Friday, January 23, 2015

Review of RSPO's Complaints System Published


In 2014, Natural Justice was involved in two projects concerning the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). First, from April to November 2014, Natural Justice undertook a review of RSPO’s complaints system in collaboration with BC Initiative, Sdn. Bhd. The review arose from a resolution adopted at the 2012 General Assembly entitled “Guaranteeing Fairness, Transparency and Impartiality in the RSPO Complaints System” and called for the current complaints system to be improved in light of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (particularly Principle 31 on non-judicial grievance mechanisms). After three interim reports and an extensive consultation process, the final report was submitted in December and is publicly available online here.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Natural Justice Awarded OCSDNet Grant


Natural Justice is proud to have been awarded an OCSDNet Grant to focus on Empowering Indigenous Peoples and Knowledge Systems Related to Climate Change and Intellectual Property Rights  This 24-month project, led by principle researcher Dr. Cath Traynor, examines processes of open and collaborative science related to indigenous peoples’ knowledge, climate change, and intellectual property. It assumes and challenges practices of open and collaborative science as a process, one that should involve modes of being both open and closed. 

The notion of science as “open” and nature as “freely accessible” has historically been used to exploit countries in the global south such as South Africa. British and Dutch colonial scientists, for example, characterized land and resources in South Africa as “belonging to no one” under the doctrine of terra nullius in order to take biodiverse plants and produce botanical science. The notion that knowledge and resources should be open and accessible has therefore been historically used to construct South Africa as a mere supplier of raw material, rather than producer of scientific knowledge. In particular, indigenous peoples’ knowledge, resources, and heritage have been cast as free for the taking. More on the project, and the full proposal submitted by Natural Justice is accessible here.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Supporting and Strengthening Communities in Marsabit County, Kenya


Aside from being one of the rockiest parts of East Africa, Marsabit County is the second largest county in Kenya, covering at least 15% of the country’s entire territory. Straddling along the boundary between Kenya and her northern neighbor Ethiopia, this county has over 14 different ethnic groups who call it home with sundry livelihoods: including pastoralists, fishermen, hunter-gatherers and small-scale agriculturalists. This large pocket of Kenya also embodies a most diverse landscape, from the ever foggy and freezing highlands formed from historically volcanic mountains near Marsabit Town to a much warmer low lying rugged terrain spanning thousands of square kilometers, and the world’s largest desert lake – the threatened UNESCO World Heritage Site, Lake Turkana.

From the 4th to the 11th of December, Shalom Ndiku and Achieng Orero, of Natural Justice’s Kenya office, partook in the Kalacha Cultural Food and Music Festival 2014 hosted by the Kivulini Trust. In addition to that, they also facilitated a Regional Workshop for the LAPSSET Community Forum (LCF) communities in Marsabit County through the able assistance of Golbo Integrated and the Heinrich Boll Foundation East and Horn of Africa’s Office.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Workshop on Compliance Monitoring and Ground-truthing, 8th-9th December, 2014

The Natural Justice India team of eight members attended a workshop about Compliance monitoring and ground-truthing in the context of industries. The two day workshop held on the 8th and 9th of December was facilitated by NAMATI represented by Manju Menon and Kanchi Kohli. The first day of the workshop focussed on the process of ground-truthing and how to extrapolate and filter through multiple available legal data and clearance papers. This was followed by an exercise where the participants were divided into groups and collectively went through various official documents where the content was dissected to check for loopholes within compliance conditions. This exercise enabled the participants in a detailed structural industrial review comprising of reading and analysis of official documents such as letters of environmental clearance, reports on environment impact assessment and compliances etc. 

Day two of the workshop was about following up of the ground-truthing methodology within a context. The discussion was kept significantly contextual where a possibility of paralegal involvement as an important methodology was explored. The process of identifying and training paralegals was discussed. Since monitoring is often an issue when one is not based in the context, constant monitoring is included within the ground-truthing process. It was pointed out that the ground-truthing method can also get ingrained in the larger praxis of community involvement and process of paralegal training, also specifically along the lines of a participatory research project.

UN Human Rights Experts Reject World Bank's Proposed Replacement of Safeguard Policies

Anyone following the ongoing update to the World Bank's environmental and social safeguard policies (safeguard policies) would do well to read the 12 December 2014 letter to Bank president Jim Yong Kim from the special procedures mandate-holders of the United Nations Human Rights Council (special procedures). According to the special procedures, contrary to President Kim's repeated reassurances, the draft Environmental and Social Framework (ESF) is a dilution of the safeguard policies they are supposed to replace.

While the special procedures address several issues, they make three critical points:

First, the special procedures note that while the international community has accepted that development must respect human rights, the Bank is "an increasingly isolated outlier" in failing to commit to human rights requirements in the draft ESF. Second, they refute the Bank's oft-repeated claim that taking human rights considerations seriously will put the Bank at a competitive disadvantage. Not only does the Bank's view accelerate a race to the bottom, it is also irrelevant given that human rights are a matter of legal obligation. This relates to the special procedures' third point, which is that not only is the Bank bound by international law; so too are the Bank's 188 member states, all of which have ratified at least one of the core international human rights treaties. The Bank has a "due diligence responsibility" not to be complicit in states' violations of their human rights obligations.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Lima Call for Climate Action

The 20th Session of the Conference of Parties (COP) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change wrapped up over two weeks of negotiations with the release of the ‘Lima Call for Climate Action’. This decision will be the basis of the global climate agreement expected in 2015, and its annex contains elements for a draft negotiating text.

A key component of this agreement are country climate pledges known as ‘intended nationally determined contributions’ (INDCs), these are a countries contribution towards achieving the Conventions ultimate objective, which is to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. Crucially each country is expected to outline their INDCs, and thus the old firewall of developed and developing countries has been breached, and developing countries now have commitments. Countries will communicate these during the early part of 2015 or by the start of October 2015 at the latest, and the UNFCCC secretariat will produce a synthesis report of their aggregate effect. It was agreed that these contributions will be an improvement on a countries existing undertakings, however, missing from the text was the need for an ex-ante review of these commitments, and no common, comprehensive reporting methodologies were specified. This means it will be difficult to assess the potential impact of these commitments over time and also to compare approaches between countries. It is likely that IDRCs will focus on mitigation, as countries are not obliged to provide information on their adaptation plans, although they are free to do so if they wish.

New Publication: South Africa Legal Review

Supported by Ford Foundation Southern Africa, Natural Justice has coordinated a series of legal reviews in Southern Africa, examining the national laws and policies that support or undermine indigenous peoples and local communities. The second of these legal reviews focuses on the legal and policy frameworks in South Africa, examining human rights, land and freshwater, protected areas and sacred natural sites, natural resources and extraction.

This is the second of a series of legal reviews for Southern Africa. You can find the South African legal review here.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

New Publication: Zimbabwe Legal Review

Supported by Ford Foundation Southern Africa, Natural Justice has coordinated a series of legal reviews in Southern Africa, examining the national laws and policies that support or undermine indigenous peoples and local communities. The first of these legal reviews,  focuses on the legal and policy frameworks in Zimbabwe, examining human rights, land and freshwater, protected areas and sacred natural sites, natural resources and extraction.

This is the first of a series of legal reviews for Southern Africa. You can find the Zimbabwe legal review here.

The Road to Dignity by 2030: UN Launches Sustainable Development Blueprint

Earlier this month the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon released his “synthesis report” on the Post-2015 Agenda. The Road to Dignity by 2030: Ending Poverty, Transforming All Lives andProtecting the Planet will guide States discussions on finalizing the post-2015 development agenda. Over the next few months the final parameters of the post-2015 agenda will be agreed by the 193 member States of the UN.

The synthesis report includes the outcome produced by the Open Working Group, which proposes 17 sustainable development goals and 169 associated targets. These goals include taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts, and protecting, restoring and promoting the sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, conserving and sustainably using the oceans and seas, and promoting peaceful societies and providing access to justice for all. The report aims at a transformational approach and proposes an integrated set of six essential elements to facilitate the deliberations of States. These elements include justice to promote safe and peaceful societies, and strong institutions, and under this element effective governance which is participatory and accountable, and access to fair justice systems are mentioned. Furthermore, the Secretary-General stressed universal human rights and international norms should guide States deliberations. States are expected to agree on a new post-2015 framework at a summit in September next year.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Heroes Project

Natural Justice on an annual basis collaborates with the University of York on various policy-related projects, this year we are looking into the South African work around the Khoi and San peoples, which involves firstly, reviewing the impact of the Amendment 2014 to the Land Restitution Act on the Khoi and San peoples land rights, and secondly building on the Heroes Project through an identity workshop with youth from the Khoi, San and other South African communities. Through The Heroes Project, Natural Justice, the Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology, and the Law, Environment and Design Laboratory (LEDLab) explores psychosocial approaches to the law.