Indigenous peoples learn to protect their rights on an international level

Six representatives of indigenous peoples from Northern Russia, Siberia and Russian Far East underwent training in the United Nations system in the period June 8 to July 24 this year.


The Russian-speaking program has existed since 2005 and is divided into two parts – one in Moscow and one in Geneva.

At the Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia in Moscow, the trainees spend four weeks studying the principles of how Russian authorities work, international law, the structure of the United Nations, and got acquainted with the tools and existing mechanisms for the protection of human rights.

“I am Sami by nationality. According to the latest census from 2010, there are 1771 Sami living in Russia, namely in the Murmansk region. Of course, there are problems. There are still unsolved questions concerning the use of land and access to marine bio resources, as well as preservation of the native language. Participating in an internship in the UN system is an opportunity to study best practices on protection of the right of indigenous peoples, both on local and international level,” says Marina Kalmykova.

The second part of the internship took place in Geneva, where the UN’s European head office is located. Experts from the High Commissioner for Human Rights, as well as staff from other UN agencies, introduced the trainees to the work of UNESCO, WIPO, UNICEF and ILO.

“In Geneva we met representatives of indigenous peoples from other countries. Lectures were held simultaneously for four language groups – English, French, Spanish and Russian. Interns form around the world – from Murmansk to Sakhalin, from the Solomon Islands to Brazil, from India and Botswana to Norway, studied tools and existing mechanisms for the protection of human rights. We are all different, with our own culture and traditions, but, as it turned out, we have similar problems,” says Marina Kalmykova.

The last week the interns of 2015 took part in the eight session of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which is held annually in late July in the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

The Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was established in 2007. It consists of five independent experts who conduct research in the field of indigenous peoples’ rights, and provide information to the Human Rights Council. Research topics in 2015 were: “Non-discrimination against entrepreneurs from indigenous peoples”, “health and well-being of indigenous peoples”, “The role of civil society and non-governmental organizations of indigenous peoples”.

“Participation in the eight session allowed us to see in practice how the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples works. During the week, delegates from states, indigenous communities, non-governmental organizations and civil society presented their reports on the situation of indigenous peoples in each particular country,” says Yelena Konoplyanko, participant in the 2015 trainee program.

To participate in the Expert Mechanism you need to register in advance, you can also apply to the UN Voluntary Trust Fund and receive financial support to cover the costs. You can find the application form on the UN’s website There you can also find a questionnaire for future participants in the internship on the rights of indigenous peoples.

The main requirement for participation in the internship is that the applicant must be a representative of indigenous peoples. There are no age restrictions, and the level of education and knowledge of foreign languages are neither the main criteria for selection of a candidate. The applicant must be supported by a community or organization, and the application form must be accompanied by a letter of recommendation. Only fully completed forms will be considered. All expenses for accommodation, meals and transportation are paid by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

List of selected participants in the 2015 program:

  • Beldy Olga Aleksandrovna, Nanai, Russia
  • Kalmykova Marina Anatolyeva, Sami, Russia
  • Kauchakova Yuliya Gennadyeva, Shors, Russia
  • Konoplyanko Yelena Nikolayevna, Oroch, Russia
  • Reznik Olga Aleksandrovna, Nivkh, Russia
  • Sazhina Yana Stepanovna, Komi, Russia