Background

Industrial development of Oil, Natural Gas, timber, gold and others are all taking place on traditional territories of these indigenous peoples. They are loosing most of their traditional lands and waters, their ways of life and being more and more marginalized. The collapse of the old governmental support structures made them virtually without any possibilities of contact with the outside world.

The idea of creating some kind of a mechanism that would connect indigenous communities with each other and with the world at large had been discussed at many formal and informal gatherings of indigenous peoples of Russia.

The UN Decade of Indigenous Peoples finally helped creating Indigenous Information Center. The project idea to establish an indigenous information center in Moscow was one of the proposals of the indigenous peoples of Russian Federation given during the UN-sponsored International Consultation on the Situation of Indigenous peoples of the Arctic and Siberia (September 6-10, 1993. Khabarovsk. RF). It has been taken into the report of the UN Commission on Human Rights as recommendation #68 and 69: Indigenous peoples need access to information at all levels. This includes information on legislation and other matters inside the country and on developments in other countries and in international organizations... . It was recommended that a national information center on indigenous issues be established.

Lauravetlan (self-name of Chukchi indigenous people) Indigenous Information Center (IIC) was founded by Oleg Egorov, representative of Chukchi Council of Elders - therefore "L'auravetl'an". The idea came as result of the dire situations of indigenous peoples of Russian Federation. While living on huge territory (65% of entire Russia), 30 indigenous peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East are divided by huge geographical distances.

In 2003 IIC "Lauravetlan" established Interregional Association "Lauravetlan Information and Education Network of Indigenous People" (short title LIENIP) which includes Indigenous NGOs of four Russian regions: of the Altai and the Karelia Republics, the Altaisky and the Krasniyarsk krais (territories). LIENIP has been established within the framework of implementation of the project on creation "Network for Promotion and Protection of the Social, Economic and Cultural Rights of the Indigenous People of the Russian Federation" (short title - NPIR project). Management of the NPIR project is based in the Altai region. The main objective of the project is creation of the Indigenous Information Centers in regions of the compact settlements of the Indigenous peoples of Russia: the Altai, the Kumandin, the Tubalar, the Telengits, the Chelkans, the Shors, the Veps, the Ketos, the Dolgans and the Evenkis. Indigenous Information Centers, main stakeholders of LIENIP, are successfully functioning in Gorno-Altaisk of the Altai Republic, Petrozavodsk of the Karelia Republic and in Krasnoyarsk of the Krasnoyarsk krai. For more information on LIENIP and the project please refer to the "Projects" column.

Initiative of Lauravetlan on creation of IIC was supported by Sami Council and magazine "Severnye Prostory". The both organizations became partners in the Center. Since 1996 Lauravetlan has been financed in part by TACIS Democracy Program, the Canadian government and the foundation of the Diakonisches Werk der EKD, Germany. Starting from 2003 Lauravetlan has been extending its network within Russian regions uniting more Indigenous organizations which become members of LIENIP.

 LIENIP's Objective

LIENIP is aiming to improve the abilities of indigenous communities to fully participate in Russian multicultural society and diminish discrimination of indigenous people. LIENIP provides a mechanism to indigenous communities of Russia (however remote and isolated they might be) to speak to the outside world and to each other in their own voices.

That objective is achieved in the following ways:

Indigenous interns, selected by their own communities for 1,5 months internship in regional Centers, get to know about indigenous rights and Human Rights on a national and international level (e.g. international documents and legal standards, provided by intergovernmental and NGOs) and learn democratic and human rights instruments. This knowledge is transferred by them back to their communities where it can be used in every day life;

At the Centers the interns from different isolated communities get to know each other and establish working contacts for the future. This will help indigenous communities to increase their cooperation in order to assist and support each other. Plus it will help them to understand their situation in a more national and global context. As the result there is a multiplying effect on the communities;

The interns also provide invaluable information about their own culture, societies, their regions, and their problems and human rights violations to the Russian federal authorities and public and the International Community. That knowledge is the first step to create bonds of mutual understanding which will:
diminish conflict potential;
help multicultural cooperation within Russian society;
enable them to become functional participants in the democracy building process;
break the isolation of the indigenous communities and will therefore contribute to their ability to protect their rights.
educate the rest of the world about indigenous peoples of the Russian North, Siberia and Far East.

 Learning Areas

During the period from July 1996 until present the interns, (during 1,5 months each), have had an opportunity:

to learn international and Russian legal documents regarding Human Rights and Indigenous peoples;
to learn about relevant federal ministries of the Russian Federation by meeting the officials up to the rank of Vice Ministers;
to learn about work of the federal parliament of the Russian Federation;
participate at all relevant parliamentary hearings;
to learn about work of the Citizens Complains Department at the Office of President of R.F.;
to participate at the sessions of the Court Chamber on Informational Disputes of R.F.;
to learn about the intergovernmental organizations, such as the UN and Europarliament;
to learn about the relevant Russian, foreign and international NGOs;
to participate at work-shops, conferences and seminars on Human Rights and Indigenous Rights in Russia and abroad;
Through the above the interns not only had gained valuable information and knowledge. They also established direct contacts with people important in law, politics and administration of Russia. Very often these contacts can be instrumental in affecting the life of a person or an entire community. For instance the ECOSOC 1997 review of Russias observance of the Covenant and Europarliaments 1997 report on Indigenous peoples of Russia were to large degree affected by the Centers bulletins.

 Information Bulletins

The bulletins are prepared by the interns of each group (1 bulletins per group). Each bulletin in average is about 10 pages in Russian version, and about 5 pages in English version. The articles are written by the interns and by their contacts in the home communities each of them comes from. The text is never edited or changed by the Center in order to ensure trust from people who are not used to writing. The mailing list in Russian is about 300 recipients and in English about 50.

Some organizations in the West, with prior permission from the Center, place the articles on their Internet pages and printed materials.

 Selection of Interns

The grassroots leadership of their communities and peoples selects the interns. That will ensure the fair participation for any and all indigenous peoples of Russia. The selection is entirely up to the grassroots leadership and is oriented according to local needs.

 Internship Program

Study of Russian and International legal documents on democracy building, civil society and Indigenous peoples (daily);
Work-shops (weekly), seminars and conferences on Human Rights and social and economic issues related to Indigenous peoples;
Study of federal ministries, committees and other governmental bodies relevant to Indigenous peoples;
Study of mass-media and its coverage of Indigenous peoples;
Participation at working sessions of the Court Chamber of R.F. on Informational Disputes;
Establishing working contacts with relevant NGOs;
Practical study and establishing contacts with members and committees of Federal Parliament;
Information gathering from the local communities on social, political and economic situations of Indigenous peoples in the regions;
Gathering and disbursement of relevant international information;
Creation of a data bank on Indigenous peoples of Russian North, Siberia and Far East;
Publishing information bulletins on indigenous peoples of Russia (in Russian and English). Mailing it through out the Russian Indigenous communities and NGOs, Federal Ministries, members of the Federal Parliament and to international organizations, including the UN and EuroParliament;
Computer courses;
Internet courses;

 LIENIP management Staff

Six positions are permanent - President (and Founder) of LIENIP, Director of LIENIP (NPIR Project Coordinator), NPIR Project Manager and three regional Center's Directors. Other six positions (interns) in each region are rotating on 1,5 months basis.

The President coordinates, oversees and is responsible for the entire work and overall strategy of LIENIP. The President is a political representative and spokesman with Russian and international organizations.

The Director of LIENIP (NPIR Project Coordinator) co-ordinates and monitors the activities of the regional centers on a day-to-day bases. Furthermore, she will travel to the regions to assist the interns and directors of the regional centers during the implementation of their work. This assistance will also include drafting projects to promote and protect human rights of Indigenous peoples in the regions, organizing workshops or drafting legislative proposals. Director is responsible for successful implementation of the NPIR project in Russia. Director must have good contacts within the Moscow bureaucracy.

The Project Manager is the information gathering, processing and distribution point for the information from and to LEANIP, the regional centers, the ministries, federal parliament, human rights institutions, NGOs, international agencies and etc. He is also responsible for dealing with information requests from outside on the human rights situation of Indigenous peoples in the Russian Federation. Manager should have a working knowledge of English and act as contact with foreign, international partners and donor organizations.

Regional Directors are directly responsible for securing the smooth running of operations of the reginal offices, the overall training program of the interns and hire of needed specialists, organize and run weekly seminars on Human Rights, indigenous rights and inter-ethnic relations. They also hold computer and internet training of interns.

 Evaluation

At the end of each 1,5 months period an evaluation of the work is done together with the interns. The involvement of the interns in this process is considered to be the most important since they, with their new experiences, provide a source of possible improvements of the Centers for the new groups. Through interns also ideas and proposals of the respective indigenous communities help to develop work of the Centers towards its best possibilities to serve the local needs.

 Interns

From 1996 through present 122 interns went through the Center (79 women and 43 men). See the LIST OF INTERNS