In Partnership with Indigenous Communities: Sakhalin Indigenous Minorities Development Plan (SIMDP)
Beginning with its first activities, the Company has sought to be a responsible corporate citizen and pursue socially and environmentally appropriate strategies for expanding opportunities to local communities and mitigating adverse impacts. Since 2006, an important part of the effort has been the preparation of a series of Sakhalin Indigenous Minorities Development Plans (SIMDP). These are the products of a collaborative effort between Sakhalin Energy, the Regional Council of Authorized Representatives and the Sakhalin Oblast Government. The partners seek to encourage sustainable development initiatives that would contribute to quality of life improvement of the Sakhalin Indigenous Peoples.
The Plan objectives are under constant development to ensure no one is left behind. Therefore, the capacity-building, social, cultural, and economic development of Sakhalin’s Indigenous Minorities (SIM) are always at the heart of every plan from various angles. Thus, enhancing SIMs’ capacity to actively participate in the self-management of their own affairs, ranging from leadership training to technical skills improvement. Implementation of social and economic development plans in a culturally appropriate manner contributes to cultural revival, economic viability of traditional activities, and improved social conditions. The key principles include transparency, an inclusive approach, non-interference in indigenous internal affairs, open and responsive communications, and recognising that decision-making and consensus-building take time.
SIMDP is directly related to several targets encompassed by the SDGs. Firstly, the company is focused on achieving SDGs related to IP human rights (first ever global Free, Prior and Informed Consent practice, partnership, grievance mechanism elaboration), on contributing to capacity building and improving livelihood, on preserving and developing traditional activities and cultural heritage. Therefore, SIMDP has proven that achieving SDGs is one of its priorities. It was pronounced as a winner among programmes promoting the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
The SIMDP had three editions implemented between May 2006 and December 2020, with the 4th being under revision. Throughout the years, the partners - Sakhalin Energy, RCAR (Regional Council of Authorised Representatives of SIM), and the Sakhalin Oblast Government - has established a smooth working relationship to supervise and implement the SIMDPs with active involvement of SIMs. One of the important achievements of the SIMDPs was the evolution of the decision-making process, which provided the SIMs with broader authority and independence in choosing projects important for their communities and fund distribution. In brief, while SIMDP1 required three party consent for each decision, SIMDP2 already developed a decision-making mechanism where part of the choices mostly related to social projects became the domain of the elected IP delegates, and SIMDP3 granted them full responsibility to take and execute all decisions. The fourth Plan is currently being prepared and is also going to achieve Free, Prior and Informed Consent. One of the distinguishing aims of SIMDP4 is to establish a Sustainable Development Fund that would consist from only SIM representatives elected by IP community with the aim to make decision on the projects to support based on agreed criteria. Special emphasis is put on transparency and shared responsibility. An important tool for building trust-based relationships is a grievance procedure. The SIMDP is subjected to regular internal and external monitoring to identify problems or changes to be made in the implementation of the programme. It also provides an opportunity to assess whether the SIMDP objectives are being met. The resulting evaluation reports are submitted to the three Plan partners and made publicly available.
The plan incorporated measures helping to improve the lives and livelihoods of SIMs in the project area of the Sakhalin-2 oil and gas project. Although the project operates only in several limited areas of traditional SIM residence, SIM representatives from across Sakhalin take part in the SIMDP implementation. Overall SIMDP funding through the present has totaled US$4.66 million contributed by the Company. In addition, administrative costs for the Plan (including staff salaries and costs for the operation of governance bodies) as well as other SIM-related projects were supported by Sakhalin Energy from non-SIMDP allocated funds. During the plan implementation over 900 projects, designed and selected by SIM representatives, were carried out in the areas where they live, with an exponential growth in participation observed in recent years. The most important achievement of the plan is the capacity building embodied in the increase of clan enterprises and SIM’s skills development.
SIMDP is the only community development plan run by an oil and gas project which applies to the whole territory of Sakhalin, not only to areas of oil exploitation, and indigenous people make decisions on distribution of funds. Overall, it has benefited many SIM, even those who have fiercely criticised it, via goods distribution, scholarships, and capacity-building opportunities. The principal constraints include unique geography, lack of infrastructure, and severe climate conditions: indigenous settlements are generally located far from population centres; therefore, the company created communication centres in villages for future grantees.
SIMDP, incorporating standards from the World Bank/IFC, EBRD and UNDRIP, has proven its sustainability over 15 years, and the fact that another 5-year plan is being designed is evidence of this. It has grown into a good practice on both national and international levels, with the most telling endorsement by the Russian Association of the Indigenous Peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East. It recommends the Plan be used as a model for other regions in the country for IP in their relations with business. Observers, including Russian federal ministries, believe SIMDP can serve as a prototype for other corporations. The plan elements that play crucial roles for sustainability and successful replicability are independent monitoring, a regular and transparent system of open communication and feedback opportunities. These are the basics already used in other social activities of the company, e.g. Korsakov Sustainable Development Partnership Council and Energy Social Initiatives Fund.
Undoubtedly, COVID-19 has impacted the project in general and some activities and projects were either postponed or switched to digital formats, which in itself has been quite a challenging exercise, given the remoteness of IP areas and a lack of required skills. Face-to-face communication is an important cultural component, while online formats call into question the principles of openness and involvement. Still, SIMDP partners agreed to partly keep online and video format to be more flexible, continue operation and expand participation opportunities. The pandemic confirmed sustainability of preserving and promoting traditional indigenous knowledge, in particular in health in harmony with nature. This will be included in the next SIMDP phase as one of the key objectives starting in 2021.
SDGS & Targets
Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
Deliverables & Timeline
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Sakhalin is located in the south-east of Russia. Sakhalin Oblast is the historical homeland of the Sakhalin Indigenous Minorities. It is a home to 4,000 SIM people of four ethic groups: the Nivkh, the Uilta, the Evenks and the Nanai.