The Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North (RAIPON) is the Russian umbrella organization which organizes 35 regional and ethnic organizations of indigenous peoples in the 25 regions where they live. RAIPON represents 41 groups of Indigenous peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East. The total number of people is about 300 thousand and they live in 60 % of the whole territory of the Russian Federation from Murmansk to Kamchatka.
PP Organization name: Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North (RAIPON)
Date founded: 1990
Founded by: Indigenous Peoples at the First Congress of Indigenous Peoples of the North of USSR.
Geographic area covered: RAIPON represents 41 groups of Indigenous peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East and organizes 35 regional and ethnic organizations of indigenous peoples.
Number of people represented: 300 000
Leadership: The highest body of RAIPON is the Congress of all indigenous peoples of the North, Siberia and Far East of Russia, which is held every four years. The President of Raipon is Mr. Sergei Kharyuchi.
Key issues: The purpose of RAIPON is to protect indigenous peoples’ human rights, defend their legal interests, assist in solving environmental, social, economic, cultural and educational issues, and to promote their right to self governance.
Interview with Rodion Sulyandziga, first vice-president of RAIPON:
How long have you been involved in the work of the Arctic Council and what is your position?
I have been involved for more than 15 years I would say. My position is the first vice-president of RAIPON in charge of international coordination and the Arctic Council portfolio.
How were you selected for your position? How long is the period of engagement?
RAIPON has a complicated structure since we represent more than 40 groups of indigenous peoples. The highest governing body of RAIPON is the RAIPON Congress which meets every 4 years. The congress is led by the president of RAIPON, Mr. Sergey Kharuchi. The RAIPON president nominates vice-president candidates to the Coordination Council which meets twice a year and consists of 45 regional leaders. The Coordination Council then approves the vice-presidents. There is one first vice-president of RAIPON and twelve vice-presidents.
The period of engagement is four years, the period between each RAIPON congress. I am in my first term as first vice-president and I was appointed first vice-president by RAIPON Council in November 2010.
What are some of the issues that are most important to you?
My work at the Arctic Council Senior Arctic Officials' meetings and Ministerial meetings is very important to me. Also, I am in charge of nominating RAIPON representatives to take part in the working group meetings and other Arctic Council projects.
RAIPON has particular interest in the work of the Sustainable Development Working Group (SDWG) since they deal with language, culture, and health issues that are quite important. The work of the Arctic Contaminants Action Program (ACAP) is also important since there are many challenges with contaminants in the Russian north. RAIPON has also worked with the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP) in the past and is interested in renewing this work once again.
RAIPON is however limited in terms of people and resources, since RAIPON has no dedicated budget for travel to meetings. When no representatives can attend working group meetings then the progress is monitored instead so that RAIPON is informed on the progress.
Have indigenous peoples' involvement in the Arctic Council changed since you joined?
In general the role of the Arctic Council has grown on the international agenda. I think that the Arctic Council should take more leadership internationally which in turn would increase the role of the Permanent Participants.
Indigenous peoples' involvement in the Arctic Council has progressed step-by-step over the years. However, the progress for funding is still poor.
What is the most memorable experience you have had during Arctic Council work?
Each Chairmanship of the Arctic Council contributes with specific qualities to their meetings. During the Russian chairmanship many delegates enjoyed attending meetings in the Russian north. The Russian hospitality combined with good excursions were an excellent achievement for Russia. During the Danish chairmanship I was quite excited to have the opportunity to visit Greenland. And I remember that the SAO Chair for Iceland, Gunnar Pálsson, had a good sense of humor. Sweden is very pragmatic and take their chairmanship seriously. Each of the chairmanships have their own character, and that is good, because we are all different.
This article is the second in a series highlighting the Arctic Council Permanent Participants. Read the first article on the Saami Council here. For more background information on the Permanent Participants please read the History of the Arctic Council Permanent Participants.
Photo 2: Rodion Sulyandziga