Aili Keskitalo, Sámi politician and member of Barents Regional Council, says the termination of activities by Working Group of Indigenous Peoples is a serious signal to the nations in the Barents Region.
“This is headline news, just one day after the Ministers and Indigenous Peoples representatives praised the cooperation at the 20th anniversary of the Barents Cooperation in Kirkenes. Was all the nice statements just empty words,” asks Aili Keskitalo.
She is the former President of the Sámi Parliament in Norway and represents the Sámi, Nenets and Vepsian Peoples in the Barents Regional Council.
It was Wednesday that the Working Group of Indigenous Peoples (WGIP) made the decision to back out of the Barents Cooperation and halt all activities due to lack of funding from Russia, Finland and Sweden. Head of the Working Group, Lars-Anders Baer, told BarentsObserver that Norway is the only providing economical support on a regular basis.
Keskitalo says what now happens is a dramatic step and a serious signals to the states. She anticipate that all Barents countries now cashes out significant funding with the goal to give the Indigenous Peoples a honest possibility to take part in meetings and have influence on the Barents Cooperation.
Next week, Keskitalo will raise the issue when she meets different Indigenous Peoples representatives at a larger conference in Alta, northern Norway.
Lars-Anders Baer says the funding in question is not big money. “Even NOK 400,000 (€52,000) would be sufficient for indigenous people to have adequate involvement in the Council’s activities and decisions. It’s peanuts in the governmental structure,” he told BarentsObserver.
The Working Group has since 1995 had an advisory role for both the Barents Council and the Barents Regional Council.
In the Declaration approved by the Prime Ministers and other high level representatives of the members of the Barents Council, Indigenous Peoples is highlighted in the very first paragraph:
“The participants concerned also reaffirmed their commitment to the rights of the indigenous peoples in the north, and stated their commitment to strengthening the indigenous communities of the region,” reads the Declaration and continues in the sub-paragraph related to people-to-people contacts: “We are committed to ensuring that the rights of indigenous peoples are fully respected in all aspects of the cooperation in the Barents Euro-Arctic Region. We also welcome the increased cross-border contacts and cooperation between indigenous peoples.”