Eighth Session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
21 May 2009
Item 5 Half-day Discussion about the Arctic
Irina Kurilova - Council of the Yukagir Elders, Russia
Esteemed Forum participants!
I am from Russia. I represent one of the smallest-numbering peoples of the Arctic: the Yukagirs. Only 1,500 of us remain. I was sent here by the Council of the Elders of the Yukagir people in order to speak before such a high Forum about the problems that trouble my small people.
In different regions of the world the process of climate change has different effects. In the opinion of certain experts climate change will be beneficial for Russia. And in parts of Siberia it will be as warm as in the Tropics. But for Indigenous peoples this will have far-ranging consequences. One of the main threats is the change in river flow patterns. The majority of settlements in the North today are located on the shores of river. In recent years there has been a sharp increase in the magnitude of spring freshets (a kind of flash flood); floods have become more common; processes of shore erosion, which cause grave disasters for the population, have accelerated. Already today the questions stands whether to close or relocate certain settlements. Thus, for example, there is the question of closing down my own village-township - the place of collective habitation of my people, the Yukagirs. And the closing of our settlement holds the threat of the disappearance of my people. Also there are new dangers besides the large material losses caused by the flooding: there is the possibility of washout of animal graveyards holding the remains of livestock that has died of Anthrax over the course of many years, as well as of the ancient graveyard with the remains of people who have perished in epidemics of plague and smallpox.
A serious effect is had by climate change on traditional forms of husbandry of the Indigenous peoples: reindeer herding, fishing, hunting and hunting-related trades. Due to massive snowfalls a thicker covering of snow forms, making it difficult for reindeer to graze. With changing water patterns the times of summer and autumn fish migrations are disturbed, changes occur in the types and quantities of fish; with the thawing of soil frosts some fish lakes "go"; due to late ice formation the time for ice-fishing is sometimes missed. Due to changing routes and times of migrations of caribou, geese, ducks, many hunters are left without their quarry. There is a growing threat to the lives of many hunters, who ride out to the hunt without waiting for sufficient ice thickness. The number of accidents among hunters has increased. But these are only a few of the problems connected with climate change. In actuality the problems are far more numerous.
Here then are my proposals to the Permanent Forum. Because:
1. Natural disasters (hurricanes, floods, storms, droughts, etc.) yearly acquire an ever more catastrophic nature, some countries already no longer able to address these problems on their own;
2. Questions arise of relocating within only a few years from now of the populations not only of settlements but already of entire regions and even of countries (the Seychelles, the Maldives, and others);
3. Climate change leads to the loss of traditional lands and change in the lifestyle of many representatives of Indigenous peoples.
I propose to raise the question:
1. About the creation of a global foundation for minimizing the consequences of and the adaptation of nations to climate change;
2. About the full participation of Indigenous peoples in international discussions and decision-making concerning issues connected with global climate change;
3. To address countries about acknowledging the fact of climate change and the instituting of national programs for diminishing the consequences of and the adaptation of peoples to changes in the climate.
Finding a solution for problems associated with climate change is a question of the fate of Indigenous peoples, a question of their life or death. Thank you!
I can out Kissinger Kissinger!