UN Special Rapporteur Met With Russian Association Of Indigenous Peoples Of The North Representatives

James Anaya had studied the achievements in the human rights and fundamental freedoms protection of indigenous people of the Russian Federation. This country numbers about 40 officially recognized indigenous peoples; most of them live at the Extreme North, in Siberia and Far East. Among other issues addressed, the Special Rapporteur examined the problems of indigenous people and their influence of these issues on the human rights and fundamental freedoms observance, and explored some positive experience in this matter both at the local and federal levels. During his trip the Special Rapporteur visited Moscow, Khanty-Mansiysk, Krasnoyarsk and Khabarovsk, met a number of high-ranking state officials and also the representatives of indigenous peoples' communities and civil society organizations which are involved in indigenous peoples' rights protection.

"My visit gives the opportunity to understand better the problems that indigenous peoples face in this country, - said Stephen James Anaya at the meeting with the Russian Association's of Indigenous Peoples of the North, Siberia and Far East (RAIPON) activists held in the Public Chamber of Russia on October 6, 2009. My report will contain recommendations for the government and the UN system to take necessary measures to stop the human rights and fundamental freedoms of the Russian indigenous peoples violation".

The RAIPON was represented by Pavel Sulyandziga, its 1st Vice-President, Larisa Abryutina and Fenya Lekhanova, Vice-Presidents, Olga Murashko, head of the information center, Irina Kurilova, spokeswoman, and Galina Idigesheva, lawyer from the legal office. The Special Rapporteur was accompanied by Iskra Milkova-Uzunova (Bulgaria), his aide, Lidia Emilien Vantre (France), official from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Dirk Hebecker (Germany), Senior Advisor from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

James Anaya took major interest in the legislation. Pavel Sulyandziga, member of the Public Chamber, 1st Vice-President of the Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North, Siberia and Far East of Russian Federation touched upon two federal laws currently in use - "On Territories of Traditional Nature Use" and "On Hunting" in his speech.

Pavel Sulyandziga considers both documents should be improved from the point of view of social consequences for small-numbered peoples (especially in the paragraphs related to the privileged rights of indigenous nations for land, forests and fishery zones). 1st Vice-President of the Association promised to hand James Anaya copies of the public expertise of those laws, performed by the Committee for Environmental Policy and Environmental Protection.

The member of the Chamber considers many of the existing norms positive but what lets down is the law enforcement. "Unfortunately, execution of these laws by the authorities leaves much to be desired", - underlined Pavel Sulyandziga.

Olga Murashko noted that "in the last ten years there has been a derogation of indigenous peoples' rights if compared to the achievements of the first ten years of perestroika. By the year 2001 legal status of indigenous peoples in Russia had generally conformed to the international principles and regulations. Now the situation is way worse". Federal legislation is being diluted to weaken the laws that provide real protection for indigenous peoples' constitutional rights. One of the examples is the federal law "On Territories of Traditional Nature Use". Since its adoption in 2001 indigenous communities have sent tens of claims, but the government of the Russian Federation still has not honored a single one to create such a territory. Due to the flaws in the legislation most of the indigenous communities have no access to the lands and resources, on which depend their survival. Natural resources have become paid and are being sold by auctions and tenders. Most of the indigenous peoples are exposed to the extractive industry's detrimental effect and are ousted from their native lands. As a result, indigenous peoples are deprived of the possibilities to develop their traditional occupation, to supply themselves with food. Industry objects are planned without taking into account interests of indigenous population. For instance, Evenki hydropower plant construction plan at the Lower Tunguska river in the Krasnoyarsk Krai that presupposes flood of the six Evenki settlements situated in the river's basin. The Association received letters from the residents of these settlements containing strong objections to the project, they protest against the resettlement and other socio-economic and ecological consequences of the Evenki hydropower construction. The project is being discussed at the moment, while the population suffers from the pressure that is exerted also on the leaders of the indigenous peoples and organizations that oppose the construction.

"I suppose that the source of our main problems is not in the rights and freedoms violation, but in the combination of concern and incompetence which leads to poor results, - continued Larisa Abryutina. - Wrong approach to the definition of the indigenous peoples and their problems, therefore - wrong and inadequate measures often applied by incompetent and negligent executors. Indigenous peoples' issues are settled by the specialists who are pretty unacquainted with the matters of ethnology, anthropology, culturology - mostly those are economists, managers, etc. They are guided by macroeconomic reasons. This incompetence is aggravated by the permanent interchange of the officials at all the levels. The indigenous peoples' participation in the discussion, planning and realization of the programs of the development of them themselves is fake and formal. The indigenous peoples of the North are traditionally perceived as an object of care but not as the subject of the independent development. In other words, the officials indentify the issues themselves; develop the programs of support themselves; compile lists of events and budgets; and then draw the means again themselves. This is possible to a large extent due to the depressive and extremely unhealthy state of indigenous peoples of the North.

Larisa Abryutina also pointed out the problems of health care, closure of the countryside, tundra and other small and non-standard medical institutions network. Thereby qualified, preventive and specialized medical aid becomes almost unavailable for rural and indigenous population.

This is pernicious for female and child population. Urgent help turns almost into the only one possible but also not so easy accessible in the northern conditions. That doesn't conform to the Russian and international regulations and also to the principles of the World Health Organization referring to justice, medical help accessibility, notes the Association's Vice-President. Infection death rate (tuberculosis predominantly) among the peoples of the North - 860 out of 100 thousands (compare to 23 in Russia). Scientists consider this rate offbeat for the XXI century.

The problems of the indigenous small-numbered peoples of Russia can only be solved by setting up federal office under the Russian government and by delegating all the authorities related to the indigenous peoples' development to the federal level and under complete federal financing, believes Larisa Abryutina.

Fenya Lekhanova made an emphasis on the educational problems. Educational facilities for indigenous children of the North, Siberia and the Far East are located mostly in the rural area, in the difficult of access regions, and some of them in the frigid zone. Distances between the settlements reach 100-500 km. General characteristic of the northern educational institutions are: they are understaffed, have poor material and technical base and lack highly skilled teaching personnel. At the moment the process of restructuring understaffed rural schools is running in Russia together with the transition of educational facilities to the normative-per capita financing approach. The latter one is being realized by technocratic means on the economic basis, without taking into account the ethnocultural factor. As a matter of course, this process affects the understaffed schools where the children of the indigenous small-numbered peoples of the North study. These facts are attested by the letters received by RAIPON from the parental communities of the indigenous small-numbered peoples. People report closing of the schools, reduction of the classes in which their native languages are studied, and reduction of groups in the preschool institutions. Closure of schools, recreation centers and other objects of infrastructure threaten the viability of many settlements, the fate of indigenous small-numbered peoples who lead a traditional life. "We should not forget the consequences of the extension of the "economically unviable villages" in the 60-70s of the XX century, - remarked Fenya Lekhanova. We still feel bitterness of losses: a new marginal generation separated from parents and national culture by force has grown up, ties between the generations are lost as well as the system of etnhic education and skills of the traditional management. Nevertheless, nowadays indigenous small-numbered peoples strive for their national traditions and languages resurrection, for keeping traditional way of life, national schools and their settlements".

Vice-President of the Association thinks the improvement of the educational system of the indigenous small-numbered peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East depends on the state's actions and intentions. When reforming Russian educational system, when developing new regulations in education, ethnocultural peculiarities of the indigenous small-numbered peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East should be taken into account, - emphasized Fenya Lekhanova.

James Anaya listened attentively to all the speeches and asked for written information on the concrete cases of indigenous peoples' rights violation.

The Special Rapporteur will give an account of his visit and his recommendations to the government of Russian Federation, and then he will report on his visit's results at the next United Nations Human Rights Council session.

Information Center of the Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North, Siberia and Far East

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