Updated 24 February 1999

Indigenous peoples and oil

More and more indigenous communities all over the world are affected by oil and gas exploration and production. The oil industry has systemically violated indigenous peoples' right to life and self determination. The imposition of massive industrial projects on their land is threatening both physical and social existence of cultures which are often ecologically exemplary. These concerns prompted a coalition of Finnish NGO's and individual activists to invite representatives of indigenous people from oil producing areas to tell about their plight and to discuss together strategies to defend the earth. In the seminar we had a unique opportunity to hear at one place the voices of the Khanty and the Nenets from Siberia, the Ogoni from Nigeria, the U'wa from Colombia and the Quichua from Ecuador. (A more detailed list of the indegenous guests)

The organizing NGOs were Committee of 100, the Committee on Finno-Ugric Issues of the Student Union of the Helsinki University, the Finland-Russia Friendship Society, the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation, the Finnish Branch of Service Civil International, Finnish Peace Committee, the Fourth World - First Peoples Finland, the Friends of the Earth Finland, Information Centre of Finno-Ugric Peoples - SURI (Estonia), the M.A. Castrén Society, PAND - Artists for Peace, the Service Centre for Development Cooperation, the Shell Boycott Campaign, Tinku Finland and Visio. In the organizing committee there were also several independent activists and researchers.

The seminar took place in Helsinki on February 5.-6. The working languages were English, Russian, Spanish and Finnish. (The program of the seminar) The communiqué made by the indigenous participants is published on this site. The report of the seminar will be posted to the site when it is completed.

Some of the guests arrived as early as the 30th of January and stayed until the14th of February. Between these dates, several other events and cultural programs in addition to the seminar took place in different parts of the country where the guests gave talks and participated in discussions. For example on 1st of February there was a workshop in the Institute for Human Rights of Åbo Akademi University in Turku on international law and indigenous peoples.

You can request the following persons further information about the seminar and other events: