Friday, December 18, 2009

Traditional Knowledge Commons Workshop

On December 14th and 15th 2009, Natural Justice, the International Development Law Organization, and the University of Cape Town's Intellectual Property Law and Policy Research Unit co-hosted the Traditional Knowledge Commons Workshop in Cape Town. Advocates of indigenous and local communities and experts in IP law and ABS issues, participated in this 2 day workshop to critically engage the many implementation issues an international regime on access and benefit sharing will have to contend with once it is in place. Specifically, the participants considered the unique problems presented by non-commercial research related to traditional knowledge (TK). The workshop focused on a potential TK commons model proposed as one possible mechanism for facilitating the expanded flow of benefits generated by TK-based non-commmercial research while simultaneously increasing recognition and respect of sui generis customary law. Through their insightful critiques of this potential model, the participants identified several key factors to be addressed in future work addressing the issues raised by non-commercial TK-research. Natural Justice extends its sincere gratitude to all the participants for their invaluable contributions.

ABS Steering Committee Meeting

In the 2nd week of December 2009, Kabir Bavikatte attended the ABS Initiative for Africa's Steering Committee Meeting in Cairo where he participated in reflecting on the ABS Initiative's activities in 2009 and planning for its activities in 2010. In Cairo he also participated in the Pan African ABS Workshop, where he conducted a session for the participants on biocultural community protocols through the use of a case study. Kabir was also involved in the ABS and GEF planning meeting for Africa where he supported the South African Assistant Director for Resource Use in developing South Africa's ABS priorities to be achieved using the GEF funds.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Climate Justice Alliance

Pan African Climate Justice Alliance committee member and friend of Natural Justice, Augustine Njamnshi (Cameroon), today reacted to the "blindness" of developed countries to the need for strong social and environmental guarantees in the COPs outcome. He accuses developed countries of marginalizing IPLCs and NGOs voices in the COP and argues that developing countries are not fighting hard enough to guarantee climate justice, i.e. an agreement that promotes equity, especially for those most vulnerable to climate change. To read more about the Alliance, click here.

Indigenous Voices

On the day indigenous peoples, local community and NGO representatives describe the REDD negotiations as "butchering their rights", a film festival highlights their individual concerns. The films focus on the threats to IPLCs ways of life by climate change, TK for adaptation,local resilience, and local mitigation strategies. Visit their website to watch the films.

Weak Draft Decision on REDD

The first week of the UNFCCC Conference of the Parties concluded with a weak outcome for forest-dependent communities. The Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technical Advice reported back to the COP on, among other things, a draft decision on REDD. Indigenous peoples, local community groups (IPLCs) and NGOs are angry at the removal of safeguards for IPLCs. Operational text recognizing the "need for full and effective engagement of indigenous peoples and local communities in, and the potential contribution of their knowledge to, monitoring and reporting of activities relating to ..." climate change is now only preambular language, lessening the provision's legal weight. The COP will now review the decision and may respond to growing pressure to reopen the issue. For the latest on the negotiations see:

Friday, December 11, 2009

WIPO: 15th Session of the IGC

Natural Justices seem to be everywhere this week. Not only are they in Copenhagen for COP 15 and Cairo for the Pan African Regional on ABS but also Geneva, Switzerland for WIPO’s Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property, Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC). Gino Cocchiaro, an associate of Natural Justice, has attended the week long negotiations, which will be the first since the IGC’s new mandate that includes a call to submit to the WIPO General Assembly text (or texts) of an international instrument (or instruments) to ensure the effective protection of genetic resources, traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions by 2011, has come into force. Natural Justice is eager to see whether this historically protracted process will gather pace given the new mandate and spur parties to fruitful text-based negotiations on the proposed international instrument.

The first Joint Meeting of the IGC and CBD African Working Groups: Nairobi, Kenya

This meeting, organized by Natural Justice, International Development Law Organization (IDLO) and the ABS Capacity Initiative for Africa, brought together key negotiators from the African working groups of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Intergovernmental Committee on intellectual property, genetic resources, traditional knowledge and folklore (IGC) for the first time. The aim of the meeting was to establish some co-ordination and harmonization between the two groups, given the close linkages in their work to develop international instruments on access and benefit sharing (CBD) and intellectual property, genetic resources, traditional knowledge and folklore (IGC). Whilst the 2 day meeting allowed the negotiators to discuss and share information, it also provided an opportunity for them to plan their continued collaboration into 2010. Natural Justice looks forward to supporting the groups throughout this process.

COP 15, REDD and Community Guidelines

On the day Obama receives the Nobel Peace Prize, a report entitled "Building Confidence in REDD" formed the basis of one of the side events in Copenhagen. At the event on REDD, Rosalind Reeve, Global Witness, voiced concern about the low levels of forest governance in many countries that will host REDD projects. In response, she set out a proposal to establish minimum standards for independent forest monitoring. While Natural Justice agrees with the need for guidelines, together with indigenous groups present at the COP, we argue that voluntary guidelines are weak without legal recognition of customary laws, community level procedures and community protocols. The REDD negotiations continue.
For more information see:

Deputy Ministerial Visit

The Natural Justice office in Cape Town was visited by the Deputy Minister, Department of Science and Technology, Derek Hanekom, to congratulate Natural Justice on winning the SEED Gold Prize for 2009. The Deputy Minister also serves on the international SEED board, and was particularly interested in hearing how Natural Justice is using bio-cultural community protocols to empower ILC’s in ABS and other negotiations frameworks. The visit was an informal one, in which the Deputy Minister offered the support of SEED and DST; the formal award ceremony to take place in January 2010. In the picture opposite, the Deputy Minister, left, speaks to Johanna von Braun and Scott Dunlop of Natural Justice.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Biocultural Community Protocols in the Headlines

Natural Justice's work in India has been recognized by the Union Health Ministry's AYUSH department. The Times of India reports that a task force will be set up to provide legal recognition for development of traditional healthcare practitioners. AYUSH is considering establishing an inter-ministerial working group in consultation with the Ministry of Environment and Forests for capacity-building of local communities to develop Bio-cultural Community Protocols (BCPs) which affirm communities' rights to the customary use of their natural resources and to regulate access to their traditional knowledge and genetic resources according to free, prior and informed consent. Click here for the link to the article.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


The 15th Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC opened yesterday in Copenhagen, Denmark. Natural Justice's Peter Wood and Harry Jonas are in attendance to follow the REDD negotiations and to discuss with ILCs and NGOs the application of community protocols to the incumbent legal regime. Peter's early prediction is that the COP will decide to postpone the elaboration of a REDD regime for SBSTTA in June (Bonn) to be agreed at COP 16 that will be held in Mexico in late 2010. More broadly, with over 100 heads of state confirmed to attend the meeting, there is an palpable sense that an historic agreement is in the offing. For information on the negotiations, see the ENB website

Not Just Monkeying Around

Elan Abrell, worked with a friend to propose this as the Natural Justice Logo. Judge Baboo hands down Natural Justice to environmental vandals!