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DM2009 to Help Indigenous Grassroots Grow in Siberia

Tom Grubisich's picture

The 40 Indigenous Peoples of the North, Siberia, and Far East in Russia endure one of the world's most hostile environments.  But it is man, not nature, that threatens the very existence of these communities, which have dwindled to about 250,000 people who live in sometimes besieged camps and villages sprinkled across the vast frozen landscape from the Barents Sea to the Pacific Ocean.  (Photo credit: EALÁT.)

Deforestation, industrialization, and flooding from hydropower drive Russia's Indigenous Peoples from their ancestral homelands.  Illegal fishing, poaching, and the auction of fishing grounds deprive them of their livelihoods.  Russia's Indigenous Peoples are, theoretically, protected by federal laws, but advocacy groups say there's no regulatory force to the laws.  The collective plight of the communities is grim evidence behind those arguments.

Leading the fight to put teeth in the laws is the Center for Support of Indigenous Peoples of the North (CISPN).  Its tenacious struggle, which has won it some legal skirmishes in Moscow and at international forums, has now earned it one of the 26 awards given at the Development Marketplace 2009 competition.  The $200,000 award will go toward a grassroots project that will help indigenous communities leverage their traditional knowledge with contemporary techniques of communication and advocacy that involve engaging all stakeholders.  The goal is a "climate strategy" of adaptation that will finally lead to real, enforceable protection of Russia's indigenous communities.

CISPN Director Rodion Sulyandziga, proudly holding his crystal globe after the Nov. 13 awards ceremony in Washington, said: “It’s a great day.  I’m very proud.  The most important thing is the Indigenous Peoples’ voice is heard in Siberia and everywhere.”

And then it was back to Moscow for Sulyandziga -- to map the Center's new grassroots fight.

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