Managing the social impact of the development of the Arctic
The round-table was held on 24th November in Moscow. Hosted jointly by International Business Leaders Forum (IBLF) and the Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East (RAIPON), the aim of the meeting was for the first time to bring together executives from Russian and multinational companies to exchange experience in how to manage relations with indigenous peoples.
The meeting was hosted by the Canadian Ambassador, John Sloan, was sponsored by the Agency of Indian and Northern Affairs of Canada and Kinross Gold, and was moderated by Brook Horowitz, Executive Director for Russia of IBLF. In attendance were about thirty representatives of major companies that are operating in and developing the Arctic including Sakhalin Energy, TNK-BP, RusGidro, Norilsk Nickel, South Yakutia Development Corporation, Kinross Gold, Far Eastern Shipping Company.
Rodion Sulyandziga, First Vice President, RAIPON, presented the issues with which the indigenous people in Russia are faced. The challenges come from a number of sides: insufficient regulation, poor rule of law, lack of specific focus on the unique situation of the indigenous populations, the absence of public or media pressure, and the absence of corporate responsibility amongst companies. He explained why the meeting was timely. With the new focus on extracting the rich deposits of raw materials in the Arctic, there are serious concerns about the social and environmental consequences that untrammelled development may have. RAIPON has come up against specific cases of poor corporate behaviour, entrenched views and vested interested which are not so easily dislodged. The importance of today’s meeting was to begin dialogues, to raise consciousness in business, provide tools to support business in improving their relations with communities and in respecting the rights of indigenous peoples.
Michael Wernick, Deputy Minister, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) shared with the group the experience of Canada. He highlighted the difficult early days when the North was being rapidly developed without due regard for the indigenous populations. The attitudes changed in the seventies in part thanks to popular objections to what was going on. The Canadian government created incentives and strict measures which encouraged business to behave more responsibly. He expressed the hope that Canadian experience would be useful for Russian lawmakers and companies.
After a question and answer session, the assembled audience heard presentations from a number of companies, including Lou Naumovski, Vice President and General Director, Russia, Kinross Gold Corporation, Yulia Zavyalova, Head of Indigenous People Group, External Affairs, Sakhalin Energy Investment Company and Ivan Nesterov, Director for External Communications, South Yakutia Development Corporation and some of his colleagues about their experience in dealing with indigenous peoples issues. Some of the difficulties encountered by business are cultural differences, lack of clarity from community groups about their needs, unclear representation, and unreasonable expectations. There was a useful discussion about how to handle some of these challenges although there was a clear difference in expertise between those companies which had had to confront indigenous issues in other countries, and those confronting them in Russia for the first time. Gregory Guldin of Cross-Cultural Consulting Services, independent consultant to Sakhalin Energy, provided some interesting insights into how the challenges faced by companies and indigenous peoples in Russia were similar to and differed from those in other countries.
The presentations may be downloaded here:
South Yakutia Development Corporation