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 International: 24th session of the WGIP

LIENIP NewsThe 24th session of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations was held in Geneva from 31 July – 4 August 2006. The theme for this session was "Utilization of indigenous peoples’ land by non-indigenous authorities, groups or individuals for military purposes". LIENIP was represented on the session by Gulvaira Shermatova, Evgenia Shustova, Alexander Afanasyev, Anna Plyaskina.

Report of Gulvaira Shermatova:

Item 7
24th of WGIP, Geneva
July 31 – August 04, 2006

Gulia Shermatova,
(Lauravetlan Information and Education Network of Indigenous People, Russia)

Tel/Fax: +7 (3854) 30-43-43

Dear Chairman,

I’m presenting my report on behalf of indigenous organization of Russia “Lauravetlan” and as a regional coordinator of Russian public movement “The Land of Russia is People’s Wealth”. My report is related to the new draft of the Forest Code being considered in the State Duma of the Russian Federation. Life of the majority of indigenous peoples depends directly on using the forest. The survival of these peoples depends on possibility to assign indigenous communities, families, organizations their traditional lands and guarantees of free use of natural resources.
For this reason international legislation, in particular the International Labour Organization Convention 169, guarantees indigenous peoples the rights on land and natural resources, recognizing indigenous peoples’ right of ownership on their traditional territories and guaranteeing their right to participate in solving the issues of using resources located on the lands of indigenous residence.
Breaking the generally recognized international norms, the new draft of the Forest Code does not give the indigenous peoples possibility of assigning forest lands to them. Instead, the legal facilities are being made for receiving the territories of indigenous peoples’ residence in ownership or for rent by almost any natural or juridical person including foreign citizens and companies. Article 8, that allows private ownership of forest lands, does not contain a ban to transfer in private ownership to citizens and juridical persons (including foreign ones) the ancestral lands of indigenous peoples – the territories of traditional landuse. Aticle 49, defining the understanding of the lease contract, does not contain a ban to rent the territories of residence and traditional landuse of these peoples.
Similarly to the draft of the Forest Code proposed by the Government of the Russian Federation (01/02/2005) there is purposefully created a situation where indigenous peoples have the same position as animals and plants located on certain forest plots. Actually, they can be “transferred” to the owners or tenants together with the lands.
Neither the draft of the Forest Code, nor any other law oblige the responsibility of the owners and tenants of the forest plots to provide the rights of indigenous peoples on free use of the forest.
The use of the forest by indigenous peoples has principle difference from all the other kinds of using the forest. It is the basic source of life for the part of population who live off traditional economy only and don’t have other means to support living. The majority of the people are not specially adapted because of their particular indigenous lifestyle.
Articles 55, 56, defining responsibilities of the federal and regional authorities, do not include the duties on providing and protection of the territories of residence and the right of indigenous peoples on traditional lifestyle.
The draft of the Forest Code not only gives no guarantees of indigenous rights, but moreover it establishes the order which gives the state authority bodies the right to set the rate of free use of the forest for this part of the Russian population, including food resources rate.
Article 29 formally proclaims the right of indigenous peoples on all kinds of forest use for living a traditional lifestyle. However, the content of the draft shows the opposite, there are:
• no constitutional duties of the State to provide and protect the original environment and right of indigenous peoples on traditional lifestyle;
• no regulations assigning indigenous peoples the territories of their residence and traditional use of natural resources;
• no guarantees of indigenous peoples’ participation in decision-making processes concerning their right on forest use and territories of residence;
• given possibilities to transfer indigenous lands to private ownership and rent;
• no guarantees of free use of forest for indigenous peoples in the places of their residence;
• set rates of use of the forest free of charge, including food forest products, for indigenous peoples in the places of their residence.
Thus, setting the rates, the question of people’s life is given to the officials’ consideration. Criteria of the rates are unknown, they depend on nature (level of yield, e.g. of nuts, berries, etc., quantity of fish). So, in their everyday life indigenous peoples of the North know how much food they have to keep for winter this year in accordance to nature conditions. And cultural traditions and beliefs are also important here. Setting rates is impossible. This means to rate the phenomena of life of unique ethnic groups, which are above scientific and administrative definitions.

So, at the legislative level the Government of the Russian Federation purposefully creates the living conditions for indigenous peoples aimed to full or partial physical extermination of this group of population, which can be considered as a sign of genocide.
We apply to the High Forum and experts of the Working Group to support the demands of thousands of citizens of the Russian Federation to reject the draft of the Forest Code and organize its public discussion considering interests of all the population, including indigenous peoples of Russia.
Thank you for your attention.

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