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UN expert urges acceleration of progress for Russia’s indigenous people

GENEVA (24 August 2010) – The United Nations expert on indigenous people on Tuesday welcomed “important steps” made by the Government of the Russian Federation towards protecting the rights of the country’s indigenous peoples, while noting that “many indigenous people in Russia continue to face multiple impediments to the full enjoyment of their human rights, especially in certain regions.”

James Anaya, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people Anaya, made his comments while launching a report on an earlier visit to the Russian Federation. He stressed that “continuous and focused attention is necessary in order to accelerate positive trends,” including in such areas as economic development, education and language, and health, and pointed out that “human development indicators show that indigenous peoples are still often faring less well than other sectors of society.”

The UN expert praised the Government of the Russian Federation for showing commitment to improving the living conditions of indigenous peoples, advancing their cultures and participation in decision-making, and developing a comprehensive policy addressing indigenous peoples. Nonetheless, he said, implementation of the existing laws guaranteeing indigenous communities’ rights -- at both the federal and regional levels -- “remains a challenge that needs to be resolved.”

The report, which will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council in September 2010, raises particular concerns over indigenous peoples’ rights to land and natural resources and the need to ensure that laws concerning these issues are fully and consistently implemented throughout Russia. Anaya’s report also points to the need for indigenous peoples to be ensured adequate political representation at the municipal, regional and federal levels of government. “Indigenous people’s right to consultation in decisions affecting them must be fully respected,” the report said.

In his report, Anaya notes that “Following the fall of communism, and transition to a market economy, indigenous peoples were in a particularly vulnerable position…unable to shape or define their new role in a drastically shifting political and economic atmosphere. Many indigenous communities suffered extreme hardship with some reaching the brink of extinction during this time, while unemployment, poverty and alcoholism soared.” According to Anaya, despite significant positive progress for many, some communities still face deep-rooted problems.

In his report, the Special Rapporteur notes that today a number of indigenous peoples have access to formal education and health services, are able to pursue traditional economic activities such as reindeer herding, and benefit from programmes that advance their cultural preservation and economic and social development. However, in order to ensure that the Russian Federation’s commitment to human rights principles, and that specific policy benchmarks are realized for all indigenous peoples throughout Russia, these positive practices must be continued and extended.
The report includes a number of specific recommendations aimed at enhancing the recognition and protection of the rights of indigenous peoples in Russia. In particular, the Special Rapporteur urges the Government’s to fully support the provisions of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, an important international benchmark for the development of government policies and action regarding indigenous peoples.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people visited the Russian Federation between 4 and 16 October 2009 to examine the situation of indigenous peoples, particularly those groups recognized by the Russian Federation as “small-numbered indigenous peoples” (i.e. groups containing fewer than 50,000 people). The Special Rapporteur met with Government authorities at the federal and regional levels, representatives and members of indigenous communities and organizations in Moscow and in the regions of Khanty-Mansiysk, Krasnoyarsk and Khabarovsk. In each region, he carried out a number of field trips to meet with members of indigenous communities living in remote settlements or isolated dwellings.

ENDS

See the full report in English at: http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G10/147/79/PDF/G1014779.pdf?OpenElement

See the full report in Russian at: http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G10/147/81/PDF/G1014781.pdf?OpenElement

The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples can be viewed at: http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N06/512/07/PDF/N0651207.pdf?OpenElement

On 26 March 2008, the Human Rights Council appointed Professor S. James Anaya as Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples, for an initial period of three years. Professor Anaya is the James J. Lenoir Professor of Human Rights Law and Policy at the University of Arizona (USA).

Learn more about the mandate and activities of the Special Rapporteur: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/indigenous/rapporteur/

For additional information and media requests, please contact Lydie Ventre (Tel: + 41 22 917 9313 / email: lventre@ohchr.org) or write to indigenous@ohchr.org.