To: Vladimir Putin President of the Russian Federation
Cc:Sergey Mironov Chairman of the Federation Council
Cc:Boris Grizlov Chairman of the State Duma
Dear Vladimir Vladimirovich!
The Association of indigenous peoples of the North, Siberia and Far East of Russian Federation (RAIPON), representing interests of regional and ethnic public organisations of 40 indigenous peoples, is asking you to consider our suggestions concerning the Federal Bill N 58338-4 “On Amendments to Legislative Acts of the Russian Federation and Recognising the Annulations of Several Legislative Acts of RF in Connection with Adopting of the Federal Laws ‘On amendments to the federal law ‘On General Principles of Organisation of Legislative (Representative) and Executive Bodies in the Administrative Regions of the Russian Federation’ and ‘On General Principles of Local Self-government Organisation in the Russian Federation’’”, in which the regulations in the federal laws “On the Guaranties of Indigenous Peoples’ Rights in the Russian Federation”, “On General Principles of Establishing Communities of Indigenous Peoples of the North, Siberia and Far East” are being subjected to review, especially in the article 119 (Insert into Federal Law of April 30, 1999 No. 82-FЗ “On the guaranties of indigenous peoples’ rights in Russian Federation”) and in the article 130 (Insert into Federal Law of July 20, 2000 No. 104 FЗ “On General Principles of Establishing Communities of Indigenous Peoples of the North, Siberia and Far East”) of the Bill No.583338-4.
RAIPON is unconditionally opposed to the changes into these federal laws owing to the following reasons.
The proposed amendments to this bill destroy the legal frame of principle rights of indigenous peoples in the Russian Federation and contradict the RF Constitution (particularly articles 55, 69, 72 and 76), as well as international regulations and norms, and violate human rights.
At the same time regulations, removed from the federal laws “On the Guaranties of Indigenous Peoples’ Rights in the Russian Federation”, “On General Principles of Establishing Communities of Indigenous Peoples of the North, Siberia and Far East” in articles 119 and 130 of the bill No.58338-4, do not contradict to federal laws “On Amendments to the Federal Law ‘On General Principles of Organisation of Legislative (Representative) and Executive Bodies in the Administrative Regions of the Russian Federation” and “On General Principles of Local Self-government Organisation in the Russian Federation”, and this fact is in opposition to the idea and the aim of this bill.
Unfortunately, we have to underline that the proposed changes in these articles are intended to reduce the rights of indigenous peoples, to provide maximum leverage to government officials to avoid their obligations regarding indigenous peoples, to reduce the authority of administrative regions of the Russian Federation during the solving of issues related to the defense of traditional living space and traditional way of live of indigenous peoples, that contradict to articles 55 and 72 of the RF Constitution.
The adoption of this bill occurs in a time, when most of the indigenous peoples live below of the poverty limit, are distinguished by an exceptionally low life span and high illness rates. The reasons of such negative processes are both insufficient attention of federal authorities to indigenous peoples, absence of federal structure engaged in indigenous peoples’ problems, and aggressive seizure of traditional natural resources, which are the base of indigenous peoples’ existence, and transfer of these resources to industrial, extractive companies. In light of this the removal of the article 4, item 10 of the article 5, items 1 and 5 of the article 7, and the article 13, changing the content of the items 8 and 9 of the article 8, and the article 11 of the federal law “On the Guaranties of Indigenous Peoples’ Rights in the Russian Federation” would appear blasphemous.
It should be noted that the norms that are being removed – the right on support from state authorities in the field of defending traditional living space and way of live, the right on organisation of territorial public self-government, the right on representation in legal (representative) bodies of the RF administrative regions and in representative bodies of local self-government, the right on taking part in decision-making process on local level, in issues related to indigenous communities’ interests, etc. – have been recognised at an international level owing to RF Government annual reports to the UN and during five years have become a basis for international agreements and long-term projects, most of which have been signed by the Government and are already implemented. Removal of these rights, which were obtained as a result of the International Decade of Indigenous Peoples, will be looked upon as a very strange action, especially in the light of Russia’s upcoming Chairmanship in the Arctic Council, whose priority is the concern for indigenous peoples of the North.
It should be underlined that during the five years that have past since the adoption of the first of the mentioned laws, not a single piece of legislation was introduced to adjust the adopted laws’ norms to other federal laws for timely and effective realisation.
At the same time legislative acts led to realisation of the mentioned laws’ norms and improvement of indigenous peoples’ life in the field of defending traditional living space and way of live provided by article 72, part 1, item “м” of the RF Constitution, were adopted at regional levels in many administrative regions of the RF.
Consistent removal, in this bill, of the authority of administrative regions of the Russian Federation in the field of defending traditional living space and way of live and development of indigenous self-government will destroy regional legislation in this field, cancel positive regional experience, and above all will worsen critical economic, social and ecological status of indigenous peoples.
RAIPON thinks that removal of the authority of administrative regions of the Russian Federation in the field of defending defending traditional living space and way of live is untimely and illegal, because this not only contradicts to the RF Constitution, but also is a criminal act against indigenous peoples – in the absence of a special federal structure engaged in indigenous peoples’ problems, indigenous peoples are turned out to be exposed, deprived of legal support, which they had in the regions.
Under hasty reconsideration of the articles of the above mentioned laws is may be missed that texts of federal laws currently in force about indigenous peoples’ current status are the result of ten years’ activity of the working groups and conciliatory commissions. These texts were based on generally recognised principles and norms of international law and international agreements of the RF according to the article 15, item 4 of the RF Constitution.
Contradictory and insufficiently considered removal of the mentioned norms from Russian legislation can sell short of the Russian Federation on the international scene in the field of indigenous peoples’ rights observance according to international principles and norms.
It is impossible to adopt such bill in the present form, in the part related to indigenous peoples’ rights. We would like to ask during the future work on the bill’s text to take into account our suggestions and include RAIPON’s representatives in the working group staff.
Sergey Kharyuchi President of RAIPON; Chairman of State Duma of Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug
As we have learned from personal communication with RAIPON, they have not received an answer to this letter. Instead, the disputed ammendments were put into force. We wonder how these actions by the Government fit with the assurance by President Putin that of all northern problems the problems of the indigenous peoples have topmost priority (presentation in Salekhard, April 2004, see above: p.5-6 ).
Local traditional knowledge and global environmental programs:
prospects for interaction Tamara Semenova,
Senior Researcher, Russian Research Institute for Cultural and Natural Heritage
This report contains information about global ecological projects and programs. We hope that their data and inclusive participatory structures will be useful for public organisations and scientific institutions that closely work with the local population and indigenous communities in the field.
Keen interest for traditional and local knowledge applied by indigenous populations for diverse productions and use of energy and resources is nowadays increasing. Many traditional habits and skills are environmentally safe and highly effective from the point of view of economy and energy utilisation. However, in the local communities or in the rural and native settlements (in Russian: sel’skie posyolki) these skills and knowledge are constantly, and sometimes quickly, being destroyed and disappear. At the same time the majority of the population in these settlements has no access to modern technologies, and in some cases is forced to apply highly detrimental economic methods and practices, often with unfavorable environmental outcomes. These facts lead to the increasing awareness of a considerable gap between the global initiatives and programs, aimed at technological and social human progress and simultaneous achievement of a secure and environmentally sustainable future. It is getting ever more evident that sustainable economic development is not attainable at the global and regional level, if an essentially important process of the sustainable development is not ensured at the local level.
Is there any connection between the traditional natural skills and know-how of the indigenous population and the attempts to solve the existing problems by establishing global programs? What is the role of traditional knowledge in the environmental projects? We will try to clarify these questions here and look at the prospects and forms of their interaction.
The first and principal document for our analysis is the so-called ‘Agenda 21’ (Agenda 21: A Blueprint for Action for Global Sustainable Development into the 21st Century), adopted by a majority of the states at the Summit in Rio-de-Janeiro in 1992. This second global conference on environmental protection, was organised by the United Nations, and later supported by many initiatives, including global conventions and ecological programs. Agenda 21 has been recognised as an Action Plan along with the Declaration on Environment and Development, signed by the states at this Summit.
The Rio Declaration affirms that the only way to secure the long-term economic progress of mankind is to ensure the protection of the environmental. Partnership is one of the principles of the development: nations could achieve prosperity and well-being by establishing a partnership between the governments, state citizens and stakeholders in the social development of the community. Agenda 21 deals with 27 principles of development in 40 chapters. The principle 22 reads:
“Indigenous people and their communities and other local communities have a vital role in environmental management and development because of their knowledge and traditional practices. States should recognise and duly support their identity, culture and interests and enable their effective participation in the achievement of sustainable development.”
In chapter 26 Recognising and Strengthening the Role of Indigenous People and Their Communities, three principal tasks have been formulated as a basis for indigenous peoples and their communities to establish partnership with governments in order to elaborate a common approach towards integration of environmental protection and development. These are: