Friday, December 17, 2010

U.S.A. Endorses UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Three years after the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted by the UN General Assembly, all four countries who initially voted against it have now reversed their positions. President Barack Obama has just announced his decision, which comes after months of consultations and follows close on the heels of Canada's endorsement of the Declaration on November 12. Obama notably stated that "what matters far more than words, what matters far more than any resolution or declaration, are actions to match those words."

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Collaborating with the Medical Research Council in South Africa

In collaboration with the Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS) unit of the Medical Research Council, Natural Justice facilitated a two-day workshop on “Legislative requirements for conducting research on medicinal plants and traditional medical knowledge with special reference to the South African situation”. The workshop was facilitated by Laureen Manuel and Kabir Bavikatte with support from Sylva Batshi and Sabine Zajderman.
The participants of the workshop consisted mainly of researchers from IKS unit, and a few representatives of the South African Department of Science and Technology (DST). The workshop centred on the international and domestic law and policy on Access and Benefit Sharing, specifically the Convention on Biological Diversity, Nagoya Protocol, National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act, and Bioprospecting, Access and Benefit Sharing Regulations. The workshop also focused on the importance of community protocols and their role in securing the free, prior and informed consent of communities.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Climate Change Summit in Cancun Surpasses Low Expectations

Credit: IISD/Earth Negotiations Bulletin
The 16th Conference of the Parties (COP16) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) took place from November 29-December 11 in Cancun, Mexico. The Conference was dogged by low expectations after a disastrous COP15 in Copenhagen last year and for some reason, it seems to have motivated the delegates to accomplish more.

On December 6, Natural Justice Associate Peter Wood wrote an article entitled "REDD+: Reducing the Risk". At that point in the negotiations, many issues still weren't resolved. By the end of the COP, the Ad-hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action put forward this draft decision, which was adopted in the closing plenary in the wee hours of the morning on December 11. It is hoped to serve as the foundation for a necessary follow-up to the Kyoto Protocol once it expires in 2012. Section C is the first agreed text on reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD), but arguably does not provide sufficient language to uphold a strong mechanism that respects the rights of Indigenous peoples and local communities.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Exploring the Resilience of Law

The Stockholm Resilience Centre and the Stockholm Environmental Law and Policy Centre held a conference from November 17-19 entitled, "Law for Social-Ecological Resilience". The conference highlighted the impact of law on environmental governance, ecosystem management and sustainability policies in contexts ranging from the local to global. It also aimed to identify the potential contradictions and synergies between law, which is often conservative, and social-ecological resilience, which is inherently dynamic. Videos of the keynote speakers and presentations can be viewed here. Natural Justice is currently exploring the notion of "legal resilience"; keep an eye out for an article in early 2011.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Update on BCPs in Sabah, Malaysia

On December 8, Natural Justice held a consultation in Sepilok with the Global Diversity Foundation (GDF)-Sabah community researchers about their experiences with developing biocultural community protocols in Ulu Papar and Bundu Tuhan. We joined GDF in Sabah in February-March 2010 to begin the process in Ulu Papar and they have continued developing and refining them throughout the year through several field visits and workshops in their communities. We will continue to support them in 2011 as they finalize a first written version, work towards an online multimedia version, and begin to use it to engage with external actors.

Natural Justice also facilitated a presentation/discussion with the community researchers about their rights relating to traditional knowledge under international, national/state, and customary law, including the new international Aichi-Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing and the forthcoming Sabah Regulations on Access and Benefit Sharing. Many thanks to Adam and Agnes for translating and congratulations to the community researchers for their excellent work!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

GDF-Hutan Exchange Visit in Kinabatangan, Sabah

From December 4-7, Holly Shrumm (Natural Justice) joined the Global Diversity Foundation (GDF)-Sabah team on an exchange visit with Hutan, a French NGO that specializes in wildlife conservation in the Lower Kinabatangan region in Sabah, Malaysia. Both GDF-Sabah and Hutan employ strong teams of community researchers from the communities within or around which they work. Both NGOs also make a concerted effort to build constructive relationships with various state government departments, research institutions, other NGOs, and private stakeholders.

Since 1998, Hutan has focused largely on Kinabatangan Orang utan Conservation Project in collaboration with the Sabah Wildlife Department. Through this, they have established and sustained a variety of local research, management, restoration, education, and lobbying initiatives relating to many wildlife species such as orang utan, pygmy elephants, and Proboscis monkeys. They taught the GDF community researchers several techniques that they use in their work, including tree identification, orang utan and bird nest counting and monitoring, and transect walks. They also showed some of the local enterprise development initiatives such as registered homestays and eco-tourism projects, tree nurseries, and improved shrimp fishing traps. The wildlife and communities alike are heavily threatened by the intense social and ecological pressures of the logging and oil palm plantations that surround the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary, which was only gazetted in 2005.

The GDF team also discussed some of the research techniques they have used in Ulu Papar and Bundu Tuhan, including free listing, participatory video and photography, and participatory GPS and 3-D modelling. Many thanks to Datu Ahbam, Dr. Marc and the rest of the Hutan staff and community members of Sukau for their generous hospitality!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Dusun Communities Return to their Sacred Mountain!

At 4:30 am in the foothills of Mt. Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysia, 125 members of the Bundu Tuhan and Kiau communities set off on a pilgrimage to the sacred resting place of their ancestors for the first time in nearly 50 years. Mt. Kinabalu (known to the communities as Gayo Ngaran) is the highest mountain in southeast Asia and now 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. Earlier this year, they successfully gained permission from Sabah Parks to have one day set aside strictly for them to return to the mountain.

Before beginning the pilgrimage at sunrise, a spiritual leader from Kiau performed a monolob, a prayer and traditional sacrifice of 7 chickens to gain permission from the spirits for the ascent of the mountain. They then departed in groups of 10, accompanied by Global Diversity Foundation community researchers who are documenting the process through participatory video. They will return to the base of the mountain for cultural events and celebrations. The pilgrimage is occurring alongside the first Kinabalu Biodiversity Expo from Dec. 2-5, which includes an ICCA forum, an ethnobotanical walk, film screenings, and a biodiversity market. For photos of the events and some of the surrounding biodiversity, see our Flickr set.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

ICCA Forum Kicks Off the 2010 Kinabalu Biodiversity Expo

On December 2nd, Natural Justice, the Global Diversity Foundation (GDF), and Sabah Parks hosted a forum on Indigenous Peoples' and Community Conserved Areas (ICCAs) in Kinabalu Park, Sabah, Malaysia. Participants were primarily post-grad students from the University of Malaysia-Sabah interested in issues of community-based conservation.

The forum was the first of several events comprising the Kinabalu Biodiversity Expo, which is being in held alongside the Dusun communities' return to the sacred mountain Gayo Ngaran on December 3.