Monday, March 28, 2011

Kicking Off the Asia Regional Initiative on BCPs

Harry Jonas and Holly Shrumm (Natural Justice) will be in Sri Lanka this week for a planning meeting for the Asia Regional Initiative on Biocultural Community Protocols. Natural Justice is working on this Initiative with colleagues from the COMPAS Network for Endogenous Development, the LIFE Network (League for Pastoral Peoples and Endogenous Livestock Development), and the UN University Institute of Advanced Studies (UNU-IAS). The Initiative partners will work with local communities in Malaysia, India, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan to develop biocultural community protocols, implement field programmes to improve communities' access to and management of natural resources, and enable communities to assert their rights under various national and international fora to lobby for policy change.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Palm Oil Plantation Hands Land Back to Community

A new palm oil plantation, run by a company that is a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), has agreed to relinquish more than 1,000 hectares of its 9,000 hectare concession back to a community in West Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo). The precedent-setting deal occurred following interventions by community representatives and NGOs regarding the right to free, prior and informed consent and on the basis of the RSPO's "New Plantings Procedure". For more information, check out the press release from Forest Peoples Programme.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Rio+20: New Green Economy or Green-washed Old Economy?

The UN Conference on Sustainable Development (commonly referred to as Rio+20) is set to take place in June 2012. The Second Session of the Preparatory Committee for the Conference (coverage available from IISD Reporting Services) was recently held in New York. It further clarified that the agenda of Rio+20 will largely focus on the so-called Green Economy. An excellent article by Jim Thomas (ETC Group) outlines what the Green Economy means in the context of multilateral environmental negotiations and the future of sustainable development. Read and share the article widely!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Progress on the Lamu Community Protocol

Gino Cocchiaro and Kabir Bavikatte (Natural Justice) were in Lamu, Kenya, last week to assist the communities there in their development of a biocultural community protocol (BCP). The Indigenous communities of Lamu, which include communities of hunter-gatherers, fisher-folk, pastoralists, and farmers, are extremely concerned about the proposed construction of a deep-sea port within the Lamu District. The 16-billion dollar development would include a deep-sea port, railway, oil refinery, international airport, resort city, and major highway.

The Lamu District, which includes the Lamu Archipelago, is an incredibly diverse and rich area. The Indigenous communities are reported to have been in this area for over 1,000 years and Lamu Town can be traced back to the early days of Islamic culture in the 7th century. The town and nearby islands are dotted with incredible archeological sites, which have given rise to the town being declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. The communities of the District are dependant on fishing and farming for their livelihoods, with many continuing to practice traditional ways of life, including hunting and gathering. Lamu, which was declared a UNESCO Man and Biosphere Reserve in 1980, is also home to rare marine species such as sea turtles, sharks, and dugongs, and also hosts two national reserves: the Kiunga Marine Reserve and Dodori National Reserve. The wider port area would cover all of these reserves.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

CBD and REDD+ in Singapore

Natural Justice is attending a meeting on reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD), which is being hosted by the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Singapore. The objectives of the workshop are to: (a) develop relevant safeguards for biodiversity, so that REDD-plus actions are consistent with the objectives of the CBD; b) identify possible indicators to assess the contribution of REDD to achieving the objectives of the CBD; and c) contribute to capacity-building on REDD in the Asia-Pacific region.

Natural Justice is carefully watching the developments in this forum. The CBD has been slow to react to the potentially large implications of REDD for forest conservation and forest-based communities. We wonder how this initiative explores alternatives to REDD that support the CBD’s objectives, and to ensure that where REDD does take place, it supports the CBD’s biodiversity targets and is undertaken according to the rights of Indigenous peoples and local communities. This meeting coincides with the release of a manual for communities to assist them to affirm their right to free, prior and informed consent in the context of REDD, produced by RECOFTC, the Centre for People and Forests. The final meeting report can be accessed on the CBD website.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Making Connections in KL

Harry Jonas and Holly Shrumm (Natural Justice) met with three colleagues in Kuala Lumpur on the way to a CBD-REDD+ meeting in Singapore. Dr. Azmi Sharom is an associate professor at the Law Faculty of the University of Malaya, where he focuses on political rights and international environmental law. Dr. Ramy Bulan is also an associate professor at the UM Law Faculty and is head of the Centre for Legal Pluralism and Indigenous Law. Much of her work has focused on Native Customary Land Rights, particularly in Sarawak. Dr. Colin Nicholas coordinates the Centre for Orang Asli Concerns, through which he advocates tirelessly for the rights of Indigenous minority peoples of Peninsular Malaysia. Thank you for your time and invaluable insights - and the stack of new books!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

ITPGRFA, Farmers' Rights, and Biocultural Heritage

Colleagues from the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), Asociacion ANDES, Centre for Chinese Agricultural Policy, and Ecoserve have submitted a paper to the 4th Session of the Governing Body of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA), which is being held in Bali from March 14-18. The paper, entitled "Implementing Farmers' Rights under the FAO International Treaty on PGRFA: The Need for a Broad Approach Based on Biocultural Heritage", calls for the protection of farmers' rights in ways that go beyond just benefit-sharing to include their customary rights over genetic resources and associated landscapes, cultural values, and customary laws, all of which the continued conservation and improvement of locally adapted crops depend upon.

The Treaty is intended to support farmers' rights in various ways, including:
  • Protecting rights over traditional knowledge to ensure benefit-sharing from commercial use;
  • Ensuring farmers get an equitable share of benefits that arise from the commercial use of traditional crops; and
  • Ensuring farmers have a say in national decision-making on the conservation and sustainable use of Plant Genetic Resources.

However, senior IIED researcher Krystyna Swiderska says that the Treaty has so far been poorly implemented by FAO member states and that otherwise well-intentioned provisions are being undermined by other international agreements that are forging ahead. “The result is a perverse outcome,” says Swiderska. “Small-scale farmers in developing countries are getting no incentive to conserve their local agricultural biodiversity, while commercial interests are being well-served.”

Find out more about farmers' rights here. Follow coverage of the ITPGRFA negotiations in Bali provided by the International Institute for Sustainable Development Reporting Services (IISD-RS).

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Bio-enterprises, Endogenous Development, and Well-being

A home herbal garden in Orissa, India.
Credit: Dr. M. N. B. Nair (FRLHT)
Natural Justice partners Suneetha Subramanian (United Nations University Institute of Advanced Studies) and Wim Hiemstra and Bas Verschuuren (COMPAS) have written an article entitled "Bio-enterprises, endogenous development and well-being". Posted on UNU's award-winning web magazine Our World 2.0, the article highlights the links between cultural and biological diversity and systems of stewardship, management and governance that are based on local principles, values and norms. It also explores case studies of organic certification of traditional rice varieties in Karnataka, India, and of the reciprocity economy of agricultural products in Sipe Sipe, Bolivia. It proposes community bio-enterprises as a viable and effective option for locally driven conservation and well-being.

The article is based on a policy brief of the same name that was released at the Convention on Biological Diversity Conference of the Parties in October.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

UN-REDD Releases 5-year Strategy

The UN-REDD Programme has released its first five-year strategy for 2011-2015, which provides a road map for increased support to UN-REDD partner countries for activities related to reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries, including conservation, sustainable management of forests, and enhancement of carbon stocks (REDD+).

The Strategy outlines the Programme's overall vision and mission, namely to support countries' efforts towards REDD and transform their forest sectors so as to contribute to human well-being, and meet climate change mitigation and adaptation aspirations. It also includes the 2011-2015 objective to promote the elaboration and implementation of national REDD+ strategies to achieve REDD+ readiness. The Strategy defines six key work areas for Programme support: measuring, reporting and verification (MRV) and monitoring; national REDD+ governance; stakeholder engagement; multiple benefits of forests and REDD+; management of REDD+ payments; and REDD+ as a catalyst for transformations to a green economy. The Strategy highlights the following objectives: increasing the number of countries that receive support; creating a new financial modality; and scaling up coordination with strategic partners. [Courtesy of IISD Climate Change Policy & Practice.]

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Women, Climate Change, and REDD

On the occasion of International Women's Day, the World Rainforest Movement has issued a statement. According to their website, "Climate change, one of most serious problems facing the world today, will have disastrous consequences for everyone, and especially for women. What is most tragic is that women will also suffer especially from the false solutions for climate change that are being negotiated internationally." Please watch and share a video on Women and Climate Change and read and sign the petition on Women and REDD.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Exploring Ethical BioTrade

On 5 March, an expert meeting took place in Geneva between Natural Justice and the Union for Ethical Biotrade (UEBT) to assess the potential role of biocultural community protocols as a tool to facilitate and strengthen community engagement in ethical sourcing practices of natural resources. It was discussed how biocultural community protocols could serve to empower and facilitate dialogue with Indigenous peoples and local communities engaged in Ethical Biotrade activities. In additional, Ethical BioTrade could constitute a useful context in which to evaluate and further elaborate on the applicability of community protocols, in particular where communities are engaged in specific commercial relationships with outside parties, ranging from Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD), Payment for Ecosystem Services schemes, or bioprospecting discussions.

Next to the organizations involved in the project (GIZ, UEBT and NJ), the meeting involved a small group of experts in biotrade and community engagements and served as a platform for the launch of the project. Based on the feedback and suggestions received by the participants of the meeting, the project will continue with three practical test cases that will assess in detail the practical role of biocultural community protocols in the context of the sourcing activities of UEBT members. The specific circumstances of each case will be examined in consultation with the communities engaged in the sourcing activities. A final review meeting will assess these experiences, sum up the lessons learnt and discuss a way forward.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Natural Justice Signs MoU in Sabah

Natural Justice has entered into a memorandum of understanding with the Sabah Biodiversity Centre (SaBC). The areas of cooperation relate to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and include activities such as the formulation and implementation of laws and policies, collaborative field work, awareness-raising, training, staff development, research, and use of research facilities. Natural Justice and SaBC are jointly developing a project with local communities to focus on how biocultural community protocols can help Dusun communities focus on the issues, laws and policies relevant for the conservation of biodiversity, customary uses of natural resources and the protection of traditional knowledge.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Participatory 3-D Modelling in Sabah

From February 26-27, Holly Shrumm (Natural Justice) joined community researchers from Ulu Papar (Sabah, Malaysia) as they further added to their participatory 3-D model. Participatory mapping and modelling are innovative tools that have been used by communities all around the world to document, represent, and communicate their spatial knowledge and issues related to their territories. Such tools help add value and authority to local knowledge; facilitate intergenerational knowledge exchange; build and support cohesive community identities; and support sustainable planning through collaborative decision making. For more information, please visit the newly released and highly comprehensive online Training Kit on Participatory Spatial Information Management and Communication, published by the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Co-operation ACP-EU and the International Fund for Agricultural Development.