Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Update on Nestle Biopiracy Allegations

Natural Justice and the Berne Declaration have responded to Nestle's denials of contravening South African and international law on access and benefit sharing. In a joint statement on June 21st, the two organizations reiterated their allegations based on the legal obligation of companies to obtain a bioprospecting permit, secure prior informed consent, and ensure the equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use of genetic resources. The full response can be read here and a list of past media coverage can be found here.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Shepherding in a New Era of Livestock Keepers' Rights in India

Natural Justice was recently invited by Indian community-based organization Sahjeevan and the Maldhari livestock keepers' organization, Banni Pashu Uccherak Maldhari Sanghatan (the Banni Breeders' Association), to assist with the development of a bio-cultural community protocol. In response, Kabir Bavikatte and Gino Cocchiaro (Natural Justice) spent four days last week in meetings and consultations with the Maldhari livestock keepers of the Banni grassland in Kutch, India.

The Maldhari have been living in the Banni grasslands for nearly 700 years and have developed a local breed of buffalo that is renowned in India for its high productivity and particular resilience to the harsh conditions of the Banni. Despite their long-term presence in the Banni grasslands, the Maldhari remain without rights to their lands and common livestock grazing areas and face a host of other challenges. The indigenous grasses that once flourished in this area alongside native fauna and the Maldhari and their livestock have been diminishing at an alarming rate due to the government introduction of an alien invasive species (prosphis juliflora) and the construction of nearby dams. In addition, although the Banni grassland is a designated national protected area, industries operate on the edge of the grasslands and lead to toxic dumping in the area. Finally, the research sector has shown interest in the Banni buffalo breed, which has led to community concerns about misappropriation.
The Maldhari have protected this delicate ecosystem for centuries, but the continued degradation by external forces now threatens their very way of life. The community plans to use the protocol that they develop to assist in their advocacy efforts to gain recognition of their rights to their lands and protection of their resources and traditional knowledge.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Great Divide

Natural Justice international advisor Brendan Tobin (Irish Centre for Human Rights) co-authored a recent publication on the relationship between national and international regulation of traditional knowledge, customary law, and the realization of indigenous peoples' rights. It concluded with recommendations for basic requirements necessary for the development of national and international systems for the protection of traditional knowledge. The article, entitled, "Across the Great Divide: A case study of complementarity and conflict between customary law and TK protection legislation in Peru" can be downloaded here.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Trading Ideas

On June 14th, Johanna von Braun (Natural Justice) participated in a roundtable discussion hosted by South Africa's Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) in Pretoria. The roundtable focused on helping define the department's strategy for addressing challenges posed by the regulation of bioprospecting activities within the context of trade in natural resources. The meeting brought together representatives from the DEA, the Department of Science and Technology, the Department of Health, various biotrade organizations, traditional health practitioners, and civil society organizations. The meeting served as an opportunity for the DEA to get further insight into and advice about the relationships between traders in indigenous biological resources and the government's bioprospecting regulations. Suggestions made during this discussion will serve as an input to upcoming DEA-organized conferences for traders.

Due Process in Montreal?

After the CBD-UNESCO conference concluded on June 10th, Harry Jonas and Holly Shrumm (Natural Justice) left Montreal concerned with the process that led to the development of a draft CBD-UNESCO joint programme of work on biological and cultural diversity. The draft that was presented to plenary on Thursday afternoon contained laudable objectives, but lacked the specific actions to promote its aims. A number of participants raised this issue and highlighted that the actions appeared to be set up as predominantly UNESCO-managed desktop studies and would not support the community-based implementation of the CBD and of UNESCO's culture-related conventions. Despite several interventions about this concern, the CBD and UNESCO co-chairs claimed that there was not enough time to fully consider them and did not include them in the draft text. Natural Justice has subsequently been included in a small drafting team to provide additional input to the programme of work, which will be forwarded for consideration as a draft decision to the CBD Conference of Parties in October in Nagoya.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A Collaborative Environment

Harry Jonas and Holly Shrumm (Natural Justice) are attending and presenting at the International Conference on Biological and Cultural Diversity in Montreal from June 8-10. The conference is a joint endeavour between the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Its aims include proposing a joint programme of work between the two UN bodies on biological and cultural diversity for 2010-2020.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Commercially (in)sensitive

In today's Times Live, Nestle spokesperson Ravi Pillay responded to recent allegations by Natural Justice and the Berne Declaration (see the first blog posting here and follow-up media links here) that Nestle contravened international and South Africa biodiversity laws in five of its patent applications. In addition to denying the allegations, Pillay's responses ranged from "That would be commercially sensitive information," to "That's the sort of information that would be commercially sensitive." Natural Justice continues to encourage Nestle and the South African government to enter into negotiations towards a benefit-sharing agreement and appopriate patent application.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Endogenous Development of Well-Being

From June 2-4, Natural Justice, the Foundation for Revitalization of Local Health Traditions (FRLHT), the COMPAS Network for Endogenous Development, and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Equator Initiative hosted a training on bio-cultural community protocols in Bangalore, India. Kabir Bavikatte and Gino Cocchiario (Natural Justice) facilitated the workshop, which was attended by 32 representatives of community-based organizations (CBOs). The workshop also served as a stakeholder consultation to gain valuable input on community protocols from networks such as COMPAS, Community Knowledge Service, and African Biodiversity Network. Focusing on the interlinkages between community protocols, endogenous development, and well-being, the interactive workshop involved the development of two hypothetical community protocols and the support of participants to use protocols as a tool for communities to affirm their rights to their resources and knowledge.