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Indigenous IssuesContributed by Ulia Gosart (of Udmurt indigenous people) on behalf of Lauravetlian Information and Education Network of Indigenous Peoples of the Russian Federation – LIENIP

Dear Mr. Chairperson, indigenous sisters and brothers, friends!
I am speaking on behalf of Lauravetlian Information and Education Network of Indigenous Peoples of the Russian Federation – LIENIP.
While we strive for the rights of our people, as many other indigenous organizations do around the globe, we face many difficulties. And when some of the difficulties come as the result of our own doing and that of our own leaders, then often it feels that the situation can not be more dispiriting.
We do not want to point a finger. We just want to bring attention to our situation. The situation that is getting more and more serious every year.
The modern political movement of indigenous peoples in Russia officially started at the end of the 1980-s. In 1991 there were only 2 indigenous peoples organizations from then USSR known to the UN – The Association of the Small numbered Peoples of the North and the Chukotka branch of the Innuit Circumpolar Conference. By the year 2000, according to the UN statistics, there were 36 indigenous organizations from the Russian Federation. Nevertheless, the number of indigenous representatives from Russia in the international forums today not only remains small, but often it consists of representatives of the same organization. To our view, the situation reflects the deliberate politics of exclusion.
It is a fact that Russia’s economy is mostly oil, gas, gold, timber and other natural resources. It is understandable what kind of intense struggle is going on inside of Russia for the control over these resources. Ninety percent of which are coming from the traditional territories of indigenous peoples. Thus, decisions regarding the economic development of these resources are vital to the economic well being of the indigenous peoples of Russia. Unfortunately, the persons, charged with the responsibility of representing and protecting indigenous rights to these resources, do not represent the indigenous peoples as a whole. Thus, the indigenous communities stand little chance of receiving the benefits they desperately need.
In this situation, we believe it is vital that indigenous peoples have direct, credible and timely knowledge of what is being said and done in their name, and of those who represent their interests. Be it a local venue or an international arena.
Therefore, we want to bring to the attention of the Forum the lack of direct contact between traditional indigenous leadership (as, for example, councils of elders) and the international community in general, and the Permanent Forum in particular.
We must remember that, for many, the indigenous movement is also a recovery from repressions of the state, from economic hardships, from religious suppression. The indigenous communities are the poorest among the poor. It is no surprise that in Russia, as in many other parts of the world, struggle for rights can turn into a struggle for better housing, for better education for one’s own children, for higher earnings. The fact that a position of leaders may be used to first enrich themselves is a very sad reality of life. However, when it becomes an end in itself, when an exclusivity of one’s own status is used to deliberately exclude others from the benefits of those resources, then the struggle for rights of indigenous peoples turns into a competition for the place under the sun. This competition, to our view, is the main cause of the current disintegration of the indigenous movement in Russia on national and international levels. Moreover, we believe that the international network that supports indigenous peoples has contributed to this breakup.
Let us explain.
The Permanent Forum is one of the few opportunities for the indigenous peoples to participate on the international arena in a process that directly affects their lives. Unfortunately, the present Forum is not an open space for every indigenous to speak up, but an intricate instrument, used only by politically active organizations, immediately associated with the system. Imagine a series of concentric circles, centered around the locus of the indigenous movement – the UN system of support. The outer, dispersed, and most invisible among these circles will represent the body of the traditional leadership of the indigenous communities. At the same time the closest to the system will be the circle of indigenous elite.
The result is that while the UN functions well as an administrative apparatus, its static character works to create visibility rather than actual participation of the representatives of the traditional indigenous leadership in the Forum procedures. In reality most of the indigenous traditional representatives have limited or no access to information. When they do interact with the IPO leaders, who officially work on their behalf, the communication is done, as a rule, in a manipulative rather than educative way. As a result, members of traditional leadership body have no control of those, who pursue their own interests behind their backs. In such conditions it is very difficult – and for us almost impossible – to create communication channels between the UN system of support and the traditional indigenous leaders, with whom we work directly.
We clearly see that the indigenous movement in Russia today is in real danger of becoming an instrument of enrichment of a few, who interpret their personal interests through the light of globally recognized values and ideas. It is especially so, since in Russia, as in many other parts of the world, an indigenous person is still treated not as an individual, but as a stereotype, which needs to have a patronizing “strong” hand of a “leader” to survive.

We believe that situation is critical, and the following measures must be taken immediately:
First: The Permanent Forum and the supportive network for the world indigenous peoples must stop its preferential treatment of some indigenous organizations. It must work as a multileveled net of interactions and have an open dialog with all organizations and representatives of the indigenous peoples;
Second: The Forum’s efforts on preservation of indigenous cultures, traditional knowledge, and distinct indigenous identities must work in practice, be relevant to our communities and not only be events with impressive and lofty reports and with no real impact;.
Third: The assistance to the traditional leadership to participate in the global indigenous movement must be a necessary condition for the Forum existence rather than a mere fulfillment of the requirement of the Forum’s mandate. The Secretariat, every person who works there, must be responsible for its actions. It must be accountable not only to the UN system, but to those, in the name of whom the Forum actually exists. Communication channels with the communities, not solely the “partners” between the system and the peoples, must be created. And it must be up to the Secretariat to find and develop those channels. They must develop the needed mechanism while keeping in mind that as a rule, indigenous traditional leaders have no access to the internet and often operate within oral cultures;
Fourth: We call for willingness of the UN agencies, governments and representatives of intergovernmental organizations to be open and willing to work with everyone, not solely those, who have personal connections within the system.
Dear Mr. Chairperson, indigenous sisters and brothers,
We want to emphasize that true fulfillment of the goals of the Millennium will not be possible without full and open participation of every member of the society, without engagement on every level. And definitely it will be possible only with inclusion of our traditional indigenous leaders.
We thank you very much.

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