Monday, November 29, 2010

New Article on Pastoralists' Use of Biocultural Community Protocols

Natural Justice's friend and colleague, Ilse Kohler-Rollefson, has written a new article entitled, "Biocultural Community Protocols: A Tool for Pastoralists to Secure Customary Rights to the Commons?" The article appears from pages 16-19 in Issue 2 of Common Voices, a journal published by the Foundation for Ecological Security in India.

Ilse (along with her colleagues  from LPPS, LPP, and the LIFE Network) has also recently produced an excellent publication entitled, "Biocultural Community Protocols for Livestock Keepers", which explores many of the opportunities and outstanding key questions about BCPs and their applications within pastoralist communities.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Art of Climate Change

Citizens of Sante Fe, New
Mexico, join together for
350 Earth to show where
a dried river should be
flowing. Credit:
From November 20-28, 350 EARTH is launching the world's first global climate art project. Citizens and professional artists alike are banding together in over a dozen major cities around the world to create art installations about how climate change is impacting our world and visions of how to address the crisis. Satellite company DigitalGlobal will be documenting the project from space, which is happening on the eve of the 16th Conference of the Parties (COP) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Do you live in one of these cities? Join the history-making event happening there! Wherever you are, use your creativity to convey what climate change means to you. Here are some great ideas for your own climate art projects from the movers and shakers at

Join a Free Webinar on Biocultural Diversity and Sacred Sites!

On November 23rd at 5 pm GMT (12:00 EDT, 09:00 PDT), Earthscan is hosting a free webinar with two of Natural Justice's friends, exploring the important relationship people have with nature and how vital it is for the future of our natural world. Luisa Maffi, co-director of Terralingua and co-author of Biocultural Diversity Conservation: A Global Sourcebook, will introduce the concept of biocultural diversity; and explain the benefits of understanding the linkages between biodiversity and culture for conservation and sustainability. Roberty Wild, co-chair of the IUCN Specialist Group on the Cultural and Spiritual Values of Protected Areas (CSVPA) and co-author of Sacred Natural Sites: Conserving Nature & Culture, will explore the benefits of utilising the connection between these natural areas and cultural values in order to protect landscapes. Register for the event (and have access to the archive afterwards) here.

Indigenous Peoples Reject Market-based Mechanisms

The International Conference on Indigenous Peoples' Rights, Alternatives and Solutions to the Climate Crisis was held from November 4-9, 2010, in Baguio City, Philippines. Participants released a declaration of solidarity (viewed here), which criticizes the "false solutions" proposed by market-based mechanisms such as REDD and demanded respect for Indigenous peoples' rights in addressing the climate crisis. It says, "The root problems of the enormous problems we face today is the system which puts profits before people and the planet... A genuinely sustainable and comprehensive solution to the climate crisis lies in a fundamental shift towards people’s sovereignty over our shared heritage."

Seventy-six Indigenous peoples representatives from 15 countries attended the conference, which was organized by the Cordillera Peoples Alliance, Land is Life, IBON International, Asia Pacific Indigenous Youth Network, and the People's Movement on Climate Change.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Latest in TK News

Check out these fascinating links for the latest on traditional knowledge and forest management, wildlife management, and climate change. In a guest UNU-IAS article, Lucy Rist et al. (2010) explore the relationships between traditional ecological knowledge and conventional scientific data in the management of non-timber forest products, including through a case study of the Biligiri Rangaswamy Temple Wildlife Sanctuary in Karnataka, India.

In the September issue of the Journal of Latin American Geography, Jane M. Read et al. (2010) illustrate how Indigenous peoples' spiritual beliefs help preserve the rainforest in southern Guayana. They argue that both local environmental and spiritual/cultural contexts should be taken into account in studies that inform biodiversity and sustainable resource use management. Some of the study's co-authors described the methods they used, including training local hunters to help gather data on wildlife populations, in this November 15 article on

The world's first documentary on climate change in the Inuktitut language (with English sub-titles), by Zacharias Kunuk and Dr. Ian Mauro, conveys the social and ecological impacts of and ways of adapting to climate change in the Arctic through the eyes of Inuit elders and hunters.

Thanks to Elsa Tsioumani for the links in the latest TK Bulletin!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Dusun Community Returning to their Sacred Mountain in Sabah

On December 3rd, the Dusun communities from Bundu Tuhan and Kiau (Sabah, Malaysia) will make the pilgrimage to the sacred resting place of their ancestors for the first time in nearly 50 years. Gayo Ngaran (commonly known as Mount Kinabalu) is the highest mountain in southeast Asia and a prime tourist destination. When it was gazetted as a national park in 1964, community members were no longer allowed to enter the area they had traditionally used for subsistence for centuries. Community members indicate their sense of pride that Gayo Ngaran is a natural treasure for the world to see (including as a UNESCO World Heritage Site), but they have been working to regain access in the face of the expensive and privatized tourist industry that now has control over the mountain. At a March, 2010, meeting between community leaders and Dr. Jamili Nais, Deputy Director of Sabah Parks, they asked for just one day to return to the mountain. Much to the surprise of the leaders and supporters in attendance (including the Global Diversity Foundation and Natural Justice), Dr. Nais agreed. Local teams have been busy organizing the pilgrimage, which will take place on December 3rd, and related activities on ICCAs, ethnobotany, and participatory video and photography from December 2-3.

Natural Justice congratulates the community members and community researchers of Bundu Tuhan and Kiau and the hard-working staff of the Global Diversity Foundation and Sabah Parks for making this dream a reality. It serves as a landmark event in the ongoing story of Indigenous communities in Sabah and around the world to re-establish and support the complex connections between customary ways of life, biodiversity, and sacred sites. For more on the story, see an article (originally posted in the New Sabah Times) here. Help the communities return to the mountain by making donations through this page. Learn more about sacred natural sites and the cultural and spiritual values of protected areas here.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Canada (Finally) Endorses UNDRIP

On November 12, Canada endorsed the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). Canada was one of only four states to vote against the adoption of UNDRIP by the UN General Assembly in 2007 (the others were the United States, New Zealand, and Australia, the latter two of which have since endorsed it). The United States is currently undergoing a review and consultation process to determine whether or not to endorse it.

Natural Justice is very pleased that Canada has joined the rest of the world in supporting UNDRIP. However, despite the Conservative Government's self-congratulatory press release, the country's performance at the recent Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Nagoya, Japan, and throughout the negotiation processes leading up to it was criticized by many for being nothing short of obstructionist. For example, Indigenous peoples and supporting human rights lawyers from Canada held a press conference at COP10 to call attention to Canada's position as the sole Party to call for removal of all references to UNDRIP in the negotiations towards the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing. More views on the country's position at COP10 are published on Indigenous Peoples Issues and Resources and Daily Yomiuri. Canada also received the Dodo Award, granted to Parties by the CBD Alliance for "demonstrating a definitive and unmatched failure to evolve". Indigenous peoples and civil society groups are looking forward to concrete demonstrations of Canada's newfound support for UNDRIP both in domestic and international fora.

Nestle Coverage Continues

Natural Justice features in a Pambazuka article (originally published by the Tax Justice Network) entitled, "The Battle Against Biopiracy". The article states that: "Nestec SA, a subsidiary of Nestlé, based in Switzerland, applied for five patents, using water or alcohol extraction, for conditions much the same i.e.: rooibos being the 'discovered' property, in addition to that of the honeybush, another endemic plant. Nestlé, which holds 30.5 per cent shares in L'Oréal (the world's largest cosmetic producer), and 50 per cent in Inneov (a joint venture with L’Oréal), claims that it had no intention of making commercial use of the plants in the future – though it hopes for the 20 year patent. The company further claims to have contravened no national laws (despite stipulating the need for prior informed consent) or international frameworks. Thanks to the effort of Natural Justice in South Africa, a local organisation comprised of attorneys 'for communities and the environment', the issue is now on the table." The Berne Declaration and Natural Justice have been working on this since May, 2010. Here is the original press release and briefing paper. More media coverage can be viewed here.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The REDD's a-Coming (to Sabah)

From November 8-9, Harry Jonas and Holly Shrumm (Natural Justice) attended an international conference in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, entitled "Forests and Climate Change: Decoding and Realising REDD+ in the Heart of Borneo, with Specific Focus on Sabah". The conference on Reducing Emission from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in developing countries (REDD) was co-hosted by the Sabah Forestry Department and WWF-Malaysia and attended by many dignitaries such as the Chief Minister of Sabah, Datuk Seri Musa Aman. Some of the presentations given were by representatives of the UNFCCC, UNDP-Thailand, RECOFTC (The Center for People and Forests), the Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM), the European Union, The Nature Conservancy (TNC), and PricewaterhouseCoopers. After an open discussion session, Datuk Sam Manan, Director of Sabah Forestry Department, said that Sabah will develop a REDD+ Strategy.

Civil society and Indigenous peoples' organizations have lobbied hard in climate change and biodiversity negotiations for inclusion of social and environmental safeguards in REDD programmes, particularly regarding the right to free, prior and informed consent and the right to self-determination, as well as for stricter definitions of forests (under some voluntary guidelines, industrial agricultural plantations such as oil palm are included). In general, there are serious concerns with countries and major international NGOs engaging with REDD projects in the absence of secure land tenure and local resource rights (see 2009 IIED publication by Lorenzo Cotula and James Mayers here). There are also major concerns with deepening ties between conservation organizations and environmentally destructive corporations (see Johann Hari's expose on The Nation earlier this year).

Some civil society views on REDD can be accessed through the REDD Monitor and Global Forest Coalition, among many others. Global Witness' recommendations on REDD can be viewed here. Natural Justice is exploring the development and use of biocultural community protocols in the context of REDD; see more information here.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Civil Society Views on COP10

The CBD Alliance and other members of civil society was active at the 10th Conference of the Parties (COP10) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Nagoya, Japan. They published views in the daily ECO newsletter and the 4th issue of [square brackets], for which Holly Shrumm (Natural Justice) served on the editorial board. They participated in dozens of side events and the sometimes intense, sometimes impossibly drawn-out, but always critical negotiations in plenary, contact groups, and working groups. Although over 40 Decisions were eventually adopted, including a revised Strategic Plan and a financial mobilization plan (see comprehensive overview by Chee Yoke Ling here), there are mixed reactions and lingering doubts over the new Aichi Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing that was adopted (viewed here). Some were also disappointed that the civil society statements were not allowed to be read either in opening or closing plenary, allegedly due to lack of time. The text of the final statement can be viewed here. The full list of adopted Decisions is available here on the official CBD website.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Reclaiming the Commons

From October 31 to November 2, Gino Cocchiaro (Natural Justice) attended the International Commons Conference in Berlin, Germany. The conference, which was supported by the Heinrich Böll Foundation, brought together about 180 people involved in commons-based activities.  The commons is a framework for reclaiming, sharing, and self-governing natural, cultural, and social common pool resources. Over the 3 days, participants discussed and critically analyzed the range of commons approaches that exist and established networks with the aim of collaborating in activities in the future. Natural Justice was invited to present its work on the Traditional Knowledge Commons (see publication here) and share the experiences it has learned from communities dependant on common pool resources in Africa, Asia, and South America.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Report of the Cape Town Meeting on BCPs

In early September, Natural Justice co-ordinated a two-day meeting on bio-cultural community protocols (BCPs), which brought together a range of representatives of African Indigenous peoples, local communities, and community-based organizations (CBOs). The aim of the meeting was three-fold: first, to review existing rights-based approaches (RBAs) to biological resources and traditional knowledge; second, to evaluate the potential of bio-cultural community protocols to improve existing RBAs in their efforts to secure, for example, free, prior and informed consent with respect to any activities undertaken that affect communities’ tangible and intangible resources; and third, to discuss the viability and utility of establishing an African collective of Indigenous peoples, local communities, and CBO networks that will coordinate activities, share experiences, create linkages, and develop capacity on the use of community protocols at the community, national, and regional level. View the report of the meeting here. See blog postings from the meeting here (Sept. 2) and here (Sept 3).

Monday, November 1, 2010

ICCA Workshop in UNESCO World Heritage Site

Shirakawa Village, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
From October 27-30, Harry Jonas and Holly Shrumm (Natural Justice) were at the Shirakawa-go Eco Institute in Japan for a workshop on Indigenous Conserved Territories and Areas Conserved by Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (ICCAs). The workshop was sponsored by the ICCA Consortium, GEF SGP, UNEP-WCMC, The Christensen Fund, Kalpavriksh, Cenesta, World Alliance of Mobile Indigenous Peoples, IUCN CEESP, IUCN-Japan, and TILCEPA. Participants were from a wide range of countries and included members of Indigenous peoples and local and mobile communities, community-based organizations, non-governmental organizations and networks, government, and funders.

On the first day, there was an overview of the history of ICCAs and their emergence among Indigenous peoples, local communities, and the international conservation community, of the various forms of national recognition of and support for ICCAs, and of the threats, opportunities, and lessons learned so far. A roundtable on global recognition efforts for ICCAs included speed presentations on legal issues and opportunities, national government perspectives, sacred natural sites, REDD, ABS, and the ICCA Registry. A roundtable on practical tools explored participatory mapping and 3-D modelling, community monitoring, biocultural community protocols, and the protected areas governance toolkit developed by TILCEPA members.