Since 1997, the World Reindeer Herders’ Congress convenes every 4 years to discuss ways and means for reindeer herders to cooperate regionally and internationally, to address common challenges, to learn from each other, and to take advantage of new developments in reindeer husbandry.
GRID-Arendal, which is working closely with the Association of World Reindeer Herders (WRH) and the International Centre for Reindeer Husbandry (ICR), is present at the Congress as an official Observer.
The 5th Congress is taking place in Aoluguya, a village on the outskirts of Genhe, Inner Mongolia (China).
Reindeer herding is practiced only by Evenki within this region of China. The region is also the coldest region in China, reaching below -50 degrees celcius in winter.
Today’s Opening Ceremony saw the speeches and introductions from several of the reindeer herding regions, as well as interventions from the local government and organizations such as the Indigenous People’s Secretariat and the University of the Arctic.
Early voting also took place on one key issue: Scotland, which so far has not been a member region of the Association of World Reindeer Herders, received a unanimous approval today at the Congress to be included as a member region – a decision which was met by cheers and applauses.
Mikhail Pogodaev, Chair of the Association of World Reindeer Herders, presented the Report of the Board to the Congress, which outlined the work of the Association over the past four years (2009 – 2013). The work that the Association has undertaken with the UN featured prominently in the report.
Also for initial discussion was the Congress Declaration – a draft document which will provide a starting point from which delegates will refine the language and adopt a final Congress Declaration this Sunday evening.
Key points of this draft declaration up for discussion include a specific focus on:
• Enhancing communication and information sharing amongst and between reindeer herding regions, and to others (e.g. government, private sector etc.)
• Focussing on reversing the decline in taiga reindeer husbandry – which remains a critical issue that requires renewed attention due to its danger of disappearing
• Focussing on health issues : this issue will also receive more focus under the incoming Canadian Chairmanship of the Arctic Council;
• Focus on adaptation to globalization – and particularly a focus on the possible inclusion of reindeer husbandry as a UNESCO World Heritage;
• Pastures and biodiversity – language here focuses on the need to include traditional knowledge into biodiversity assessments etc.
• And finally, focus on the engagement of youth and the recruitment of youth into reindeer husbandry.
The Nomadic Herders project features prominently in the Declaration.
Work on Friday will involve diving deeper into the the above specific issues – through special, dedicated working sessions on each topic.
More to follow soon…
Cover picture: The 5th Congress is being held in a large tent in Aoluguya village, Inner Mongolia. © Björn Alfthan
Above picture: Delegates meet and greet in Genhe city, a short drive away from Aoluguya village. © Björn Alfthan
Above picture: Local Evenki girls at the Congress. © Björn Alfthan
Above picture: An Evenki reindeer herder from China meets the delegates, with his reindeer. © Björn Alfthan
Above picture: A police escort has been provided every day, ensuring that the Congress isn’t held up in local traffic. ☺ © Björn Alfthan