment of environmental protection requirements in connection with industrial development projects. She also said that Russian legislation allows for the use of local law in the regions, even if these might not be reflected in the federal law. The recently abandoned case against Yuriy Ayvaseda[14]shows that with sufficient legal help indigenous rights can be protected.

Maria Smirnova, representative of the indigenous peoples of the Evenkiyskiy Autonomous Okrug, gave an example from her district, where a law was proposed according to which "formalities concerning indigenous lands should be rearranged", a procedure that might have closed certain game grounds for future indigenous use[15]. An appeal from the central office of RAIPON led to the squelching of the proposed law. Other rights violations occur frequently throughout the Russian Federation, for instance by oil companies, although there might be agreements between local land users and the companies. In the case of damage, there are no guarantees. It is highly important that such cases are publicised and followed up by legal expertise.

As to the question of how the Saami/Nordic Programme could contribute to these legal challenges, it is clear that it should try to fill in the gaps of existing activities. Many organisations already work on the issue. A central question that was debated was whether the aim should be to try to exploit the existing legislation for the benefit of the indigenous population, or work for new legislation. Taking into consideration that there are political concerns in connection with government funding for a lobby which could be understood as interfering in Russian internal affairs, this latter option was abandoned.

The current Russian legal framework has positive aspects for indigenous rights, but there is a shortage of mechanisms to implement and exploit these. An important task would be to generate a database of the existing legal regime concerning indigenous peoples' rights. Training of local indigenous representatives within the existing legal framework may also be effective. A good tool might be a manual on indigenous rights. Seminars where indigenous peoples representatives and government officials can meet and exchange information are also considered useful. It would be important to find ways to make these efforts sustainable. Furthermore, one should assist federal authorities in improving the normative documents of relevant laws.

There is also a need for juridicial assistance and a need to try cases in court funded through a sort of Legal Aid Fund. An issue of debate is how legal aid can be funded, and whether it should be funded through Russian/local or international sources. Questions such as these have to be answered: Would Russian authorities be willing to fund cases they are likely to lose? Will the international society meddle in internal Russian affairs? Can the legal fund be established as a solidarity fund

Small business development
The reason for establishing a small business component in the Saami/Nordic Programme was a gap in Scandinavian support for the Saami population concerning this matter. Denmark and Canada already have incorporated small business development in their programmes.

The Canadian project focusses on revenue generating. Oleg Shakov from ICC said that ICC/Canada is prepared to take the leading role in training and establishing necessary infrastructure in the regions. But Canada is not claiming monopoly in this field and ICC are ready to make adjustments to their projects in order to achieve best possible coordination with other players. RITC may be used as an infrastructure for training by other projects. Shakov defined important gaps in their programme, like providing basic electronic equipment for extension workers of their training courses, travel budgets, core funding for full-time employees of the training centre's headquarters, budgets for public relations, advertising and marketing, salaries for the transition period between training and ordinary business, and database development. The programme covers training of only 15-20 trainees per year, and external funding to increase the number would be appreciated.

The Danish approach is more process oriented, from project identification to distribution and sales.

The Nordic/Saami Programme will not compete with other initiatives, but will tend to cooperate and fill in gaps. On way of doing this would be if the Nordic/Saami Programme concentrates on the Kola Peninsula, where cooperation with the Barents programme would be of interest. According to Alf Nystad from the Barents Secretariat, the secretariat is interested in applying the SUF model (Saami Economic Development Fund) on the Kola Peninsula. Through the SUF, grants, loans and - to a certain point - expertise are available to persons who establish themselves in business. The fund covers a wide range of small business initiatives, including such typical Saami livelihoods as reindeer herding, small-scale agriculture and fishing, and traditional handicrafts.

Larisa Ardeyeva (RAIPON regional chapter of Murmansk) reported that only one, Valt Yall, of many indigenous enterprises that were formed on the Kola Peninsula in the early 1990s, has survived. Valt Yall deals with handicraft, souvenirs, and tourist camp activities. They are facing problems with foreign companies that rent native fishing grounds without providing compensation, and their tourist camp was burnt down twice.

Training in market issues and basic business knowledge, legislation, organisation building, etc. is an area where there is a need for more support. Thorsten Bargfrede from ILO said that according to their experience, the role of external projects should not be to train people directly, but to work towards existing organisations, institutions, etc. In this way, training is sustainable after the donors and expertise have left the scene. ILO is not a donor institution, but they have expertise that other projects can use.

Finally it was pointed out that RAIPON has to take a proactive role in coordinating the different initiatives. Norway, Sweden and Finland should put more money into the issue. A donor meeting with participants from these countries should be organised to explore the potential.

Environmental issues
Severe environmental impacts, both past and present ones, have been documented extensively throughout the Russian North. Maria Smirnova (RAIPON, Evenkiyskiy Autonomous Okrug) introduced several current instances from her district that cover the range of oil spills from drilling riggs, planned coal extraction that would disturb reindeer migration routes, and heavy metal pollution affecting vegetation and bird life. Due to the sparse population, without major economic support there is little the local people can do to document violations of environmental law and agreements by the companies.

Vladimir Shirko, head of the successful native hunting enterprise in Bikin (Primorskiy Kray), expressed his concern about new attempts by the company Lespromkhoz to cut timber in the mainly undisturbed Bikin River basin. Earlier attempts were abondoned due to extensive public protests[16]. But two recent court decisions have favoured the company. Shirko is afraid that timber cutting in the upper reaches of the basin may lead to the loss of fish; melting of permafrost might even make the entire river disappear, which would be the end of the native population in the area.

It gives bad signals for the future that the President of the Russian Federation abolished the State Committee for Environmental Protection last year and transferred environmental issues to the Minstry of Natural Resources[17]. In this context, it was also reported that more and more regional administrative units of the Russian Federation are establishing their own environmental protection agencies.

There is still an immense need to document the state of the environment of individual areas, to run environmental impact assessments (including social impacts and indigenous knowledge) prior to industrial impacts, and to detect environmental violations. This has continuously been a high priority for RAIPON.

A: Environmental Impacts Analysis
The University of the Arctic (U-Arctic; now in its establishing phase) has been identified as the best cooperation partner concerning environmental impact studies. One of the main tasks of the U-Arctic is to produce a Human Development Report, which has many similar goals with the Saami/Nordic Programme. It should not be difficult to reestablish U-Arctic's premises for the report in a way that would fully cover the indigenous aspect. Richard Langlais, the U-Arctic's representative, was very positive towards such an approach.

It was suggested that an international working group, composed of indigenous experts from circumpolar areas (Saami, Inuit, Alaskan Natives and a RAIPON representative) should formulate a strategy for addressing the issue through the U-Arctic. The Saami/Nordic Programme could possibly fund the RAIPON participant. This strategy should be launched on 11 June at the ministerial meeting linked to the opening of the U-Arctic in Rovaniemi. RAIPON was asked to endorse the importance of this independently towards the relevant officials.

Svein Tveitdal from GRID-Arendal said that funds and resources for such purposes are in general available, but that one needs to work harder to canalise them to the indigenous people of the Russian Federation.

B: State-of-environment information
To cover the issue of state-of-environment documentation, Pavel Sulyandziga announced a RAIPON programme to establish local environmental information centres in the districts. They already have agreed with Denmark to establish a centre in Kamchatka (see above), and have plans in other regions, for instance, Krasnyy Yar. Such a centre already exists in Khabarovsk.

A current threat to the environment is the transport of nuclear waste. A new Russian law is allowing the import of nuclear waste, although RAIPON and various environmental organisations have carried out protests against this. A main problem is the shortage of information and the lack of feedback from indigenous communities. It is not only important to be aware of the current situation, but also to get information about planned activities from the state, from companies, etc. A possible approach to this is to collect information from the regions and then link this information to the National Information Agency and the UNEP programmes. Emphasis must be put on the need of a network, with a basis in indigenous knowledge, providing information both to the government and the outside world. Training of local people in the districts is necessary to make such a system work.

The discussion led to a revised goal of the state-of-environment issue for the Saami/Nordic Programme: development of a system for regional information compilation and awareness raising that enables local communities to express and report on the state of their environment and their living standards. This should include regional structures that allow for input to national, circumpolar and global assessments.

[1] RAIPON = Russian Association of Indigenous Peoles of the North

[2] IPOs = Indigenous Peoples' Organisations

[3] Earlier reports on intentions and the 1st workshop were presented in NNSIPRA Bulletin No. 2 (April 1999), pp. 8-9, and NNSIPRA Bulletin No. 4 (November 1999), p. 7.

[4] transl.: Indigenous Peoples' World > Living Arctic

[5] ICC = Inuit Circumpolar Conference

[6] See NNSIPRA Bulletin No. 2 (April 1999), pp. 5-13.

[7] CIDA = Canadian International Development Agency

[8] INRIPP = Institution Building for Northern Russian Indigenous Peoples' Project

[9] RITC = Russian Indigenous Training Centre

[10] DEPA = Danish Environmental Protection Agency

[11] See article p. 00

[12] CAFF = Arctic Council programme for Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna

[13] See several articles in this volume and "Mir korennykh narodov" No. 4

[14] See articles p. 00 and p. 00

[15] See article p. 00

[16] See NNSIPRA Bulletin No.1, speech by P. Sulyandziga

[17] See ANSIPRA Bulletin No. 4, pp. 5-6