Why Finland Must Commit to Respecting Sámi Rights – Before Turning 100

The upcoming centenniary of Finland’s independence on December 6, 2017, is an occasion to not only celebrate this Nordic country, but also to take a sober look at the Republic of Finland’s accomplishments as well as opportunities for improvement. Given Finland’s international profile and leadership aspirations in several fields, in particular the rights of indigenous peoples, it is reasonable to offer some perspectives on this also from the outside. My point of view is that of a well-meaning neighbour – an Estonian who over the past few years has been exposed to the issues facing Finland’s indigenous Sámi people from multiple angles.

There is much that Finland and its citizens can be proud of, and where the rest of the world can learn from Finland – such as how to build a society where people, rather than the state apparatus or some small privileged group of citizens, are in the center of state’s attention. This broadly humanistic outlook may explain why Finland has one of world’s best education systems, why its public spaces are so family-friendly and much more. As a result of 100 years of continuous independence – no small feat given its geographic position – Finland has indeed achieved a lot, surely more than most of today’s states during the same period.

It is precisely in this context of general accomplishment that one aspect of Finland’s behaviour, both past and present, stands out as an exception to the rule. This concerns Finland’s treatment of its indigenous people, the Sámi. Despite international efforts to present itself as a friend of not only Finland’s but the world’s indigenous peoples, domestically Finland appears to behave like a (former) colonial power that has not learned from its history and has not updated its legislation, policies and – most importantly – actual behaviour – to contemporary international standards that it itself has voluntarily endorsed. While there are worse offenders of indigenous peoples’ rights out there, Finland stands out for the wide gap between its global posture and domestic actions.

As Member of UNPFII during 2014-2016, I was initially positively impressed by the active role that Finland’s UN diplomats took in the Forum’s work. I specifically recall the keen interest that Finland’s UN diplomats took in the wording of the Forum’s draft recommendations, in particular those concerning Finland. Moreover, during the past years Finland has taken prominent global roles as an advocate for the rights of indigenous peoples worldwide – such as the speech that Finland’s President Mr. Sauli Niinistö gave at the 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, and more recently, the advisory role that Finland’s Ambassador to the UN took in the process to enable the participation of indigenous peoples at UN meetings. These and other steps have raised Finland’s international profile as a state committed to respecting indigenous peoples’ rights domestically and abroad – if not among indigenous peoples themselves, then certainly in the diplomatic community.

All of this would be good for both Finland – and indeed for everybody – assuming that Finland applied the same high standards domestically with respect to its own indigenous people, the Sámi. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The example of the Teno River Fishery Agreement that has already received much coverage in Finland’s and international media illustrates particularly well how realities faced by Finland’s indigenous people on the ground clash with Finland’s global rhetoric, as a result violating the rights of Finland’s Sámi people and raising questions about the integrity of the Republic of Finland.

In a nutshell, the Teno River Fishery Agreement was ratified between Finland’s and Norway’s parliaments in the spring of 2017, with the stated aim to protect Teno river’s Atlantic salmon stock from overfishing. Teno River is located on traditional Sámi lands and holds great economic and cultural significance for the Sámi who have been catching salmon from Teno river using their traditional techniques since times immemorial.  While practically nobody argues with the need to protect salmon from depletion, the way Finland and Norway negotiated the agreement violated indigenous peoples’ rights in a number of ways, most of all by effectively ignoring the states’ obligation to obtain free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) from indigenous peoples on decisions affecting their traditional lands, territories and resources. This has, among else, led to the removal of the right to fish salmon with traditional techniques for ethnic Sámi with primary residence outside the Sámi lands, such as Sámi students and professionals living in Finland’s cities.

FPIC is an underlying principle of indigenous peoples’ human rights and therefore Finland’s interpretation of it matters a lot, both for its own indigenous peoples as well as a precedent for the rest of the world. So what does Finland mean by free, prior and informed consent?

In his statement at the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples (WCIP) at the United Nations in New York on September 22, 2014, speaking as a representative of Western European states, Finland’s President Mr. Sauli Ninistö said,

“Indigenous Peoples’ participation in decision-making is vital also at the national level. Procedures may vary from country to country, but in all cases the objective should be to reach consensus in good faith. In Finland, authorities are obliged by law to negotiate with the Sámi Parliament, the representative body of the indigenous Sámi. Recently, the Finnish Government has worked together with the Sámi Parliament to expand the scope of the obligation to consult. The proposed reform spells out the concept of free, prior and informed consent.” [1]

There is a famous saying that “strategy is what happens”. What happened in the process of negotiating the Teno River agreement was almost opposite to the words of President Niinistö.

Sámi Parliament was not properly consulted in the process of negotiating the treaty by Finland’s Ministry of Agriculture & Forestry. This has been stated on numerous occasions by the Sámi Parliament itself and later at least partly backed by Finland’s Constitutional Committee and Deputy Chancellor of Justice.[2] None of this, however, prevented the agreement from being signed by Finland’s Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry in September 2016 and from ratification by Finland’s Parliament in March 2017.

As then Member of UNPFII, I, together with colleague Dalee Sambo, submitted an inquiry to Finland’s Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry in December 2016, asking the Ministry to explain whether and how, in their view, the principle of FPIC was followed in this case. The resulting reply did not really address this central question, however stated among else, that

“The FPIC principle, recognised as a right of indigenous peoples, does not mean that indigenous peoples have the right of veto concerning decisions to be made but that they are entitled to make demands concerning the procedures.”

(Links to the original correspondence: 1) UNPFII Members Letter Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, 2) Cover letter to official reply by Finland UNFPII 2016, 3) substantive reply by Finland: UM_vastauksia_alkuperäiskansafoorumin_jäsenille_191216_en )

One does not need to be a lawyer to notice the discrepancy between President Niinistö’s statement at WCIP and this latter interpretation of FPIC. While the former emphasized the importance of reaching consensus, the latter effectively reduces FPIC into a right to make demands, or, in the words of Sámi politician Áslat Holmberg, “freedom of speech”. Is such interpretation of FPIC the result of the alleged reform that President Niinistö referred to in front of the global audience at the United Nations? I would be really keen to know what the President himself thinks about this, and what political or moral weight his words at the UN, at least in his view, should have domestically .

Furthermore, the way Finland’s government dismissed the views of Sámi Parliament in the process of treaty design and negotiations manifests a deeper lack of respect for this body which is at odds with the international legitimacy that Finland has lent to the Sámi Parliament, as well as Finland’s international work to strengthen voices of indigenous peoples at the United Nations. What is surprising, is why in light of this actual dismissal of the views of the Sámi Parliament on the national level, Finland considers it important to advocate for stronger representation of indigenous peoples’ representative bodies at the United Nations. In particular, by taking the role of the Advisor to the President of UN General Assembly on the process of strengthening indigenous peoples’ representation at the UN, held by Ambassador Kai Sauer, Finland sent a signal to the international community – both states and indigenous peoples – that it supports stronger indigenous voices at the UN. Indeed, this is how Finland’s MFA has publicly explained Finland’s commitment to this topic:

“Throughout the process, it has been the primary goal of the advisers to the President of the General Assembly, as it has for Finland as a nation, to promote the participation of indigenous peoples in the decision-making process and for the outcome to respect the views of indigenous peoples and the member states.”[3]

If the participation of indigenous peoples in decision-making processes at the UN is indeed so important for Finland, why not begin by not only hearing, but actually listening to them, and taking their views into account domestically in matters that concern them the most, such as with the case of Teno River Agreement?

This is where the UN system comes in. In response to the apparent dismissal of Sámi Parliament’s views on national level, the official report of the 16th session of UNFPII, approved by UN’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), includes a specific recommendation to Finland, along with Norway, on the issue of the Teno River Agreement:

“24./…/The Sámi Parliaments of Finland and Norway have informed the Forum that the agreement was adopted without the free, prior and informed consent of the Sámi. The Forum requests the Governments of Finland and Norway to renegotiate the agreement with the full and effective participation of Sámi rights holders.“[4]

In the context of often generic and soft recommendations of the Forum, this one stands out for its clarity and resoluteness. The message for Finland, though of recommendational nature, is crystal clear – Finland is called to renogiate the agreement in line with the principle of free, prior and informed consent of Sámi people.

Nonetheless, it remains unclear whether Finland is actually heeding the call and whether concrete steps to implement this recommendation are being planned. So far I have heard no official comments by Finland in response to this specific recommendation. If Finland indeed does not intend to renegotiate the treaty any time soon, then this would mark a significant blow to Finland’s reputation as a state that is committed to upholding international human rights framework in which UNPFII, through its annual recommendations, plays a definite role. Or is it so that UNPFII recommendations to States are meant for implementation only when the state in question agrees with them beforehand? And what kind of a message does such selective implementation of Forum’s recommendations send to the true human rights villains of this world?

I provided just some examples that reveal a problematic nature of Finland’s treatment of its indigenous people, in particular the surprisingly wide gap between its words and deeds. The reason why I feel the need to deliver this message now, on the eve of Finland’s centenniary, is not to dampen the mood for the upcoming celebrations. My intention is rather the opposite: to call upon Finland’s political establishment, from the highest level down, to get its act together, including by admitting the mistakes that have been made in negotiating the Teno River treaty without full and effective participation of the Sámi people through their representative institution, and consequently, as a matter of simple logic, to commit to renegotiate the treaty in line with the relevant recommendation of the 16th session of the UNPFII. Even if the actual process of such renegotiation will take time, a verbal commitment to right this wrong prior to December 6, 2017 will mean that the Sámi people of Finland can look forward to a more just second century in independent Finland and that the international voice of Finland as a friend and advocate of indigenous peoples will ring truer and stronger. While it will not resolve all points of contention between Finland and the Sami, this would be both substantive and symbolic confidence-building step on the longer term path towards reconciliation and mutual respect.

[1] http://www.tpk.fi/public/default.aspx?contentid=313010&nodeid=44810&contentlan=2&culture=en-US

[2]  https://thebarentsobserver.com/en/arctic/2017/03/finnish-deputy-chancellor-justice-criticizes-government-its-actions-connection-teno

[3] http://www.formin.fi/public/default.aspx?contentid=366510&nodeid=15148&contentlan=2&culture=en-US

[4] https://undocs.org/en/E/2017/43 , page 8/25

 

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Notes from Islamabad: How MRG is helping to build a new generation of actor-activists in Pakistan

Originally published on Minority Rights Group International website

Oliver Loode is MRG’s outgoing Head of Culture. Here he recounts his experiences in Islamabad at a workshop which gives hope for religious tolerance in Pakistan.

Vijay* is a photogenic 20-year-old man from Quetta, the capital of Pakistan’s Balochistan province, whose lifelong dream is to become a movie star, perhaps one day making it big in Bollywood (or at least in Lollywood – which is what Pakistanis call their Lahore-based movie industry).

To pursue this dream, Vijay recently joined a talent contest organized by a local Quetta TV channel which was looking to cast actors for an upcoming drama. He did really well in the contest and was about to sign a contract, until the recruiter found out from his passport that Vijay was a Christian. From that moment everything went downhill – he did not receive the acting gig and, more importantly, had to seriously reassess his dreams. This led to a period of depression as Vijay felt powerless before the social forces that had enabled such discrimination on religious grounds.

Vijay’s story was one of several that I heard from members of Quetta’s youth on May 8-11 in Islamabad, during a training seminar for young actor-activists, as part of Promoting Tolerance through the Arts: Minority-Driven Theatre and Storytelling for Pakistan Youth project funded by UK’s Commonwealth Foundation and implemented MRG in collaboration with Quetta-based STREET Balochistan.    

The aim of this three-year project is to deliver messages of peace and tolerance, in particular towards ethnic and religious minorities, to young people in Quetta. A key instrument for this is theatre and storytelling. Through real-life inspired stories performed by young amateur actors with a mindset of civic activists (hence the term “actor-activists”), the project hopes to make young audiences in Quetta’s schools reflect on the ethnic and religious discrimination in their society – including its causes and often violent consequences – and to seek ways for improving the situation for all.

The choice of the project’s location in Quetta is not accidental. As the capital and largest city of Pakistan’s Balochistan province, bordering with Afghanistan as well as Iran, Quetta has inevitably become a location of interest to the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. In his book Pakistan – A Hard County(2011), author Anatol Lieven states this rather bluntly, ’/…/ the leadership of Afghanistan Taliban has enjoyed a measure of shelter in Pakistan (especially in northern Balochistan and the city of Quetta, where several of them are credibly reported to be based /…/.’

As a result, Quetta has in recent years witnessed multiple violent incidents, one of the most horrific of which was the bomb attack in a marketplace of Quetta’s Hazara Town neigbourhood in February 2013, killing 110 and wounding 200 people, most of them representatives of the ethnic Hazara community – a group that had already been subjected to mass killings during the past decades. Attacks like this have long-term tragic consequences – not only for victims and their loved ones, but also for the entire social fabric of the city. Today, Hazara Town is effectively a ghetto that one can enter or exit via checkpoints which on the one hand are security measures, but which also lead to further segregation and alienation between Quetta’s diverse ethnic and religious groups, not to mention the detrimental effect on human dignity and freedoms associated with such protocols.

The three-day training session in Islamabad was an attempt to not only share personal stories and reflect on the root causes of discrimination in Quetta – and Pakistan in general – but to also chart ways for improving relations between Quetta’s diverse ethnic and religious groups – Baloch, Pashtuns, Hazara, Hindus, Punjabis, Christians and others. While there are obviously no magic bullets, what give some hope is that such discussions are happening in today’s Pakistan, and that there are groups – like these 15 representatives of Quetta’s youth – who reject the status quo and who genuinely want to improve the situation for themselves and their communities. The fact that Quetta’s youth from all these different minorities are acting, singing and dancing together as a team is proof that a more tolerant and harmonious Quetta – and by extension, Pakistan – is possible. This also explains why the project has now been branded as Quetta Together.

As to Vijay, at the end of the training workshop he admitted that he has regained his confidence and is not yet giving up on his dream of becoming a great actor. It is for reasons like this that these projects are so important and need to succeed.

 

* Name changed to protect identity

Moderator’s remarks at the side event of the 16th session of UNPFII: “Crimean Tatars in 2017: Keeping the Dream Alive”

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This side event is a logical continuation of the analogous event that was held during last year’s Forum, partly with the same team – and audience members. Thank you for those who returned, and welcome to those who are with us for the 1st time. Let me begin by acknowledging organizers and supporters of this event: Mejlis of Crimean Tatar people, Estonian Institute of Human Rights, Crimean Tatar Resource Center, Ministry of Information Policy of Ukraine, Permanent Mission of Ukraine to the UN.

The goal of this side event is to review key events and developments – both negative and positive – that have affected Crimean Tatars during this past year, focussing on the human rights situation in occupied Crimea. Compared to last year, we have an even bigger and more diverse team of Crimean Tatars attending PF and this side event – in particular I welcome the presence of Crimean Tatar youth who are ready to fully integrate themselves into the work of PF.

Before I give the floor to Crimean Tatar colleagues, let me summarize the key topics discussed / conclusions reached last year – so that we would not have to repeat them. We started out with a polemic on whether Crimean Tatars are IP in the international understanding of the word and reached a broad consensus that indeed they are. Then, the discussion centered around the recent banning of Mejlis of Crimean Tatar people – representative body of Crimean Tatars – by a local Crimean court (run by occupying authorities) for supposedly engaging in “extremist” activities – ie, on whether this was a good idea and how Crimean Tatars should respond to that. Again, there was a consensus across nationalities and political loyalties of panelists that due it being a representative body of an indigenous people, it is not a good practice to ban the Mejlis – to put it mildly. At that time in April 2016, there was still a theoretical glimmer of hope that Russia’s Supreme Court might overrule this unjust and uninformed decision of the local court. Except, this did not happen. In September 2017, Russia’s Supreme Court upheld the banning of Mejlis and with this, revealed to the whole world Russia’s true face when it comes to respecting the rights of indigenous peoples, and UNDRIP which specifically in Articles 5, 18, 19 attaches central importance to the role of representative institutions in the exercise of IP’s collective rights:

Article 18: “Indigenous peoples have the right to participate in decision-making in matters which would affect their rights, through representatives chosen by themselves in accordance with their own procedures, as well as to maintain and develop their own indigenous decisionmaking institutions.”

I have publicly stated before and will continue to say that this was not only a hostile act towards Mejlis as an institution, but an attack against the entire Crimean Tatar people, effectively denying their existence as a people – indigenous or not – and to choose their own representatives through their own procedures. It is this denial of Crimean Tatars’ peoplehood that I personally find one of the most troublesome aspects of Russia’s attitudes and policies towards Crimean Tatars.

Not that this would have deterred or neutralized the politically and socially active Crimean Tatars to the slightest. Compared to the hardships of the 20th century, such as the deportation & genocide for which Russia still has not apologized, this is really a piece of cake. Mejlis continues to operate and Crimean Tatar non-violent resistance is stronger than ever. International stature of Crimean Tatars has been growing with each month, thanks to allies & partners across all continents and in major institutions such as the European Parliament and PACE. And last week this list got one important addition: UN’s  International Court of Justice in the Hague. According to its Order from April 19,  the Court indicated the following provisional measure: “With regard to the situation in Crimea, The Russian Federation must, in accordance with its obligations under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, a) Refrain from maintaining or imposing limitations on the ability of the Crimean Tatar community to conserve its representative institutions, including the Mejlis”. The message to Russia to reverse its behaviour towards Crimean Tatars and the Mejlis could not be stated more clearly.  And the timing – right before 16th session of UNPFII, could not have been better.

Mr. Mustafa Dzhemilev, widely regarded as national leader of Crimean Tatars, commented that this ruling provided strong moral boost to Crimean Tatars. Indeed, but I would go even further – it manifested to the whole world the legal as well as moral supremacy of Crimean Tatars over the Russian regime. It is this gap between Crimean Tatars’ adherence to international law & norms on the one hand, and utter disregard of it by Russia  – the occupying power of Crimea but also one of UN’s most powerful UN member States – that frames the discourse around Crimean Tatars, including today’s event.

So let’s now hear from Crimean Tatars themselves. We will hear prepared statements from 5 Crimean Tatar speakers after which there will be time to ask questions, and to have a discussion.

  • Eskender Bariiev
  • Gayana Yuksel
  • Elvir Sahirman
  • Fethi Kurtiy Sahin
  • Emine Dzheppar

Concluding remarks

Despite all the suppression and violation of their rights by occupying authorities, Crimean Tatars continue to show remarkable resilience and resistance, specifically of the non-violent kind. Unlike the occupying power who invokes mystical & mediaeval concepts like “sacrality” of Crimea for Russia’s statehood to justify its illegal occupation of Crimea and all the human rights violations resulting from it, Crimean Tatars are basing their actions on 21st century international law & norms, including UNDRIP, 10th anniversary of which we are here to celebrate, domestic Ukrainian law and just plain human decency. Which side, and which mentality will eventually win the day?

While the long-term outcome of Crimean Tatar resistance is not pre-determined, it is in the interests of entire civilized world community, including community of IPs, to do everything possible to ensure that Crimean Tatars can once and for all realize their dream of living in their homeland in dignity and freedom, and with ability to fully exercise their collective and individual human rights as indigenous people of Crimea. Whether or not Crimean Tatars will eventually be not only on the right side of international law, but right side of history, depends on all of us.

Thank you!

 

Всемирные финно-угорские конгрессы: почему они бесполезны и что с ними делать?

Выступление на Открытом финно-угорском конгрессе (16.06.2016, Лахти)

По сравнению со многими из вас, я относительно новый человек для финно-угорских кругов. Мой первый контакт с “финно-угорским миром” был в 2009 году на Финно-угорском социально-экономическом форуме в Кудымкаре (Пермский край). С тех пор я представлял Эстонию в МАФУН (2011-2013 гг.), инициировал и координировал Программу ««Культурные столицы финно-угорского мира» (2013-2015 гг.), был членом правления НПО Фенно-Угриа (2013-2015 гг.). В результате моего финно-угорской гражданской активности я был выдвинут Эстонией и был избран Экономическим и Социальным Советом (ЭКОСОС) в качестве члена Постоянного форума Организации Объединенных Наций по вопросам коренных народов (ПФКН) на текущий срок 2014-2016. В целом, эти 6 лет финно-угорской активности стали действительно поучительным, позитивным и даже меняющим жизнь опытом.

Вместе с тем, всё это время постоянно был один источник разочарования, а именно – система Всемирных финно-угорских конгрессов, под которой я подразумеваю сами Конгрессы в сочетании с Консультативным комитетом финно-угорских народов (ККФУН) – координационным органом для выполнения решений Конгресса. Мой общий вывод заключается в том, что, в лучшем случае, эта система бесполезна для финно-угорских народов. Можно даже сказать, что в итоге система Всемирных конгрессов является контрпродуктивной для финно-угорского сотрудничества и гражданского движения. Я попробую объяснить, почему это так, и что может быть сделано в этом плане.

Для того, чтобы проанализировать влияние Всемирных финно-угорских конгрессов, я задам следующие три вопроса:

  1. Насколько хорошо система выполняет свои собственные заявленные цели?
  2. Какие есть дополнительные преимущества, связанные с этим?
  3. Какой вред, если таковой имеется, Всемирные конгрессы могут нанести финно-угорским народам?

В случае, если Всемирные конгрессы выполняют свои собственные цели-задачи, имеют явные благоприятные последствия и не наносят вреда финно-угорским народам, то они имеют право на существование. Однако если, наоборот, финно-угорский мир может быть лучше и без них, то необходимо, как минимум, основательно реформировать эту систему.

Отвечает ли система Всемирных конгрессов своим собственным целям-задачам?

К счастью, цели и основные принципы Всемирного конгресса четко изложены в документе под названием: Положение о Всемирном конгрессе финно-угорских народов от 05.09.2014. (http://lahti2016.fucongress.org/en/documents/regulation-congress)

«1. Общие положения: 1.1.Всемирный конгресс финно-угорских народов (далее Конгресс) является форумом для представителей финно-угорских и самодийских народов, который не зависит от правительств и политических партий, и который в своей деятельности опирается на «Декларацию об основных принципах, целях и задачах сотрудничества финно-угорских народов мира. (Сыктывкар, 1992).

Утверждение “независимо от правительств” является фальшивым. Как мы все знаем, единственный путь проведения Всемирных конгрессов, а также финансирования деятельности Консультативного комитета – это финансовая поддержка со стороны правительств. Правительства принимающей страны обеспечивают основное финансирование Всемирных конгрессов, в то время как правительства Эстонии, Финляндии и Венгрии финансируют работу Консультативного комитета (ККФУН). Хотя само по себе это не означает, что обсуждение вопросов на Всемирных конгрессах так или иначе идёт в пользу преимущественно этих стран, но это означает, что само существование Всемирных конгрессов во многом зависит от правительств.

Более важно то, что, особенно в России, власти всех уровней оказывают влияние на состав делегаций финно-угорских народов России, особенно в этом году, что делает зависимым от правительств, по крайней мере, состав делегатов, а тем самым и содержание дискуссий. Подробнее об этом позже. Давайте сейчас посмотрим на формальные цели Всемирных конгрессов.

2. Цели Конгресса:

2.1. Содействие развитию сотрудничества между финно-угорскими народами, а также между финно-угорскими и другими народами в области культуры, науки, образования, информации, права, экологии, социально-политических вопросов и экономики;

2.2. Содействие в развитии языков и культур, а также этнической идентичности финно-угорских народов;

2.3. Содействие в реализации международных норм в области прав человека, прав народов на самоопределение и прав коренных народов “.

По п. 2.1: Есть множество хороших примеров сотрудничества во многих этих областях, особенно в области культуры и науки (в том числе в финно-угроведении, этнологии и т.д.), однако почти все это не имеет никакого отношения к Всемирным конгрессам. В определённой степени сотрудничество между финно-угорскими народами происходит несмотря на, а не благодаря Всемирным конгрессам. За эти последние 6 лет я не слышал ни об одной инициативе Всемирного конгресса или Консультативного комитета, которая бы “содействовала дальнейшему сотрудничеству между финно-угорскими народами” в этих областях. Вместе с тем я увидел примеры, как проваливалось такое “содействие дальнейшему сотрудничеству». Не понаслышке, а «из первых рук», своими глазами я видел, как новые инициативы «взлетали», развивались и становились устойчивыми без всякой связи и поддержки со стороны Всемирных конгрессов – будь то Фестиваль финно-угорских фильмов, семинары финно-угорской Википедии или Культурные столицы финно-угорского мира.

Позвольте мне начать с примера Программы «Культурные столицы финно-угорского мира». На последнем Всемирном конгрессе в Шиофоке (Siófok) я выступал от имени МАФУН об этой программе, которая тогда находилась в стадии разработки, и в ходе работы Секции культуры нам удалось внести её в качестве рекомендации в итоговый документ Секции культуры. Правление МАФУН предполагало, то это будет основой для сотрудничества между МАФУН и ККФУН, с тем чтобы расширить базу поддержки этой программы. Однако вначале координаторы ККФУН не нашли время в своем плотном графике, чтобы обсудить это. Позднее, после многочисленных усилий со стороны руководства МАФУН, ККФУН на своём заседании формально одобрил программу и согласился создать совместную рабочую группу. Но после этого всё сломалось. После того, как МАФУН отправил ККФУН письмо с конкретными предложениями о том, как работать вместе, не пришло никакого ответа. Не было ответа и на второе, и на третье письмо. Тогда, в конце концов, МАФУН отказался от координации своей деятельности с ККФУН и сделал все в одиночку. В настоящее время это устойчивая финно-угорская межкультурная программа, которую даже Специальный докладчик ООН по вопросу о правах коренных народов, г-жа Виктория Таули-Корпуз (Ms. Victoria Tauli-Corpuz), назвала хорошим примером защиты и продвижения культурных прав коренных народов в мире. С другой стороны, время, которое МАФУН и я потратили на привлечение ККФУН, просто потеряно впустую. А тот факт, что в одном из документов секции Конгресса была упомянута эта инициатива, уже не имеет значения, так как это ничего не изменило.

По п.п. 2.2. и 2.3.: Именно они вызывают наибольшую критику системы Всемирных конгрессов. В принципе, оба они являются важными целями. Любые виды моральной, политической и практической помощи со стороны международного финно-угорского движения конкретным финно-угорским народам при решении стоящих перед ними конкретных вопросов должны быть в верхней части повестки дня финно-угорского движения. Именно здесь должна быть общая финно-угорская солидарность. Однако, это именно та область, где система Всемирных конгрессов проваливается, обманывает ожидания наиболее сильно.

Очевидно, что “помощь” в этом контексте не может означать только мероприятия, которые проводятся в ходе Всемирных конгрессов или резолюции конгресса в качестве официальных результатов-«продуктов» Всемирных конгрессов. Выступления, дискуссии и резолюции сами по себе никому помочь не могут. Поэтому единственной помощью, которую система Всемирных конгрессов в теории может оказать, является советы и консультации ККФУН по актуальным проблемам-вопросам отдельным финно-угорским народам, их организациям и активистам между Всемирными конгрессами, но в соответствии с решениями-резолюциями Всемирного конгресса. Но даже этого не происходит. За прошедшие годы я снова и снова слышал о тех случаях, когда активисты или организации, наивно думая, что KKFUN может действительно оказать хоть какую-то поддержку, на деле не получили никакой помощи. Их либо оставляли без ответов на их письма (наиболее типичный сценарий), или им неофициально говорили, что ККФУН в действительности не может влиять на что-либо, и что народы должны сами решать свои вопросы-проблемы. Тот факт, что ККФУН принимает решения на основе консенсуса, также не помогает ему выполнять свою совещательно-консультативную роль.

Позвольте мне показать несколько конкретных примеров того, как ККФУН не оправдал надежд – не смог помочь финно-угорским народам:

  • Закрытие марийской школы в Васькино (https://mariuver.com/tag/васькинская-школа/ ). Это была школа с этнокультурным компонентом в селе Васькино Пермского края, в котором имеется этническое марийское население. После того, как местные власти решили закрыть школу, жители села начали активную кампанию: в средствах массовой информации, с органами власти и т.д. Они несколько раз обращались в ККФУН с просьбами о помощи, консультациями, однако ККФУН хранил молчание.
  • Другой пример из Пермского края. Одним из наиболее организованных и наиболее эффективных финно-угорских инициатив прошлых лет были финно-угорские социально-экономические форумы в Пермском крае. В то время как организаторы приглашали членов ККФУН принять участие в качестве экспертов, просили ККФУН направить форумам официальные приветствия, ККФУН никогда даже не ответил. А когда местные власти эффективно отменили 3-й Международный форум в 2011 году, отключив отопление в единственном отеле в Кудымкаре, организаторы обратились в ККФУН за поддержкой, но не получили никакого ответа.
  • И третий пример – от ижор. В 2014 году ижорские и водские общины начали кампанию протеста против планируемого строительства карбамидного завода около порта Усть-Луга. Одно из первых писем было адресовано ККФУН 20 января 2014 года от имени ижорской организации “Шойкула” и Водского культурного общества. Они попросили сотрудничество и конкретную помощь. Тем не менее, они так и не получили никакого официального ответа на их письмо, не говоря уже о какой-либо помощи. Один из членов Консультативного комитета, г-н Петр Тултаев, даже умудрился посмеяться над ижорами и водью, говоря, что он на самом деле не понимает их озабоченность, и что мордва, с другой стороны, была бы счастлива, если такой карбамидный завод был бы построен на их землях. В любой другой части мира такая позиция рассматривалось бы как неприемлимо оскорбительно-возмутительной, особенно если бы нечто подобное заявил какой-нибудь защитник коренных народов или прав национальных меньшинств. А в “финно-угорском мире» никто даже не заметил, не говоря уже о протестах.

Это всего лишь несколько примеров, но все они являются частью общей картины поведения ККФУН – который на деле не оказывает помощи, не оказывает поддержку тем, кто её просит. Когнитивный диссонанс между заявленными целями Всемирных конгрессов и реальностью ошеломляют.

Кроме того, я считаю, это особенно странно читать о приверженности Всемирного конгресса к праву на самоопределение народов, в свете следующей темы – формирование делегаций.

“3. Делегаты, участники Конгресса

3.1. Делегаты съезда свободно выбираются народами, механизм формирования делегации не регламентируется.

3.2. – / … / Процедуры формирования делегаций должны быть прозрачными и принимать во внимание законодательство указанной страны в отношении НКО / … /

Что касается “свободно выбираются народами”. Что значит “свободно”? Для меня это означает «свободный от вмешательства со стороны властей (национальных, региональных, местных)». Но тот, кто следит за событиями в прошлом, и, особенно, за этим Всемирным конгрессом знает, что это просто не соответствует действительности, по крайней мере, когда речь идет о России.

В то время как в прошлом это вмешательство было сфокусировано на формировании состава делегаций, в этом году дополнительный аспект является их размер. Были скоординированы усилия по сокращению размеров делегаций до абсолютного минимума. В целом эта стратегия сработала:

  • удмурты: от разрешённых 20 – до 5
  • мари: от разрешённых 20 – до 7
  • мордва: от разрешённых 20 – до 6
  • карелы: от разрешённых 20 – до 13
  • коми-пермяки: от разрешённых 20 – до 1 (!!!)

Почему я так уверен, что это была скоординированное вмешательство государства, а не свободное и добровольное решение народов (их представительных органов)? Ключом для понимания этого является то, какую “новую” роль самостоятельна приняла на себя Ассоциация финно-угорских народов Российской Федерации (АФУН РФ) в планировании текущего Всемирного конгресса. Несмотря на то, что АФУН РФ совсем недавно получила статус ЭКОСОС НКО, она не представляет гражданское общество, но является инструментом российского правительства, в частности, Федерального агентства по делам национальностей. Членство АФУН не имеет демократического мандата какого-либо народа. Самое главное, что у АФУН РФ формально нет какой-либо роли в процессах системы Всемирный конгресс/Консультативный комитет, судя по документации последних. Тем не менее, АФУН РФ, казалось бы из ниоткуда возникла в 2015 году с обращением к российским организациям финно-угорских народов избегать прямого контакта с Консультативным комитетом по вопросам подготовки Всемирного конгресса и работать только через АФУН РФ. В то же время АФУН РФ начал делать свои собственные запросы Консультативному комитету, чтобы формировать повестку дня Всемирного конгресса, добавив такие темы, как “борьба с угрозой фашизма в некоторых странах финно-угорских народов”. Существует письменное свидетельство всего этого.

Кто-нибудь на самом деле думает, что подобные идеи приходят от самих финно-угорских народов, по их собственной инициативе? Ничем, кроме как указаниями со стороны властей, нельзя объяснить такого рода поведение отдельных побочных представителей финно-угорских народов, так использующих право участия в этих процессах.  Другим примером агрессивного поведения и вмешательства АФУН РФ в этот процесс является тот факт, что, например, удмуртская делегация каким-то образом должна была быть сформирована только из числа представителей АФУН РФ, что действительно является очень странным требованием. В результате, АФУН РФ фактически узурпировала планирование конгресса в этом году в некоторых, если не в большинстве финно-угорских регионов России и, таким образом, был обеспечен значительный контроль государства над составом делегаций. Результатом этого является Конгресс с нейтрализованными делегациями нескольких финно-угорских народов России, которые состоят из делегатов, которые никогда не будут публично выражать какую-либо критическую мысль, и, возможно, будут вообще без единой мысли на этом съезде.

Точную степень этого вмешательства трудно измерить, но лично я убежден, что, по крайней мере делегации удмуртов, мордовских народов, карелов, марийцев и коми-пермяков – как с точки зрения размера, так и состава – были тщательно соркестрированы местными властями. Это несколько самых крупных финно-угорских народов России. Единственным возможным исключением из этого правила является делегация Коми, которая, по крайней мере, не была значительно уменьшена в размерах.

Таким образом, положение, что делегации “свободно избираются народами” абсурдно, почти полностью противоположно реальности. Тем не менее, все эти делегации тепло приветствовались здесь в Лахти в Сибелиус-Тало, рассматриваются в качестве законных представителей своих народов. Они едят, пьют и наслаждаются великолепной культурной программой, разработанной хозяевами за счет государства Финляндии. В то же время многие из лучших и наиболее эффективных финно-угров, некоторых из которых я имею честь знать, никогда не имели возможность стать членами делегаций своих народов. Моя финно-угорская солидарность – с ними, вот почему я не принимаю участие в этом 7-м Всемирном конгрессе.

Основываясь на этом, должен спросить, в какой степени Всемирный конгресс и Консультативный комитет действительно уважает принцип самоопределения народов, как указано в п. 2.3 «Целей», так как нет никакого самоопределения в формировании этих делегаций.

По п. 3.2. Формирование делегаций не является прозрачным, и это не только российская проблема. Это также стало проблемой в Венгрии, где некоторые из наиболее эффективных финно-угорских активистов не получили четких ответов, почему они не могут присоединиться к делегации своего народа, и в результате они остались дома.

В заключение по этому вопросу: система Всемирных конгрессов проваливается, обманывает ожидания как в своих общих положениях, целях (во всех 3 из них), так и в формировании делегаций. Она не выполняет свои собственные цели.

Сторонние выгоды от Всемирного конгресса?

Следующий вопрос – есть ли какие-то дополнительные преимущества в системе Всемирных конгрессов, которые делают целесообразным её поддержание.

Общение/Нетворкинг – это, наверное, главная практическая польза от Всемирных конгрессов. Но может ли это событие быть оправдано только этим? Не убежден, так как есть также много и других мест для таких связей, хотя, возможно, не так много из финансируемых государством.

Символизм –  Аргумент гласит, что символически Всемирный конгресс является важным событием, демонстрацией солидарности/единства финно-угорских народов и мира. Эта символизм усиливается участием глав государств, министров, депутатов. Однако символы представляют ценность, если они должным образом представляют собой лежащую в основе состояние «истины». В нашем случае, Всемирные конгрессы больше похожи на искажение реальности. Они создают иллюзию единства/солидарности, когда на самом деле делегаты глубоко разделены с точки зрения ценностей и идеологий. Например, я не уверен, что делегаты согласятся даже на фундаментальное понятие самоопределения финно-угорских народов (как указано в п. 2.3 «Целей»), на равенство финно-угорских народов между собой и со всеми народами мира, и на то, что народы не должны получать ордера от органов власти. Тем не менее, без такой системы общих ценностей мало что может быть достигнуто такими конгрессами. Не стоит давать символ иллюзии.

Традиция – есть аргумент, что это традиция, восходящая еще до Второй мировой войны (конгрессы финно-угорской культуры), но стоит ли сохранить эту традицию, и стоит ли тратить на неё деньги налогоплательщиков? Потому что давайте не будем забывать, что в качестве чисто гражданской, самофинансируемой инициативы она не будет жизнеспособной.

Вредны ли Всемирные Конгрессы финно-угорским народам?

Заключительный тест: ДАЖЕ если Всемирный конгресс в реальности не достигает своих целей, и ДАЖЕ если есть немного добавленной стоимости/сопутствующих эффектов, есть что-нибудь вредное/негативное/проблематичное у Всемирных конгрессов (для финно-угорских народов)? Потому что если нет, то почему бы не оставить   происходящее на автопилоте, в конце концов, не так уж и дорого всё это поддерживать?

На первый взгляд ответ будет “нет”. Выглядит как довольно безвредная система. Не теряются жизни, не вызывает никаких физических страданий. Но если заглянуть поглубже, можно обнаружить несколько негативных “подводных течений”.

  • ЧУВСТВО НЕСПРАВЕДЛИВОСТИ. Вмешательство властей создает ощущение несправедливости среди законных активистов, которые заслуживают того, чтобы быть на конгрессе, они хотели бы, но не могут представлять интересы своего народа. Здесь много недовольства, однако часто скрытого, так как люди боятся говорить публично.
  • НЕДЕМОКРАТИЧЕСКОЕ РУКОВОДСТВО. Демократия – это не только власть большинства. Она также включает в себя некоторые виды практики, которые приняты в качестве демократических, один из таких – ограничение сроков. Тем не менее, председатель ККФУН г-н Валерий Марков в настоящее время завершает свой 6-й срок. Это можно квалифицировать как демократия в Зимбабве, но не в финно-угорском мире.
  • ЭРОЗИЯ ДОСТОИНСТВА. Государственное регулирование формирования делегаций народов является нарушением основного права этих народов на самоопределение, если они действительно считают себя самостоятельными народами. Всемирные конгрессы являются напоминанием о том, что они не являются субъектами с коллективными правами, но, наоборот, объектами и инструментами государственной политики.

На основании вышесказанного, я делаю вывод, что система Всемирных конгрессах серьезно нарушена. Это приводит к следующему вопросу: может ли она ещё быть восстановлена или она уже вне точки спасения? Объективный ответ на этот вопрос, может, и невозможен, но моя личная точка зрения на сегодняшний день такова: система Всемирных конгрессов не подлежит ремонту. Причина в том, что некоторых из наиболее фундаментальных элементов этой системы просто нереально достичь. Это включает:

  • Требование представительности финно-угорских народов на Всемирных конгрессах – не представляется возможным из-за вмешательства государства и из-за дополнительных социально-экономических факторов.
  • Консультативный комитет как реакционный, внутренне-ориентированный орган не способен мобилизовать себя для решения конкретных проблем конкретных финно-угорских народов
  • Маргинализация Всемирного конгресса, его уход в сторону от реальных и позитивных изменений и инициатив финно-угорского мира – всё это зашло слишком далеко.

В результате, на мой взгляд, Всемирные конгрессы следует прекратить или, по крайней мере, приостановить на некоторое время. Нет необходимости проводить 8-й Всемирный конгресс финно-угорских народов в Тарту или где-нибудь еще. Но что может занять их место? Что было бы конструктивной альтернативой?

Я вижу большой потенциал в Открытом финно-угорского форуме заинтересованных лиц – представляющих себя и, возможно, свои организации. Это позволит избавиться от ложного требования представительности, связанного со Всемирными конгрессами. Такие форумы не будут иметь отвлечённые возвышенные цели, ни пафоса, ни президентов или министров, ни квоты для участников. Они могут быть именно теми центрами, где можно будет не только делиться опытом, обсуждать, устраивать дебаты, но и прославлять разнообразные финно-угорские культуры и великую гуманистическую идею финно-угорской идентичности и солидарности. Этим форумам следует стремиться стать самофинансируемыми, однако финансовая поддержка со стороны принимающих государств, регионов или городов будут приветствоваться. Такие форумы не будут принимать каких-либо официальных решений, которые впоследствии так или иначе не будут реализованы. Вместо того, чтобы проводиться каждые 4 года, они могут проходить ежегодно, создавая тем самым еще более прочные связи между участниками, а также реагируя на текущие события как на локальном, так и на глобальном уровнях.

Спасибо!

Оливер Лооде

Перевёл Sergey Kalyagin.

Оригинал: https://oliverloode.wordpress.com/2016/06/17/finno-ugric-world-congresses-why-they-are-useless-and-what-to-do-about-them/

 

Finno-Ugric World Congresses: why they are useless and what to do about them?

Statement at the Open Finno-Ugric Congress (16.6.2016, Lahti)

Compared to many of you, I am relatively new to Finno-Ugric circles. My first contact with the “Finno-Ugric world” was in 2009 at the Finno-Ugric Socio-Economic Forum in Kudymkar (Perm Region). Since then, I have represented Estonia in the Youth Association of Finno-Ugric Peoples (MAFUN) (2011-13), initiated and coordinated the Finno-Ugric Capitals of Culture programme (2013-2015), and served as Board member of Estonia’s Fenno-Ugria NGO (2013-2015). As a direct result of my Finno-Ugric civic activism I was nominated by Estonia and elected by the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) as Member of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) for the current term of 2014-2016. Overall, these 6 years of Finno-Ugric activism have been a truly eye-opening, positive and even life-changing experience.

However, all along there has been one constant source of disappointment – namely, the system of Finno-Ugric World Congresses by which I mean the actual Congresses in combination with the Consultative Committee of Finno-Ugric Peoples – a co-ordinating body for securing the implementation of decisions by the Congress. My general conclusion is that, at best, this system is useless for Finno-Ugric peoples. It may even be that on balance, the system of World Congresses is counterproductive for Finno-Ugric collaboration and civic movement. I will attempt to explain why this is the case and what can be done about it.

To analyse the impact of Finno-Ugric World Congresses, I will ask the following three questions:

  1. How well is the system meeting its own stated objectives?
  2. What additional benefits are associated with it?
  3. What, if any, harm do World Congresses cause for Finno-Ugric peoples?

To the extent that World Congresses meet their own objectives, have notable side benefits and do not cause harm for Finno-Ugric peoples, they are entitled to exist. If, however, the opposite is true, the Finno-Ugric world may be better off without them or should, at a minimum, thoroughly reform this system.

Does the World Congress system meet its own objectives?  

Thankfully, the objectives and key principles of the World Congress are clearly stated in the document called: Regulations of the World Congress of Finno-Ugric Peoples, updated on 5.9.2014.   (http://lahti2016.fucongress.org/en/documents/regulation-congress)

“1. General provisions:  1.1.The World Congress of Finno-Ugric Peoples (hereinafter: the Congress) is a forum for the representatives of the Finno-Ugric and the Samoyed peoples, which does not depend on governments and political parties and which in its activities relies on the Declaration of the basic co-operation principles, goals and tasks of the Finno-Ugric Peoples of the world. (Syktyvkar, 1992). “

“Not depending on governments” is a false statement. The only way how World Congresses – as we know them – can be held, and activities of the Consultative Committee financed, is with the financial support from governments. Host governments provide principal financing for World Congresses while governments of Estonia, Finland and Hungary have been funding the work of the Consultative Committee (KKFUN). While this in itself does not mean that the discussions of World Congresses are somehow biased in favour of these states, it does mean that the existence of World Congresses very much depends on governments.

More importantly, in particular in Russia authorities of all levels are influencing the composition of Russia’s Finno-Ugric peoples’ delegations, and this year particularly so, making the composition of delegates, and thereby also the content of the discussions dependent on governments.  More about that later.  Let’s now look at the formal aims of World Congresses.

“2. Aims of the Congress:

2.1. Furthering of co-operation between Finno-Ugric peoples, as well as between Finno-Ugric and other peoples in the field of culture, science, education, information, law, ecology, social and political matters and economy;

2.2. Assistance in the development of languages and cultures, as well as the ethnic identity of Finno-Ugric peoples;

2.3. Assistance in the implementation of international norms in the field of human rights, the rights of peoples to self-determination and the rights of indigenous peoples.”

On Aim 2.1: There is a good amount of collaboration in many of these fields, especially culture and science (including Finno-Ugric studies, ethnology, etc.), however almost all of it is unrelated to the World Congresses. To the extent such cooperation between Finno-Ugric peoples is happening, is despite, not due to World Congresses. In these past 6 years I have not heard of a single initiative of the World Congress or Consultative Committee that is “furthering co-operation between Finno-Ugric peoples” in these fields. However, I have seen examples when they fail to further such co-operation.  And I have seen first-hand how new initiatives take off, evolve and become sustainable without any connection to, and support from the World Congresses – whether this is Finno-Ugric Film Festival, Finno-Ugric Wikipedia seminars or Finno-Ugric Capitals of Culture.

Let me start with an example of the Finno-Ugric Capitals of Culture programme. At the last World Congress in Siofok I spoke on behalf of MAFUN about this programme, which was still in development phase,  during the Culture section, and managed to get this as a recommendation into the outcome document of Culture Section. MAFUN Board thought that this would be a basis for collaboration between MAFUN and KKFUN, in order to broaden support base for this programme. However at first KKFUN Coordinators did not find time in their busy schedule to discuss this. Later, after multiple efforts by MAFUN leaders, KKFUN formally endorsed the programme at their meeting and agreed on setting up a joint working group. But this is when it all broke down. After MAFUN sent to KKFUN a letter with concrete suggestions on how to work together, there was no response. Nor was there a response to the second and third repeat letters. So, eventually MAFUN gave up on coordinating its activities with KKFUN and did everything alone. Today, this is a sustainable Finno-Ugric intercultural programme that even the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Ms. Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, has referred to as a good example of promoting cultural rights of world’s indigenous peoples. On the other hand, the time that myself and MAFUN spent on engaging KKFUN was simply wasted time. Nor has the fact that one of Congress section documents mentioned this initiative made any difference.

On Aims 2.2. and 2.3.: This is where I am at my most critical towards the World Congress system. In principle, both of them are important objectives. Any kind of moral, political and practical assistance by the international Finno-Ugric movement to specific Finno-Ugric peoples facing specific issues should be at the top of the Finno-Ugric movement’s agenda. This is what Finno-Ugric solidarity should be all about. However, this is the area where the World Congress system is failing most miserably.

It is obvious that “assistance” in this context cannot mean just activities conducted during the World Congresses, or Congress resolutions as formal outputs of World Congresses. Speeches, discussions and resolutions by themselves do not / cannot assist anybody. So the only assistance that the World Congress system in theory could provide is by actual advice, and consultations of KKFUN to individual Finno-Ugric peoples, their organizations and activists, in between World Congresses, however consistent with the decisions of World Congress resolutions. But even this is not happening. During these past years I have heard over and over about cases when those activists or organizations that are naïve enough to think that KKFUN can actually provide some support, have received no assistance.  They have either been left without answers to their letters (most typical scenario), or have been informally told that KKFUN cannot in reality influence anything, and that peoples must themselves resolve their issues. The fact that KKFUN operates based on a consensus is not helping it to perform this advisory/consultative role either.

Let me offer a few concrete examples how KKFUN has failed to assist Finno-Ugric peoples:

  • Closing of Mari school in Vaskino. This was a school with an ethno-cultural component in the Vaskino village of Perm region which has an ethnic Mari population. After authorities decided to close down the school, residents of the village began an activism campaign: in media, with authorities, etc. They approached KKFUN several times with requests for a response, consultation, however KKFUN kept silent.
  • Another example from Perm Region. One of the best-organized and most effective Finno-Ugric initiatives of past years were Finno-Ugric Socio-Economic Forums in Perm Region. While organizers were inviting members of KKFUN to participate as experts or just send official greetings, KKFUN never even replied. When local authorities effectively cancelled the 3rd Forum in 2011 by turning off heating from the only hotel in Kudymkar, organizers turned to KKFUN for support, but received no response.
  • And a third example from Izhorians. In 2014, Izhorian and Votic communities began a campaign to protest against the planned construction of carbamide plant around the Ust Luga port and on their traditional lands. One of their first letters was addressed to KKFUN on January 20, 2014, on behalf of Izhorian organization “Shoikula” and Votic Cultural Society. They specifically requested co-operation and assistance. However, they never received an official reply to their letter, let alone assistance. One of the members of the Consultative Committee, Mr. Petr Tultaev, even managed to ridicule Izhorians and Votes by saying that he really does not understand their concerns, and that Mordovians, on the other hand, would be happy if such carbamide plant would be built on their lands. Anywhere else in the world this kind of attitude would be seen as outrageous if stated by a supposed advocate of indigenous peoples’ rights. In the “Finno-Ugric world” nobody even notices, let alone protests.

These are just a few examples but they are part of a general pattern of behaviour of KKFUN – which is to not provide assistance, not to provide support to those who request it. The cognitive dissonance between the stated aims of World Congresses and the reality is mind-boggling.

Also, I find it especially strange to read about World Congress’s commitment to the right of self-determination of peoples, in the light of the next topic, formation of delegations.

“3. Delegates, participants of the Congress

3.1. The delegates of the Congress are freely selected by the peoples, the mechanism for forming of a delegation is not regulated.

3.2. – /…/ The procedures for forming delegations must be transparent and take into consideration the legislation in force of the said country concerning NGOs /…/

On “freely selected by the peoples”.  What does “freely” mean here? To me, this means, free from interference by authorities (national, regional, local). But whoever has followed the events with past, and in particular this World Congress knows that this is simply not true, at least when it comes to Russia.

While in the past this interference has focused on shaping the composition of delegations, this year an additional dimension is their size. There has been a coordinated effort to reduce sizes of delegations to absolute minimum. Overall this strategy has worked:

  • Udmurts: from allowed 20 to 5
  • Maris: from allowed 20 to 7
  • Mordovians: from allowed 20 to 6
  • Karelians: from allowed 20 to 13
  • Komi-Permyak: from allowed 20 to 1

Why am I so certain that this has been a coordinated governmental interference rather than free and voluntary decision of peoples (their representative bodies)? Key to understanding this is the self-adopted “new” role of the Association of Finno-Ugric Peoples of the Russian Federation (AFUN RF) in the planning of the current World Congress. Despite its recently obtained ECOSOC NGO status, AFUN RF does not represent the civil society, but is an instrument of the Russian government, in particular the Federal Agency of Ethnic Affairs.  Membership of AFUN RF has no democratic mandate of the people. Most importantly, AFUN RF has no formal role in the World Congress / Consultative Committee processes according to their documentation.  However, seemingly out of nowhere AFUN RF emerged in 2015 with requests to Russia’s Finno-Ugric peoples’ organizations to avoid direct contact with the Consultative Committee concerning World Congress preparations, and to work only through AFUN RF. At the same time, AFUN RF began making its own requests to the Consultative Committee to shape the agenda of the World Congress by adding topics like “fighting the growing threat of Fascism in some Finno-Ugric countries”. There is written evidence of all of this.

Does anybody really think that ideas like this come from Finno-Ugric peoples themselves, at their own initiative? Nothing but instructions from authorities can explain this kind of behaviour of sidelining individual Finno-Ugric peoples from a process that they are entitled to participate in. Another example of AFUN RF’s aggressive behaviour and meddling in the process is the fact that, for instance, Udmurtian delegation somehow had to be formed from among representatives of AFUN RF, a very strange requirement indeed.  As a result, AFUN RF has effectively usurped the planning of this year’s congress in several if not most of Russia’s Finno-Ugric regions and by doing so, ensured significant government control over the composition of delegations. The result of this is a Congress with neutralized delegations of several Russia’s Finno-Ugric peoples that are composed of delegates who will not publicly express a single critical thought, and maybe no thought at all, at this Congress.

Precise extent of this interference is difficult to measure but personally am convinced that, at the very least delegations of Udmurts, Mordovian peoples, Karelians, Maris and Komi-Permyaks – both in terms of the size and composition – were carefully orchestrated by authorities. These are some of the largest Russia’s Finno Ugric peoples.  The only possible exception to this pattern is Komi delegation which at least was not significantly reduced in size.

Therefore, the notion of delegations being “freely selected by peoples” is absurd, almost an antithesis of the reality. Yet all these delegations are warmly welcomed here in Lahti at Sibelius-Talo, being treated as legitimate representatives of their peoples. They eat, drink and enjoy great cultural programme designed by hosts at the expense of the State of Finland. At the same time many of the best and most effective Finno-Ugric activists, some of whom I have the privilege to know, never had a chance to become members of their peoples’ delegations. My Finno-Ugric solidarity is with them and this is why I am not attending this 7th World Congress.

Based on this one has to ask to what extent the World Congress and Consultative Committee really respects the principle of self-determination of peoples, as stated in Goals 2.3, as there is nothing self-determined in the formation of these delegations.

On 3.2. Nor is the formation of delegations transparent, and this is not just a Russian problem. This has also been an issue in Hungary where some of the most effective Finno-Ugric activists did not receive clear answers why they could not join their people’s delegations and as a result stayed at home.

To conclude on this question, World Congress system is failing in both its general provisions, aims (all 3 of them) as well as in the formation of delegations. It is not meeting its own objectives.

Side benefits of the World Congress?

The next question is whether there are some additional benefits to the World Congress system that make it worthwhile to maintain.

Socializing / Networking  – This is probably the main practical benefit of World Congresses. But can an event be justified by this alone? Not convinced, as there are also many other venues for networking, even though perhaps not so many financed by the state.

Symbolism – The argument goes that symbolically, World Congress is an important event, a show of solidarity/unity of Finno Ugric peoples and world. This symbolism is strengthened by the participation of heads of state, ministers, MPs.  However, symbols are valuable if they adequately represent an underlying “true” state.  In our case, World Congresses are more like misrepresenting the reality. They create an illusion of unity/solidarity when in fact delegates are deeply divided in terms of values and ideologies. For example, I am not certain that delegates would agree even on the fundamental notion of self-determination of Finno-Ugric peoples (as stated in objectives 2.3 of the Regulations document), equality of Finno-Ugric peoples between each other and to all peoples of the world, and that peoples should not take orders from governments. However, without such shared value system there is little that can be achieved with such congresses. A symbol of an illusion is not worth giving.

Tradition –   there is an argument that this is an important tradition, going back even before World War 2 (Finno Ugric cultural congresses) but is this a tradition worth preserving and is it worthwhile taxpayer money spent on it? Because let s not forget that as a purely civic, self-funded initiative this would not be viable.

Are World Congresses harmful for Finno-Ugric peoples?

Final test: EVEN if the World Congress does not really meet its objectives, and EVEN if there is little value added / spillover effects, is there anything harmful/negative/problematic about World Congresses (for Finno-Ugric peoples)? Because if not, then why not keep it going on an auto-pilot, after all they not THAT expensive to maintain?

On the surface the answer would be “no”. It appears as a rather harmless system. No lives lost, no physical suffering caused. But if one digs deeper, several negative “undercurrents” can be identified.

  • SENSE OF INJUSTICE. Interference of authorities creates a sense of injustice among legitimate activists who deserve to, would like to but are unable to represent their people. Lots of discontent out there, however often hidden, because affected people are afraid to speak out publicly.
  • UNDEMOCRATIC GOVERNANCE. Democracy is not only rule of the majority. This also includes certain practices that are accepted as democratic, one such being term limits. However, Chair of KKFUN Mr. Valery Markov is currently completing his 6th term. This could qualify as democracy in Zimbabwe but not in the Finno-Ugric world.
  • EROSION OF DIGNITY. Government control of the formation of peoples’ delegations is a violation of the fundamental right to self-determination of these peoples, to the extent that they indeed identify as distinct peoples. World Congresses are a reminder that they are not subjects with collective rights, but instead objects and instruments of government policies.

Based on above, I conclude that the system of World Congresses is seriously broken. This leads to the next question: can it still be repaired or is it beyond rescue? An objective answer to this may not be possible, but my personal view today is that the World Congress system is beyond repair. The reason being that some of the most fundamental elements of this system are simply not realistic to attain. This includes:

  • The claim of representativeness of Finno-Ugric peoples at World Congresses – not feasible because of government interference and additional socio-economic factors.
  • Consultative Committee as a reactionary, inwardly-oriented body that has not been able to mobilize itself to solve specific problems of specific Finno Ugric peoples
  • Marginalization of the World Congress from real and positive developments and initiatives of the Finno-Ugric world has gone too far.

As a result, in my view World Congresses as we know them should be stopped or at least suspended for some time. There is no need to hold an 8th World Congress of Finno-Ugric peoples in Tartu, or anywhere else. But what could take their place? What would a constructive alternative?

I see more potential in an open Finno-Ugric forum of concerned individuals – representing themselves and perhaps their organizations. This would allow to get rid of the false claim of representativeness associated with the World Congresses. Such forums would have no lofty goals, no pathos, no presidents or ministers, no quotas for participants. These could be just venues to share, discuss, debate, but also to celebrate the diverse Finno-Ugric cultures and the great humanistic idea of Finno-Ugric identity and solidarity. These forums should aim to become self-financing, however financial support from host states, regions or cities would be welcome.  Such forums would not adopt any formal resolutions that are anyway not followed through / implemented. Instead of every 4 years, they could take place annually, thus creating even stronger bonds between participants, and reacting to current events on both local and global levels.

Thank you!

Oliver Loode

Crimea’s Supreme Court decision banning Mejlis on grounds of extremism marks new low in Russia’s treatment of indigenous peoples

Today’s decision of Crimea’s Supreme Court to ban the Crimean Tatar Mejlis on grounds of extremism marks a new low in Russia’s treatment of indigenous peoples worldwide, and merits the strongest condemnation from the international community, including the UN system, states and indigenous peoples’ organizations.

The key to understanding the severity of the situation is the fact that the Crimean Tatar Mejlis is not just another NGO, but a representative institution of Crimean Tatar people who self-identify as indigenous people of Crimea, and who have been acknowledged as such by their home country Ukraine and a growing number of states and institutions around the world, including the European Parliament.

As such, the decision to ban the Mejlis directly violates Article 5 of the UN Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), according to which

„Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and strengthen their distinct political, legal, economic, social and cultural institutions, while retaining their right to participate fully, if they so choose, in the political, economic, social and cultural life of the State.“,

as well as Article 19:

„States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free, prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that may affect them.“

By banning a representative institution of an indigenous people of Crimea, a Ukrainian territory under de facto control of Russian authorities, Russia has attacked not only the Mejlis, but Crimean Tatar people as a whole. As such, Russia has placed itself outside the global consensus on the minimum standards for protecting the rights of indigenous peoples, as reflected in UNDRIP and related documents, such as the Outcome Document of the 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples.

In addition, Russia has engaged in deeply immoral behaviour by banning a key institution of a people who in 1944 were collectively deported and subjected to a genocide by the Soviet Union, the legal predecessor of the Russian Federation. Instead of banning the Mejlis, the Russian Federation should apologize for the crimes committed by its predecessor and seek historic reconciliation with Crimean Tatar people.

In the meantime, the decision of Russian authorities to ban the Crimean Tatar Mejlis erodes the legitimacy of the Russian Federation to speak up in matters concerning the rights of indigenous peoples both internationally and domestically. As a Member of UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues I call on the international community to amplify this message through all available channels, and consistently until the underlying issue has been resolved.

Killing an Indigenous NGO, Softly – A Tale from Putin’s Russia

In his opening statement of the 30th Session of the Human Rights Council on September 14, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, made the following observation:

“I am also dismayed by the stigmatisation of foreign-funded NGOs in the Russian Federation, where the 2012 law has resulted in marginalising and discrediting organisations that contribute to the public good”.

In question here is the Russian foreign agent law as a result of which 92 Russia’s NGOs have been black-listed as foreign agents. Of those, one in particular stands out as an example of unjust and absurd application of the infamous law. This NGO is Nuori Karjala (Young Karelia), an organization devoted to the indigenous peoples of the Republic of Karelia – a federal subject of the Russian Federation.

Since 1993, Young Karelia has tirelessly worked to protect and promote the languages and cultural heritage of Karelia’s Finno-Ugric indigenous peoples, in particular Karelians and Vepsians. Throughout two decades, Young Karelia has held a countless number of cultural events and seminars, published books, periodicals and music in Karelian and Vepsian languages and much more. All of Young Karelia’s activities have shared one goal: to make sure that Karelia’s indigenous peoples and their languages stay alive and sustainable. This is quite a challenge, given that there are fewer than 20 000 speakers of Karelian and Vepsian languages in Karelia, constituting just 3% of Karelia’s population and declining.

Nonetheless, Young Karelia have conducted their work systematically and with admirable dedication, as a result of which it has evolved into a leading NGO of its kind with an impeccable reputation not only in Karelia, but in the broader Finno-Ugric community. Nor is it a coincidence that one of the leaders of Young Karelia, Mr. Aleksey Tsykarev, is currently serving as Chair of UN’s Expert Mechanism on Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP). In short, Young Karelia is in all respects an exemplary indigenous NGO that the Russian Federation should take pride in and support.

The reality, however, is rather different. Today, Young Karelia is at the brink of closing down as a result of being black-listed as foreign agent by Russia’s Ministry of Justice. Young Karelia has been forced to reduce its membership from 300 to just 10 and is facing serious barriers for continuing its activities. For anybody familiar with the actual work of Young Karelia, this has come as a shock. So what exactly has this indigenous NGO done wrong to deserve a “foreign agent” label that in Russia is tantamount to being a national traitor?

Under Russian law, for an NGO to be listed as foreign agent, it must meet two criteria: 1) receive foreign financing and 2) conduct political activity, in particular to affect public opinion. Let’s see how these criteria were applied to Young Karelia.

The only financing that Young Karelia has received from outside Russia, is a grant from the UN. The grant, in the amount of 10 000 dollars was awarded from the UN’s Trust Fund for the 2nd Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. This was an educational project for Russia’s young Finno-Ugric activists that, among else, led to the translation of UN Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) into Karelian language.

Let’s think about this kind of “foreign financing” for a moment. Firstly, UN is not just some shady foreign organization, it is the world’s pre-eminent intergovernmental organization that represents the global community of nations as a whole, not any individual state. Even Russia’s president Putin seems to agree with that; in his speech to the UN General Assembly on Sept. 28 he stated, “United Nations Organization is a structure that has no equals in terms of legitimacy, representativeness and universality.” Secondly, Russia is a founding member of the UN, a financial donor and among its most influential members. So how can Russia treat a grant from the United Nations as “foreign financing” and thus evidence of “foreign agent” status? Why does Russia punish the better part of its civil society for being acknowledged by the UN, an organization that it proudly belongs to? There are no good answers to these questions because the situation is fundamentally absurd.

As for Young Karelia’s alleged political activities, the central evidence for this was the fact that the NGO had arranged the programme for a study trip to Karelia by the youth wing of Finland’s True Finns party. However, there has been no evidence that Young Karelia has represented the interests of the party – either before, during or after the study trip.

As a law-abiding organization, Young Karelia has protested its black-listing in the city court in Petrozavodsk, capital of Karelia. However, Young Karelia’s arguments were rejected and its status as foreign agent upheld. Because of practical difficulties and excessive costs for continuing operations –leaders of Young Karelia are considering closure. If this indeed happens, then Russia’s state apparatus will have succeeded in eliminating an important member of its civil society.

As a friend of Young Karelia, Russia’s indigenous peoples and civil society, I find such scenario deeply disturbing. Young Karelia’s defeat would mean that grants from international organizations such as the UN present an existential threat for Russia’s NGOs; as a result of which no rational NGO would even apply for them. More generally, this would send a signal to Russia’s civil society that just as NATO and the U.S., the UN is effectively an enemy organization. I am even more concerned about the disillusioning and demoralizing effects that such actions have on the minds of honest indigenous activists such as those of Young Karelia who would like to be patriots of their country but instead are being framed as spies.

It is not too late for Russia to change course and revoke the factually wrong and morally unjust labelling of Young Karelia as a foreign agent. Assuming that the law itself will not disappear any time soon, a good first step would be to exclude international organizations where Russia is a member from eligible sources of “foreign financing” – starting from the UN system. Such legislative correction should be applied retroactively, in the process exonerating Young Karelia. By doing so, Russia would show a kinder and smarter face to both its own citizens and the world at large – something that is in everybody’s interests.