Russia advances in aiding indigenous peoples but challenges remain – UN expert


16 October 2009 –
Russia’s federal and regional governments have undertaken several impressive steps to tackle the concerns of its small number of indigenous peoples, but significant challenges remain in overcoming poverty, unemployment and other social ills, a United Nations human rights expert said today.

As elsewhere in the world, indigenous peoples in Russia continue to require special attention, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people James Anaya said in a statement at the end of a two-week trip to Russia during which he visited the Khanty-Mansiysk, Krasnoyarsk and Khabarovsk regions.

He said a concept paper on development for indigenous peoples of the north, Siberia and the far east issued by the Government this year, provided an important impetus for advancing indigenous rights and overcoming their disadvantage in social and economic spheres, and noted several important framework laws to address their concerns, including land, natural resources and preservation of their distinctive cultures.

He also cited significant regional laws and situations in which 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.

“I am impressed by the several initiatives by the Government of the Russian Federation and regional governments to address the concerns of the country’s small-numbered indigenous peoples,” he said.

“Significant challenges remain, however, to consolidate and effectively implement these initiatives for the benefit of these indigenous peoples,” he added, citing continuing poverty, unemployment, related social ills, impediments to access to traditional economic activities, and effective participation in decisions affecting them.

Mr. Anaya, an unpaid independent expert who reports to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council, called on the federal and regional governments to strengthen their efforts to secure the rights of indigenous peoples and enhance their participation in the design and implementation of the programmes intended to benefit them.

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