“Finally we can plan our future activities,” says Lars Anders Baer, the Chair of the Working Group of Indigenous Peoples (WGIP) in the Barents Euro-Arctic Region. “This is great news.”
One day after the Prime Ministers praised the work of the Indigenous Peoples at the Barents Summit in Kirkenes in June this year, the working group backed out of the Barents Cooperation due to lack of funding from the member states.
The working group consists of indigenous representatives from the Sámi in Norway, Russia, Finland and Sweden as well as the Nenets and Vepsian peoples in Russia.
Russia has never granted any funding, and the funding from Sweden and Finland has been sporadic. Norway was the only country providing economic support on a regular basis.
Now, Finland and Sweden have contributed with NOK 100,000 (€ 12,300) each for 2013, which is sufficient for the working group to continue its activities.
The Chair of the working group is glad the governments understood how serious the situation was, and found grants for the working group.
“Three out of four friends have now given us annual funding. Now we are hoping that the fourth friend, Russia, will find grants as well,” says Baer.
Hoping for Russian grants
According to him funding from Russia is essential to the Russian members in the working group. They fear that the new Russian NGO-law on foreign agents could affect them as well as they are travelling on foreign money.
«It would make them feel more comfortable if the Russian government paid for their participation,” says Baer, though, underlining that the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has assured that the indigenous peoples participating in the formal Barents Cooperation won`t be affected by the NGO-law.
“The working group has received positive signals from Russia concerning the future funding,” says Baer.
The Working Group has since 1995 had an advisory role for both the Barents Council and the Barents Regional Council. In addition to that they are represented in other working groups in the Barents Region and are meeting each other up to four times each year to discuss important issues affecting the livelihood of indigenous peoples in the region.
Lars Anders Baer says there are many items on the agenda when the WGIP members meet in Tromsø on October 28.
“We have a Barents Indigenous Peoples Congress to prepare for and many other issues important to the indigenous peoples in the region,” says Baer.