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.