Friday, July 3, 2015

Bwabwata National Park BCP – Khwe residents

Natural Justice co-hosted a three day, biocultural community protocol (BCP) focused workshop in partnership with Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation (IRDNC,, and the Khwe Custodian Committee members, supported by the Benelex project (, the Legal Assistance Centre ( and the Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET). Over the three days, 4 half-day village meetings were held, facilitated by the Khwe Custodian Committee in their Khwedom language. The meeting was preceded by short presentations by Natural Justice on the BCP as a legal instrument; the Legal Assistance Center on the Namibian legal framework and the Namibian Ministry of Environment & Tourism on the pending Traditional Knowledge Bill and the BCP.  Each half day aimed to validate the aspirations and priorities as set out in the draft BCP framework document. It is also intended to be an accountability measure to ensure the representatives’ account to the villagers and get feedback on the decisions and representations inside the draft BCP framework document.

The evenings around campfire were used to de-brief with the Khwe Custodian committee and the different partners present. The Namibian government officials namely the ABS focal point, Ms. Kauna Schroder, indicated their support for the development of the first BCP in Namibia in line with the Nagoya Protocol, which Namibia ratified during 2014.
The overall feedback from the different villages emphasized the importance of the recognition of their customary institutions; access to their veld food and medicinal plants.  They also strongly voiced the importance of “teaching through doing” with the children inside the core wildlife area.  The challenge therefore is how the biocultural conservation practices that are drafted coincide to a greater measure with the Khwe community’s traditional ways.

The next steps are to invite the Khwe Custodian committee as well as the Kyaramacan Association representatives to come to Cape Town for a weeklong legal training. The Benelex Project in collaboration with Natural Justice and the Namibian government will also be co-hosting a national government stakeholder meeting to discuss the different challenges outlined by the Bwabwata National Park BCP.

Study confirming the Traditional Knowledge associated with Rooibos and Honeybush in South Africa

During 2014 the Department of Environmental Affairs conducted a study to verify the traditional knowledge associated with Rooibos and Honeybush endemic species in South Africa.  
The major conclusions of the study are as follows:
·         There’s no evidence to dispute the communities’ perceptions that traditional knowledge rests with the communities where the species are endemic and/or with the Khoi and San people of South Africa; and
·         Any individual or organization engaging or planning a bioprospecting project involving Rooibos or Honeybush species must engage with the Khoi and San people of South Africa.
The Department of Environmental Affairs informed the affected industries to engage with the National Khoi & San Council (NKC) and the San Council with an intention to negotiate a Benefit Sharing Agreement in the context of the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (NEMBA) 2004 and the Bioprospecting, Access and Benefit Sharing Regulations, 2008. The NKSC and San Council will now initiate the process with the affected industries.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

International Workshop in Guatemala Highlights Importance of Community Protocols in the Context of the CBD and the Nagoya Protocol

From 8-10 June 2015, the Convention on Biological Diversity and several partners, including Natural Justice, hosted an international training workshop in Panajachel, Guatemala on Community-based Monitoring, Indicators on Traditional Knowledge and Customary Sustainable Use and Community Protocols, within the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020. The first day of the meeting was dedicated to discussing community protocols.

Jael Makagon of Natural Justice gave a presentation providing background on community protocols in the context of the Nagoya Protocol. He explained how community protocols can assist in the implementation of the Nagoya Protocol and the CBD. While there is language in the CBD, the Programme of Work on Article 8(j), and the Nagoya Protocol that supports the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities, a large implementation gap remains. Community protocols can help fill that gap by allowing communities to articulate local rules for access to their traditional knowledge and resources, helping to define the "community," providing a basis for free, prior and informed consent, and creating transparency and certainty for users, among other things. He also shared examples of community protocols that address ABS issues, as well as some lessons learned in the development of community protocols.

Several other presenters addressed issues relevant to community protocols, including the experience of the Kuna people in Panama and traditional healers in the Cerrado region of Brazil. Two members of national governments--Brazil and Bolivia--also presented on actions their governments are taking regarding community protocols. Brazil passed a law in May 2015 that recognizes community protocols as an instrument that manifests the will of indigenous peoples. The law also provides a definition of community protocols and will provide support for development of protocols from a government-held fund for access and benefit sharing. Control of the fund will be under a board that will have seats for indigenous peoples and local communities. In Bolivia, the government is also developing a law that deals with community protocols, including by setting forth a "model community protocol" that communities can use to develop their own protocols.

The workshop demonstrated that there is a robust practice of development of community protocols at the local level. Additionally, governments are beginning to recognize that supporting and respecting community protocols can be an important element of fulfilling their international and national obligations. As more governments develop legislation relevant to community protocols, however, it will be important to ensure that their policies uphold the fundamental elements of community protocols, including that protocols be driven by communities in a manner that is participatory and with sufficient time given to ensure appropriate processes are undertaken.

The results of this workshop will be fed into the new CBD Subsidiary Body on Implementation, which will hold its first meeting in May 2016.

Monday, June 8, 2015

The Global Land Forum 2015

The Global Land Forum 2015 (GLF) facilitated by the International Land Coalition (ILC) and CICODEV took place on the 12th to 16th of May 2015 in Dakar, Senegal.

Panelists representing the governments of Senegal, Cameroun, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique and Togo make presentations on Africa Day at the GLF on May 12.

Taking place exactly 20 years since the ILC’s creation, members of the coalition – including Natural Justice – from everywhere on the planet gathered to assess and continue charting a path forward towards ensuring that those who live on and from land have their rights and dignity protected.  The theme this year was “Land Governance for Inclusive Development, Justice and Sustainability: Time for Action”. The Forum presented plenty of opportunities for interaction, debate, and mutual learning over a three day period from distinguished speakers, accomplished organizations and innovative individuals.

The first day, May 12th, Africa Day was celebrated at the GLF. Various government officials and other international organizations spoke towards the continental land debate – zeroing in on issues touching on how land is mainstreamed in institutions, women’s land rights, and investments in land. The following day, the theme surrounded inclusive development and justice for communities. The panelists noted a need to ensure that economies all over the world take note of the potential power of small-scale farming systems and urged communities to come together and harness their collective power around this cause in their fight for justice.

Ikal Ang’elei of the Friends of Lake Turkana gives the Keynote Address on Sustainability: Making Land Governance Work for Sustainable Development.

On the final day of the GLF, Ikal An’gelei – from the Friends of Lake Turkana, one of Natural Justice’s key partners in Kenya – gave a presentation on how proper land governance can ensure sustainable development. She highlighted the need to acknowledge various imbalanced and competing needs for land use and ensure that equitability still happens despite this challenge.  The meeting ended with a call for action spurred on by various civil society actors, community members, public officials and international diplomats – particularly identifying key areas of focus, essential takeaways and better ways to strengthen networks and collaborations in the work around land issues globally.

One of Natural Justice’s biggest focus areas is land. We therefore recognize a need to continually maintain relationships through the larger ILC coalition, share the experiences of the work we do in Asia, Africa and Latin America, and learn lessons from all over the world on matters land, all for the benefit of the communities we work and engage with.

2015 SEED South Africa Symposium

SEED works towards a world of flourishing communities where social and environmental entrepreneurship drives sustainable development. The SEED annual awards identify and support the most promising and innovative social and environmental start-up enterprises in developing and emerging economies. Since 2005, 175 SEED Winners have been selected by SEED International, and in 2009 Natural Justice was a Gold Winner for their Biocultural Community Protocols Initiative.

Cath Traynor represented Natural Justice at the 2015 SEED South Africa Symposium: Entrepreneurship: A solution for climate change and green growth, held at the Birchwood Hotel, Johannesburg, 27 May. The symposium focused on two main issues: building bridges for partnerships, especially between entrepreneurs and academia for development and innovation, and adapting the policy and financing landscape to better support the development of social and environmental enterprises.

During the interactive sessions, it was discussed that Social and Environmental enterprises face challenges as they are not recognized as specifically different entities compared to other small and medium enterprises, yet they try to address wider issues and are not solely profit-driven. In terms of science and technology, many entrepreneurs commented that research is often driven by the needs of academia, and they recommended that a closer working relationship could produce research designs and results which could then contribute towards improving products and processes. Furthermore, publicly funded research should be open and accessible to all, so that entrepreneurs could access it and feed into in to their activities. In terms of policy and procurement, participants commented that certification schemes and consumer information could assist to show the value and quality of the products and processes produced by social and environmental enterprises.

During the Symposium SEED launched its Virtual Exhibition and SEED Winners’ Case Studies, which allows one to look into all aspects of SEEDs activities and see how the enabling environment that is being built for social and environmental entrepreneurs.

Side Events at the Bonn Climate Change Conference

Photo: United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
Natural Justice is co-hosting a Side Event on the ‘Preliminary results of the International Savanna Fire Management Initiative’ together with the Australian Government and the United Nations University-Institute for Advanced Study of Sustainability (UNU-IAS). This Initiative is testing how Northern Australia’s experience of savanna burning projects - combining traditional indigenous approaches and fire management with emissions accounting methodologies - can be used in other counties. The Side Event will take place on Wednesday 3rd June between 18:30-20:00 hrs, Bonn I. Cath Traynor of Natural Justice will present on approaches to realize biocultural rights in this initiative.
Natural Justice has also contributed to a feasibility study on an independent citizen-based complaint review and referral mechanism under the Green Climate Fund. This study forms the basis for a Side Event co-hosted by Both ENDS Foundation and Transparency International, the ‘Environmental and social accountability for results based finance – lessons learnt and way forward’ session takes it’s point of departure that the need for safeguards and accountability mechanisms are widely recognised in international financial institutions (IFIs). This event will discuss how lessons from IFIs can inform the design of appropriate redress mechanisms for the GCF and other private and public climate finance flows. This event will take place on Monday 1st June at 16:45-18:15 in the Kaminzimmer room (113). For more information on the conference see the UNFCCC webpage.

Monday, May 18, 2015

World Bank's Spring Meetings Provide Opportunities for Engagement and Window into Challenges Ahead

Panelists at a Spring Meetings side event 
In the second week of April 2015, the World Bank held its annual Spring Meetings in Washington, DC. During that week a program of side events hosted by civil society, the Bank, and others takes place. These events allow for deeper exploration of relevant issues and information sharing. In addition, the Bank held meetings with indigenous peoples representatives and institutions during the course of the week on a variety of different issues.  

The Spring Meetings this year were held against the backdrop of the ongoing revision to the Bank's environmental and social safeguard policies. The Bank released a draft of a new proposed framework called the Environmental and Social Framework (ESF) in July 2014, and then held a period of consultation on the draft ESF that closed in March 2015. Natural Justice participated in the meetings held by the Bank and also provided written comments on the draft ESF. 

Both the existing safeguard policies and the draft ESF are critical for indigenous peoples. The Bank's projects often impact indigenous communities in a variety of different and at times negative ways, and those projects are governed by Bank policies. Having robust policies in place that take indigenous peoples' rights into account is an important aspect of ensuring that the negative impacts of projects are avoided or at least minimized. One of the most troubling aspects of the draft ESF is that it contains an "opt-out" clause that would allow governments to avoid applying the specific policy regarding indigenous peoples. 

Indigenous peoples' representatives and institutions have been particularly concerned with the opt-out clause, along with other aspects of the draft ESF, such as its lack of incorporation of human rights. The Working Group on Indigenous Populations/Communities (WGIP) of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR) has engaged extensively with the Bank during the revision process. Their submission on the draft ESF can be found on the World Bank’s website. Underscoring the importance of the WGIP’s work, the ACHPR adopted a resolution on the draft ESF during its 17th Extraordinary Session in February 2015. Among other things, the ACHPR urged the Bank to remove the opt-out clause in ESS7. 

Bank officials -- including Bank President Jim Yong Kim -- reported during the Spring Meetings that the opt-out clause would be removed. This satisfies one of the core requests made by indigenous peoples regarding the draft ESF, which was set forth in their Common Position presented to the Bank during the Spring Meetings. While the removal of the opt-out clause would be a positive development regarding the draft ESF, other challenges remain, such as the fact that a significant portion of the Bank’s lending portfolio will continue to remain outside the draft ESF policies. Nevertheless, the Spring Meetings provided an important opportunity for dialogue between the Bank and indigenous peoples, and it is hoped that meaningful dialogue continues to take place in the future.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Call for Applications: Associate Researcher for Case-Study Research in India (deadline 30th May 2015)

Natural Justice: lawyers for communities and the environment, is inviting applications for an Associate Researcher. Natural Justice is piloting an inter-regional project on exploring Biocultural Community Protocols as a means to support communities in engaging with external stakeholders in the context of Extractive Industries.

We are looking for an Associate Researcher to work in the state of Odisha, India to support research needs of our partner organization, especially on questions related to legal and industry review, assessing community dynamics etc. based on guidance from the framework methodology.

The deadline for application is 30th May 2015. Please email your application to Stella James [stella(at)] and Alphonsa Jojan [alphonsa(at)] with the job title in the subject line. Include a motivation letter that indicates why you feel you are the best candidate for this position, a detailed CV with contact and designation of two referees, and at least two samples of your past work (for example, articles or research reports).

Click here for details

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Leaders gather at Vatican for historic meeting on climate change and sustainable development

Photo: The United Nations and Climate Change
On 28 April, the Secretary-General met with His Holiness Pope Francis at the Vatican and later addressed senior religious leaders, along with the Presidents of Italy and Ecuador, Nobel laureates and leading scientists on climate change and sustainable development. Bridging together science and religion, the event addressed the need for urgent collective action to mitigate the risks of increasing climate impacts. Read more

Monday, May 4, 2015

Infrastructure Development in Africa Takes Center Stage During Side Event of UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

On 21 April during the 14th Session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Natural Justice and the LAPSSET Community Forum (LCF), with the support of the American Jewish World Service and the Heinrich Böll Foundation (HBF), organized a side event entitled:  A New Infrastructure Boom in Africa: Community Responses to the Lamu Port and Southern Sudan-Ethiopia Transport Corridor (LAPSSET). Using Kenya as an example, the side event aimed to shed light on the uphill battles that communities often face in light of increasing infrastructure investment in Africa. While the impacts of infrastructure are felt locally, much of the planning occurs through large portfolio infrastructure investments supervised by regional or global partnerships beyond the reach of communities affected by their decisions.

During the side event Kanyinke Sena from the Community Legal Resource Center, Kenya introduced LAPSSET, noting that four to five countries in East Africa are fundraising for the project, and that conflicts over land are some of the most critical issues that will result from LAPSSET development. Omar Mohamed Elmawi from LCF then presented, expanding on Kanyinke's introduction by emphasising the impact of LAPSSET on the communities in the Lamu archipelago. He also noted that while communities along the entire corridor face many challenges, they can join together through the LCF to share information and experiences, and have a bigger voice in the process. Finally, Nancy Alexander from HBF USA provided further analysis on the global infrastructure investment climate with a particular focus on Africa, including the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA). Nancy noted that while investors often have difficulty with a rights-based discourse, they do understand the language of risk. Couching issues affecting communities in terms of risk to investments is one potential avenue for increasing community voices in the development of infrastructure.  

The side event ended with participants, including indigenous peoples affected by LAPSSET, sharing further experiences and insight to the nature of infrastructure investment in Kenya and beyond. It became apparent that analysing the LAPSSET corridor from its impact on the local level to the international investment landscape behind its financialisation was useful to put into perspective the vast uphill battles indigenous communities face when affected by infrastructure projects and discuss the myriad of strategies needed to get their voices heard.