24 August 2010 Although the Russian Government has made “important steps” to protect the rights of its indigenous people, a United Nations independent human rights expert today urged the country to accelerate progress.
James Anaya, the Special Rapporteur on the situation on the freedom of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, called for “continuous and focused attention” in areas such as economic development, health, education and language.
Many indigenous people in Russia continuing to face “multiple impediments” to fully enjoying their human rights, he said, with human development indicators showing that they are “still often faring less well than other sectors of society.”
The expert praised Russia for showing its commitment to improving the living conditions of indigenous people, advancing their cultures and participation in decision-making, as well as developing a comprehensive policy for them.
However, he found that implementing existing laws guaranteeing their rights – at both national and regional levels – “remains a challenge that needs to be resolved.”
Mr. Anaya, who reports in an independent and unpaid capacity to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council, launched a new report today based on his visit to Russia last October.
One of the areas of focus on his missions was to examine the situation of groups recognized by the Government as “small-numbered indigenous people,” number fewer than 50,000 people.
“Following the fall of communism, and transition to a market economy, indigenous peoples were in a particularly vulnerable position… unable to shape or define their new role in a drastically shifting political and economic atmosphere,” he writes in the publication.
“Many indigenous communities,” the Rapporteur continues, “suffered extreme hardship with some reaching the brink of extinction during this time, while unemployment, poverty and alcoholism soared.”
He calls on the Government to fully support the provisions of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The landmark document, adopted by the General Assembly in 2007, outlines the rights of the world’s estimated 370 million indigenous people and outlaws discrimination against them.
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