Posts Tagged ‘RAIPON (or the Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North)’

RAIPON (or the Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North) ordered by Russia to cease its activity

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

RAIPON (or the Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North) is the most influential and comprehensive NGO promoting environmental and civil rights of indigenous peoples in the Russian Federation. In addition to working with the Russian government and local affiliates to protect indigenous rights and lifestyles throughout Russia, RAIPON is also a permanent participant to the Arctic Council, has special consultative status to the UNEP and UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, and has a cooperation agreement with the Norwegian Barents Secretariat.

Just a few days ago, Russia’s Ministry of Justice ordered RAIPON to cease its activity, claiming that RAIPON’s work does not comply with Russian law. This was communicated via telephone, and RAIPON is now awaiting an official order. However, the news has been reported in the Russian press and in English in the Barents Observer.

While these events are still developing, it is necessary to contextualize them within the framework of Russia’s push to exploit Arctic resources and increasing repression of civil society.

It is widely known that oil and gas are the foundation of the Russian economy, and that Russia views Arctic hydrocarbon deposits as the resource base for continued development through the 21st century. Despite Russia’s horrendous environmental record in the Far North, the country is rushing to open new hydrocarbon and mineral resources in the region without necessary environmental impact assessments or public consultations with local populations. For example, Russia’s state oil company signed deals for joint Arctic exploration with three multinational oil companies over the past year.

Russia’s political climate has also grown increasingly hostile to civil society in the wake of the protests surrounding Vladimir Putin’s reelection last spring. A whole suite of new laws has been passed, including one that redefines treason to include nearly any contact with a foreigner, and a separate law that forces NGOs receiving money from abroad to register as “foreign agents.”

In light of RAIPON’s recent troubles, we can only conclude that the Russian government intends to use its new powers to regulate and persecute NGOs perceived as hindering Arctic development. In this case, it makes sense to start with RAIPON, which has been outspoken in defense of indigenous rights in Russia’s Arctic territory, and which has a great deal of influence on the world stage. We believe that this is just the first step towards removing “obstacles” to increased resource exploitation in the Arctic, as well as imposing draconian restrictions on civil society. Moreover, RAIPON’s repression sets a dangerous precedent for a national government to “disband” or otherwise hinder the effectiveness of permanent participants and other Arctic Council members. For that reason, we believe it is extremely important to defend RAIPON and show that the international community will not tolerate this kind of inappropriate behavior from the Russian government.

For these reasons, we are hoping you will help us spread the word about RAIPON among the Senior Arctic Officials at the upcoming meeting. Although RAIPON does not yet have any official word from the Ministry of Justice, we would like to push the Arctic Council to begin considering the implications of this development and how the Council could support RAIPON. In particular, it is vitally important to educate Arctic Council participants on these issues as I’ve described them above. Most important is to make them aware of what’s happening in Russia to civil society in general, and to RAIPON in particular, and how this sets a frightening precedent of criminalizing participant organizations at the Arctic Council and in other international fora.

For more info about these laws:
Russia Set To Redefine Treason, Sparking Fears
Russia’s Putin signs NGO “foreign agents” law

Read RAIPON’s submission to the Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review Mechanism