Tuesday, February 28, 2012

ICCA Consortium's First Ever Newsletter

The Indigenous Peoples' and Community Conserved Areas (ICCA) Consortium just released its first ever newsletter. The newsletter includes a brief description of the ICCA Consortium and then details recent activities and events the Consortium has lead or participated in. Please do read through to hear about the great work that the Consortium is doing around the world. 

Within are updates from Regional Coordinators on activities in Panama, Canada, Chile, Senegal, Niger and Burkina Faso. Additionally, there are summaries of the Consortium's Fourth Annual General Assembly and the planning retreat, both held in Indonesia. There are also reports from meetings and events in Nepal, Switzerland, South Africa, Taiwan, Indonesia and Italy. 

The newsletter can be downloaded here. Follow the ICCA Consortium on Twitter here and/or like them on Facebook here

Friday, February 24, 2012

Natural Justice advises Namibian Government on draft ABS Legislation

On the 23rd and 24th of February, Kabir Bavikatte and Gino Cocchiaro are in Windhoek, Namibia to attend the Awareness Raising Workshop on Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) for Sustainable Utilization of Cultural and Natural Assets in Namibia. 

Namibia currently does not have ABS legislation and the workshop, attended by the Minister of Environment and Tourism, Namibian Members of Parliament, Traditional Authority representatives and other representatives of Indigenous peoples and local communities, aims to inform key decision makers in Namibia about the importance of sustainable utilization of genetic resources thereby preserving Namibia's biodiversity and contributing to poverty reduction and the enhancement of the livelihoods of the people of Namibia.

The draft legislation on ABS for Sustainable Utilization of Cultural and Natural Assets, on which Natural Justice has been advising the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, will be presented to the participants of the workshop by Natural Justice and Namibian law firm Nakamhela Attorneys.

Introduction to BCPs in la Mosquitia, Honduras

On the 21st of February, Johanna von Braun from Natural Justice participated in an introduction workshop on biocultural community protocols in Puerto Lempiras, capital of the Mosquitia region in Honduras. The workshop was facilitated the Central American regional office of IUCN, Mopawi, a Miskito NGO and Moskitia Asia Takanka (MASTA), the main representative body of the Miskito people. The Miskito are an indigenous community that stretches from the southern section of Honduras into the northern parts of Nicaragua inland and along the Moskito Coast by the Caribbean Sea. In Honduras the community comprise approximately 50000 people. 

The territory of the Miskito in Honduras includes the biggest section of pristine wilderness in Central America, made of mangrove swamps, lagoons, rivers, savannas and tropical rain forests as well as mountainous cloud forests. It also includes three protected areas and a UNESCO Biosphere. The community has long been fighting for their rights regarding land title, control over forest and marine resources as well as procedural rights such as their right to Free and Prior Informed Consent. They face a plethora of threats ranging from conflicts including with the protected areas, agricultural expansion, dams and fishing practices all of which they feel undermine their rights established under international law. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

19th Illegal Logging Update and Stakeholder Consultation

Peter Wood, Natural Justice Associate, attended the 19th Illegal Logging Update and Stakeholder Consultation, 9-10 February in London. The meeting focussed on the implementation of the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR), expected to come into force in March 2013, which could have far-reaching implications for the forest sector and forest dependent communities, as it is intended to eliminate illegally sourced wood products from the EU market. Some critics have suggested that by focussing too narrowly on screening for legality, EUTR and related efforts might enshrine socially unjust and environmentally destructive (yet legal) logging practices. Others claim that legality is a first and necessary step towards more progressive reforms. 

Mary Hobley (consultant to UK’s DIFD) presented on Poverty and Social Safeguards in Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs). She highlighted socially beneficial aspects of VPAs, including that they provide political space for deliberation on sensitive issues and re-assessment of the “rules of the game”, and help build civil society capacity to engage with policy development and implementation. She went into detail about attributes of effective social safeguards, noting that these can be preventative (in place before-the-fact, to avert conflict) or mitigative (capable of resolving conflict); and soft (process-based) or hard (legally enforceable). Lessons learned from the VPA process could be used to inform the development of effective safeguards within REDD+. 

All presentations are available at the Chatham House website here

Friday, February 17, 2012

MPCA Workshop in Uttarakkand

Medicinal Plants Conservation Areas (MPCAs) in India are bioculturally rich areas of land with a high prevalence of endemic medicinal plants. MPCAs are usually demarcated by communities or by the government in partnership with traditional healers of the region with the aim of creating a medicinal plants in-situ gene bank which will also host medicinal plants nurseries. Medicinal plants from the nurseries in the MPCAs are then supplied by the traditional healers to the communities in the surrounding villages to set up home herbal gardens with instructions on the combination of plants to be used for a variety of illnesses. These home herbal gardens constitute a domestic pharmacy in every household thus meeting basic health care needs of communities living in remote areas not well serviced by roads and hospitals. Furthermore the MPCA along with home herbal gardens revitalize the traditional knowledge of communities hence leading to increased valuing and thereby conservation of the local ecosystem. Surrounding the MPCAs are buffer-zones called Medicinal Plants Development Areas (MPDAs) where both communities and traditional healers sustainably harvest medicinal plants for domestic consumption and sale in the local markets. 

On the 14-16 February 2012, Kabir Bavikatte and Harry Jonas of Natural Justice were at the Jim Corbett National Park (Uttarakhand, India) to provide technical support to UNDP-GEF’s "Mainstreaming Conservation and Sustainable Use of Medicinal Plant Diversity in Three Indian States" project, which is being implemented by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, UNDP and the Institute of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine. In Jim Corbett National Park, the project is seeking to establish the Mohan MPCA through the local community with the permission of the forest department. A local management group (LMG) was constituted by representatives of the surrounding villages. The LMG was tasked with stewarding the MPCA along with developing a community knowledge register of relevant medicinal plants and associated traditional knowledge in the MPCA. 

Natural Justice facilitated a one day workshop providing a forum for community members and partners to engage in dialogue and to consider the legal ramifications of the Biodiversity Act for the project. Specifically, the group grappled with the question of how Community Knowledge Registers and LMGs developed under the project can become aligned with Peoples' Biodiversity Registers and Biodiversity Management Committees called for by the Act. The following day a community meeting developed the ideas of the first day, focusing particularly on the local challenges communities are facing in supporting the Mohan MPCA. Natural Justice also sought to support the LMG and the local NGO to develop a Biocultural Community Protocol that outlines their vision, plans and decision making structure for the governance and management of the MPCA.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Meeting on Increasing Number of BCR Lawyers

On the 13th of February, Kabir Bavikatte and Harry Jonas (Natural Justice) met with Antara Lahiri (Ashoka Law for All) and Vivek Maru (Namati) to discuss how best to increase the numbers of lawyers focusing on the nexus between the environment, land and social justice issues. Particularly it was felt that opportunities for students and young lawyers to engage with the issues presented a barrier to being able to "imagine" working in the area. The few job opportunities offered, despite the demand from communities, community-based organizations and NGOs, was suggested as another serious barrier to individuals who are interested. A meeting has been mooted to further discuss the issues with a view to developing means to address the problem. Kabir and Harry thank Antara and Vivek for their time.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Maldhari Community Claims Traditional Lands

In the face of government attempts to ban livestock in their traditional grasslands, the Maldhari community of the Banni grasslands of Kutch, Gujarat, India sent notices to their state government demanding recognition of their rights over the grasslands on the first week of February. Fifteen of 19 village panchayats in the region joined in this action. The notices claim the Maldhari’s are entitled to manage their own grasslands by the Forest Rights Act (FRA) of 2006, pointing to the fact that they have grazed their livestock in the area for centuries and were formally given the right to use the land for grazing by the leader of Kutch in the 19th century. 

With about 100,000 livestock, many in the Maldhari community depend upon livestock to sustain their livelihoods. Sajheevan, an Indian NGO and partner of Natural Justice, estimates that livestock on the grasslands produce 110,000 litres of milk daily and that annually the livestock economy contributes one billion Indian rupees (about $20 million) to the region. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

New Article on Stewarding the Commons

Natural Justice’s own Kabir Bavikatte recently authored “Stewarding the Commons: Rethinking Property and the Emergence of Biocultural Rights” for the Common Voices newsletter of the Dakshin Foundation. The article explores the legal implications of the growing body of evidence that the conservation of protected areas is best achieved through communities, rather than through privatisation or exclusive state control. The article begins by examining the dramatic expansion of community rights stemming from the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Nagoya Protocol to the CBD on Access and Benefit Sharing and. The article then locates these new rights within the emerging discourse around biocultural rights and identifies biocultural community protocols (BCPs) as a vital vessel for the realisation of these rights. 

The article concludes by looking forward to new uses of BCPs, arguing that ‘the cross-sectoral application of BCPs was bound to happen since the critical issue that underlies all the innovative financing mechanisms for conservation, be it REDD+, ABS or other kinds of payments for ecosystem services, is one of recognising and incentivising stewardship of ecosystems through safeguarding the biocultural rights of communities.’ 

Read the article here, find the full seventh issue of the Common Voices newsletter here, and look through previous issues of Common Voices here.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Bushbuckridge BCP Review and Code of Ethics Drafting

Faced with discrimination, the unauthorised use of their traditional knowledge and genetic resources, and the overharvesting of the plants with which they sustain the health of their communities, the members of Kukula Traditional Health Practitioners in Bushbuckridge, South Africa, organised themselves in 2009 and drafted a biocultural community protocol (BCP). The BCP asserts their role in maintaining community health, preserving culture, and protecting community knowledge and biodiversity. 

On 8-9 February, 2012, the 30-member management committee of Kukula gathered in Bushbuckridge to assess their BCP and to draft a code of ethics to guide all of their members’ practices. The gathering was facilitated by the chairperson of Kukula, Rodney Sibuyi, and by Natural Justice with support from the management committee of the Kruger-to-Canyons Biosphere. The meeting was part of the Africa BCP Initiative which is funded by the ABS Capacity Development Initiative, OSISA, the Christensen Fund, the Shuttleworth Foundation, and OPEN A.I.R.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Wapichan Launch Conservation Plan

Credit: T. Griffiths
As plans for mega roads and dams and forestry projects continue to threaten the forests of southwest Guyana, the Wapichan people of the region have prepared a ground breaking proposal for the preservation of 1.4 million hectares of forest. The Wapichan organized more than 80 community meetings from 2008 to 2011 in developing this plan and ensuring that it benefits all and is implemented with full community support. The proposal was launched along with a community-developed digital map that maps out the community’s traditional areas. The Wapichan were supported throughout the process by the South Central People's Development Organisation (SCPDA) and by the Forest Peoples Programme (FPP). 

At the launch, Angelbert Johnny, Toshao of Sawari Wa’o Amerindian Village, said, “Recognition of our rights to control and manage our traditional territory would be one of the best ways of helping Guyana to fulfil its commitments to tackle climate change and meet its obligations under the Convention on Biological Diversity, which aims to conserve and sustainably use biodiversity.” 

Read more about the launch from the press release in English here and in Spanish here.

Indigenous Knowledge Spotlighted in National Geographic

Photo of Posakei Pongap of Manus Island, Papua New Guinea, taken by Nicolas Villaume/CWE
National Geographic’s News Watch has highlighted the vital role that Indigenous peoples play in conservation. Opening with a discussion of the global impact of climate change, author Gleb Raygorodetsky demonstrates how the linkages between community and identity and lands ensure sustainable management and have Indigenous peoples at the forefront of adaptation and mitigation. Striking photos from around the world underscore the devastation of climate change and illustrate the resilience and creativity of communities. He also explores briefly the myriad impediments communities face in continuing their traditional practices and asserting their rights. 

Read the full story here.

Camel Charisma Store Launch

Congratulations to Camel Charisma on the successful launch of their first store. A social enterprise jointly founded and run by the Raika community of Rajasthan and Lokhit Pashu Palak Sansthan (LPPS), Camel Charisma produces products developed from camels’ dung, hair and milk. The first retail store is located on Ranakpur Road, which runs between Udaipur and Jodhpur, and is situated across the road from the Fateh Bagh Hotel. 

To learn more about the store’s launch, click here. To read the story of Camel Charisma, click here.

Monday, February 6, 2012

6th Pan-African ABS Workshop in Cameroon

Between the 30th of January and 3rd of February the 6th Pan-African ABS Workshop brought together 110 participants in Limbe, Cameroon. The workshop is put together every year by the ABS Capacity Development Initiative and was hosted by the Cameroonian Ministry of Environment, Protection of Nature and Sustainable Development (MINEP) and the Central African Forest Commission (COMIFAC). Its participants included national ABS focal points, representatives of indigenous and local communities, private sector experts and other ABS stakeholders as well as representatives of a number of intergovernmental organisations including the CBD, UNEP-GEF and FAO

The objective of the workshop was to provide participants with a forum within which to exchange and discuss national and regional experiences in addressing ABS issues with a special focus on non-timber forest product based value chains; approaches to addressing the transboundary nature of biological and genetic resources; and the need to consider the establishment of a Global Multilateral Benefit-Sharing Mechanism. The workshop also provided African stakeholders the opportunity to familiarise themselves with a recently finalised draft study on a "Gap Analysis and Review of the African Model Law"; the outcomes of an expert workshop on ABS and intellectual property rights and the regional perspectives on ABS as relevant in other UN fora, namely WIPO and the FAO. 

Briefing Paper from Amazon Watch on FPIC

With the rights of many Indigenous peoples and local communities neglected by companies they interact with, Amazon Watch has prepared an important briefing paper to ensure that companies and other actors fully understand their responsibilities in ensuring Free, Prior and Informed Consent from communities. 

The introduction to the briefing paper states that it "focuses on the roles and responsibilities of companies, investors and finance institutions to identify, prevent and address the adverse human rights impacts of company operations. It identifies the rights of indigenous peoples that are potentially affected by extractive industry and infrastructure projects and explores the ethical, legal and financial reasons for respecting these rights. This paper highlights the importance of a company operating only where it has the free, prior and informed consent of any indigenous peoples potentially affected by their operations. It identifies some of the key challenges involved in implementing a Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) policy and makes recommendations for companies and shareholders who engage in business activities or investments in the Amazon."

Download the full briefing paper here.

Friday, February 3, 2012

TK Commons Meeting in Cape Town

On the 31st January representatives from the Bushbuckridge Traditional Healers’ Association, lawyers working on issues around traditional knowledge (TK) from Kenya and Ghana, and Natural Justice gathered in Cape Town with support from the Open A.I.R. Project. The theme was “Non-Traditional Users of TK—Opportunities and Challenges Around Compliance”. Breakout sessions delved into the definition of TK commons, methods of pooling and sharing TK, TK practioners and their issues, external links to non-traditional users of TK, and existing and future policies around TK. Interviews with the healers from Bushbuckridge on the challenges they have faced in managing the sharing of their TK informed much of the discussion. 

Looking forward, the representatives looked to build on the successes of the Bushbuckridge community. As communities in Ghana and Kenya move forward with their development of TK commons, participants will support the development of linkages between these communities and the Bushbuckridge healers. They will also continue to look for ways to creatively collaborate to analyse and shape laws and policies around TK based on experiences at the grassroots level.