Saturday, May 29, 2010

Nestle Media Blitz

Following the May 27th press release about Nestle's alleged bio-piracy in South Africa, several media outlets have published the story, including Business Report, News24, Times Live, Dispatch Online, Legalbrief Today, Undercover COP, and the TK Bulletin. The story has also been covered by radio stations AMLive and SABS Radio. Nestle responded to the allegations in today's Business Day, which Johanna von Braun (Natural Justice) defended in a May 30th article by the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development. A full list of online media coverage as of May 31st can be found here. Natural Justice continues to monitor and contribute to media coverage of the campaign.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Rooibos Robbery: Nestlé accused of biopirating South African genetic resources

Today, Natural Justice and Swiss NGO the Berne Declaration launched their media campaign against Nestle for contravening South African law and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in its five recent patent applications for the use of Rooibos and Honeybush. This second biopiracy case in South Africa in less than a year (the first was regarding pharmaceutical company Schwabe's attempted patents on pelargonium) again demonstrates how big corporations neglect their obligations to seek prior, informed consent and to share benefits when using genetic resources from the developing countries, as obliged under the CBD. Four out of five of the patents relate to the use of the Rooibos and Honeybush plants for the treatment of hair and skin conditions. These plants are both endemic to South Africa's Western and Eastern Cape Provinces and have long been used in the region for related medicinal purposes. According to the South African Biodiversity Act (the national legislation that implements the CBD), a company needs a permit from the government to do commercially-applicable research and/or patent the use of genetic resources found in South Africa. Such a permit can only be obtained if a benefit-sharing agreemetn has been negotiated. The South African Department of Environmental Affairs confirmed to Natural Justice and the Berne Declaration that Nestle has never received the permits to use these genetic resources. Based on the information provided, it is clear that the patents of Nestle and the research on which they are based are in contradiction with South African law and the CBD. Nestle is yet to comment on the allegations against them. Natural Justice and the Berne Declaration will continue to lobby Nestle to comply with South African and international legislation. To view the briefing paper and press release, please go to our website and see relevant media coverage.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Much Ado About A Mine

In the heart of the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in British Columbia, Canada, the Ahousaht First Nation is considering a proposed copper mine. Local environmental groups are whole-heartedly opposed, but some members of the Ahousaht First Nation may be willing to accept the mine at the top of Catface Mountain in the name of economic development. Others in the First Nation community are opposed because of the inevitable environmental consequences; still others are calling first and foremost for respect for their traditional decision-making structures. A recent article by Judith Lavoie highlights the many issues that indigenous communities such as the Ahousaht face, including lack of internal coherence, prospective extractive industries, and engagement with other environmental groups.

Livestock Keepers Beyond Borders

The League of Pastoral Peoples and the LIFE Network recently hosted a day-long meeting on livestock keepers' rights in Odenwald, Germany, that Kabir Bavikatte (Natural Justice) attended. The meeting included representatives from the German government, European shepherds and farmers, pastoralists and livestock keepers from Asia and Africa, and members of civil society organizations working with livestock keepers and animal genetic resources. Kabir presented on bio-cultural community protocols (BCPs) as a tool to realize well-being for livestock keepers and as a strategy to secure livestock keepers' rights. The meeting concluded with a commitment by the League of Pastoral Peoples to advocate for livestock keepers' rights and BCPs as a long-term strategy.

Lawyers for the People

A recent article in the Financial Mail profiled the pioneering work of Natural Justice's co-directors, Kabir Bavikatte and Harry Jonas. The article highlights the environmental lawyers' efforts to ensure the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities are respected and fulfilled at the local, national, and international levels, including through the development of bio-cultural community protocols with pastoralists and traditional healers in Kenya, South Africa, and India.

The real [square brackets]

The third issue of [square brackets], the joint CBD-civil society newsletter, was released at the 14th meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA) in Nairobi last week. Natural Justice wrote an article entitled, "A Rights-based Approach to Supporting Indigenous and Community Conserved Areas", which can be found on page 9 here. Other articles in the newsletter focused on geoengineering, deforestation, and loss of biodiversity in Africa.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Advocating for Pastoralists at the German Parliament

Along with members of the LIFE Network and the League of Pastoral Peoples, Kabir Bavikatte (Natural Justice) was in Berlin, Germany, for a press conference about the concerns of pastoralists and livestock keepers organized by the Church Development Service. The team then presented their concerns in a meeting with the Agricultural Committee at the German Parliament. The emphasis was on lobbying the German government to support Livestock Keepers' Rights within the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and to support community protocols within the Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) negotiations under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The team called on the German government to support the following: legally binding livestock keepers' rights; research and breeding of locally adapted livestock breeds; upgrading of the Global Plan of Action for Animal Genetic Resources; community protocols within the ABS Protocol at the CBD 10th Conference of Parties; organizations challenging the German agricultural export policy and recognition of how it undermines Germany's obligations under the CBD; and inclusion of pastoralists' and livestock keepers' concerns in the Voluntary Guidelines on Good Governance of Land Tenure, which is currently being negotiated for adoption by the FAO Council. At the end of the meeting, the German Parliament's Agricultural Committee committed to exploring how to support community protocols in CBD-related negotiations, including within the Working Group on ABS.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Supporting Indigenous Philanthrophy

The 9th conference of the International Funders for Indigenous Peoples (IFIP) took place in Tofino, Canada, from May 15-17. IFIP is comprised of member organizations, primarily donors such as The Christensen Fund, Ford Foundation, and Walter and Duncan Gordon Foundation. Among its members, IFIP promotes increasing the amount and efficacy of funding for indigenous peoples, particularly in the face of widespread loss of interlinked biological and cultural diversity. With the 9th conference focusing on transformative education, environment, and human rights advocacy, Harry Jonas (Natural Justice) presented on bio-cultural community protocols as one rights-based approach to implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Hishuk-ish tsawalk

Nuu-chah-nulth for "everything is one, everything is connected", the concept of Hishuk-ish tsawalk was the theme of the 12th Congress of the International Society of Ethnobiology (ISE) from May 9-14 in Tofino, Canada. Harry Jonas and Holly Shrumm (Natural Justice) attended the Congress and presented on access and benefit sharing (ABS) and reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) during a session on policy literacy with colleagues from the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation, the Global Diversity Foundation, and IUCN, among others. Harry and Holly participated in many sessions throughout the week, including on protected traditional knowledge, participatory video and traditional resource rights, community conservation in practice, the ISE Code of Ethics, and innovative practices of communicating research. They also discussed potential collaborations with organizations such as COMPAS, the Gaia Foundation, IUCN, and the African Biodiversity Network.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Advocating for the Samburus' Rights in Nairobi

In partnership with the ABS Initiative for Africa, UNEP and the LIFE Network, Kabir Bavikatte (Natural Justice) presented in a side event at SBSTTA on Bio-cultural Community Protocols: A Community Approach to Ensuring the Integrity of Environmental Law and Policy. The side event discussed bio-cultural community protocols as one approach that indigenous peoples and local communities can use to clarify terms and conditions for engaging with other stakeholders regarding their natural resources and traditional knowledge. The event included presentations on community protocols, the launch of the Samburu Protocol, and the Natural Justice-UNEP DVD collection of materials relevant to community protocols and rights-based approaches. Participants at this and the two previous side events at SBSTTA found community protocols to be a very useful tool that can be used in the context of community conserved and co-managed areas to secure community rights.

A Collaborative Effort at SBSTTA

Kabir Bavikatte (Natural Justice) presented on bio-cultural community protocols at a SBTTA side event entitled, "Strengthening what works: recognizing and supporting hte conservation achievements of indigenous peoples and local communities". The side event was organized by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Commission on Environmental, Economic and Social Policy (CEESP) in collaboration with CENESTA, Kalpavriksh, WAMIP, GTZ, GEF SGP, the ICCA Consortium, and Natural Justice. It focused on case examples to distill lessons and tools to provide practical support to the implementation of the Programme of Work on Protected Areas (PoWPA), particularly Element 2 on governance, participation, equity, and benefit sharing.

Connecting the Legal Dots at SBSTTA

At a SBSTTA side event on Governance of Protected Areas: Crucial Concepts and Tools for the Programme of Work on Protected Areas (PoWPA), Kabir Bavikatte (Natural Justice) presented on the importance of making linkages between various legal provisions for community rights, particularly the PoWPA and the Working Group on Article 8(j). He highlighted the draft Ethical Code of Conduct on Respect for the Cultural and Intellectual Heritage of Indigenous and Local Communities Relevant for the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Biodiversity that was adopted by the Working Group in 8(j) as a guiding document for realizing community rights under PoWPA. He also noted that the Working Group on 8(j) is increasingly aiming to implement Article 10(c) and PoWPA's Target 2.2 on community governance, particularly by building on the Addis Ababa Principles and Guidelines. Kabir stressed that the draft resolution to be adopted at the Conference of Parties in Nagoya will require the Working Group on 8(j) to integrate Article 10(c) as a cross-cutting issue into the CBD's various programmes of work and thematic areas, beginning with PoWPA. He concluded by calling for engagement with the serious gains made on community rights under the Working Group on 8(j) in order to encourage states to uphold their similar commitments under PoWPA.

Setting the Stage at SBSTTA

At the 14th meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical, and Technological Advice (SBSTTA) that is currently happening in Nairobi, one of the main tasks is to table a revise Programme of Work on Protected Areas (PoWPA) to the upcoming Conference of Parties in Nagoya. The revised PoWPA is intended to be based on the recent in-depth review and recommendations, which acknowledge the particular lack of implementation of Element 2 on governance, participation, equity, and benefit-sharing. Another emerging critique of the PoWPA is that it fails to integrate existing legal provisions for communities' rights, such as under Articles 8(j) and 10(c) of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

SBSTTA opens with a customary bang

On May 10, the 14th meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity's Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA) opened in Nairobi, Kenya. It will run until May 21 and will aim to address outstanding issues relating to the CBD's post-2010 Strategic Plan and the Programme of Work on Protected Areas (PoWPA), among others, in the run-up to the CBD Conference of Parties in Nagoya. On the opening day of SBSTTA, the Liberian delegation noted that the implementation of PoWPA must be done in accordance with traditional governance systems and customary use of biodiversity. Kabir Bavikatte (Natural Justice) is in Nairobi for the first week of SBSTTA to present at side events and coordinate with other members of the ICCA Consortium.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Practise of (Natural) Law

At the Global Diversity Foundation-hosted workshop on Community Conservation in Practise from May 6-9 in Tofino, Canada, Joe Martin (right) of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation provided an alternative view of law. He described his First Nation's worldview of the natural laws that underpin our existence and connections with other natural processes and showed how art forms such as totems are the embodiment of these natural laws and First Nation constitutions. Harry Jonas and Holly Shrumm (Natural Justice) attended the workshop alongside representatives of indigenous and local communities and NGOs from Kyrgyzstan, the Altai Republic, Vanuatu, Ethiopia, Kenya, Colombia, Mexico, Australia, Malaysia, Morocco, Guatemala, USA, UK, the Netherlands, and Canada. The workshop also delved into challenges of and opportunities for indigenous and community conserved areas (ICCAs), sacred natural sites, and bio-cultural landscapes in policy and practise. Harry and Holly presented on bio-cultural community protocols as a tool to help communities engage with legal and policy frameworks that affect communities' ways of life. Participants explored how protocols could help communities ensure the protection of sacred natural sites and a nascent partnership with COMPAS was discussed. Harry and Holly are also involved in the development of the Opitsaht narrative declaration, which will communicate what happened at the workshop. They will continue to meet with fellow participants throughout the International Society of Ethnobiology Congress in Tofino from May 9-14.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Natural Changes

In recognition of its transition from "establishment" to "strategic development", the Natural Justice team met on May Day in Cape Town nearly three years after its registration as an NPO in South Africa. Executive Member Hennie van Vuuren facilitated a group discussion between Johanna von Braun, Gino Cocchiaro, Holly Shrumm, Laureen Manuel, Kabir Bavikatte, and Harry Jonas towards better defining Natural Justice's organizational vision, mission, activities, and internal structure. We thank Hennie for his dedication and patience as we finalize the vision and mission!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Missing the Target

A study recently published in the journal Science concludes that the biodiversity targets set in 2002 by the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity will not be met, partly because of "woefully inadequate" implementation of national and international policies. Analysis of over 30 indicators shows that not only is biodiversity loss not decreasing, but threats (including climate change and habitat loss) are actually increasing. With nearly all species and ecosystems in decline, the study's authors from UNEP and IUCN are advocating for global action to "act now to save all life on Earth before we reach breaking point." A BBC report on the study can be found here.