Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Around the Arctic November 14, 2012 - 10:21 am

Russian indigenous org wants Arctic Council support to fight shut-down

RAIPON asks Arctic Council senior officials to put pressure on Russian government


"We hope that the planned meetings with the authorities in Moscow later this month will result in a positive solution," says the Inuit Circumpolar Council's chair Aqqaluk Lynge. Last summer Lynge, second from left, signed a memorandum of understanding between the ICC and Russian government officials in the Chukotkan city of Anadyr. (PHOTO BY KIRT EJESIAK)

Days after Russia’s ministry of Justice suspended the operations of the Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North, Siberia and Far East, the association representing 41 indigenous groups and more than 250,000 indigenous people across the Russian Arctic is seeking international support to survive.

In a Nov. 14 statement to senior Arctic officials of the Arctic Council from Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Russia and the United States, who are meeting today and tomorrow in Haparanda, Sweden, RAIPON’s vice-president Rodion Sulyandziga asked them “to call upon the Russian government to stop administrative and political pressure and interference into self-governance of indigenous peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East.”

Sulyandziga represents RAIPON at the Arctic Council, along with five other permanent indigenous participants, including the Inuit Circumpolar Council.

But Sulyandziga is not at the meeting in Sweden.

“For the first time in the history of the Senior Arctic Officials’ meetings, the working place under the RAIPON flag will remain empty,” Sulyandziga said.

For the first time, RAIPON is not at a SAOs’ meeting “due to political reasons,” he said.

And, also for the first time, Sulyandziga said “RAIPON has to use the Arctic Council venue for the open political statement, that never happened before, taking into account the mandate and the spirit of cooperation within the Arctic Council.”

Reaction was immediate from ICC’s international chair, Aqqaluk Lynge.

“It is indeed disturbing news about RAIPON’s deteriorating relations with the Russian government that will have consequences for the indigenous peoples of the Russian Arctic and their seat at the Arctic Council,” Lynge told Nunatsiaq News.

In his opening statement, Sulyandziga said Russian officials from the Ministry of Justice gave RAIPON an order on Nov. 1 to suspend operations until April, 2013, because it said RAIPON did not comply with Russian federal law.

A Nov. 8 release from the Russian Agency of Social Information said the ministry found that “not all regional offices of the association are legal entities” and concluded that RAIPON’s “activities are illegal.”

Over the past year, the agency said RAIPON challenged earlier rulings from the ministry in court, but lost. Now its only recourse will be to appeal the decision in Russia’s Supreme Court.

But RAIPON said it’s been legally working for the last 22 years under Russian law.

“From the moment of its establishment in 1990, RAIPON united, promoted and carried out its activities aimed at protection of the rights of 40 indigenous peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East living from Murmansk region in the very West of the country to Chukotka Autonomous Okrug in its extreme east,” where a small population of Inuit also live, Sulyandziga said.

Those were years “of hope for improvement of the situation in Russia connected with practical implementation of the rights of indigenous peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East,” he said.

“Today this hope is down,”  Sulyandziga stated, calling the shutdown “repressive” and “an act of intimidation and rude interference” prior to the 7th Assembly of Indigenous Peoples slated to take place next March in Russia.

On a positive note, Sulyandziga said he is ready to cooperate and speak to Russian federal authorities “on the basis of mutual respect.”

In addition to its role on the Arctic Council, RAIPON also represents indigenous peoples on the United Nations Economic and Social Council and is an observer in the governing council and global ministerial environment forum of the UN Environment Program as well as participating in the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

RAIPON is also an observer of World Intellectual Property Organization’s committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore.

In reaction to RAIPON’s suspension, Lynge said he has e-mailed the RAIPON leadership to offer “moral support and solidarity. “

“We hope that the planned meetings with the authorities in Moscow later this month will result in a positive solution,” Lynge said.

Lynge also told Nunatsiaq News how he signed a cooperation agreement this past summer with the Chukotka governor and the Association of Indigenous Peoples of Chukotka — an agreement that was endorsed by the Russian government.”

On RAIPON’s website, there are other letters of support from groups such as the Arctic Alliance, a network of Arctic indigenous and environmental organizations and Norway’s center of northern people.


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