We invite you to sign this letter of support, in solidarity with Batani Fund and the Aborigen Forum Coalition:

In solidarity with Indigenous peoples from Russia and worldwide, we call on finance institutions and companies working with Nornickel (Norilsk Nickel) to demand respect for Indigenous peoples’ rights and environmental protection from their business partners. This includes asking green energy companies and international finance institutions to uphold Indigenous rights in the global supply chain by not sourcing nickel mined by Nornickel or financing Nornickel operations until the company demonstrates its ability to address standards set out by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

In doing so, we stand united with “Batani,” an international Indigenous fund for development and solidarity and  “Aborigen Forum,” an informal association of experts, activists, leaders and organizations of Indigenous small-numbered peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East of the Russian Federation. Together with 35 other organizations and entities working with Indigenous peoples to protect Indigenous rights and the environment, the Batani Fund has sent an urgent call to both international banking and credit institutions and buyers of metals from Nornickel, including BASF, Union Bank of Switzerland, and Credit Suisse Bank.

The next industrial revolution of electric cars and clean energy should not be pursued at the price of Indigenous peoples’ rights and traditional lands. Nickel is a key ingredient in the cathodes of electric car batteries, allowing them to store more energy more cheaply. Nornickel produces one third of the global supply of nickel, and operates some of world’s largest factories for copper and cobalt. Yet, Nornickel its widely known for its failures on environmental and human rights issues, resulting in significant negative consequences for Indigenous peoples in Russia. 

The Indigenous small-numbered peoples of the Arctic have been living in the Taymyr Peninsula and Murmansk Oblast for generations. The Sámi, Nenets, Nganasan, Enets, Dolgan and Evenk communities continue to practice their traditional way of life, and depend on a healthy environment for their subsistence. These communities suffer as a result of negative impacts from Nornickel operations on their reindeer herding, hunting, fishing, and other economic and activities, as well as their physical health and well-being.

For decades, pollution from Norilsk factories has ranked at top levels for global air pollution. Publicly available information demonstrates significant reliability and reputational problems with Nornickel. In 2009, the Norwegian Pension Fund, one of the world’s largest investors, blacklisted Nornickel due to “severe environmental damage”, with other financial institutions like Actiam and Skandia following. Furthermore, the company has a well-documented history of making empty promises to improve its operations and engaging in corruption. 
On May 29, 2020, a massive oil spill occurred when a Nornickel power plant flooded local rivers with up to 21,000 tons of diesel oil. The incident was the second-largest environmental disaster in the Arctic region, after the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska. The diesel oil polluted major bodies of water, which serve several Indigenous communities as a source of drinking water and as fishing grounds. One year later, those communities still face a shortage of food and are not able to pursue economic activities like trading fish and meat, and their traditional way of life as they could before the catastrophe.

Following this oil spill, a Russian court levied the highest fine ever imposed in Russia for environmental crimes on Nornickel. However, compensation was not paid to all those affected, and not in the amount promised. Further, Nornickel has refused to engage in dialogue with Indigenous community leaders expressing concerns about its operations, and has been unwilling to include Indigenous community demands into company plans for mitigating pollution from the spill. 

These requests are particularly important to youth leaders, who are dedicated to a just transition towards an emerging green economy. It is the next generation that will pay the highest price for continuing business as usual with companies that have proven records of environmental and human rights violations. And advocating in solidarity with Indigenous peoples is part of the Green New Deal that young people are looking for in their support for more socially and environmentally responsible business practices.   

We therefore respectfully reiterate our request for companies and financial institutions to not engage in business relations or professional contracts with Nornickel until company compliance with internationally recognized social and environmental standards, including UNDRIP standards on free, prior and informed consent (FPIC), can be clearly established and validated.

Sign the letter HERE

Non-Russian Anti-War Movement Abroad Expands into Center for Support of National Languages and Cultures

Putin’s war in Ukraine has triggered the growth of nationalism in many non-Russian groups inside his country, but one of the broadest and most dramatic examples of this is abroad in London’s Yurt Community which began as an anti-war movement but has now expanded to be a center for the promotion of non-Russian languages and cultures.

            Lidiya Grigoryeva, an activist with the group, says the Yurt Community movement was launched a year ago in London to help non-Russians from the Russian Federation express their opposition to Putin’s war in Ukraine. That has led the group to work to promote the salvation and growth of their nations (idelreal.org/a/32577459.html).

            Last month, she says, the group launched a Navigator of the Languages of the Indigenous Peoples of Russia, an internet project (t.me/yurt_community/38 and yurtcommunity.org/ru)that is “the only platform for the preservation and dissemination of academic and other materials on the languages of ethnic groups living on the territory of Russia.”

            Grigoryeva herself is a Yakut who spoke her national language at home but lost the habit of doing so when she went to a Russian-language school. She recovered her interest in her national language when she studied in St. Petersburg and was subjected to bullying by Russians for using her language. Instead of repressing her, such experiences revived her interest in Sakha.

            In her republic, she says, there is a general revival of interest in the Sakha language. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the situation among the numerically smaller peoples of the Russian north. There the rising generation rarely knows the national language, and these tongues face extinction in the near future. The Yurt Platform is designed to combat that.

            Unfortunately, she continues, this is a difficult but absolutely necessary struggle: “The trend in modern society is toward simplification, seeing everything in black and white,” with people saying there’s no need for learning any languages except Russian and English. But “that is the same as saying we don’t need thousands of kinds of plants or more than seven colors.”

            “Diversity of languages and cultures only enriches any society,” Grigoryeva says; “and it is very sad to realize that we are losing this wealth.” Of course, to reverse the current path requires more than instruction in these languages; it requires a wholesale revamping of society so that people will find the use of these languages useful to themselves.

            According to the activist, “a language lives in a milieu – and few are interested in studying a language which does not help them find work or get a high-quality education, especially if one considers the large number of stereotypes and stigmas about indigenous languages.”

            Activism in support of languages is thus connected with activism in support of nations more generally, she argues. “There exists a great diversity of ethnic activism, and the study of the culture, history and language of one’s people is not necessarily connected with national liberation ideas.” But they can support one another.

            “For us,” she says, “de-colonization is in the first instance a return to ourselves of our cultural identity, a sense that we rank too as ‘a state-forming people,’ no better and no worse than others, are capable of resisted forced russification, and struggle for our right to be ourselves” rather than to be defined by others.

            According to Grigoryeva, “our movement includes representatives of civil society … [because] each people and each individual has the right to a worthy life, respect for his or her culture and language. We must not be ashamed of our identities, cultures, and langauges, just as we must not discriminate against others on ethnic grounds.”

            “The problem of Russia is that instead of a real discussion and resolution of problems … the authorities hypocritically speak about ‘the friendship of the peoples’ and create a beautiful picture for show while deepening the contradictions in the current system. Therefore, the popularity of national liberation movements and de-colonial discourse will only grow.”

            “Our movement,” Grigoryeva says, “does not form a political unit; but we understand that in a democratic country, national-liberation movements could become one of the parties in republic parliaments.” Today, the situation in Russia is far from that; but it is a goal worth working towards.


Enabling a just energy transition: The crucial role of corporate accountability in the EU Critical Raw Materials Act

The European Parliament is preparing to vote on the Critical Raw Materials Act (CRMA) this week, providing a golden opportunity to embed key principles which will promote a true just energy transition.

Climate change presents a profound risk to human rights. Responding to it with the urgency it deserves requires changing unsustainable patterns of consumption and production and a shift to renewable sources of energies – such as wind and solar. Yet, acceleration in the extraction of raw materials needed to manufacture these technologies risks exacerbating human rights violations and environmental destruction that have long been the hallmarks of the extractive sector. Repeating its failure to prevent harmful impacts on affected communities is not an option. More than half of global resources for minerals essential in the energy transition are located on or near the lands of Indigenous and peasant peoples – whose rights to Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) must be preserved.

Mining comes with risks of human rights abuses. Between 2010 and 2022, the Resource Centre documented 510 allegations of abuses in connection with the extraction of copper, cobalt, lithium, nickel, manganese and zinc. Civil society organisations and Indigenous Peoples’ movements have called for the EU to safeguard human rights and the environment in the CRMA. Without adequate human rights and environmental protections, and without questioning European consumption levels for virgin raw materials, incentivising the intensification of mining activities can lead to a dramatic increase of their impacts on local communities, Indigenous Peoples and their environments.

The European Union (EU) has an opportunity to lead a rapid, global energy transition which leaves no one behind, addressing the climate crisis whilst respecting the rights of communities, human rights and environmental rights defenders and Indigenous Peoples, and guaranteeing certainty and competitiveness for companies and investors. 

1. Aligning corporate responsibility and demands on companies:

The CRMA should guarantee policy coherence and legal certainty through explicit reference to international due diligence standards set out in the UN Guiding Principles on Business & Human Rights (UNGPs), the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and the upcoming Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CSDDD) – and ensure they apply to all strategic project promoters in the CRMA. This involves requirements for substantive human rights and environmental due diligence (HREDD), to avoid sole reliance on industry-led certification schemes – whose limitations, amongst others, resulting from a lack of transparency, independence and conflicts of interest have been documented. Such schemes promote top-down approaches to compliance and stifle innovation and ongoing improvements in corporate due diligence practices. While certification can support compliance with sustainability or corporate HREDD responsibilities, it cannot achieve these by itself.

2. Corporate accountability and respect for human rights and Indigenous Peoples’ rights:

Legislation on raw materials supply chains also needs to tackle the environmental and social impacts of mining for transition minerals. These are multifaceted and, as research by the Resource Centre has shown, are often associated with multiple harms including air, soil and water pollution, overuse of water resources, loss of biodiversity and deforestation, health and safety issues in the workplace, land rights abuses and lack of consultation and engagement with local and Indigenous communities. The current global rush to mine for more transition minerals also creates incentives for unscrupulous mining companies to use corrupt practices to cut corners on environmental and human rights safeguards, as well as expedite community consultation processes. Mining is also the most dangerous sector for human rights defenders.

Corporate abuse, and the distrust it generates, risks derailing the global energy transition. EU policymakers must consider the track record of human rights and environmental abuses of candidate project promoters. Fast-tracking mining projects cannot come at the expense of human rights, and especially not Indigenous Peoples’ rights. Respect for their unique and internationally recognised rights, in particular their right to self-determination, which includes the right to give or withhold their FPIC to projects on their lands, must be front and centre within the CRMA.

To ensure sponsored projects are grounded in meaningful involvement and respect for public participation rights of local communities is anchored in international law, language such as ‘facilitating public acceptance’ must be avoided. Engagement with local communities should be defined in the framework of existing international obligations, including Article 27 of the International Convention of Civil and Political Rights, the UNGPs, the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, as well as the International Labour Organization’s Convention 169.

3. Enabling a global just transition 

The CRMA should include safeguards to enable resource-rich countries’ self-determined development, energy security and local value addition, and guarantee the availability of such materials for the energy transition requirements of non-EU countries and prevent human rights violations. It is equally important for the CRMA to adopt a systemic approach to the determination and long-term reduction of environmental footprints. Taking proactive measures to mitigate the increase in demand of critical raw materials should be a core strategy of the EU to strengthen its strategic autonomy and reduce its global environmental footprint.

Enabling a global just transition must also include a strong participation of civil society in the governance body of the CRMA. Civil society’s meaningful participation, including organisations from partner countries, is also essential when selecting and prioritising strategic partnerships.

By Olga Martin-Ortega and Caroline Avan, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

Johanna Sydow, Heinrich Böll Foundation

Alejandro Gonzalez and Joseph Wilde-Ramsing, SOMO


What Decolonization Means for Russia’s Indigenous Peoples

For the indigenous peoples of Russia, decolonizing the country is not just a matter of historical justice. In our eyes, it is a necessary precondition for moving past the obsolete narratives that the Russian state and society tell themselves; narratives that are founded in widespread misunderstandings of history, official propaganda, and outright lies. 

In Russian historical narratives, the colonization of Siberia and the Far East is described as a “unification,” as in “voluntary unification.” Historians point to the relatively peaceful nature of Russia’s eastward expansion, which they call the Cossack “March to Meet the Sun,” in contrast to the brutal campaigns of Cortez in the lands of the Aztecs. 

This whitewashing of history takes place at many levels. For example, in the late 1990s, Russia planned to celebrate the anniversary of the “voluntary unification” of Kamchatka and Russia. However, the Tkhansom, the council of the Itelmen peoples who are native to Kamchatka, took a formal decision to boycott the celebrations, on the grounds that the annexation of Kamchatka could in no way be described as voluntary. Instead, it was the violent conquest of the peninsula by the Russian Empire. 

When pressed at a 1997 academic conference in Kamchatka, Russian historians were unable to provide sufficient arguments in support of the myth of the region’s “voluntary unification with imperial Russia.”  When it became clear just how tenuous their arguments were, one academic remarked, “Alright, so there was colonization, but it was good colonization.” The participants of the conference were then left to guess what distinguishes “good colonization” from the usual kind.     

In reality, as the testimony of numerous witnesses shows, the armed conflicts between the Russian state and the subjugated peoples of Siberia demonstrate that Russian colonization differs little from European colonialism in Africa, Asia, and the Americas. The only apparent difference was how the colonizers treated the people they conquered. While the Spanish Conquistadors committed large-scale massacres in their pursuit of gold, the Siberian Cossacks were more interested in extracting lucrative tributes from locals. These tributes, paid in the form of furs collected by the legendary hunters of the conquered peoples, became a major source of wealth for the tsars. The legend that indigenous peoples were such expert hunters they could “shoot a squirrel in the eye” persists to this day.

For the Indigenous peoples of Russia, it is vitally important that the Russian state and society recognize the historical fact of colonization. This could become the jumping-off point for a new, more just relationship between Indigenous peoples and the state. Such recognition is the first step toward the kind of national reconciliation that took place in Canada, Norway, Australia, and other countries with a history of injustice toward their indigenous peoples. 

Moreover, acknowledging colonization as a process and the undeniable legacy of the Russian Empire and its successor states could be the starting point for the construction of a new state, one that dispenses with revisionist history in favor of historical truth. 

This would go a long way toward dismantling the particularly toxic myth of the God-given role of the Russian people in world history, and the special path of a Russia that acts as a lone bulwark of traditional values against a West that is mired in iniquity. It will be a great boon to Russian society when this perverse conception of patriotism is allowed to implode. It has been relentlessly amplified for decades by the powerful state propaganda machine in the service of Putin’s criminal régime, and the wars of aggression against Russia’s neighbors.

The Russian people must finally recognize that, by and large, they are no different from other European countries. There is just one exception: the Russians’ ancestors lived on the eastern frontiers of Europe, beyond which lived numerous indigenous peoples of Siberia. Those territories were only conquered thanks to military technologies that the Russians received from their European neighbors (facilitating its growth into a geographic giant, a source of continuing pride for modern-day Russians). Other European countries lacked vulnerable neighbors, and so had to look overseas for their expansionist aims.

As the right of peoples to self-determination gained acceptance in the latter half of 20th century, culminating in its enshrinement in the United Nations Charter and then the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, the overseas colonies of the European powers, one after another, started to gain their independence. 

Meanwhile, Soviet leaders — who were happy to invoke those arguments when it suited them — liked to pretend that the Soviet Union itself was exempt from these principles. 

Those peoples who had the dubious privilege of finding themselves within the U.S.S.R. were kept busy building socialism. They would not have dreamed of demanding their independence from the Kremlin. Those that did were swiftly dealt with by the KGB. The Kremlin was happy to use UN declarations to actively promote “anti-imperialist” struggles around the world, but this didn’t extend to how it treated its own people.

Today, a multitude of societal and political players are actively discussing the country’s post-Putin political future. Their proposals range from an even greater role of the state and its repressive apparatus to the creation of a parliamentary republic, and include the suggestion that Russia be divided into seperate independent ethno-states.

This is not the place to go into the details of these various scenarios. Self-determination for the peoples living on the territory of the Russian Federation today is of course to be welcomed, as a matter of principle. However, there are two issues that should be a source of concern.

The first is raised by representatives of the Russian opposition who consider creating new states on the territory of the Federation to be either entirely unfeasible, or a proposition with marginal support in the ethnic republics. 

The opposition is debating this vital question without consulting any representatives of the colonized peoples themselves. This demonstrates the pervasiveness of the imperial mindset even among people of seemingly impeccably liberal credentials, and not just members of Putin’s entourage.

It is worth asking what would happen if these opposition politicians came to power and found themselves in a situation where the majority of Chechens or Buryats pronounced themselves in favor of independence from Russia. Would they go to war to reassert control? Past experience is not encouraging.

A second issue that should be a cause for alarm is the rhetoric of some ethnic national activists themselves. There have been calls from such figures for the dismantlement of Russia and the creation of separate ethnic states without giving sufficient thought towards what these new states will look like. Nor do they propose a mechanism for handling the dissolution. It is as though the only thing that matters is their separation from Russia.

The sad legacy of democracy-building efforts in the former Soviet republics of Central Asia should make them more cautious about the disintegration of the Russian Federation. The expectation that it will lead to a useful and favorable outcome for the peoples living on these territories and for the world as a whole should not be taken for granted.

We suspect that many representatives of the Sakha people of Yakutia, for example, would be aghast at the prospect that one day they might be liberated from Russia’s authoritarian regime only to find themselves citizens of a new country styled after “democratic, law-based, secular” Turkmenistan. Despite boasting in its constitution that “the people are the only source of state power,” the country is often compared to North Korea. Independence risks trading one authoritarian regime for another.

There will be no easy solutions to the political, legal, technological and military problems and risks that any new state entities will have to face. Where is the guarantee that the republic of Sakha will end up led by enlightened, liberal, pro-Western nationalists rather than its current leader? Aysen Nikolayev is a notorious Putin loyalist. His entourage is rife with corruption and he has centralized control of both enormous financial resources and even the security services. Will he take fright and run after the political death of his patron? Or will he seize the opportunity to re-enter politics under a different guise and assert his personal dominance over the new republic?

The dissolution of the Soviet Union shows that, sadly, the former leaders of the republics, more often than not, are first in line to take up the reins of power. The West may have little inclination to step in. On the contrary, it would in all likelihood lose no time in establishing favorable economic relations, seeing that it is often more expedient to deal with authoritarian regimes than with democratic ones. That is, for as long as the dictator does not completely lose the plot and launch military adventures.

The bitter reality is that there is virtually no prospect that the relatively small populations of the indigenous peoples of Russia’s Far North, of Siberia, and of the Far East will ever have the luxury of achieving self-determination in the form of independent states. Whichever way the political situation in Russia evolves, we are likely to find ourselves living in someone else’s country.

Numerous other problems stand between our peoples and self-determination. We suffer from the absence of qualified specialists, the geographical isolation of our traditional lands, the low level of education of our people, and inadequate financial and administrative resources. Additionally, we are for the most part but a minority of the population in the regions that are our ancestral homes.

For us, a key prerequisite for our survival and continued development as nations in our own right must thus be not a chance to create and govern our own states, but meaningful political participation in Russia. Our institutions of self-government must have the possibility of ensuring that our hunters, fishers, and herders have access to their traditional lands and traditional resources, that our cultures and languages are preserved, and that our peoples have an opportunity to pursue the realization of their political, economic, and social potential on the twin pillars of tradition and new knowledge and technologies.

For us, democracy, the rule of law, and respect for human rights are the basic principles that can help our peoples protect their collective rights for development and self-determination. Faced with an overwhelming power imbalance, the indigenous peoples essentially have no other recourse apart from international law to assert their rights.

This is why we believe that Russian civil society, political players, opposition leaders and ethnic activists should embark on a nationwide debate devoted to the processes of decolonizing Russia. We believe that such a debate can bring together people of diverse views around the same table, where we can begin grappling with our undeniable political differences. It will also look for a shared vision of our future and the future of the country of which we are citizens. The first step is to agree that Russia needs decolonization of its past, present, and future.


Members from several First Nations rally against northern Ontario mining plans

Members of several First Nations rallied outside the Ontario legislature Thursday to raise concerns about mining exploration they say is happening on their lands against their will.

Indigenous leaders and community members said they weren’t consulted as mining prospectors staked claims on their territories. They also pushed back against the province’s plans to expand mining in the mineral-rich Ring of Fire region, about 500 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay.

“We want our land to stay pure. We are not just doing this for us today, we are doing it for future generations so they will be able to continue to do our traditional practices and way of life,” said Grassy Narrows First Nation Chief Rudy Turtle.

“We are fighting for that.”

In February, four first Nations _ Grassy Narrows, Wapekeka, Neskantaga and Big Trout Lake First Nations _ said they formed an alliance to defend their lands and waters after mining prospectors staked thousands of new claims on their lands over the last few years.

They said they wanted the provincial government to seek their communities’ informed consent before allowing companies to explore the First Nations’ lands for precious minerals.

Muskrat Dam First Nation has since joined that alliance and Turtle, of Grassy Narrows, said he hopes more communities become part of the group.

Grassy Narrows First Nation, located about 100 kilometres northeast of Kenora, Ont., has said it has seen about 4,000 mining claims on its lands since 2018, when the Ontario government allowed any licensed prospector to register a mining claim online for a small fee.

The government’s online mining system does not tell prospectors before they stake a claim whether the land is part of an Indigenous territory.

A government spokesperson said in a statement Thursday that the Supreme Court of Canada “has confirmed that Ontario can authorize development within the Treaty 3 area” in the province subject to satisfaction of its obligations regarding Indigenous Peoples, including the duty to consult.

“We will continue working towards consensus on resource development opportunities by carefully balancing the priorities, needs and concerns of Indigenous communities that exercise Aboriginal or treaty rights in the Northwest, including other Indigenous communities that, like Grassy Narrows, hold rights under Treaty 3,” the spokesperson said.

On Thursday, First Nations members also raised concerns about the province’s development plans in the Ring of Fire, saying they wanted further engagement with the government as they looked to have their land rights safeguarded.

“There hasn’t been any consultation at all and here’s Ontario saying they have legally consulted the community during the pandemic when we couldn’t even meet during the pandemic, we had our community lockdown,” Neskantaga First Nation Chief Chris Moonias said.

Those rallying at the legislature said Thursday that several First Nations groups planned to hold a march in September to reiterate their call for the government to “end unwanted mining activity on their territories.”

The Indigenous affairs minister has previously said the government is focused on building relationships and meets regularly with Indigenous leaders from across the province.


Representatives of Russian Indigenous Peoples hold up anti-war posters during UN session

Representatives of Russian Indigenous Peoples have staged a protest against the war in Ukraine during a session of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP) — a subsidiary body of the United Nations’ Human Rights Council, their colleague Andrey Danilov shared.

On 17 July, the activists stood up holding posters spelling out anti-war statements during the speech by the representative of the Crimean Tatar Centre, Eskender Bariyev. The posters said “Russia, stop the war” and “Russia must stop killing Indigenous Peoples”.

One of the protesters is Yana Tannagasheva — she told Novaya-Europe that Crimean Tatars and representatives of Indigenous Peoples of Russia which had had to flee the country due to persecution seek to use the UN platform to protect the rights of their people.

In particular, last year they advised the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to study the topic of how militarisation impacts the lives of Indigenous Peoples in Russia.

According to the representatives of Indigenous Peoples, this year’s EMRIP report was not of sufficient quality when it came to describing the reality that Indigenous Peoples of Russia and Ukraine face.

“The three paragraphs on Indigenous Peoples of Russia and Ukraine were very weak, furthermore, they were [compiled using] official information from Russia. For example, the information about the alternative [military] service for Indigenous Peoples of Russia. EMRIP and other UN mechanisms have to stay independent,” Tannagasheva said.

An activist from Murmansk Andrey Danilov, who took part in the session, said that “the Russian delegation is wholly made up of [representatives] of Indigenous Peoples loyal to the government”.

“Both delegates and interns of the Permanent Forum read prepared texts in an iron and emotionless voice. All of their speeches are recorded on camera by [chair of the association of Indigenous small-numbered peoples of Taymyr] Grygory Dyukarev, with the whole view of the room. So it’s not just the speech [that’s recorded] but also the reaction of the audience and who’s present. That’s unacceptable,” he wrote.

He also emphasised that the speeches of the Russian delegation boil down to praising the Russian government, without any critical remarks made.

Tannagasheva noted that the official Russian delegation uses “pet puppet aborigines” who “while receiving money from Nornickel and other large mining companies, laud Russia instead of using the opportunity provided by the UN platform to protect the rights of their people”.

The Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples session takes place 17-21 July in Geneva.


Unpacking clean energy: Human rights impacts of Chinese overseas investment in transition minerals

In the next decade, China is set to play a central role in the global transition to clean energy. This will require significant overseas investment in transition mineral mining, giving China an important responsibility to ensure the energy transition is not only fast, but also fair to workers and communities most directly impacted by Chinese overseas investments. This briefing underlines the significant improvements required in the practices and approaches of Chinese mining companies if they are to successfully contribute to the rapid, just energy transition our world needs, and to the wider social goals of the Belt and Road Initiative.

This analysis highlights the scale and scope of human rights and environmental abuses linked to Chinese companies’ operations overseas. From January 2021 to December 2022, a total of 102 allegations of abuse were recorded by the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre (Resource Centre). These allegations of abuse sit alongside similar alleged abuses by North American and European companies recorded in the Resource Centre’s Transition Mineral Tracker (TMT), as well as other reports on the human rights and environmental impacts of renewable energy supply chains in the Andes, Southeast AsiaKenya and South Africa, highlighting the risks of irresponsible business practices for vulnerable local communities, Indigenous Peoples and migrant workers around the world.

Despite important advances promoted by the Chinese Government and the mining business association (CCCMC) on overseas corporate responsibility, the overall findings of this briefing suggest human rights and environmental risks in transition mineral supply chains associated with Chinese companies, including exploration, extraction and processing, are significant.

Key findings

  • Indonesia has the highest number of recorded allegations of abuse (27), followed by Peru (16), Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) (12), Myanmar (11) and Zimbabwe (7).
  • Over 2/3 of the allegations (69) involve human rights abuses against local communities. The most salient risks concern impacts on livelihoods, Indigenous Peoples’ rights and insufficient or lack of consultation.
  • Over half (54) of the allegations involve negative environmental impacts, where water pollution, effects on wildlife and species habitat and issues with access to water access are frequently recorded.
  • More than 1/3 of the allegations (35) concern workers’ rights. The majority link to health and safety risks in the workplace.
  • Despite the significant number of recorded allegations, only seven of the 39 companies have published human rights policies, indicating significant room for improvement in both policies and practices.

Key recommendations: Just transition to clean energy

As these findings illustrate, further and urgent action is required to mitigate the growing risk of human rights harm related to transition mineral extraction. Lack of company action risks lost public support, conflict, suspensions, delays and rising costs – something our planet can ill-afford. A different approach, one which centres human rights and promises a swift and just transition, can be built around three, key principles:

  • Shared prosperity to build public support;
  • Robust human rights and environmental due diligence to mitigate social and environmental harm;
  • Fair negotiations to build a stable investment environment.

As demand for transition minerals to fuel green technologies remains a global priority, the scope for human rights infringements by mining companies and their investors remains a major concern. Therefore, commitment to such principles has never been more important.


Statement on 5 July 2023

On July 5th, the Russian prosecutor general’s office declared The Altai Project an “undesirable organization”. It is the 93rd foreign organization to receive this badge of honor for meaningful and effective support of Russian civil society.

“The Russian Prosecutor’s office distorts and misrepresents legitimate community-led conservation efforts organized by local activists in Russia,” said The Altai Project director Jennifer Castner. “Their specious accusations are focused on events that occurred between 2006-2018.  In making this announcement, the Russian government is only harming its own citizens – people who are working to protect their right to a clean and healthy environment.”

The Prosecutor General claims that The Altai Project has been involved in “sabotaging the construction of the Power of Siberia-2 gas pipeline, as well as propaganda work in the Russian and global community, the purpose of which is to publicly convey the need to fight for sacred places” in Altai Republic. In addition, The Altai Project opposes [mining] development … in connection with which The Altai Project causes economic damage to the Russian Federation…. While formally advocating nature conservation, it interferes in the internal affairs of the Russian Federation and may harm Russia’s economic security.”

With this announcement, the Russian authorities now categorize cooperation or interaction with The Altai Project by Russian citizens, both inside Russia and abroad, as a crime. The Russian Prosecutor General’s press release unironically states that Russian nature conservation, wildlife protection, and cultural heritage preservation are harmful to the country’s security and economic development.

Centering Russian leaders

The Altai Project has worked since its founding in 1998 to support community-led nature conservation and biodiversity protection. Until recently, rule-of-law in Russia guaranteed the rights of its citizens to live in a healthy, clean environment, balanced with the just and sustainable use of natural resources, despite increasing challenges to protecting those rights.Independent Russian citizens and Russian independent, non-governmental organizations are more than capable of identifying environmental issues in their local communities, acting to address those issues, and seeking support. Over its decades of work, The Altai Project has simply provided resources, access to expertise and collaboration, and global amplification of voices in Russian civil society.Some of their achievements include:

  • Coordinating public input to decision-makers on plans for a large hydropower dam in the 2000s, resulting in its cancellation;
  • Calls to re-route the Altai Gas Pipeline (renamed Power of Siberia 2) away from the ecologically-sensitive and culturally-sacred Ukok Plateau, ultimately resulting in it being rerouted to the east, away from Altai in 2016; and
  • Community-led monitoring of plans to extract cobalt in key snow leopard habitat. Investors failed to close the deal and the plan evaporated in 2016;
  • Restoration of the snow leopard population in Altai Republic through careful protection and study. This iconic cat has become a valuable economic driver of tourism.

Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine and corrupt governance

When Russia launched its horrific, full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, The Altai Project spoke out publicly in solidarity with the people and nation of Ukraine, noting, “While we will pause our work in Russia, The Altai Project will continue supporting partners in conservation efforts and advocacy in other parts of Eastern Europe and Eurasia.” The Altai Project has never had any employees in Russia or maintained an office there.

“Once again, the Russian Prosecutor General has decided to stand with corrupt oligarchs instead of the Russian people,” Jennifer Castner added. “Crackdowns on international organizations (like The Altai Project) that support ordinary Russian citizen leadership to protect their natural heritage only highlight the Russian government’s weakness.”


‘12 Indigenous Peoples’ Rights in Data’ Defined by Global Indigenous Data Alliance

The establishment of Indigenous Peoples’ Rights in data marks the next chapter in the Indigenous Data Sovereignty movement.

Native nations and Indigenous Peoples around the world are increasingly demanding that their sovereign rights be recognized and protected in an expanding array of fields, including calls for the recognition of Indigenous Network Sovereignty, Food Sovereignty, Energy Sovereignty and Data Sovereignty, to name a few. 

Stephanie Russo Carroll (Ahtna & Native Village of Kluti-Kaah), Associate Director of the University of Arizona Udall Center and Assistant Professor in the Mel & Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, has dedicated her professional life to the Indigenous Data Sovereignty (IDSov) movement since 2015. Along with an international team of research professionals, Dr. Carroll is leading the charge to ensure that Indigenous Peoples are able to control the collection, application and use of data about their citizens, lands and cultures.

The most recent step in the decades-long process of securing data rights on behalf of the 250-600 million Indigenous individuals around the world came with the publication this spring of the “12 Indigenous Peoples’ Rights in Data” by the Global Indigenous Data Alliance (GIDA), of which Carroll is a founding member and current chair.

An “Explosion of Data”

In 2019, GIDA first published their CARE Principles for Indigenous Data Governance, which were created in response to accelerating calls for the world’s data to be open and accessible for research purposes, including the widespread adoption of the “FAIR Principles” asserting that all data should be made “Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable.” 

GIDA and other Indigenous Data Sovereignty advocates recognized that these “open data” principles were great from the standpoint of scientific advancement. However, such principles failed to recognize that data gleaned from Indigenous subjects was often extractive in nature, meaning that research involving Indigenous Peoples, lands and cultures was often used in a scientific vacuum far removed from the Indigenous subjects being studied. 

This meant that, ultimately, those data often provided no benefit to the Indigenous subjects or communities themselves, and were even regularly shared and reused in stigmatizing ways without the consent of the people being studied and without consideration of the potential for disastrous consequences

In the words of Carroll, the modern digital age has produced “an explosion of data,” the availability of which has far exceeded society’s ability to keep up in terms of standard setting and regulation. “Everybody’s playing catch up,” says Carroll, “and we as a global society don’t have the policies and practices in place to responsibly care for and use that data.”

Thus, the CARE Principles – which called for researchers to ensure that their data provided “Collective benefit,” that Indigenous subjects retain the “Authority to control” their own data, and that data be gathered and managed “Responsibly” and “Ethically” – were outlined in a way that deliberately complemented the widely adopted FAIR Principles, 

The CARE Principles have since spawned dozens of academic papers in a variety of scholarly disciplines and have been adopted by international entities, national governments and nonprofit organizations, including UNESCO and the governments of Australia and New Zealand.

From “Principles” to “Rights”

But “principles,” generally speaking, are essentially “recommendations.” 

Unlike laws, codes and policies, principles are not enforceable, so GIDA naturally saw a need to expand their work into an arena that had more concrete and actionable connotations. Thus, outlining Indigenous Peoples’ Rights in data seemed like the next logical step in service of advancing the IDSov movement.

The ‘12 Rights’ were identified through an inductive collaborative working group process led by the Collaboratory for Indigenous Data Governance (Collaboratory; another international IDSov organization led by Carroll) which reviewed IDSov literature and existing implementation activities. 

Descriptions were then drafted and circulated for comment across the networks associated with GlDA before they were finalized and released on the GIDA-global website this spring.

The 12 Indigenous Peoples’ Rights in Data

Indigenous Peoples Rights In Data thumbnail

The Rights outlined by GIDA fall under two basic headings: 1) “Data for Governance,” which primarily relates to the ability of Indigenous communities to access and use data themselves; and 2) “Governance of Data,” which relates to the ability of Indigenous communities to internally steward and externally influence the use of data. 

Per the first academic paper on the 12 Rights published in the journal Frontiers in Research Metrics in Analysis in May 2023, the “12 Indigenous Peoples’ Rights in Data” include:

Data for Governance:

  1. Right to self-determination: the ability to organize and control data in relation to a collective identity
  2. Right to reclaim: the right to reclaim, retain, and preserve data, data labels, and data outputs that reflect Indigenous Peoples’ identities, cultures, and relationships
  3. Right to possess: the ability to exercise jurisdictional control over the ways that data flow/move/are queried
  4. Right to use: the ability of individuals and collectives to use data for their own purposes
  5. Right to consent: the expression of digital autonomy and the ability to assess risks and accept potential harms
  6. Right to refuse: the right to say “no” to certain uses of data

Governance of Data

  1. Right to govern: the right to lead and collaborate in the development and implementation of protocols and in decisions about access to data
  2. Right to define: the right to define lifeways of knowing and being including how they are represented in data
  3. Right to privacy: the protection of collective identities and interests from undue attention, also including the possibility of requesting omission and/or erasure
  4. Right to know: the ability to track the storage, use, and reuse of the data and who has had access to them
  5. Right to association: the recognition of provenance and terms of attribution
  6. Right to benefit: the opportunity to benefit from the use of data and equitable benefit sharing from derivatives of data

“Indigenous Peoples have these rights regardless of whether or not they are acknowledged by existing laws,” explains Carroll. And, now that they’ve been named, the GIDA and Collaboratory teams have set out to disseminate them to the research world with the hope that they will be recognized, normalized and, eventually, encoded by researchers, institutions and funding organizations, writ large.


Why a Siberian Shaman Is a Thorn in the Kremlin’s Side

Alexander Gabyshev, a self-styled shaman from Russia’s Far East, has been held in compulsory psychiatric treatment since 2019, after he set out on a cross-country trek to Moscow with the goal of peacefully expelling President Vladimir Putin from power and “restoring democracy” to Russia by performing a shamanic ritual on Red Square.

On Monday, a court in Russia’s Far East ordered to transfer him from a neuropsychiatric dispensary to a general psychiatric hospital in Yakutsk, where he will undergo a “milder” form of treatment.

Russia’s Memorial human rights organization has declared Gabyshev to be a political prisoner.

The Free Yakutia Foundation, an anti-war movement in Gabyshev’s home republic of Sakha, has penned this op-ed on how Gabyshev’s message was able to resonate with so many ordinary Russians.

Two years have passed since Alexander Gabyshev’s second placement for compulsory treatment in a psychiatric dispensary. The practice of using punitive psychiatry as a tool to silence dissidents has been known and loved in Russia since the persecution of Pyotr Chaadayev by the Okhranka, the Tsar’s security service, in the 19th century. 

However, the focus of this discussion is not on historical examples, but rather on the phenomenon of the “Warrior Shaman” and its place in both Gabyshev’s native republic of Sakha and Russian politics.

Alexander Prokopyevich Gabyshev, a janitor, welder, handyman, and graduate of the history department at Yakut State University, initially appeared to be an ordinary citizen who didn’t fit into the prevailing capitalist system. 

But he, unlike so many others, had the courage to speak out against loneliness, disorder and injustice. 

His campaign, which began in August 2018, initially had no specific objectives, although Gabyshev identified himself as a pilgrim and someone who embraced the beliefs of Indigenous peoples of the North. 

										 					A still from the BBC documentary "From Yakutia to Moscow: The Way of the Shaman against Putin"
A still from the BBC documentary “From Yakutia to Moscow: The Way of the Shaman against Putin”

In the summer of the following year, Gabyshev shifted his focus from missionary work to the political agenda, perhaps recognizing the demand for change in his interactions with others. 

The shaman embarked on a cross-country trek and pledged to hold an Algys ceremony on Red Square, after which, he believed, Putin would resign voluntarily. Despite the seemingly archaic image he adopted, Gabyshev advocated for the establishment of democratic values, emphasizing the need for a balanced relationship between the government and the people:

“Democracy must be without fear. Now people are afraid to speak, they are afraid that they will be fired, they will be deprived of their salaries… …There must be a balance between the government and the people. And the struggle for balance sometimes goes on, yes, by bloody methods, if the tyrannical state regimes do not allow them to balance their power in a democratic way. And Putin will defend statehood, which we will now try to balance with democracy.”

Although Alexander Gabyshev’s campaign was short-lived, any news related to the “Warrior Shaman” inevitably garnered millions of views and thousands of supportive comments. Additionally, he amassed a sizable group of direct followers. 

What caused this?

The popularity of this unsuccessful and seemingly naive protest march can be attributed to the boldness and simplicity of Gabyshev’s image. One can draw parallels between his trek from Russia’s Far East to Moscow with Mahatma Gandhi’s “Salt March,” Lenin’s “walkers,” or even with the plot of the 1998 Russian tragicomedy starring Mikhail Evdokimov, “Why Don’t We Send… a Messenger?” 

										 					A still from the BBC documentary "From Yakutia to Moscow: The Way of the Shaman against Putin"
A still from the BBC documentary “From Yakutia to Moscow: The Way of the Shaman against Putin”

The shaman’s pilgrimage to Red Square is a peaceful and relatable expression of despair, representing an ordinary person’s final attempt to reach out to the authorities in Moscow. The homemade shaman’s tambourine becomes the voice of millions of Russians, and the smoke from an unlit ritual bonfire symbolizes the fire that those who haven’t heard the “Shaman Warrior’s” call will soon witness.

It may be that the dictator’s superstitious nature and love for rituals and spiritualism played a role in the decisive and aggressive arrest of the shaman. Currently, Gabyshev remains under compulsory treatment, effectively making him a political prisoner. 

In the eyes of the Kremlin, this former welder and hard worker is deemed more dangerous than Navalny and Yashin, as the rebellion of an ordinary person, which resonates with most Russians, is difficult to analyze and predict in terms of its potential threat to the existing constitutional order.


Seminar: The war’s impact on Indigenous peoples of Russia

Russia’s military attack on Ukraine has significantly impacted the life of Indigenous Peoples in Russia. One of the implications of this situation is that some Indigenous representatives who have openly opposed Russia’s actions in Ukraine, have had to leave their native land for security reasons. For Indigenous peoples, the connection to their land is an integral part of their culture.  

There are many Sámi activists who fled Russia after the start of the war in Ukraine. This event will address the impact of the war on relations between the Sámi on the Russian side of the border and Sámi on the Norwegian side of the border. What is the current situation of the Indigenous Peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East after the Russian invasion of Ukraine?

In this event we will meet representatives of the Sámi People of Kola Peninsula.

Panel: Andrei Danilov, Aleksandr Slupachik, Andrei Zhvavyi, Valentina Sovkina, Dmitry Berezhkov. 

Date: 15.07.2023

Time: 14:00

Place: Báldalávvues