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Russian indigenous leaders study satellite communication for remote northern communities

Arendal 23 August 1999 - Representatives of Russian Arctic indigenous peoples will discuss the health and environmental challenges facing their communities with Gro Harlem Brundtland, director general of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Klaus Töpfer, executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and Tove Strand, director of Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD). Problems related to health mark the everyday life of many people in the indigenous communities, and hazardous chemical emissions from countries further south threaten health and nature in the long term.

The meetings are taking place Monday 23 August at GRID-Arendal, a UNEP office specialising in distributing environmental information about the Arctic, which is celebrating its tenth anniversary this week. GRID-Arendal has worked with RAIPON, the organisation of the Russian indigenous peoples in the North, for several years.

On Tuesday 24 August the president and vice presidents of Indigenous peoples from Northern Russia (RAIPON) will discuss the potential of low earth orbit communication satellite systems to help them deal with many problems facing their communities at a meeting in Arendal.

GRID-Arendal and the European Space Agency (ESA) will offer assistance to indigenous peoples in the north to enable them to take advantage of satellite communication services. The need for efficient and modern communication technology in isolated northern communities is considerable, and access to communication facilities can play a decisive role in improving the lives of northern people. GRID-Arendal and ESA will demonstrate a satellite communication system suitable for remote communities of only a few hundred people. Such modern communication facilities can be used to contact emergency services, increase contact among indigenous groups and tie them together, strengthen feelings of identity, increase economic prospects, and increase indigenous peoples' political participation in the democratisation of Russia.

The problems facing indigenous peoples in the polar areas are formidable, says Svein Tveitdal, director of GRID-Arendal. "Many can no longer practice their traditional ways of life, but they also do not have access to the same benefits and opportunities that people in the cities do. Through the seminar and the discussions at our tenth anniversary, we will focus on these problems together with the leaders from the various groups of indigenous peoples. Our hope is that this will contribute to increased efforts from the authorities in their work to fight these problems."

For more informnation, contact:

Lars Kullerud,
Head GIS/Visual comm. unit
Tel: 37 03 56 50

Åke Bjørke
Tel: 37 03 57 11

Monday 23 Aug 1999
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