Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Natural Justice Fellowship Program: Call for Applications - India

The Natural Justice Environmental Law Fellowship Program is designed for young lawyers and other committed individuals from different backgrounds to get a chance to engage in the exciting space of environmental law. The Program introduces Fellows to a broad spectrum of issues within environmental law in India through fieldwork and research in several different areas of work. The Fellowship offers an exciting opportunity to lawyers and others who are passionate about learning to use domestic and international environmental law to secure the rights of communities to their lands and resources. The Fellows will be exposed to a range of innovative ways of effectively using environmental law, ranging from community-based legal support and training to written submissions and advocacy. Over the year, the Fellows will also benefit from networks community-based organizations, non-governmental organizations, legal practitioners, and others.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Biocultural Community Protocols and the Future of Conservation

On 17 July 2014, the Namibian, a local daily in Namibia, reported a rather momentous event: the development of a biocultural community protocol of the Kxoe community of the Bwabwata National Park — the first of its kind in Namibia.

Around 6,700 Kxoe people reside in Bwabwata National Park in Namibia’s West, and in the Kavango and Zambezi regions; they survive mainly as hunters and gatherers. The Kxoe developed the protocol with assistance from the Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism and Natural Justice. The protocol sought to articulate the Kxoe’s values, priorities, and procedures for decision-making around their resources, as well as set out their rights and responsibilities under customary, state, and international law. The protocol would be used as the basis for engaging with external actors such as the government, companies, academics, and non-governmental organizations, who seek access to the Kxoe lands, and traditional and genetic resources for research and development, commercialization, conservation, and other legal and policy frameworks. Read the full blog post by Kabir Sanjay Bavikatte here.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Natural Justice Assists in Drafting Submission to AfDB on its Independent Review Mechanism

Africa is experiencing an economic boom, and the African Development Bank (AfDB) is an important institution financing development on the continent. It is one of the leading institutions in the recently launched Program for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA), which was created to increase intra-regional trade in Africa. The AfDB Group (consisting of the AfDB and the African Development Fund) also provides hundreds of millions of dollars of official development assistance (ODA) to Sub-Saharan African countries each year. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), in 2012 the AfDB disbursed USD 1.7 billion in ODA, or approximately 10% of multilateral ODA disbursed that year (link to statistics,  Table 29).

Like the World Bank and all other multilateral development banks, the AfDB has a dispute resolution mechanism to handle disputes involving communities affected by AfDB financed projects. This mechanisms, known as the Independent Review Mechanism (IRM) was established in 2004, and undergoes periodic reviews by the AfDB Boards of Directors. In 2014, the AfDB began its second review of the IRM. As part of the process, the AfDB commissioned a report by a consultant to review the performance of the IRM. It then invited comments from civil society on that report between 1 July 2014 to 30 August, 2014.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

International Conference Held on Role of Human Rights in Global Issues

On 5 September 2014, the 3rd UNITAR-Yale Conference on Environmental Governance and Democracy was held at Yale University. The conference brought together a wide range of participants, including representatives of UN agencies, NGOs, academics, human rights defenders and others to discuss issues related to "Human Rights, Environmental Sustainability, Post 2015 Development Agenda, and the Future Climate Regime" (the conference theme). The goal of the conference was to develop actions and recommendations for policy makers involved in these issues. Natural Justice attended the conference and also submitted a case study paper on community protocols in Ghana and Kenya.

The conference began with a keynote speech from Professor John Knox, the UN Independent Expert on human rights and the environment. He noted that every regional agreement since 1970 has adopted some form of a right to a healthy environment and that 90 countries now provide for a right to a healthy environment in their constitutions. He also noted several benefits of a human rights based approach to the environment, including the fact that it sets out rules for environmental policy making, such as duties to conduct impact assessments, make information public, and allow for participation in decision making.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Melangkap Community Protocol

cc Harry Jonas, 2014
A group of five Melangkap villages presented their protocol on the 6th of September, 2014 in Sabah, Malaysia. These  communities have developed a one page protocol that requires anyone entering the broader community for any purpose to submit their intentions in writing, and to abide by local customary law. Those laws, customs, practices, their hopes and aspirations have also been documented and are contained in a secondary document.

At the meeting, there were cultural dances, a film highlighting the process produced by the community was shown, and signed copies of the protocol were handed by the traditional chief to the village headmen. In attendance were members of all five Melangkap communities, Sabah Biodiversity Centre, UNDP Small Grants Programme, BC Initiative and Natural Justice, among others. 

Friday, September 5, 2014

Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa - High Ambitions, High Risks

Across the continent, it has been estimated that infrastructure inefficiencies cost billions of dollars annually, stunting African GDP growth. As a response, improving infrastructure across the continent is now regarded as a continental priority.

On 25 and 26 August, Stephanie Booker of Natural Justice attended the launch of the report "Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa - High Ambitions, High Risks".

The Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa, or PIDA, is the scaling up of infrastructure development across the continent, incorporating the New Economic Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) and the Infrastructure Master Plan of the African Union (AU) "in a single, inter-regional, and overarching framework for infrastructure development in Africa". PIDA is regarded as a strategic framework until 2040 in order to develop cross-border infrastructure in four key areas (energy, transport, Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and trans-boundary water resources. 

1st Africa Indigenous Peoples' Conference on Land Policy Frameworks

On 13 and 14 August, Stephanie Booker and Shalom Ndiku of Natural Justice attended the International Land Coalition's 1st Africa Indigenous Peoples' Conference on Land Policy Frameworks in Nairobi, Kenya. The central theme of the two day meeting was: "Mainstreaming Indigenous Peoples' Right to Land in Land Policy and Legislation Framework in Africa within the Indigenous Peoples Rights Framework". Over 50 people based across the continent attended the meeting to discuss a number of core issues including:

  • Key issues and the state of play of Indigenous Peoples' rights in Africa;
  • Key global and regional trends regarding Indigenous Peoples' land rights;
  • The state of land policy frameworks and land reform in Africa;
  • Mechanisms to address land and resource rights;
  • Good practices in protection and management of indigenous peoples' land, territories and resources; and,
  • Benefit-sharing mechanisms on natural resources.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Placing the reconstituted NBWL in the Regulatory Framework

There has been a hue and cry over the newly reconstituted National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) as the same has inadequate representation from NGOs, eminent conservationists/ecologists/environmentalists and States from what is stipulated in the law. The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 (Section 5A of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972) mandates that 10 States (by rotation), 10 ecologists/conservationists/environmentalists and 5 NGOs need to be present in the 47 member body of the NBWL whereas the newly constituted NBWL has representatives only from 5 States, 2 ecologists/conservationists/environmentalists and  1 NGO.  
It is pertinent to note that the role played by the NBWL and the Standing Committee to the NBWL in regulating developmental and other activities in and around protected areas is crucial with the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 (hereinafter the WLPA) vesting regulatory, recommendatory, advisory and consultative powers with the NBWL and the Standing Committee to the NBWL. The  Guidelines issued by the Ministry of Environment and Forest on 19th December 2012 on taking up non-forestry activities in wildlife habitats (hereinafter the Guidelines) states that to undertake any non-forestry activities in any wild habitats, the project proponents requires Environmental Clearance, Forest Clearance and NBWL Clearance, making NBWL clearance another clearance process.   

Friday, August 22, 2014

Participation of Indigenous Peoples in REDD+: Workshop Report Published

In September 10-12, 2013, Natural Jusice’s Dr. Cath Traynor attended an international expert workshop entitled: "Practical Approaches to Ensuring the Full and Effective Participation of Indigenous Peoples in REDD+". the workshop was held in Weilburg, Germany, and was co-hosted by BMZ, Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) and the UN-REDD Programme.  

The workshop offered space for the analysis of REDD+ participation and consultation standards, explored practical approaches and shed light on unsolved questions evolving around the challenge to provide for legitimate, effective and yet feasible inclusion of Indigenous Peoples in REDD+processes. Dr. Traynor shared with the participants the value of community protocols, and the work that Natural Justice is doing in this area.  This, and other contributions and insights are included in the recently published workshop report.

A People's Dialogue on Fracking

On Thursday, 21 August, Stephanie Booker of Natural Justice attended 'A People's Dialogue on Fracking: Global to Local", hosted by Groundwork and Southern Cape Land Committee in Cape Town.

The dialogue was attended by a number of South African NGOs and community members from the Karoo, in addition to guests Milieudefensie (Friends of the Earth, The Netherlands) and Dutch representatives currently resisting fracking in their communities. It gave an opportunity for participants to share their concerns - and their work - on fracking in South Africa.