Thursday, April 28, 2016

Natural Justice Co-Hosts Brainstorming Workshop on “The Future Development Finance and Accountability Landscape” 

With the world on the brink of the biggest infrastructure boom in history, infrastructure project funding is increasingly slated for the Global South. Here the projects are often located in environmentally and socially sensitive areas, including on lands inhabited by indigenous peoples and other vulnerable groups. While these projects can have great benefits, they can equally constitute serious threats to already marginalized groups. At the same time, the models for financing new infrastructure are growing increasingly complex, with the creation of new institutions such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the Global Infrastructure Facility, and a call for growing private sector involvement. 

Against this backdrop, Natural Justice, Columbia University’s Institute for the Study of Human Rights, Center of Concern, the Heinrich Böll Foundation, and Inclusive Development International, with the support of the 11th Hour Project, co-organized a brainstorming workshop to bring together experts in finance, development finance, infrastructure development, and human rights. The workshop took place over two days (21-22 April 2016) at Columbia University. The purpose of the workshop was to build an understanding of the current system and projected future financial models and develop a plan for where to focus efforts in order to ensure that financers of infrastructure are accountable to international human rights standards.

The workshop served as an opportunity for people from many different backgrounds – private finance, pension funds, the UN, civil society, academics, and others – to sit together and share information and experiences on financing infrastructure. It was clear from the workshop that while so called “downstream” accountability (e.g. remedies after harm has occurred) is critical, building more accountability at the “upstream” (e.g. project design, procurement) level is equally important. Unless human rights impacts are taken into account in project design and financing, communities will always be playing catch up during implementation.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

International Fellow, Luchino Ferraris reflects on his internship with Natural Justice

My four-month internship period at Natural Justice (from January to the end of April 2016) was not just a high level professional training, but also an unforgettable life experience.

With an elegant office situated at the sixth floor of the prestigious “Mercantile Building” – one of the most traditional and well-preserved buildings in Cape Town, located at the heart of the Central Business District (CBD) – Natural Justice is a team of professional and committed people primarily fighting for indigenous peoples’ rights on a national and a global scale and drawing on a wide array of tools (legal, political, scientific) to reach this aim.

If anybody reading this post has in mind the cliché of the intern making photocopies twelve hours a day, please forget about it and keep on reading. On the contrary, the team immediately welcomes you and makes you feel involved in its projects, always giving you the possibility to have a say in the organization and encouraging you to adopt a personal and critical view at every stage of the work.

Thanks to my legal background - and particularly in international and environmental law, acquired during my undergraduate in “Law” at the University of Milan and in the master (LLM) “Global Environment and Climate Change Law” at the University of Edinburgh - I focused on numerous legal and political-related issues such as the research and drafting of a working paper on the outcomes of the 2015 Paris Agreement, the drafting of a policy brief on the Right to Food and Food Security in Southern Africa and at international level, the elaboration of strategies to defend indigenous peoples’ rights at judicial level and the development of plans to raise awareness on the protection of traditional knowledge and intellectual property rights.

The carrying out of such tasks is reflected in my dynamic daily life at the office which involved desktop research, team meetings, interviews with other researchers and politicians, as well as the participation in workshops, conferences and the frequent contact with the teaching staff of the University of Cape Town (UCT). On this point, the one-week field work we conducted in the Richtersveld desert (Northern Cape) with the Nama community definitely deserves a special mention.

On a personal note, I wish to stress the serious, transparent and respectful attitude of the whole team, with whom I undertook not only a professional, but also a human relationship. I therefore strongly recommend such an experience to everyone who wishes to undertake a highly professionalizing experience and to spend a magnificent period in the gorgeous Cape Town.

Post by Luchino Ferraris.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

How to Help Communities Protect their Lands

Guest Blog by: Rachael Knight, Director, Community Land Protection Program, Namati

The scale of the global land grab is staggering. While international actors have made excellent progress establishing complaint boards, issuing principles for responsible investment, and securing commitments from multi-national corporations, these protections do not chart a clear course of action that communities can follow to protect their lands and natural resources before an investor arrives seeking land.

The problem is that once an investor arrives to “consult with” a community, it may be too late. After a deal has been made in capital city conference rooms or in clandestine meetings between chiefs and company representatives, communities are forced on the defensive. At this point, all they can do is try to mitigate the negative impacts of investors’ plans - rather than assertively proclaiming their legal rights, demanding that the investor abide by FPIC principles, and then choosing whether to reject the investment or accept it on terms that ensure that the community benefits and prospers.

Meanwhile, many of the “investors” grabbing land are national or local elites unaccountable to international institutions – the cousin of the President or the nephew of the Minister – who operate with complete impunity, protected by powerful connections to government, the judiciary and the police. Such individuals do not answer to shareholders or complaint boards, and are not the least bit concerned with principles of corporate social responsibility. If  a community’s land claims are unrecognized or undocumented – and if the community’s leadership is weak or corrupt – the easier it is for these elites to manipulate their power to claim what land they want.

To have a fighting chance against elites’ bad-faith actions, communities must proactively take steps to know and enforce their rights, prevent their leaders from transacting land without community approval, and seek legal recognition of their land claims. And they must do so before elites and investors arrive.

After years of working with partner organizations around the world to support communities to protect their land rights, the international legal empowerment organization Namati has developed a comprehensive approach designed to support communities to do just this: proactively document and map their land claims, seek formal government recognition of their land rights, and strengthen local governance.

To share this approach with frontline advocates and activists across the world, Namati has published a Community Land Protection Facilitators’ Guide as a step-by-step, practical “how to” manual for grassroots advocates working to help communities protect their land rights.

The guide, available to download for free, details Namati’s five-part process for protecting community lands and examines questions such as: “Who is included or excluded when defining a ‘community’?”, “How to resolve longstanding boundary disputes?”, and “How can communities prepare for interactions with potential investors?” The guide goes beyond documentation to address issues of women’s land rights, inclusive governance, cultural revitalization, ecosystem regeneration, and more. Every chapter includes exercises, sample forms, and tips from veteran land protection advocates. All activities are easily adaptable to a range of cultures, contexts, and community goals. The guide is accompanied by short, animated videos that demonstrate the community land protection process visually.

The goal is not just to protect land, but to leverage community land protection efforts to build:
   Inclusive, diverse communities that respect the rights of women and other marginalized groups;
   Sustainable local economies fueled by diverse local livelihoods;
   Environmental stewardship that results in flourishing ecosystems, food security, and the protection of future biodiversity; and
   The revival, maintenance, and inter-generational transfer of dynamic local cultures, languages, ceremonies, and traditional knowledge.

By adapting and using the approach in the guide, advocates around the world will be better able to not only help communities resist elites and investors’ bad-faith efforts to grab their lands, but to also empower communities to drive the course of their own development, create more just, equitable societies, and preserve ecological and cultural diversity for future generations
Join Namati’s Global Legal Empowerment Network to learn more and exchange strategies and experiences with other community land protection and legal empowerment practitioners.

Namati is a proud member of the #LandRightsNow campaign - learn more and sign up today!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

African Civil Society Engages the 6th Special Session of AMCEN

Natural Justice joined the ‘Pre-AMCEN African Post Paris/UNEP MGSF Consultative Workshop’ held in Cairo, 15th April 2016. The workshop was organised and hosted by the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA), and CSO representatives from across Africa met to deliberate on key issues on the agenda of the 6th African Ministers Conference on the Environment (AMCEN). The aim of the workshop was to reflect on the COP21 outcomes, the Sustainable Development goals and plan for the 2nd United Nations Environmental Assembly scheduled for 23-27th May 2016, Nairobi, Kenya.

The UNFCCC Paris Climate Agreement was analysed and Natural Justice’s Dr. Cath Traynor joined a panel presentation on the agreement and discussed the implications of the mitigation decisions for Africa, other issues covered included adaptation, finance, gender, and technology transfer.

The following day a consultative workshop was held on ‘Energy Transformation and Access’, participants discussed the African Renewable Energy Initiative (AREI), which aims to enable the installation of large-scale renewable energy capacity on the African continent by 2020. Speakers shared post-Paris discussions on renewable energy, and what the initiative could mean in practical terms for Africa, breakout groups discussed how energy transformation and access could be accelerated in Africa.
Ms. Hindou Oumarou (PACJA Executive Committee), Representative for Hon. Dr. Khaled Fahmy (AMCEN Chair/Minister for Environment, Egypt), & Mr. Mithika Mwenda (PACJA Secretary General)

Representatives from both workshops drafted key messages for AMCEN, these included calling on their governments to play a leading role in the forthcoming April 22 UN Paris Agreement Signing in New York, to compel developed countries to sign and ratify the Agreement, to fulfill their commitments and indeed to raise their Nationally Determined Contributions ambition so that the collective goal of limiting temperature increases to 1.5oC above pre-industrial levels can be achieved. They also called for their governments to translate the provisions of the Agreement and other AU resolutions into domestic laws, policies, structures and development strategies. Regards to AREI, they called for comprehensive safeguards, the involvement of local communities in the energy transition, and for decentralized energy. Mr. Mithika Mwenda, Secretary General of PACJA presented the collective message on the first day of AMCEN.

During AMCEN Ministers reaffirmed that adaptation to climate change is a priority for Africa, they highlighted the need for adequate support for implementation of adaptation measures, and that developed countries must adhere to their pre-2020 commitments in the Paris Agreement.

Natural Justice has produced a Working Paper ‘The Binding Nature of the 2015 Paris Agreement and Outcomes for Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities’ – please email for a copy.

Friday, March 11, 2016

OUTCOMES FROM THE CIVIL SOCIETY MEETING: Debrief on COP21 and reporting on activities of the Policy and the Communications Working Group

The first of the two CSO Debriefs on COP 21 organized by the Organization “Project 90 by 2030” was convened on the 8th of March in Cape Town. The participants were representatives of a great deal of non-governmental organizations and observers of climate negotiations.  The purposes of this workshop, like its corresponding follow up in Johannesburg scheduled on the 11th of March, are numerous:

 Report back from the ad-hoc working groups: policy and communications;
  • Exchange Knowledge and viewpoints on COP 21 outcomes and implications for South Africa;
  • Review of civil societies red lines for COP 21 and identify key messages for year ahead;
  • Identify civil society events and actions around international and national climate change policy in 2016;
  • Develop a joint press release: what a coalition of civil society is expecting from South Africa in light of the Paris agreement;

In this connection, the meeting started with the presentation by Jaco du Toit (WWF South Africa) on the outcomes of the Paris Agreement, particularly stressing the implications of the bottom-up approach endorsed by the Parties and its reflections on the text of the Agreement. As a result, it was shown that an additional effort seems to be required to attain the global goal of 2° C of temperature increase. The pledges currently submitted by the Parties are supposed to restrain the increase of global temperature by 3.5° C - whereas the absence of any action inspired by the business-as-usual approach would lead to an increase by 4.5° C.

The intervention by Happy Khambule (Policy and Research Coordinator of Project 90 by 2030 and co-organizer of the meeting) focused on a review of the Civil Society Red-Lines, striking a balance with the last meeting in November 2015. Such Red-Lines are a set of “non-negotiables” agreed by a great deal of NGOs and enshrined in a document submitted to the South African Government prior to COP21. Their purpose is to drive and influence South African policy vis-à-vis climate change, pushing for climate-smart and sustainable choices.

In the last part of the meeting, participants were encouraged to talk and discuss, finding a common positions regards South Africa’s response to climate change, both in the national and in the international arena. Consensus was reached that there are 6 main priorities to work on in order to improve the existing framework:
  • Revision of South African Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs): These can be improved upon so that South Africa takes the lead in the fight against climate change, by setting and pursuing more ambitious targets;
  • Civil Society Organization (CSO) strengthening: public participation in climate-related matters is to be improved, particularly by studying strategic alliances with enterprises. The proposal was raised to set up frequent climate change meetings on a regular basis;
  • Stronger engagement in CODESA, a forum in which a great variety of South African stakeholders gather in order to deeply discuss climate issues.
  • Avoid double counting: the Paris Agreement bans double counting on several occasions in the final draft. However, there are the gaps and the weaknesses in the enforcement of this rule, as to date no mechanism has been put in place yet. As a result – also due to the complexity of the topic – there are still many ways by which countries may circumvent this obstacle and few are the institutional mechanisms to denounce and stop such unlawful practices. Possible ways forward include the institution of a national register grouping together every single mitigation project and/or the parallel standardization of accounting rules;
  • Signature of the Agreement: South Africa is encouraged to take this step before the deadline of April 2017.
Brief by Luchino Ferraris - International Fellow at Natural Justice.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Natural Justice – Cape Town Office – Skill and Information Sharing Session – March 2016.

The Cape Town Office of Natural Justice, joined by Nayana Udayashankar, from our India office, via the internet, hosted its third monthly Skill and Information Sharing Session on 3 March 2016. This time we were honoured with the presence of Dr Laura Foster, Gender Studies, Indiana University Bloomington. Dr. Foster has expertise in science and technology studies, feminist and critical race legal theory, post-colonial feminisms, and feminist research methodologies. She is a research partner on NJs ‘Empowering Indigenous Peoples and Knowledge Systems Related to Climate Change and Intellectual Property Rights’ Project.

Dr Foster shared with the team her skill of grounded theory coding which could be very helpful in processing volumes of information. She explained that coding helps in narrowing down the scope of sometimes a very wide range of knowledge that we so often have to work through, to extract main points or core themes in one’s work. Grounded theory allows one to consider issues from the ‘bottom-up’, to assist in constructing community meanings. Dr. Foster also stressed that although a variety of sources can be analysed using this methodology, e.g. interviews, publications, Parliamentary Bills, email and correspondence, indeed multiple sources are beneficial however triangulation is essential.

Developing coding, as a skill within Natural Justice will enhance our capacity to analyse the multiple sources of information we encounter during our work in a more systematic way.

We look forward to further integrating this methodology within thematic areas such as land, customary law, climate change, amongst others.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Natural Justice – Cape Town Office - Skill and Information Sharing Session February 2016

Natural Justice’s Cape Town office hosted its second monthly Skill and Information Sharing Session on 29 February 2016. We were honored with the presence of Mr. Wilberforce Laate, our Ghanaian partner from CIKOD. His discussion focused on endogenous development and traditional leadership. It is particularly of interest since Natural Justice is currently working with the National Khoi & San Council to realize the formal recognition of Khoi-San peoples’ customary leadership institutions and its communities.
This approach of endogenous development entails the idea of taking a look backward, to pick up ideas and values that were useful from the past, in developing the future. It advocates that all aspects of a community must be regarded in that community’s development, those relating to the spiritual world, material world and social world. According to this endogenous development approach, development is already active in communities all the time. It is also a combination of both indigenous and appropriate external knowledge and support.
Mr. Laate also shared the traditional authority system in Ghana; how it works and what challenges they have faced and how they have been addressing these issues since the late 1950s when their colonial system ended.
The Traditional and Khoi-San Leadership Bill 2015 (PDF), the first to give recognition to Khoi-San leadership institutions, is currently in South African parliament and open for public consultation (see Parliament news here and here). Thus, at this time, Mr. Laate’s insight on endogenous development and his example of the place of traditional authorities in Ghana serves as a shared African experience.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Call for contributions for the forthcoming book "Indigenous Perspectives on Living with Sacred Heritage (2016)"

A forthcoming book aims to amplify Indigenous custodians voices in a publication entitled "Indigenous Perspectives on Living with Sacred Heritage (2016)".

The book will look to the notion of a sacred site as defined by its indigenous custodians. The primary interest of the volume is to provide a platform for indigenous custodians to explain how they view and treat the sacred through a written account that is available to a global audience.

The volume seeks contributions that provide examples of indigenous sacred sites governance and management, with each example treated as a separate chapter. The goal is to highlight indigenous approaches and present concerns regarding sacred natural site management. The prefereance is to encourage indigenous authors, but all voices that further the proposed goals of the book are invited.

Authors should indicate their expression of interest by 30 June 2016. Please seethe Sacred Natural Sites page here for more details.

Indigenous Fellowship Programme with OHCHR

The UN Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner call for applications for the senior indigenous fellowship is now open. The Indigenous Fellowship Programme (IFP) is a comprehensive programme which aims to contribute to build capacity and expertise of indigenous representatives in the UN system and mechanisms dealing with human rights in general and indigenous issues in particular. The IFP is accessible in four languages, it is held annually for 4-5 weeks in Geneva usually in June/July to coincide with the annual meeting of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Please see the OHCHR IPF webpage for further information on how the programme works, who can apply, and how to apply.

The deadline for applications is 11 March 2016.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Glass Half Full? New Report Finds Development Banks Can Do More To Protect Communities' Rights

Development finance institutions (DFIs) that operate on global and regional levels play a significant role in protecting the human rights of indigenous peoples and local communities. That is due in large part to the fact that DFIs finance infrastructure, extractive, and other development projects that can have major impacts on communities. Financing of development in this context can be viewed as three sides of a triangle made up of (1) the DFI that supplies the financing for a project, (2) the borrowing client that implements the project, and (3) the independent accountability mechanism (IAM) of the DFI that exists to hear complaints related to the impacts caused by the project. How well are DFIs playing their role?

'Glass Half Full?: The State of Accountability in Development Finance' is a new report written by 11 organizations, including Natural Justice, that aims to answer that question. Using the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights as a framework, the report finds that even though complainants are undoubtedly better off than they would be in the absence of any complaint procedure, the outcome rarely provides adequate remedy for the harm caused by development projects.

This is the result of several factors, including the DFIs themselves, who undermine the effectiveness of the IAMs by failing to require their clients to disclose the IAM's existence to project-affected people and limiting the IAMs' mandates by stopping short of allowing them to issue binding decisions. Rather, the outcome depends either on the willingness of the DFI's client to resolve the conflict through dialogue or the DFI's own willingness to address the violations found through an IAM investigation. The report concludes with two sets of recommendations. The first set seeks to improve the current system by identifying best practices that should be adopted by all IAMs and DFIs. The report determines, however, that simply adopting best practices will not be enough to ensure that complainants receive remedy for the harms that have occurred. Rather, a new accountability system must be established as a matter of urgency with mechanisms that are empowered to make binding decisions and DFIs that no longer claim immunity in national courts.