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.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Public Hearing on Kenya’s Community Land Bill, 2014

Mr. Odenda Lumumba, from the Kenya Land Alliance
 and the Civil Society Working Group on the Community
 Land Bill, presents his submissions
 on the Bill before the Senate Committee.
Natural Justice’s office in Kenya recently brainstormed on the question of public participation, asking what it entails, its substantive elements, and how to ensure it is effective. The starting point in the law lies in the Constitution of Kenya, which requires Parliament to facilitate public participation and involvement in the legislation process. 

Putting this principle to the test, Natural Justice attended a public hearing on the Community Land Bill held at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre, Nairobi, on last week. This hearing sought to give members of the public an opportunity to propose any amendments or changes to this fundamental Bill. The Senate Committee on the Community Land Bill conducted the hearing and was comprised of five Senators: Christopher Obure (Kisii); George Khaniri (Vihiga); Boy Juma Boy (Kwale); Martha Wangari (Nominated) and Liza Chelule (Nominated).

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Call for Applications: Office Manager for Natural Justice-India

Natural Justice (Lawyers for Communities and the Environment) is a pioneering international team of legal practitioners. We conduct comprehensive research on environmental and human rights law, support communities and local organizations, provide technical advice to governments and intergovernmental organizations, and engage in key international processes in pursuit of environmental and social justice. Natural Justice currently works in Africa, Asia and Latin America and has offices in South Africa, Kenya, Malaysia, India, and New York City.

What are we looking for?
Natural Justice has been working with communities, NGOs and government agencies in India since 2009. Due to an increase in the scale of work and an expanded team, we are seeking a full-time Office Manager to assist in the coordination of our work in India. The successful candidate will be expected to begin work in mid-January and be based in Bangalore.

Monday, November 24, 2014

LAPSSET Community Forum Holds 'People’s Dialogue on LAPSSET

Energy. Transportation. Trade. These are the economic drivers that the Kenyan government is seeking to tap at scale as it attempts to meet the goals in its "Vision 2030" plan for turning Kenya into a middle-income country. Central to this plan is an infrastructure corridor known as LAPSSET, which stands for "Lamu Port, South Sudan, Ethiopia Transport."  But there is another element that needs to be considered in infrastructure development: people.

To ensure that that happens, a coalition of civil society organizations have joined together to form the LAPSSET Community Forum (LCF) in order to examine the potential benefits and impacts of the LAPSSET corridor on affected communities and respond to those benefits and impacts in an organized manner. On 24 November 2014, the LCF kicked off a four day meeting in Lamu to discuss issues related to LAPSSET and strategize on a way forward. The meeting brings together stakeholders located all along the LAPSSET corridor, from northern Kenya to those in Lamu itself.

If LAPSSET is completed as planned, many parts of Kenya that have seen little development since decolonization, such as the northern part of the country and the northern coast, will experience profound changes in existing infrastructure. New infrastructure will include paved roads, railways, airports, and even entire cities. Such infrastructure will bring new economic opportunities, but it will also cause major environmental and social impacts. The LCF seeks to understand these impacts and ensure that community rights, particularly those relating to land and livelihoods, are taken into account in the planning and implementation of LAPSSET.

Monday, November 17, 2014

An End to Unjust Conservation? (commentary)

The San peoples of the Kalahari have suffered as a result
of exclusionary forms of conservation. CC Harry Jonas.
In September 2014, events took place in three different parts of the world, which together highlight the multifaceted relationship between human rights and conservation, write Dilys Roe and Harry Jonas. First, in New York, the UN General Assembly adopted the Outcome Document of the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples (World Conference). The document reaffirms and recognizes, among other things: a) support for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; b) commitments to obtain free and informed consent prior to the approval of any project affecting Indigenous peoples' lands or territories and other resources, c) commitments to acknowledge, advance and adjudicate the rights of Indigenous peoples pertaining to lands, territories and resources; and d) the significant contribution of Indigenous peoples to the promotion of sustainable development and ecosystem management, including their associated knowledge. Read the   full commentary here

Inaugural Conference on Land Policy in Africa Held in Addis Ababa

The inaugural Conference on Land Policy inAfrica concluded on Friday 14 November 2014 after three full days of presentations and discussions at African Union (AU) headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Themed "The next decade of land policy in Africa: ensuring agricultural development and inclusive growth," the Conference brought together parliamentarians, ministers, practitioners, academics, community representatives and other stakeholders to discuss the issue of land in Africa. The Conference was organized by the Land Policy Initiative, which is a joint programme of the African Union Commission (AUC), the African Development Bank (AfDB) and United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA). Natural Justice attended the Conference with the support of the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies.

While numerous issues were discussed, from global initiatives to national land policy reform to customary tenure systems, three key themes were raised throughout the Conference: implementation of guidelines and policies; customary tenure; and information dissemination.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Communities and Governance of Natural Resources: Natural Justice Works in Turkana

Turkana County, Kenya has been considered amongst the poorest in the country. However, recent oil and water discoveries as well as planned infrastructural developments have brought hope to the citizens of a better life but have also raised a number of critical social, economic and environmental concerns. These were discussed during a Friends of Lake Turkana hosted conference titled 'Towards a Governance Agenda: Harnessing Natural Resources, Communities and Development, which was held in Lodwar, Turkana from the 21-24th of October 2014.

The conference sought to strengthen multi stakeholder participation and engagement in order to ensure local participation in natural resource and infrastructural development. Participants at the meeting included representatives of county and national governments, oil companies, civil society and community representatives. Further information on the conference can be found on the Friends of Lake Turkana website.

Natural Justice is partnering with Friends of Lake Turkana to ensure that legislation and policy positively represent the needs of the citizens of Turkana, in particular its pastoralist communities, so that they are involved in decisions related to their lands, resource and knowledge.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Sixth Annual Heart of Borneo Conference in Sabah

The Heart of Borneo. Credit: WWF
The Heart of Borneo is a transboundary conservation initiative spearheaded by the governments of Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei Darussalam and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). Holly Jonas (Natural Justice) attended the initiative's sixth annual conference on 10 November 2014 in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, which focused on the theme "Enhancing Biodiversity towards No Net Loss and Beyond within the Heart of Borneo Landscape".

The conference was opened by Datuk Sam Mannan (Director of Sabah Forestry Department), who underscored the need for political sustainability in decision-making on environmental sustainability, and Datuk Seri G. Palanivel (Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment), who committed to applying for additional funds for the Heart of Borneo under the 11th Malaysia Plan. Dr. Greg Asner (Carnegie Institution for Science) delivered the keynote address on his team's groundbreaking work on remote sensing 3-dimensional mapping using the Carnegie Airborne Observatory.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Yangon Conference on Human Rights and Agribusiness

Large-scale agribusiness (particularly monoculture plantations such as oil palm and sugarcane) causes widespread human rights violations and environmental degradation in Southeast Asia. This pervasive industry was the focus of a workshop held from 4-6 November 2014 in Yangon, Myanmar, which was convened by the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission, with the support of the Forest Peoples Programme, RECOFTC-The Center for People and Forests, and the Rights and Resources Initiative.

With 65 participants from the South East Asian National Human Rights Institutions Forum (SEANF) and supporting civil society organisations, including from Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, and Thailand, the workshop addressed interlinked issues such as extraterritorial investments, migrant labour and human trafficking, and food security, and illustrated the range of experiences and modalities of each National Human Rights Institution. In addition to series of panel presentations, the workshop featured engaging break-out groups on transitioning from voluntary to binding standards for transnational and other companies, and on improving, scaling up and innovating upon conflict resolution mechanisms at various levels. On the final day, participants adopted by consensus the Yangon Statement on Human Rights and Agribusiness in Southeast Asia, which calls for (among other things) strengthened regional cooperation with the Association of South Eas Asian Nations (ASEAN) Inter-governmental Commission on Human Rights, establishment of an ASEAN Human Rights Court and effective national-level complaints and redress mechanisms, and active coordination with certification bodies such as the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

African BCP Initiative Workshop Kicks Off

Natural Justice, ETC Compas and the Centre for Indigenous Knowledge and Organizational Development (CIKOD), supported by the ABS Capacity Development Initiative (ABS Initiative) and the Ford Foundation, are hosting the African Biocultural Protocol Initiative Workshop from 5-7 November in Nairobi Kenya.
The workshop brings together representatives of the NGOs and CBOs that have been collaborating on the African BCPI and BCP processes in India. They are partners and/or community representatives from South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Ghana, Kenya, Ethiopia, Benin, Senegal, India, New York and the Netherlands.

Kenya’s New Mining Bill, 2014

Natural Justice’s work in Kenya has focused around the LAPSSET project. One major factor around our work has been the myriad of bills in Parliament waiting passing that will regulate community land, mining, oil and gas, energy and infrastructure.

One of the more significant and impactful pieces of legislation, the Kenya Mining Bill 2014 was passed on its third reading last week.  The bill repeals the former archaic remnant of a long-forgotten epoch, the Mining Act from 1940 and still in force, which fails to adequately meet the current demands of the emerging sector.  The primary objective of the bill is to consolidate all of the current laws related to mining.  It also seeks to implement a number of articles within Kenya’s Constitution pertaining to land management, respect for the environment and agreements for natural resources.

Assisting Communities Assess the Impacts of LAPSSET

The Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport (LAPSSET) Corridor Project, touted as the “first single gigantic, integrated, transformative and game-changer infrastructure project” the Government of Kenya has embarked upon is said to lead to an increase in the GDP by 3%. Whilst such growth has the potential of being extremely beneficial to the country there has been little discussion of the costs born by its citizens, in particular the communities around the infrastructure and extractive sites. 

In the ecological rich and culturally diverse Lamu archipelago, the site of the mega port, the hunter-gatherer, farming and fishing communities of the area are now witnessing the projects first stage of construction and questioning the benefits and costs of such a project.  In collaboration with its partner, Save Lamu, Natural Justice is working with an international natural resource economist to assist the communities in Lamu determine the potential costs of the port on their health, social and cultural well-being.

On the 11th to 16th October 2014, Members of Natural Justice Kenya and Natural Resource Economics travelled to Lamu to meet with various stakeholders, including Save Lamu, fishermen, business people and County Government representatives. The assessment will result in a report to be used by Save Lamu and members of the community in their discussions with Government to ensure a port that is beneficial to the community and environmentally sound.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Final SUARA Community Filmmaking Workshop of 2014 held in Sabah

Credit: SUARA / BEFF
Since its inception in 2011, the Borneo Eco Film Festival (BEFF) has run a training programme for aspiring community filmmakers called SUARA ("voice" in Bahasa Malaysia). In 2014, four workshops were held throughout the year, culminating in a five-day intensive workshop from 29 October to 2 November at the Sabah Forestry Department's district office at Lok Kawi.

There were over 40 participants from 24 villages and towns across Sabah, who learned practical skills in storytelling, pre-production, filming, and post-production. By the end of the workshop, each of the seven groups conceptualised and produced their own short film (including on topics such as Indigenous Rungus beadwork and the journey of a young urban Indigenous man from the forests of northern Sabah). Two of the films have been selected for public screening at the upcoming Centenary celebrations of the Sabah Forestry Department in the week of 9 November 2014. Congratulations to all of the participants and thanks to the many sponsors, supporters, and volunteers. For more information, check out local media coverage in Sabahkini and the Daily Express.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Local Communities Rise to the Forefront of Global Conservation Practice

While the global conservation movement has increasingly come to recognize the importance of indigenous and other local communities in terms of delivering conservation on the ground, much more needs to be done in terms of actively contributing to efforts to secure and strengthen local land and resource rights, according to Fred Nelson, Executive Director of Maliasili Initatives. Such rights are the foundation for rural livelihood security and a key part of recognized human rights, but also the building block for local conservation systems.

The upcoming World Parks Congress provides an opportunity to advance dialogue and new collaborations around these issues, and further ground durable conservation practices in local rights, interests, and actions. Read the full article here.

Legal and Dialogue Training in George, South Africa

From 20 to 22 October 2014, Natural Justice, with the support of Southern Cape Land Committee, hosted 3 days of legal and negotiation training in George, South Africa, involving community members from across the Karoo, likely to be impacted by hydraulic fracturing (or "fracking"). The meeting was supported by Ford Foundation Southern Africa.

With the support of Centre for Environmental Rights, participants from the community in Nelspoort together with representatives from the Anti-Fracking Task Team and Khoi-San representatives, engaged in one day training on fracking generally, as well as relevant environment and participation laws in South Africa. In addition, the role of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights was discussed, as was the principles of free, prior and informed consent and consultation in international law.

Subsequent days were spent discussing principles and differences between different methods of engaging with external actors, in addition to the role of legislation in supporting engagement between community and the government around fracking issues.

The training session complemented ongoing discussions with community representatives about different methods of mobilisation and the use of the law and participatory methodologies to support this.