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Reference: Russia's report (Art. 1-15) to the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (E/1994/104/Add.8)
Presented at the occasion of the 16th session of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (28 April - 16 May, 1997) by FIAN International, an NGO in consultative status with ECOSOC, working for the Human Right to Feed Oneself.
Heidelberg, April 1997
In order to evaluate the country's implementation of the right to feed oneself in a report, it is essential that we begin with a general description of the situation in the Russian Federation, thereafter moving on to an analysis of sources of information, studies on the food situation and supervisory measures, statistical data on the existence of famine and/or malnutrition in the country. Specific aspects of especially vulnerable or disadvantaged groups also have to be taken into account. In contrast to this, the official report submitted by the Russian Government on July 31, 1995, while mentioning the right to an adequate standard of living as formulated in Art. 11, neglects the right to food or to feed oneself. Therefore we would like to submit this necessary information about the situation of various vulnerable groups in this respect. The Russian Federation is far from guaranteeing this specific right. On the contrary, the situation in Russia is very serious, which is why we do not understand why the government has referred to it insufficiently. We hope that the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights will encourage the government of the Russian Federation to put an end to the violations of the right to food and to feed oneself.
From an objective point of view the situation in the Russian Federation today is such that the external conditions for economic development and the observance of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights are met:
Not only is the country one of the richest in terms of natural resources but the knowledge and skills of the working population are also quite good as a result of the great emphasis put on education during the Soviet era. In reality, however, there are many economic and social grievances in the Russian Federation today, which are either the result of mistakes made in the past or have been aggravated by the process of economic liberalization initiated in 1992. Since then, production has fallen considerably in the processing and the arms industries as well as in agriculture. In general, there has been a shift from the production sector towards the service sector, as has happened in the West in the past. Nonetheless, investments in the oil and the mining industries were very high (although the extraction of mineral resources has actually fallen) whereas there has been a sharp decline in the processing industry. The result of this will be the weakening of the position of Russia on the world market due to unjust terms of trade. In 1994, the country had a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of US$ 662 billion. For 1995, the GDP is predicted to be made up of the following industries (in brackets the respective figures for 1990):
In 1994, GDP stood at only about 54 % of that in 1989. In agriculture there is still a predominance of big farms although productivity is low: with one hectare yielding an average of 1.45 tons of grains Russia is far from achieving its western European counterpart of 6 tons. In 1994, only 81 millions tons of grains were harvested, mostly foddage cereal. Whereas no imports were necessary to feed the country's reduced stock of cattle, 50% of Russia's overall consumption in high-quality cereals had to be imported. The growing of crops for private consumption is also a very important factor within the Russian economy:
90% of potatoes and 67% of vegetables as well as 40% of meats and milk are produced on private plots. Despite this, large sections of Russia's poor today suffer from malnutrition due to a change in dietary habits. There is a greater intake in carbohydrates in proportion to the consumption of meats, dairy products and high-quality fruits and vegetables. This is because other products such as bread, potatoes or cabbage are cheaper. The reason for this is that the prices for foods rich in vitamins as well as for meat, fish, eggs and dairy products have increased to an even greater extent than those of bread or potatoes. During the first half of 1992, the average amount of calories consumed per day and person fell by 11%. Again, this can easily be understood when the prices for a selection of 19 basic foods necessary to cover the daily nutritional requirement of a male working person are compared: during 1994, the price index of this `market basket' increased from 1 to 3.5. against an average price index for food of 3.1. During the first half of 1995, the respective index was 1.95 against 1.82 the last half of 1994.
The process of transforming the economy led, among other things, to a considerable change in the structure of incomes: the average income of the upper 10 per cent of the population is now 16 times that of the lower 10 per cent (in 1991 the figure was 4.5). The emergence of a class of the newly rich - merchants, bank clerks, managers, civil servants- was the most visible sign of this change.
On a national scale, 46 million people, the equivalent of 31 per cent of the population, were living below the poverty line as defined by the Russian Government. Therefore, these people are denied their right to feed themselves adequately in terms of quality and quantity. The average annual wage fell from the equivalent of US$ 4,260 in 1991 to US$ 2,540 in 1996.
During the same period of time, the rate of unemployment rose from 2 per cent to 12 per cent. The figure is even higher if the hidden rate of unemployment (involuntary short-term work, unpaid leaves or voluntary or forced notice by the employee) is added to the official one. Whereas in May 1995 the official figure was at 8 per cent, the true figure, i.e. including the hidden rate of unemployment, stood at about 14 per cent. The figure also varies greatly according to region. In the regions of Ivanovo, Pskov, Kirov, Vladimir, Kostroma, Mumansk and Sakhalin, the figures were between 25 and 50 per cent. Between 1991 and May 1994, vacancies fell by 60 per cent while the number of officially registered unemployed tripled. In 1991, there were 1.8 vacancies to one officially registered, in May 1994, there was one vacancy to 4.3 unemployed.
In 1995, the Federal Labor Office of Russia (FSZ) invested 5.43 billion roubles in the fight against unemployment- the equivalent of a mere 0.3 per cent of GDP. Over the last years the government's policy shifted from an active to a passive employment policy, i.e. the government's efforts have focused on securing existing jobs rather than creating new ones. For the period of time between 1996 and 1997, the government has voiced its intention to create 55,000 new jobs and secure 100,000 existing ones.
The only field in which the government was successful was inflation: in 1996, prices rose by 60 per cent against 1526 per cent in 1992.
According to Goskomstat, the Russian federal bureau of statistics, subsistence costs amounted to 47,200 roubles in January 1994, 105,300 roubles in October and 201,400 in February of 1995. Since these figures only reflect the respective rates of inflation, they have to be compared with wages in order to come to conclusions about the standard of living.
In July 1995, the average wage of a person employed in agriculture was 48.3 per cent (499,500 roubles) of the national average (241,900 roubles-the numbers do not include welfare payments). In August 1995, the wages of 80 per cent of persons employed in agriculture were below the level of the then level of subsistence.
A new element contributing to poverty in agriculture consists in the fact that the costs of production in agriculture (inputs) rise much faster than retail prices. During the first half of 1995, the costs of agricultural production (inputs) rose by 130 per cent against an increase of only 85 per cent of retail prices. In farming there is a lack of machines, lubricants and fuel. At the same time, there were massive cuts in financial aid programs (special credits to selected farms and subsidies) as well as in direct benefits. Farmers were thus among the poorest sections of the population while those working in the banking and insurance sector received wages more than three times higher.
The average life expectancy, one of the best indicators of the health situation and the standard
of living in a country, dropped from 65 years to 57 years for males between 1987 and 1994, and from 75 to 71 for women.
This drastic drop is unparalleled in the modern industrial world. The average life expectancy of Russian males today is the lowest in the industrial world. The widespread existence of alcoholism is certainly one of the main reasons for it.
During the same period of time there has been a sharp decline in population. The number of births fell from 2.5 million in 1987 to 1.4 million only seven years later. In contrast, the mortality rate rose from 1.5 million to 2.3 million during the same period of time. The greatest decline occurred in 1994 when 800,000 more people died than were born. That year the overall population decreased by 0.6 per cent (not included the roughly 300,000 immigrants who came to Russia).
One of the most vulnerable groups are the country's indigenous people (see 3.1.). They have the lowest life expectancy- between 10 and 20 years below the national average-, the highest rate of unemployment, and the greatest difficulties in feeding themselves. Village dwellers are even worse off than the traditional reindeer breeders. Yet even in their case, their means of subsistence are at stake due to the massive destruction of forests and pastures by the exploitation of oil and natural gas. When these people are thus forced to give up reindeer breeding they are deprived of their only means of subsistence. The result is a lower life expectancy, which is also supported by the widespread consumption of alcohol.
According to our own information, one third of the Russian people now live below the poverty line. There is a sharp decline in food production and consumption as a result of trade liberalization and market economy. Fifty per cent of foods are imported. Meat imports increased from 1.4 metric tons to 2.2 metric tons in 1995. Production declined by 33 per cent between 1990 and 1995 while Russia's livestock declined by 40 per cent during the same period of time. Meat production fell from 8.3 million tons to 5.9 million in 1995. Seventy per cent of food imports end up in the cities.
Since the introduction of a free market economy, food security has drastically decreased. The right to feed oneself is especially at stake in Northern Russia. Moreover, the weather conditions in the North contribute to a partial dependence on external supplies, which often do not reach the area, especially due to the overemphasis the Soviet Empire had put on developing an infrastructure that served the needs of the centrally planned economy and the military.
Despite food imports, there is no adequate access to food for large sections of the population.
The vulnerable groups are the main victims of the bad supply situation.
People with low incomes, large families, single mothers, pensioners and indigenous people are the ones most affected. The proportion of the country's `extremely poor', i.e. those who cannot satisfy their basic needs, rose to 24 per cent in 1992/93, according to UNICEF.
During 1994, between 20 and 25 per cent of the population lived below the poverty line- the equivalent of between 30 and 38 million people.
It is important to mention here that although a person might statistically live above the poverty line he may actually live below it; the reason for this is that in some industries, such as oil and natural gas, coal, public health and education, wages are not paid on a regular basis. In 1996, for example, the total arrears in wages quadrupled to 15 billion German marks.
Those who receive transfer payments, especially retired and unemployed people, are amongst the poorest sections of society. On May 1st, for example, the minimum pension was raised to 43,739 roubles. A decree issued on January 30 1995, provided for an extra payment of 39,360 roubles so that the total amount was 83,000 roubles. In contrast, the official Goskomstat figure for the minimal cost of living for November 1994 was already 85,000 roubles.
Russia's unemployed are even worse off. In some industries the minimum wage plays an important role in determining social benefits, such as unemployment benefits. Usually, the purpose of fixing minimum wages is to guarantee an adequate standard of living for everybody; this is not true for the Russian Federation: in May 1995, for example, the minimum wage was doubled to 43,700 roubles although as early as February the minimum cost of living was already at 201,400 roubles, i.e. more than four times the official minimum wage. The minimum figure of unemployment benefits is equal to the minimum wage. As this figure is based on the preceding year, unemployment benefits are very low. Most of the unemployed only receive the minimum. The average amount of unemployment benefits is only slightly above this minimum yet far below the minimum cost of living. At the end of 1993 the average figure of unemployment benefits was 11,000 roubles while figure for the minimum cost of living was 30,000 roubles.
In addition, only a small percentage of the true rate of unemployment receive benefits. Until June 1995, the country had no social security institution. Those who do not receive social security benefits are not included in the official statistics and hence do not reflect the social reality of Russia.
The means of subsistence of the indigenous people are threatened by soaring unemployment. They are more affected from hunger and malnutrition than the rest of the population. As most of them live in remote villages these people have to rely upon themselves for food, especially after the collapse of the system of public transport and supply as well as the massive increases in prices over the last years. Reindeer breeding, fishing and gathering constitute their only means of subsistence.
The Russian Government as well as state authorities, aware of the special vulnerability of indigenous people have created a set of legal bases to protect this group and the land traditionally used by them.
According to the Land Code of the RFSR of 1991, aboriginal peoples or ethnic groups were granted the right to use the land of natural reserves and forests for reindeer pasture, reindeer breeding, hunting as well as well as for traditional use. In the "Decree on urgent measures to protect the lands inhabited and farmed by the Northern aboriginal peoples", which was signed by President Boris Yeltsin in April 1992, the Russian Government and the regional authorities were ordered to establish so-called "Territories for Traditional Land Use (TTP)", i.e. regions to be used traditionally by indigenous peoples. It is not admissible without authorization to set aside such land for anything other than traditional purposes. The 1995 Mineral Resources Act states unequivocally that payment shall be made for the extraction of mineral wealth (Art. 39). This payment shall be invested in the social and economic development of aboriginal peoples and ethnic groups (Art.42). As early as February 1992, the Duma of the Khanti-Mansi autonomous okrug (region) had issued a decree providing for the establishment of areas for individuals, families or communities either belonging to an ethnic or an indigenous group. In response to a petition, land titles are to be given out. Although these land titles do not include private ownership, they give the hereditary right to use land free of charge. In addition, the decree provides for the conclusion of "economic agreements" between indigenous people and oil companies if the latter intend to extract oil in the region. Safety measures, financial compensations, rehabilitation of the land, as well as the establishment of boundaries for the respective area should also be included in the agreements. "Clearly unfair" agreements are illegal. The local administration had to monitor the legality of these agreements.
In 1993, the Russian Federation spent US$ 5,950,000,000 for food imports and agricultural raw materials. Due to an inadequate infrastructure, these goods reach the remote regions of Siberia, Kamchatka etc. only partially and at great costs.
The government provides `transfer payments' for the poorest sections of the population. Very often, however, the traditional reindeer breeder is excluded from these payments as the authority in charge is sometimes located several hundreds of kilometers away.
For example, according to the `Khanti-Mansi Decree' (as mentioned under 2.2.), land titles are to be given out for the exclusive use by indigenous or ethnic people. Although the demarcation of areas and plots of land has, to our knowledge, been completed, the dealing with the petitions has been suspended for two years. Until the summer of 1995, only about 40 land titles had been issued.
The decree does not constitute an adequate means to secure the right to feed oneself. On the one hand, it is constantly being infringed upon due its weak legal status (it is but a regional decree); on the other, it does not contain any sanctions in case of infringement, apart from the possibility of filing a complaint with a local court.
In general, the authorities show little interest in fulfilling their duty to protect the law. The state "committees for the peoples of the North" do not act in the interests of the traditional reindeer breeder and his habitat from which he has long since become alienated.
Another issue is pollution. In 1996, 14 per cent of the total area of the Russian Federation had been contaminated due to nuclear tests, accidents at plutonium plants and nuclear power stations, inadequate storage of highly toxic industrial waste, etc. One quarter of the Russian population is living on contaminated soil. Three quarters of surface waters are too contaminated to be used as drinking water. 50 per cent of the population uses drinking water that does not meet public health standards.
In the most important agricultural regions there is soil degradation. A 1991 report of the Russian Ministry of the Environment found that in 13 territories there were serious environmental problems, such as in Western Siberia, where the exploitation of oil and gas has destroyed large extensions of natural soil and greatly reduced fish and animal stocks as well as reindeer pastures.
The process of the privatization of state enterprises initiated in 1992 has not produced the desired results. Hopes of thus boosting the economy proved rather ineffective, as the underlying assumption that private enterprises would function more effectively than the state did not prove right: although 85 per cent of planned privatization's had already been completed by July 1995, to talk of an increase in production is completely out of the question. On the contrary:
In view of a lack of definition of the rights and especially of the duties of the new owners of companies, as well as of sound market structures, of a general increase in speculation and economic crime, the mass privatizations will eventually have to lead to a collapse in production and investments, to growing insecurity, greater inequalities as well as to fall in the standard of living of large sections of the population. On top of that, sales from state enterprises were so low that they could not even cover the administrative costs of the privatization drive.
The twin institutions of Bretton Woods, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have played a key role in transforming the Russian economy into a capitalist market economy. Whereas in the beginning, only few loans were granted by the International Monetary Fund, the Russian Federation has become the prime borrower of this financial institute. In 1992, the situation reached a new peak when in February 1996, an Extended Fund Facility (EFF)of US$ 10.2 billion was granted to the Russian Government. The credit is a three-year loan to be paid in compliance with certain conditions. Compliance is monitored by the IMF on a monthly basis.
The most important elements of these `conditions' or structural adjustment programs (SAPs) aimed at curbing Russia's hyperinflation are drastic cuts in state credits (especially by the Central Bank of Russia), a reduction in the federal budget deficit to 5.4 per cent of GDP by cutting subsidies, the access of foreign investors to the national stock exchange market and several measures aimed at liberalizing exports of energy and other raw materials.
Every time the Russian Government fails to meet these conditions, it runs the risk of its tranches being suspended. The IMF is thus provided with broad powers to influence the Russian economic and social policies. In 1997, for example, the IMF refused to make payments as had repeatedly happened before. The official explanation was that tax incomes had been too low. According to the Russian newspaper `Nezavisimaya', however, the decision was aimed at putting pressure on the Russian Government to make further cuts in social spending (Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Feb 25, 1997, OMRI Daily Digest, Feb 25, 1997). In addition, the decrease in public finances resulted in "drastic cuts in important socio-political areas such as public health, education and the environment, which further led to a fall in the standard of living", according to the German Federal Bureau of Statistics.
It goes without saying that the existing trend of large-scale shutdowns as well as the dramatic increase in the rate of unemployment due to massive cuts in subsidies that has already occurred will even be exacerbated in the future. These cuts are also responsible for the Russian practice of either not paying wages at all or delaying payments until the money has already lost much of its value due to inflation. The fact that last year the total value of unpaid wages almost quadrupled to the equivalent of DM 15,000,000,000 (according to the Frankfurter Rundschau, one of Germany's leading newspapers) clearly indicates that the austerity programs imposed by the IMF must inevitably lead to violations of the right to feed oneself.
The activities of the World Bank, which overlap with those of the IMF to a large extent, of course, have also been quite detrimental as to their social and ecological implications. While it is true that in May 1996, the World Bank also gave a loan of US$ 200 million to maintain Social Security in Russia, this may hardly gloss over the damages caused by a policy aimed at increasing oil and gas exports without taking into account the needs of man and nature in the affected areas.
Over the last three and a half years, the World Bank offered loans in US$ 1.3 billion to be used primarily for the rehabilitation of existing oil refineries in Western Siberia no longer working to full capacity. So far, however, only a very small proportion of the money has been used (of a 1993 US$ 605 million loan, only 28 per cent had been used until 1996). The latest plans of the US company AMOCO to exploit the North-Priobskoje oil field - a virtually untouched region- gives great rise to concern. Large-scale destruction of the environment and the eventual extinction of the region's indigenous people would be the eventual results of this enterprise.
It is thus very doubtful if the exclusive emphasis put on promoting the oil and gas industries despite the considerable risks it poses to the food security of the local population is justified while for years there has been a decline in agricultural production that has led to severe food shortages.
The following chapter will deal with the different obstacles to the full realization of the right to feed oneself in specific cases.
In the Surgut and Nizhnevartovsk Rayons (regions)which are especially affected by the exploitation of oil and natural gas, hardly any family has still access to adequate pastures. As a consequence, many families have to live by a very limited number of animals (between 10 and 20)- if they do have any at all. Increasingly, the remaining stocks, game and fish suffer from liver damages and other diseases. Further problems include poaching by oil workers, an increase in wood fires due to oil spills or explosions, blocked rivers due to the construction of roads during winter time and many more. The right to feed oneself is thus seriously restricted for the reindeer breeder.
In most cases, the `economic agreements'-if they do exist in the first place- are inadequate and they usually run for only one year whereas oil licenses run for up to 30 years. In addition, the authors of this report have not heard of any case in which compensations offered to the indigenous were adequate as to ensure long-term food security. While constructions for the exploitation of the Priobskoe oil field is being promoted by a loan of several hundreds of millions of dollars an agreement on the basis of the aforementioned decree the Khanti-Mansi autonomous region between the American oil company AMOCO and an indigenous family of the region provided for the following compensation for `leasing' parts of the indigenous' traditional land: a walkie-talkie, a generator, 8 sacks of flour, sugar, tea and 8 round batteries. The example is just one out of many.
The authors of this report have also been informed of an agreement in which the only guarantee to the indigenous people ran as follows: "...will not disturb grazing reindeers.". The authors of this report found out during a visit to Surgut and Nizhnevartovsk Rayons in the summer of 1995, where they met with reindeer breeders that not even one family had been given a copy of the agreement. At the time of the visit, although the agreements had already been signed the compensation had not been determined determined yet, as 2 families reported. According these reports, it is a common practice that agreements are signed by the indigenous people under the influence of alcohol. An eye-witness report gave the following description of the way in which an agreement was signed in the summer of 1996: "...Anna P. (...) did not receive a carbon copy of the agreement she had signed." The agreement had been negotiated by her sons-in-law who reported that they had been taken by helicopter directly to the person in charge. When they arrived, some bottles of vodka had been prepared for them. While drinking the vodka they were promised lots of different things they could not remember. As they said, they were pressed to quickly sign the agreement as "the helicopter had to leave".
Due a long experience of their lack of rights, these indigenous people no longer see any purpose in demanding adequate compensation for giving up their traditional land. In addition, they oftentimes do not master the Russian language sufficiently. Due to the remoteness of their the regions they it is also rather improbable that violations of agreements between them and the oil comapanies would become known.
As the authors of this report have had the opportunity of reading many of such agreements they know that the compensations offered to the indigenous people always consisted of some food supplies and maybe a snowmobile, fuel, hunting equipment and a generator. Real measures designed to protect and rebuild the areas after having been exploited were only agreed in very few cases.
Therefore, these agreements are inadequate to compensate for the partial or total loss of their means of subsistence. As it falls on the duty of the local administrations to monitor legality of these agreements, the lack of intervention on behalf of the indigenous represents a massive violation of the state duty to protect the rights of its inhabitants.
In the case of the village of Yuilsk on the Kazym river in Beloyarskii Rayon, northwest of the autonomous region of Khanty-Mansi, consent by the indigenous people to start construction for the extraction of oil was extorted by a temporary suspension of supply flights. During summer the village can only be reached via helicopter. Despite protests by the regional ecological committee, a supply and fueling station for the company's helicopters was built on the riverbank, just a few steps off the village. After construction had been completed the station was abandoned half full. Due to a leak kerosene is now constantly trickling into the river, the village's source of drinking water and fish. A complaint by the village elder with the local administration of Khanty-Mansijsk, was forwarded to the administration of Beloyarskii, capital of Beloyarskii Rayon, which responded saying that the issue had already been settled, according to members of the Khanty-Mansi. Up to today nothing has changed according to our sources of information.
In the summer of 1995, construction without prior notice began for the exploitation of oil in the village of Russkinkinskie, in Surgut Rayon, near the home of a Khanty reindeer herder family. When the authors of this reportlodged a complaint with the local authorities and later also with the `Surgut committee on the indigenous of the indigenous peoples of the North', the complaint was rejected on the grounds that it constituted an `act of interference'.
In general, the authorities have shown little interest in fulfilling the duty to protect the rights
of the indigenous community. As the infrastructure is basically owned by the oil companies-as is the case with the helicopters- and as many of the officials are themselves shareholders, the authorities either depend on the oil companies or profit directly from them. Visitors to the region have basically all had the same experiences. It is a very common feature that the negotiations only include a few family members with limited knowledge of their rights. In addition, the indigenous community does not have the necessary means to help themselves. During summer, for example, most of the homes of the indigenous can only be accessed by helicopter. Helicopters are therefore an efficient tool for oil companies to bring pressure to bear on the indigenous. If they refuse to agree the companies can simply stop supplying goods to villages or whole areas, as has been the case with the village of Yuilsk.
We have repeatedly received information from the Russian Far East of arbitrary restrictions of the hunting and fishing rights of the indigenous communities. Fishing quotas for indigenous people are sometimes below subsistence level while at the same time commercial fishing takes place.
Due to a lack of infrastructure, agriculture constitutes the only means of subsistence for the Aleut community (traveling is only possible by air. According to the Association of Kamchatka, a flight to Petropavlovsk, the capital of the Kamchatka, costs about as much as the nine-hour flight from Kamchatka to Moscow, i.e. more than US$ 500. As a consequence, the selection of goods available at the local stores of Nikolskoe, the capital of Bering Island, is very limited and the goods are very expensive. Apart from alcohol there are virtually no goods available: sugar, salt, grains, noodles, vegetables or fruits all do not exist.)
In 1992, the Russian Government decided to create a biosphere reserve on Komandorskiye Islands (Commander Islands), the Russian part of the Alëutian Islands, which includes Bering Island. The reserve, which is only of national status, was created against the will of the population and in violation of existing laws. A number of areas containing important food sources for the community have now been under the protection of the law for about one year and can no longer be used or only under severe controls. Four rivers are affected as well as many bird breeding grounds. These had been the Alëuts' most important sources of food. Other rivers have not been offered to the Alëuts in compensation.
The `protection of nature' is not the only reason why the fishing rights of the affected people have been restricted: the Petropavlovsk-Kamchatski fishing authority responsible for the restrictions has also established fishing quotas in the region. According to the Association of the Alëutians, the established 100 kg per year for adults and 50 kg for children are not sufficient to guarantee food security in the region (fish is the basic food of the Alëut!!). In addition, the allowed quota has to be fished in just a few days. In case the indigenous people wanted to fish beyond the fixed times, they would have to purchase licenses at exuberant prices. The hunting of reindeers as well as of sea mammals is also only possible after prior purchase of a very expensive license. At the same time meat is being exported commercially.
90 per cent of employees are Russians. Indigenous people have little chance of finding work there. For this reason, many Nivkha have voiced their desire to return to their former habitat in order to feed themselves traditionally. However, their former fishing grounds now belong to the kolkhoz and in the alternative territories they were given either the fish population is low or the rivers are not easily accessible. Cases have been reported in which the control authority of the Rybookhrana fishing authority had manipulated the boats of the indigenous people as to render them useless or had confiscated their provisions. Complaints with the militia or the legal authorities have been unsuccessful. In the most recent case the state's attorney had refused to initiate preliminary legal proceedings. At the same time, the indigenous have also had bear with considerable delays receiving unemployment benefits and old-age pensions. In addition, the pensions are too low for a bare subsistence. In a letter to an international organization, one of the indigenous inhabitants wrote that his mother received only 300, 000 roubles per month while the local figure for the level of subsistence had been fixed at 400,000. School meals are no longer free for children.
As many families cannot pay for meals about one fourth can no longer send their children to school. The state is therefore violating its duty to protect both the right to food and the right to free education for everyone.
So far, 40 per cent of the mainland of Sakhalin Island are being used by the oil and gas industries. In the North East construction is taking place for the exploitation of vast oil deposits in the shelf. Friends of the Earth International has repeatedly voiced concerns about the potential environmental consequences. It is very likely that among other things, a massive destruction of fishing grounds, a decline in sea mammals- a further very important source of food- and a further reduction of natural land will be the case. According to reports by Friends of the Earth and representatives of the Nivkha, there have been no consultations between the government, oil companies and the indigenous people prior to a decree signed by president Yeltsin in 1992 on the exploitation of the region. Just a few weeks ago the commercial exploitation of indigenous land had been declared illegal.
The Kamchadals are a people of Russian language living in the southern part of the Kamchatka Peninsula. The roughly 15 to 20,000 members are a mixture of the descendants of indigenous people and Russian immigrants. In 1995 the fishing quota was fixed at 36 kg per person and year. This is far below the minimum as fish is the basic foodstuff of the population. The local administrations are the ones in charge of fixing the fishing quotas. As to the number of people affected, there are about 2,600 people in the Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskii Rayon, 3,400 in the Yelizovo Rayon and roughly 300 in the village of Vilyuichinsk. Compliance with the quotas is monitored by OMON, a special unit which comes under the control of the Ministry of the Interior. Infringements are punished with high fines. Secret fishing is not the only result of these restrictions: the traditional method of preserving food for winter, drying and smoking, is no longer practiced since it has to be done outdoors, which would betray the indigenous as a poacher. As a consequence, during wintertime the population suffers from a deficient diet (especially a lack of vitamins). Whereas the regional fishery department freely allocates fishing quotas for commercial fishing to a great number of companies the indigenous people are not permitted to fish as some species are "threatened with extinction", according to department officials.
In view of the fact that wages have oftentimes not been paid for several months and that fish is the indigenous' prime source of food the prohibition is a flagrant violation of the right to eed oneself. The state is therefore violating his obligation to protect the rights of the people, hich means that he does not make use of all the available means to guarantee access to adequate food.
In several of the villages of the peninsula large parts of the inhabitants-especially children- are threatened with poverty and malnutrition. A further reason for this is that many of the kolkhozes have had to shut down their plants; unemployment is therefore high. At the same time, the indigenous have been deprived of an important platform for expressing and discussing mutual concerns.
Ust-Khayryuzovo is a village on the western coast of the peninsula. At a meeting of October of 1996, the inhabitants of the village voiced the following concerns: "People continually suffer from hunger. They have lost hope. When pensioners receive their money the whole village gets drunk. In the school cafeteria, after the children have had lunch, within an hour they are back at the counter hoping that there might snatch another slice of bread that was left over. (...) Reindeer-breeding is in a deplorable state. (...) Children are especially affected." At the same time the frustration is exploited by traders selling industrial alcohol in the streets. Even in the tundra they trade vodka for expensive reindeer meat. In the village of Sedanka in the Koryak autonomous region the reindeer breeders have not received wages for one whole year. The local farm as well as the agricultural cooperative have had to close.
In a petition to the administration of the Koryak autonomous region the district attorney of Tigil Rayon explains that child benefits have not been paid since July 1996 and that the children in the local day nurseries do not receive adequate food (while many families send their children to nurseries precisely because they do not have the necessary means to feed them.).
Infant mortality among the Evenks is 29.7 per 1,000 children. This is 1 1/2 times the figure of the Russian average (20.27).
In the case of the Evenk Autonomous Region the situation is different from that of the autonomous regions of Western Siberia. The exploitation of mineral resources has so far only been marginal. Nature is still largely unspoiled. Despite this, the food and supply situation has deteriorated considerably over the last 10 years. The reasons for this go back to the times of the Soviet Union: on the one hand, a relatively good infrastructure was developed in the region; on the other, the Evenks were gradually alienated from their traditional way of life as a consequence of the Russian policy of `sedenterization' (forcing people to give up their nomadic life and settle permanently in one area). After the dissolution of the Soviet Union the development of the region's infrastructure was halted. Very soon a lack of new investments led to its collapse. At the same time 60 years of sedentary life had moved the indigenous people from a state of sufficiency to a state of dependence. Now that they have become used to living in villages they are no longer able to feed themselves.
Since public transport is no longer subsidized by the Russian Government traveling to the towns (Tura, Baykit and Vanavara) has become too expensive for the inhabitants of the smaller settlements. Some of the villages are up to 200 kilometers away from one another so that traveling by air, ship or sled ( which may take up to several days) are the only means of transport for these people. Those who are entitled to unemployment or social security benefits do not register as the authority in charge is too far away. Therefore these people cannot receive the aid mentioned in the paragraphs 180 to 182 of the Russian Report. These people usually live from the food they receive from relatives and the inhabitants of the village they live in. Yet this type of `social security system' can only work as long as the entire community has enough spare food to supply those who depend on them. During the winter of 1994/95 the community of Surinda almost had to fall back on the concentrated feed used for their cattle to escape famine.
The food market of the region is currently in the hands of private enterprises and little joint-stock companies. As bigger ships can only access the region in June most goods have to come by air. In addition, as air traffic is no longer subsidized the costs of living have witnessed an explosion. Among the goods, many of which come from abroad, many are of low quality
(see also paragraph 210 of the Russian Report). For example, foodstuffs brought over from Germany whose expiration date has passed for weeks, are offered in Tura for up to three times the prices at which they are sold in Germany. In the North prices are even higher. In contrast, goods produced in the territory of the former Soviet Union make up only a very small proportion of the selection of goods and are only slightly cheaper. The basic foodstuffs of the region are bread and vodka.
In fact the production of reindeer meat could actually contribute to a better supply of these regions if only there were a better infrastructure. As reindeer breeding requires a mobile lifestyle it has only a low image today (due to the policy of sedenterization of the past years).
This is reflected in the fact that between 1965 and 1989, the livestock in reindeers diminished by 50 per cent. This is especially deplorable as reindeer herding constitutes a very ecological form of land use.
The Russian ministry for energy and fuels is expecting that the oil and gas industries will move from Western to Eastern Siberia. Licenses to exploit oil and gas have already been issued in seven cases. It is therefore very likely that this will cause serious damages to the environment of Eastern Siberia- as has been the case in Western Siberia. During the era of seismological and geological research in Russia the carelessness on behalf of workers had already caused the unnecessary contamination of vast areas of the taiga. Several nuclear tests have also been made over the last decades on the lower Nizhnyaya Tunguska River .
As long as people have to live with the constant threat of contaminated food sources the right to adequate food remains a farce.
The Russian Government stated in its Third Periodic Report that "the right to have enough to eat is in serious danger." (Paragraph 209). It has not, however, specified what measures are necessary to implement the right to food.
FIAN is very concerned that the Russian state has breached obligations of all three types, namely to respect-, protection- and fulfillment-bound obligations.
In the cases described under 3.2.4 minimum wages are utterly insufficient.
In the case of the designation of sufficient and adequate "territories of traditional resource use (TTP)" for the indigenous peoples, as stated in the Presidential Decree No. 397 ("Immediate Measures for protecting the territory and economic activities of indigenous peoples in the North") this obligation was breached, because so far only very few titles have been issued.
Therefore, FIAN would like to ask the following questions to the Russian Government: