The Canadian Project
"Institution-Building for Northern Russia's Indigenous Peoples (INRIP)"s

January 1999

Corinne Gray
Executive Director,
Inuit Circumpolar Conference
(ICC) Canada

The idea to provide Canadian assistance in the area of capacity-building first emerged within the context of Arctic Council discussions in 1993. In particular, there were concerns regarding whether the Russian indigenous peoples would have the ability to participate in a meaningful and on-going way. Meanwhile, the Canadian government's Department of Foreign Affairs had established a technical assistance program for Northern Russia, but had not yet developed priorities or mechanisms for projects dealing with indigenous peoples. The government decided to commission a study that would address these issues.Mary Simon - the former ICC president and currently Canada's Ambassador for Circumpolar Affairs - was the consultant hired to undertake the work. Her consultations with indigenous peoples in Russia resulted in a report containing three main recommendations:

Shortly after the release of the report, ICC submitted an interim proposal for a travel fund to ensure RAIPON's participation at the Arctic Council and other international meetings while the detailed plans for a three-year program were put in place. While the concept for assistance came from the report, the actual project was developed through a series of further consultations between ICC Canada and RAIPON. Finally, in late 1996, the full-blown INRIP project was approved by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), with a budget of $1.8 million over three years.

The project consists of two parts. The first is based on an indigenous-to-indigenous approach which transfers Inuit skills and knowledge through yearly internship programs in Canada. In 1998, representatives of 12 Russian Indigenous Peoples visited Canada to undertake training in Ottawa and to visit Inuit communities in the north. The training courses included:

While in the north, the interns also visited Inuit health care facilities, aboriginal businesses and regional representatives.

The second internship is scheduled for late February/early March of this year. By the completion of the third program next fall, representatives of over 30 organizations in Russia will have participated in the program. In addition, aside from the training itself, INRIP provides funds to strengthen the national and regional offices of RAIPON. Financial assistance offsets salaries and operating costs of the RAIPON head office in Moscow. The project to date has also provided equipment such as computers, fax-machines and photocopiers to 10 RAIPON regional offices. By the end of this year, equipment will be distributed to an additional 20 regional offices across the Russian Arctic.

Securing RAIPON's participation in Arctic Council meetings have remained a key component of the INRIP project. INRIP has continued to provide funds for RAIPON attendance at meetings such as Ministerial and Senior Arctic Officials, and the Whitehorse Conference on Sustainable Development. This has facilitated not only their participation in a major Arctic forum, but it has also provided the opportunity to build stronger linkages between RAIPON and others involved in Arctic issues.

The second part of the project, which was only one year in duration, and is now completed, was based on a government-to-government approach. This part brought representatives from Goskomsever and the Canadian Department of Indian Affairs together to discuss Arctic and Aboriginal policy development. Ten Russian government officials visited Canada's north and attended seminars. At a final round table conference in June 1998, a set of specific recommendations was drafted. Workshop themes included:

The government-to-government component also provided an opportunity for ongoing dialogue between the indigenous and government representatives on the INRIP steering committee, and this will continue for the duration of the project.

As we enter the final year, we have begun to explore ideas for a continuation project; CIDA has indicated interest in receiving a proposal. Some elements may remain the same, but we will also consider more emphasis on community economic development and providing practical skills training to enable a greater degree of financial and organizational self-sufficiency. We will also be exploring the possibility of establishing a perpetual fund for institutional and economic development. A further ICC Canada initiative is not directly related to the INRIP project; however, we have recently received "seed funding" to prepare a proposal dealing with contaminants in the Russian Arctic. The proposal will be developed over the coming months, again in collaboration with RAIPON.

There is no question that whatever shape the future work takes, ICC Canada is committed to continuing its work in partnership with RAIPON. Our collaboration has strengthened the capacity of both organizations, and the past two years have proven that the two organizations can work together effectively. This has been demonstrated not only through the INRIP project, but through our joint efforts to successfully deliver humanitarian aid to Chukotka earlier this month.

But we also recognize that the INRIP project can only do so much. There are certainly gaps in our institutional development work and there are many pressing health, environmental and economic issues facing Arctic Russia today. Many more initiatives such as the Danish/Greenland and Norwegian projects will be needed for a long time. As each one is implemented, it will be increasingly important to assess how it complements other projects, thereby ensuring the most far-reaching benefits for Arctic Indigenous Peoples.


Update 29-11-2001