Monday, March 29, 2010

Introducing ABS+

Natural Justice published an article in the ECO, the CBD Alliance's bulletin, entitled, "ABS+". In the article, we argue that whether ABS delivers environmental and social benefits (ABS+) is contingent on how it is used by individual communities living within diverse ecosystems. Thus, the implementation of ABS must be responsive to local communities and the ecosystems in which they live. The article concludes: "If the subject of ABS is genetic resources and associated TK, then 'sustainable ABS' is incumbent upon communities' abilities to sustain their knowledge, innovations and practices (Article 8(j)) through their continued customary uses of natural resources (Article 10(c)). Whether ABS can assist communities to do so is to ask what ABS can contribute to communities whose ways of life are commensurate with the objectives of the CBD. A clue to that answer lies in the extent to which national governments support and respect communities' rights to manage their own natural resources and to engage with ABS according to the principle of free, prior and informed consent. In this context, and with reference to a recent article about land tenure and REDD by Lorenzo Cotula, we ask: will ABS be implemented with communities as a starting point or as an afterthought?" The full article can be read on our resources page and on the CBD Alliance homepage.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Theatrics of Negotiations

Natural Justice and UNEP hosted a side event at the ABSWG9 negotiations in Cali, Colombia, on March 25. Balakrishna Pisupati introduced the event, which began with the launch of a study on forest management in the context of ABS by Suhel al-Janabi (GeoMedia) and Olivier Rukundo (Natural Justice Associate and Centre for International Sustainable Development Law). Holly Shrumm (Natural Justice) presented on participatory methodologies that can be used in the implementation of international law and policy through community empowerment processes, including role-playing scenarios, participatory mapping, and participatory videography. Hjalmar-Jorge Joffre-Eichhorn then led an interactive activity to illustrate how participatory theatre can be used to engage communities in conflict resolution and building confidence and consensus.

TKC Consultations in Cali

At the current ABSWG9 negotiations in Cali, Colombia, Natural Justice's Gino Cocchiaro, Kabir Bavikatte, and Johanna von Braun have been holding consultations with various representatives of indigenous peoples and local communities and the research sector to discuss the possibility of implementing a Traditional Knowledge Commons system. The aim of the consultations was to obtain comments and recommendations on the TK Commons model and the draft of Natural Justice's most recent TK Commons publication. The draft publication, "Implementing a Traditional Knowledge Commons: Opportunities and Challenges", is an extensively revised and expanded version of the 2009 monograph, "Imagining a TK Commons". Following the TK Commons workshop in Cape Town on December 14-15, 2009, it critically analyzes the issues that must be addressed for such a system to be functional. Comments and recommendations from the consultations held in Cali will be added to the publication, which will be released at the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical, and Technological Advice in Nairobi in May, 2010.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Connecting the Seeds

From March 22-23, Johanna von Braun (Natural Justice/University of Cape Town) went to Medellin, Colombia, and met representatives of the Instituto de Investigaciones Ambientales del Pacifico (IIAP) and their associated organization, Corporacion Oro Verde. As a fellow Seed Gold Winner, Corporacion Oro Verde helps traditional gold and platinum mining communities comply with environmental and social criteria in the Choco Bioregion of Colombia's Pacific Coast. Oro Verde primarily works with Afro-descendent communities that have substantial gold resources on their collectively-held land. In its groundbreaking work, the organization has helped create the first sustainable supply chain of gold mining. Environmental research institute IIAP works on many similar issues to Natural Justice, including the relationships between indigenous and local communities, protected areas, and ABS. In light of these commonalities, IIAP, Oro Verde, and Natural Justice agreed to explore options for future collaboration.

While in Medellin, Johanna also met with the Centre para la Investigacion y Desarollo de Productos CIDEPRO (Centre for Research and Development of Products). The Centre, which is part of the University of Antioquia, is a platform for research and product development on tropical diseases with the aim of providing affordable pharmaceuticals for oft-forgotten diseases. Given the Centre's interest in exploring options for collaborating with local indigenous and Afro-descendent communities in the identification of medicinal plants, Natural Justice provided a broad overview of some of the potential issues involved and discussed possible options for future collaboration.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Community protocols in Latin America

Harry Jonas, Natural Justice, presented at a side event on Day 3 of the ABSWG9 in Cali, Colombia. Alongside colleagues Alejandro Argumedo (Asociacion ANDES, Peru), Heraclio Herrera (Fundacion Dob Yala, Panama), and Rodrigo de la Cruz (COICA, Bolivia), he presented on bio-cultural community protocols in the context of the International Regime on Access and Benefit Sharing. Harry discussed the Bushbuckridge community protocol in South Africa, while the others discussed protocols from their respective communities in Latin America. Colleagues Carmen Candelo (WWF-Colombia) and Jaime Delgadillo (AGRUCO-COMPAS, Bolivia), who work on similar issues surrounding bio-cultural diversity and endogenous development, were also in attendance. The event underscored the increasing relevance of community protocols as tools and processes to ensure the recognition and support of communities' rights and customary laws.

News Article: Customary Laws Protect Forest Better Than Government

A recent article in The Jakarta Post described research about the inter-linkages between indigenous peoples' customary laws and the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in Indonesia. The research showed how the communities' cultural practices and spiritual values contribute more to forest conservaton than government-imposed policies. The Alliance of Archipelagic Indigenous People (AMAN) is one of the organizations involved in supporting the communities' rights to their land and traditional ways of life. For the full text of this and a related article, please see the following links:

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Back to the Future (of ABS)

On the first day of the 9th meeting of the Working Group on Access and Benefit Sharing held in Cali, Colombia, parties made opening statements and began work on how to organize the week's negotiations. On the side of the negotiations, Balakrishna Pisupati (UNEP-DELC) presented at a UNEP-UNU-hosted side event. The side event focused on the development of the next 10-year Strategic Plan for the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). He presented the outcomes of a meeting held in December 2009 that focused on revising the CBD's Strategic Plan. He illustrated how the old Target 17 that stated, "Access to genetic resources is enhanced and substantial benefits are shared consistent with the International Regime on ABS" was suggested to be revised to read: "By 2020, to have accelerated and widened the importance of a transparent ABS framework in accordance with the IRABS and to have enhanced awareness about equitable benefit sharing arising out of the use of genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge that supports the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity." Natural Justice made an intervention, arguing that if this revised target can be read as the future ABS Protocol's aim, then the text of the protocol should better integrate conservation and sustainable use (draft Article 7) and traditional knowledge (draft Article 9). For more information on the negotiations, please see:

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

ABS Working Group 9, Cali, Colombia

The ninth meeting of the ABS Working Group (ABS 9) of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) will be held from 22-28 March in Cali, Colombia. ABS 9 will continue negotiations on an international regime on ABS, and focus on the consolidation of operational texts developed at the seventh and eighth meetings of the Working Group. With regard to the main components of the regime, including traditional knowledge, the meeting is expected to proceed with the negotiating process with a view to achieving consensus. It should be recalled that, in accordance with Decision IX/12 of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the CBD, the Working Group is instructed to finalize the international regime and to submit for consideration and adoption by COP 10 an instrument/instruments to effectively implement the provisions in Article 15 and 8(j) of the Convention and its three objectives. ABS 9 is the last meeting of the Working Group before CBD COP 10, to be held from 18-29 October 2010, in Nagoya, Japan. Natural Justice's Johanna von Braun, Holly Shrumm, Kabir Bavikatte, Gino Cocchiaro and Harry Jonas will be in attendance. Kabir will be advising the African Group while Johanna, Holly, Gino, and Harry will be coordinating consultations and presenting at side events. Daily reports can be read on:

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Inception of a Capacity Development Initiative for Sabah

On the 15th of March, Holly Shrumm and Harry Jonas joined Agnes Lee Agama (South East Asia Regional Coordinator, GDF) at a meeting hosted by Dr Fatah (Director, Sabah Biodiversity Centre) to discuss potential collaboration on an ABS capacity development initiative for Sabah. Dr Fatah explained that the first draft of the Sabah ABS Regulations would be ready by April, with the intention of finalizing them by June. In the meeting, Natural Justice provided advice on structuring a programme to facilitate the Regulations' implementation, including to view the community workshops as potential for experience-sharing between the Biodiversity Centre and communities, as well as considering establishing a multi-stakeholder dialogue towards the development of a set of ABS guidelines for Sabah. The meeting concluded with agreement to continue the discussion in Cali, Colombia, where Dr Fatah will be attending the 9th meeting of the Working Group on ABS together with Natural Justice's Johanna von Braun, Holly Shrumm, Kabir Bavikatte, Gino Cocchiaro and Harry Jonas.

GDF-Natural Justice Darwin Workshop

As part of Natural Justice's emerging partnership with the Global Diversity Foundation (GDF), Holly Shrumm and Harry Jonas provided input to a training workshop and planning meeting from 10-12 March, attended by 34 participants from the GDF and Sabah Parks, and held at Sabah Parks' Crocker Range Park headquarters, Keningau, Sabah. The workshop's aims were to provide participants further understanding of the relevance of international law to local communities' lives, to further discuss the application of bio-cultural community protocols to the communities with which GDF is working, and to plan future work. Specifically, the meeting covered:
- International laws relating to communities' management of natural resources;
- Bio-cultural community protocols;
- Field updates from community researchers about the workshops in Buayan and Bundu Tuhan (see earlier blog posts), the wildlife corridor and the anti-dam campaign;
- Group discussions about key issues affecting local communities, what information communities might want to convey to other stakeholders, and in which format (including written word, GIS maps, video and photo); and
- Group discussions to plan practical ways forwards.
The meeting concluded with GDF's community researchers agreeing a programme of community meetings in the Ulu Papar valley and Bundu Tuhan to obtain further information about relevant factors (such as the extent of community managed forests, location of cultural sites and land management practices) towards the development of community protocols calling for the recognition of their role in managing indigenous and community conserved areas (ICCAs). Harry and Holly thank Agnes, Adam, James and the GDF community researchers for hosting them for the past 3 weeks - and are already looking forward to the return.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Reviewing Indigenous and Community Conserved Areas in Malaysia

The Global Diversity Foundation (GDF) is managing a project in Sabah entitled: Traditional Ecological Knowledge in Sabah, a Consolidation of Issues and Experiences in Relation to Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Resource Use. Component 2 of the project aims to compile a state-wide review of indigenous and community conserved areas (ICCAs) in Sabah, emphasising the identification of existing and potential ICCAs, and documenting communities’ experiences in establishing and managing ICCAs. One of the specific aims is to promote the traditional ecological knowledge and customary practices that are used or can be applied in the management of ICCAs, and inform the access and benefit sharing processes in the context of ICCAs and protected areas in general. In that context, Holly Shrumm and Harry Jonas met with leaders of the Bundu Tuhan community (who live adjacent to the Kinabalu National Park - pictured) to discuss their twin concerns about the possible designation of their community forests as a Forest Reseve, and their work towards the recognition of their land as an ICCA. The meeting addressed bio-cultural community protocols, the community's development plan and the proposal to include the community's land in a wildlife corridor. Natural Justice was subsequently invited to provide further input to the ICCA work, specifically to explore with GDF how the communities with which GDF is working can provide evidence to support the designation of their villages and/or surrounding areas as ICCAs.

Preparing for ABSWG9

Kabir Bavikatte and Olivier Rukundo from Natural Justice, were in Windhoek, Namibia as the legal advisors to the African Group in its preparations for the 9th Meeting of the Working Group on Access and Benefit Sharing (ABSWG9) in Cali from the 22nd to the 29th of March 2010. The African Group deliberated on its position for ABSWG9 over three days. The work of the African Group concluded with the development of a consensus position that will be presented to the African Ministers for Environment and will be advocated as the African position in Cali.

Natural Justice to Host Pan African Indigenous and Local Community Meeting

Natural Justice will be hosting the Pan African Indigenous and Local Community Meeting in September 2010. The Indigenous Information Network will be a partnering organization and the Meeting will be supported by the ABS Capacity Development Initiative for Africa. The Meeting which will take place over 3 days will bring together around 50 representatives of indigenous and local communities across Africa and will review the outcomes of the 9th Meeting of the Working Group on ABS. The Meeting will also strategize the way forward leading to the 10th Meeting of the Conference of Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity that will take place in October 2010 in Nagoya, Japan. The Meeting will also focus on the development of sui generis systems and rights based approaches for the protection of traditional knowledge and biological diversity stewarded by communities in Africa.

Bio-cultural Community Protocols in Liberia

Kabir Bavikatte met with Jonathan Davies, the CBD Focal Point of Liberia and Dr. Andreas Drews, Co-ordinator of the ABS Initiative for Africa to discuss the development of sui generis systems for the protection of traditional knowledge in Liberia, through the development of community protocols and community led documentation of their traditional knowledge. This discussion took place in the context of the draft Liberian ABS law which also seeks to protect the rights of the holders of traditional knowledge. The meeting agreed that the way forward would be for Natural Justice to facilitate the development of two biocultural protocols with 2 ethnic communities in Liberia in partnership with a local organization. Based on these protocols, a national meeting would be organized with the leaders of the different ethnic groups represented by the National Traditional Council (the body of leaders of the different ethnic groups in Liberia) to present the protocols and to strategize on the way forward to secure the rights of Liberian communities to their traditional knowledge and resources. This would be the first stage of a three year project aimed at securing the rights of the holders of traditional knowledge in Liberia. Natural Justice has been asked to submit a budget for these activities that it will undertake on behalf of the Liberian government.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Exploring Commons Systems in India

Gino Cocchiaro and Kabir Bavikatte met with Dr. Krishna Ravi Srinivas of Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS) on the 28th of February 2010 in New Delhi. Dr. Srinivas was extremely interested in the concept of Traditional Knowledge Commons that Natural Justice has been working on and the meeting explored possibilities of collaboration between Natural Justice and RIS. Two proposals were discussed- The first was the possibility of developing a pilot Traditional Knowledge Commons between a community and the FRLHT (Foundation for the Revitalization of Local Health Traditions) in India with the first meeting in June 2010. The second was the possibility of Natural Justice and RIS putting together a panel on Traditional Knowledge Commons at the 13th Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of the Commons (IASC) from the 10th-14th of January 2011 in Hyderabad, India. The Conference will be hosted by the Foundation for Ecological Security (FES) whom Natural Justice contacted in India regarding presenting a paper on Traditional Knowledge Commons under the sub-theme of New Commons (Digital Commons, Genetic Commons, Patents, Music, Literature etc.)

Gino Cocchiaro and Kabir Bavikatte met with Ruchika Bahl, Director (Global) Law for All Initiative, Ashoka: Innovators for the Public in New Delhi on the 28th of February 2010. The meeting focussed on the work of Natural Justice relating to bio-cultural protocols and the possibility of providing support to some of Ashoka's fellows working on issues of community rights and the environment. The meeting also discussed the criteria for an Ashoka fellowship in the context of Natural Justice's work on bio-cultural protocols. The meeting concluded with a commitment from both Natural Justice and Ms. Bahl to continue to explore possibilities of working together in the long run.

Working with LIFE Network in India

Gino Cocchiaro and Kabir Bavikatte from Natural Justice were in India to provide input for a workshop on Biocultural Community Protocols for Livestock Keepers. The workshop was organized by LIFE Network India, Lokhit Pashu Palak Sansthan and the Rain-fed Livestock Network. The workshop was attended by a number of key organizations across India working with pastoralists and livestock keepers and representatives of the government and scientific sector. The workshop also included representatives of livestock keepers organizations from Philippines, Uganda, Argentina and Kenya (international members of the LIFE Network).

Kabir Bavikatte presented on the 'Background and Rationale of Community Protocols' and 'Biocultural Protocols and the International Regime on Access and Benefit Sharing'. The presentations were very well received and sparked off an interesting discussion about the role of Biocultural Protocols in securing livestock keepers rights in India. Experiences were also shared on how the Raika Protocol has been used in an Indian context to assert the grazing rights of the Raika in the Kumbalgarh forest.

Natural Justice was also presented with the Lingayat Biocultural Protocol that was developed by the Lingayat community in Tamil Nadu to protect their indigenous breeds of cattle. Copies of the Raika Protocol that had been translated into Hindi and the Lingayat Protocol that was translated into Tamil were also available to the participants. The high point of the workshop was an overwhelming agreement amongst the participating organizations that a momentum can be built around livestock keepers rights by developing a number of protocols with livestock keeping communities assert their rights to their breeds, ways- of life and ecosystems. Natural Justice was approached by the Maldhari livestock keepers of Kutch who have conserved the indigenous Banni buffalo and the Kangayam cattle breeders of Tamil Nadu to support them in developing their own biocultural protocols in 2010.

Natural Justice Collaborates with the Department of Science and Technology (SA)

Johanna von Braun and Kabir Bavikatte were invited to Pretoria by the South African Department of Science and Technology (DST) to discuss the possibilities of future collaboration between DST's work on indigenous knowledge systems and Natural Justice. The DST was represented by its Director General Prof. Yonah Seleti, Hlupheka Chabalala of the National Indigenous Knowledge Systems and Tom Suchanandan, Director: Advocacy and Policy Development. The meeting discussed the work of Natural Justice in the context of bio-cultural protocols and traditional knowledge commons. The meeting concluded with an agreement on 4 key areas of collaboration:

1) A joint proposal by DST and Natural Justice to develop the first small pilot on traditional knowledge commons in South Africa
2) A proposal for a scoping study to be conducted by Natural Justice on the possible development of traditional knowledge based first aid kits by the Bushbuckridge Traditional Health Practioners Association based on their bio-cultural protocol. This scoping study will be the basis of a larger proposal to national and international donors to seek financing for a larger project that would be implemented by Natural Justice, the DST and a range of local partners in the Bushbuckridge region.
3) A Natural Justice proposal to provide legal advice to the South African Medical Research Council (MRC) in its engagement with a community in the Northern Cape for further research on a local medicinal plant used by the community. Part of the proposal will be the development of a bio-cultural protocol based on which an ABS agreement could be entered into between the MRC and the community for the use of their traditional knowledge relating to this plant.
4) Natural Justice was also asked to submit a proposal to develop a feasibility study for the DST on a South African law dealing with Sui Generis Systems to protect traditional knowledge. The law would have to be developed in the context of the various other laws in South Africa that refer to traditional knowledge.

The high point of the meeting was a strong support by the DST for bio-cultural community protocols as the way forward to protect community knowledge and resources and a readiness to make bio-cultural protocols national policy through the potential South African sui generis law. The meeting also explored ways in which Natural Justice and the DST could collaborate on the ongoing negotiations at the WIPO IGC.

Malaysian Bio-cultural Community Protocol

As part of the Global Diversity Foundation's (GDF) Darwin Initiative-funded project entitled, “Participatory Approaches to Nominating the Crocker Range Biosphere Reserve in Sabah, Malaysia” Natural Justice was invited to facilitate the development of a bio-cultural community protocol. The communities in the Ulu Papar area, situated northwest of the Crocker Range Park (protected area), face a serious threat from a proposed dam. If constructed, the dam will inundate the Ulu Papar catchment area and force the relocation of a number of villages. GDF is working with Partners of Community Organizations (PACOS) Trust to engage with the multiple issues surrounding the proposed dam. Holly Shrumm and Harry Jonas provided training to 7 of GDF's community researchers in Kota Kinabalu, who then facilitated a two day workshop whose focus was to look beyond the immediate threat of the dam to the communities' medium- to long-term plans for natural resource management. The workshop marks the first of a series towards the development of a community protocol setting out the wider context in which their lives and livelihoods exist, including: the contributions they are making to the conservation and sustainable use of Ulu Papar's natural resources; the customary laws relating to natural resource use; the interlinkages between local biodiversity and Dusun culture; and the community's visions for the future of the full range of traditional and modern land use in the area. The community protocol will request specific assistance from institutions the community can call on to achieve their endogenous development aspirations from within the community, other villages, NGOs, and government agencies.