Friday, November 30, 2012

Important Publications on REDD+ for COP 18

As government representatives gather to consider solutions to, and means to mitigate the impact of, climate change at the 18th Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, several significant publications on the impact of climate change and Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) on the rights of Indigenous peoples have been launched by Natural Justice partners. 

The Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) and the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA) have published a briefing paper entitled "REDD+, Rights and Indigenous Peoples: Lessons from REDD+ Initiatives in Asia." The brief examines how far countries participating in REDD+ in Asia have advanced in addressing the social and environmental safeguards needed for the implementation of REDD+ and reflects on pilot activities in Nepal, Cambodia and Vietnam. Their findings suggest that outstanding critical issues for Indigenous peoples include the lack of effective engagement, free, prior and informed consent, and unresolved land tenure and carbon rights issues. The brief can be downloaded here.  

The Forest Peoples Programme, has released a note that refers to the Indigenous Peoples Caucus position on REDD+ and analyses key issues and opportunities for Indigenous peoples to influence the current REDD+ negotiations in Doha. The note can be downloaded here

The Indigenous Peoples Caucus, on behalf of the International Indigenous Peoples Forum on Climate Change (IIPFCC), released a statement to the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technical Advice (SBSTA) concerning REDD+ which raised issues such as the need to respect collective and customary systems of forest governance and management, the roles and contributions of Indigenous women, and the need for an independent complaints mechanism. The statement can be accessed here.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Video Repository on Forest Commodification

Forests are facing immense challenges from the increased commodification of their resources. Some incoming policies may worsen these challenges dramatically. To highlight the lived experiences of communities affected by forest commodification, the Global Forest Coalition has launched a repository of videos gathered from a variety of organisations and contexts. The repository has been launched as government representatives gather for the 18th Conference of Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to highlight the results of commodification and the dangers of policies that ignore or intensify commodification processes. The repository organises the videos into three key thematic areas: exporting commodities; carbon: schemes, scams & cowboys; and rights and resistance.

The repository can be accessed here.

Miskitu BCP Launched in Honduras

Moskitia Asla Takanka (MASTA), a Miskitu community-based organisation, has developed and launched a Biocultural Community Protocol (BCP) with technical assistance from Natural Justice and the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Regional Office for Mesoamerica. The BCP seeks to assert the right to and guide the process of obtaining free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) for projects in La Moskitia.

The Miskitu community, with a population of around 70 000, live in the tropical rainforest ecosystems of La Moskitia in eastern Honduras. They are facing a series of challenges in their traditional territory, ranging from the destruction of primary forests through agricultural expansion, illegal trade of flora, fauna and drugs, as well as the commercial exploitation of their sub-soil resources. 

To face these and other threats to their natural and cultural environment, MASTA has focused their protocol on defining a mechanism for free, prior and informed consent (FPIC), a vital procedural right that has often been ignored by government and non-governmental development projects. The process of developing the BCP was guided by MASTA, together with representatives from 12 territorial councils and their respective community councils. With this protocol, MASTA is seeking to guarantee that future consultation and consent-seeking processes respect the Miskitu’s own institutions and decision-making procedures. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

AIPP Report on Indigenous Peoples and Climate Change Adaptation

Climate change is increasingly impacting the livelihoods and wellbeing of Indigenous peoples through erratic rainfall, unpredictable climatic patterns, flooding, and increased water and food security. To explore these challenges, consider the ways that Indigenous peoples are responding to them and identify policy options to support Indigenous peoples' climate change adaptation, the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) has released a report entitled “Indigenous Peoples and Climate Change Adaptation in Asia.” 

The report reviews two case studies on Indigenous adaptation practices. The first, a survey of the Tangkhul Naga of northeast India, notes the significant impact of climate change in the community, including shifts in species of birds, reduced frost in October, increased pests and weeds, and shifting rain patterns. In response, the Tangkhul Naga have adjusted their agricultural practices to emphasise un-burnt shifting cultivation over rain-fed terrace paddies. The report also considers the adaptation practices of the Pidlisan-Kankanaey community of the Philippines. 

The report then summarises key international frameworks relevant to climate change adaptation. It concludes with policy recommendations on Indigenous peoples and climate change adaption, urging greater recognition of Indigenous peoples’ traditional knowledge and community-based adaptation strategies, increased recognition of Indigenous peoples’ rights, ensuring free, prior and informed consent in all mitigation and adaptation programmes, and providing sustainable livelihood diversification support to communities. 

“Indigenous Peoples and Climate Change Adaptation in Asia” can be downloaded here.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

ABS Stakeholder Meeting - Vanuatu

On 26 November, 2012, a national stakeholder meeting was facilitated by Vanuatu’s Department of Environment and Conservation together with the national GEF Small Grants Program on Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS). The purpose of the meeting was to brief a range of diverse stakeholders on the Nagoya Protocol on ABS to the Convention on Biological Diversity and its significance to them, as well as to receive an update on the process of Vanuatu ratifying the Protocol. Vanuatu, which signed the Nagoya Protocol in 2011, is planning to ratify the Protocol in the near future depending on national regulatory requirements.

Johanna von Braun from Natural Justice and Andreas Drews from the ABS Capacity Development Initiative provided technical input to the meeting and supported discussions on the next steps for both governmental and non-governmental stakeholders in this process. After a fruitful debate both stakeholder groups identified a number of priority areas to be targeted in the immediate and medium-term future.

Groundbreaking Resolution by Ecuador's National Court of Justice

A resolution has been signed by all 21 judges of the National Court of Justice, a court with jurisdiction throughout all of Ecuador, declaring that judges in the province of Galapagos have the standing to hear cases on environmental crimes. Judges in the area had previously refused to hear around 100 cases, arguing lack of expertise. The cases then had to be heard in the Provincial Court of Justice, some 1 000 kilometres away, severely limiting access to justice. 

The Provincial Prosecutor of Galapagos sought a consultation with the National Court of Justice as several cases, including unauthorised fisheries and the capture of marine protected species, were not being heard. The National Court of Justice has the authority to issue rulings when there is doubt on the meaning of Ecuadorian laws. The consultation was formally requested by the Attorney General of Ecuador, and the consultation process included engagements with civil society. Ultimately, the National Court of Justice held that the judges of the territorial section where the offense occurred are the competent authorities to hear such cases in accordance with the Criminal Procedure Code of Ecuador. 

Hugo Echeverria, a member of the IUCN Commission on Environmental Law and a member of the Conservation Sector of Galapagos, says the resolution is important because it "answers a legal question on judicial competence, which had various legal criteria, all equally respectable; and historic, because it is the first time the Plenary of the National Court addresses an issue of environmental judicial procedure, showing the leading role that the judiciary has on the new legal field of environmental law."

Read more about the resolution in English here and in Spanish here.

Oceania Biodiscovery Forum & ABS Capacity Development Workshop in Brisbane

From 19-22 November, 2012, the first ever Oceania Biodiscovery Forum took place in Brisbane, Australia. The meeting was jointly facilitated by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), the Eskitis Institute of Griffith University, the Australian Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (SEWPaC) and the ABS Capacity Development Initiative. This meeting was followed by an Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS)  capacity development workshop for ABS Focal Points and other relevant stakeholders in the Pacific region from 22-23 November.

The Biodiscovery Forum provided a platform for exchange on the nature of bioprospecting activities by Australian research institutes, both public and private. A number of researchers shared the nature of their work, ranging from small-scale commercial bioprospecting activities to large-scale gene banks of marine genetic resources. These activities were then discussed against the backdrop of the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing to the Convention on Biological Diversity and Australia’s draft policy as a user of genetic resources as well as the existing permit system as a provider of genetic resources. A number of national and regional benefit sharing examples with local communities were shared with participants. 


The 18th session of the Conference of Parties (COP 18) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is taking place from 26 November to 7 December, 2012 in Doha, Qatar. 

On Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+), COP 18 will consider financing options for results-based REDD+ activities, seek to clarify the links between REDD+ and climate change mitigation actions, consider the timing and frequency of summary information that REDD+ countries will provide on how REDD+ safeguards are being addressed and respected, provide guidance on national forest monitoring systems, offer guidance on establishing forest reference emission levels, and open discussions around land use, land use change and forestry and the impact upon REDD+. 

Find out more about COP 18, including schedules, reports and decisions, here. Live webcasts from COP 18 can be accessed here. The International Institute for Sustainable Development's daily coverage of COP 18 can be found here

Monday, November 26, 2012

First Ever Global Soil Week

While soils are the fundamental pillars of sustainable development, they are facing increasing threats. To draw attention to this challenge and to upscale actions towards sustainable soil management, the first ever Global Soil Week was hosted by the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies in Berlin from 18-22 November, 2012. The week sought to provide a platform to initiate follow-up actions on land and soil-related decisions made at the Rio+20 Sustainable Development Conference to offer a forum of interactive exchange and dialogue. At the week, stakeholders from science, government, business and civil society came together to share their land and soil-related experience and expertise, and to develop future plans of action for sustainable land/soil management and governance.

Several panels, platform sessions, and dialogue sessions were held on various relevant themes. One of particular interest was a dialogue session on securing the commons co-hosted by Maliasili Initiatives, the Rights and Resources Initiative, and the International Land Coalition. The session “reviewed the state of current knowledge around sustainable use and governance of communal natural resources, and examine threats to communal tenure of lands and resources in a range of different geographic contexts, and from points of reference as varied as gender dimensions, indigenous rights, biodiversity conservation, pastoralist land use, and forest governance.”

Find out more about Global Soil Week here. The International Institute for Sustainable Development's coverage from the week can be accessed here. Find out more about the week’s sessions here

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Fellowship Opportunity at IACHR

Natural Justice strongly encourages partners to consider applying for a recently opened fellowship on Indigenous peoples' rights with the Executive Secretariat of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organisation of American States (OAS). The IACHR has been a leading institution for the advancement of Indigenous peoples' rights, and fellows will support the Rapporteurship on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The position has been opened to provide an opportunity for young lawyers from OAS Member States to understand and apply the mechanisms of protection of the inter-American system of human rights in the area of Indigenous peoples’ rights. 

Successful applicants must be citizens of an OAS member state, be proficient in Spanish, have received a law degree after January 2005, and have a demonstrable professional interest in the legal field of human rights, specifically in the area of Indigenous peoples’ rights. Applicants must present a paper of up to five pages, not edited by another person, on a human rights issue of interest to the candidate in the area of indigenous peoples’ rights. 

Find out more about the position here.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Article on Unique Rights of Indigenous Peoples - Think Africa Press

The body of law and policy around the rights of Indigenous peoples and local communities is changing and expanding rapidly. To offer a brief overview of notable international instruments and cases relevant to the African context, Dinah Shelton of the Inter-American Human Rights Commission has prepared an article on relevant law entitled "The Unique Rights of Indigenous Peoples" for a Think Africa Press online course on ‘International Law and Africa.’ 

The article briefly explains and considers the implications of developments in three areas: the international sphere; African cases; and Inter-American cases. At the international level, ILO Convention No. 107, ILO Convention No. 169, and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples are considered. For African cases, the Endorois case at the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights is covered. On Inter-American cases, the growing jurisprudence around land rights and the right to property, as well as the Awas Tingni judgment of the Inter-American Court, are detailed. 

The article can be accessed here. More information on the Think Africa Press course, which is offered free of charge, can be found here.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

New Article on Ostrom's Impact on American Legal Academy

A new article has been released by the International Journal of the Commons on the impact of Elinor Ostrom’s work on the commons in the United States. The article, entitled “Ostrom and the lawyers: the impact of Governing the Commons on the American legal academy,” is authored by Carol M. Rose of Yale Law School and the University of Arizona Law College. The article traces the periods where Ms Ostrom’s signature work, “Governing the Commons”, was cited most often and the subject areas in which it was cited most frequently. 

The article identifies three areas where "Governing the Commons" had the greatest impact: general property theory, environmental and natural resource law, and intellectual property. In these areas legal scholars found "Governing the Commons" to “support the proposition that people can cooperate to overcome common pool resource issues, managing resources through informal norms rather than either individual property or coercive government.” The article also finds that some legal academics have been critical of some of GC’s findings, and many sought to balance GC’s themes of stability and sustainability with more ‘standard’ legal models supporting open markets, fluid change and egalitarianism. 

The article can be accessed at the International Journal of the Commons website here.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Blog Post on Conservation and Human Rights

From its origins in seeking to protect disappearing wildlife at the behest of big-game hunters, conservation has evolved unpredictably and substantively over the past century. With a firm conviction that the practice of conservation, to paraphrase Dr Martin Luther King Jr, is long but ‘bending toward justice’, Dr Kent Redford recently traced the developments in conservation practices and the increasing emphasis on the need to incorporate human rights discourses and practices into conservation in a blog post for Just Conservation.

According to Dr Redford, “change also came about at the turn of the last century because of the issue of justice. The arc of conservation was bending with the realization that our moral argument for the value of conserving biodiversity was seriously flawed if we ourselves were acting immorally towards people. Seeking one justice did not justify abrogating another. So conservation entered the period of accommodation, of self-examination, and of change. It was clear that we needed to seriously consider how our actions, taken in pursuit of conservation goals, affected the rights of the people impacted by those actions.” 

Find the full blog post here.

New Report on Sacred Natural Site Protection in Kenya

As Sacred Natural Sites in Kenya and around the world are increasingly threatened, the African Biodiversity Network, the Institute of Culture and Ecology and The Gaia Foundation have released a new report on the protection of Sacred Natural Sites entitled “Recognising Sacred Natural Sites and Territories in Kenya.” The report was commissioned after the enactment of Kenya’s new Constitution in 2010 and authored by Adam Hussein Adam. 

The report is targeted at communities, civil society, lawyers and policy makers. It examines how the Constitution, national and international laws can support the recognition of Sacred Natural Sites and their community governance systems. It makes recommendations for securing greater recognition of Sacred Natural Sites and Territories, and the rights and responsibilities of the communities who protect these sites. It also explores some of the issues which need to be addressed in the pending Community Land Act in Kenya.  

The executive summary can be downloaded here. The full report can be downloaded here.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

New UEBT Brief on Nagoya Protocol

As the Nagoya Protocol to the Convention on Biological Diversity on Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) is ratified by more and more nations, it is important that stakeholders understand its implications. To help businesses, and especially companies using biodiversity to develop food and personal care products, Natural Justice-partner the Union for Ethical BioTrade (UEBT) has released a technical brief on the provisions of the Nagoya Protocol. 

The brief begins by describing the overall purpose of the Nagoya Protocol and outlining the types of activities that will be impacted by its implementation. It then discusses changes to existing ABS requirements and details which countries will be establishing measures for ABS under the Protocol. It concludes by focusing on the specific implications for natural ingredients in food and personal care products. 

A report on the brief by can be found here. The brief can be downloaded here.

FAO Study on Women's Role in Livestock Conservation

While two-thirds of the world’s 600 million livestock keepers are women, the role of women in conservation and breeding indigenous livestock remains poorly documented and undervalued. A new UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) study, entitled “Invisible Guardians: Women manage livestock diversity,” seeks to address this shortcoming. 

The report notes the capacity of indigenous livestock breeds to adapt to harsh climates, resist disease, thrive on local fodder, and support themselves with low maintenance. The report argues that the role that women play in conserving and breeding these livestock has been significantly underappreciated. Study author and Natural Justice-partner Ilse Köhler-Rollefson argues that women are the guardians of livestock diversity. The report offers specific guidelines to ensure that gender issues are made central to projects, programmes and policies that focus on animal genetic resource management.

A summary of the report, along with a supplementary interview with study author Ilse Köhler-Rollefson, can be accessed here. The report can be downloaded here. An interview with Dailibai Raika, a livestock activist from Rajasthan, has been produced as a supplement to the brief and can be viewed here

Monday, November 19, 2012

Two Opportunities for EMRIP Submissions

Two significant opportunities are available to contribute to the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples' (EMRIP) work to develop and monitor the implementation of law and policy around Indigenous people’s rights. The first is a survey for Indigenous peoples on strategies for implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). The survey can be completed online here and should be submitted by 18 February, 2013. 

The second is an opening for contributions by Indigenous peoples, academia, national human rights institutions, civil society and other interested groups and persons  on EMRIP's study on access to justice in the promotion and protection of Indigenous peoples’ rights. There is no prescribed form for submissions, and contributions should submitted via email to by 11 Febrary, 2013.

Resource Media Report on Ecosystem Services Messaging and Strategy

Via the Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation (ESPA) research programme, a new report has been released by Resource Media on public communications strategies and "messaging" for ecosystem service policies. The report was developed through in-depth interviews with ecosystems services practitioners, government officials, and other stakeholders, through a survey of media and digital coverage of ecosystem services projects, and a review of a wide range of materials produced by practitioners. The report finds that out of 16 terms to describe the benefits of nature, “ecosystem services” and “natural capital” ranked 13th and 15th, respectively, as the terms were found to be difficult to understand and inadequate in conveying meaning by those surveyed. 

On messaging, the report recommends a clearer discussion of nature’s value and benefits instead of using the term ‘ecosystem services’. To achieve this, it recommends discussing specific lands and areas, the acknowledgement of nature’s intangible and incalculable benefits, increased emphasis on the gap in traditional economic analysis’s ability to understand and quantify nature’s benefits, and using plain English over jargon. 

Find a summary of the report’s findings on ESPA’s blog here. Download the full report here.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

1st Africa Land Forum - Yaoundé Declaration

In recent years, the demand for productive land has surged as a result of global food and financial crises, as well as increasing concerns about energy security. In many countries, carbon sequestration as a response to climate change has also contributed to land pressure. This has rendered land an increasingly disputed and commoditised resource, compromising rural people’s access to, and control over, land. Indigenous communities have been particularly vulnerable to these pressures as many in Africa are pastoralists and hunter-gatherers and the land they occupy and depend on for their livelihoods is often perceived as empty. 

In this context, the First Africa Land Forum, themed “Securing the land rights of indigenous people and rural communities,” was held in Yaoundé, Cameroon from 7-8 November, 2012. The forum was organised by the Africa Platform of the International Land Coalition (ILC) and hosted by the Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association (MBOSCUDA). Over 95 participants from 22 countries, representing indigenous and non-indigenous organisations, attended. The forum culminated in the drafting and signing of the Yaoundé Declaration. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

DRAFT WIPO Toolkit on TK for Comment

While a wide range of tools have been developed to protect Traditional Knowledge (TK) and Traditional Cultural Expressions (TCEs), the focus has primarily been on documentation. With emerging concerns that documentation has potential effects on the rights, cultures and livelihoods of indigenous peoples and local communities, partly through placing TK and TCEs in the ‘public domain’, the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) has produced a draft Traditional Knowledge Documentation Toolkit to address some of these concerns. WIPO is seeking input on the draft towards a final publication. 

The Toolkit seeks to offer practical guidance on how to undertake a TK documentation exercise as a process and how to address critical intellectual property-related issues and questions as they surface during this effort. The Toolkit primarily focuses on TK but much may also apply to TCEs. The Toolkit does not promote documentation or suggest any one approach to intellectual property management, but rather offers a menu of alternatives to be taken into account in documentation projects and efforts. 

A summary of the consultation draft of the Toolkit can found here, and the Toolkit can be downloaded in English here (drafts in Spanish and French are being prepared). Comments and suggestions should be sent to

Apply for Global Environments Summer Academy - 2013

The third Global Environments Summer Academy (GESA) on Socio-ecological Interactions in a Dynamic World will be held from 27 July – 18 August, 2013 at the Centre for Development and the Environment at the University of Bern. This year's academy will focus on the human dimensions of global environmental change, ranging from adaptive community management to planetary processes. The academy has been organised by the Global Diversity Foundation, in partnership with the Rachel Carson Center, since 2011. 

Organisers are seeking applications from students in the humanities, natural sciences and social sciences – as well as from professionals already working in advocacy, law, media or policy – who focus on the relationship between environment and society. 

According to GESA’s description, “every year the course focuses on different themes within the broad concern of human dimensions of global environmental change. The course spans local to global scales and diverse ecosystems, exploring the most critical contemporary environmental issues from multiple perspectives including biocultural diversity, environmental history, political ecology, sustainability studies and personal activism.” 

More details about course content, financial information and registration can be found here. Applications to GESA should be submitted here before 15 January, 2013.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Major Report on Ocean-Grabbing

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter, has warned of the threat of ‘ocean-grabbing’ to food security in a special report to the 67th session of the UN General Assembly. In the report he urges world governments and international bodies to halt the depletion of fish stocks and take urgent steps to protect, sustain, and share the benefits of fisheries and marine environments. 

‘Ocean-grabbing’, which sees access agreements between major corporations and governments that are often unregulated, ultimately harms small-scale fishers and often allows for incursions into protected waters. According to Mr De Schutter, it can be as serious a threat as land-grabbing. “Without rapid action to claw back waters from unsustainable practices, fisheries will no longer be able to play a critical role in securing the right to food of millions,” he said at the release of the report, “with agricultural systems under increasing pressure, many people are now looking to rivers, lakes and oceans to provide an increasing share of our dietary protein.” 

The report's executive summary can be downloaded here. The report can be downloaded in all of the UN’s official languages here.

Natural Justice Presents at ECCHR Workshop

Kabir Bavikatte of Natural Justice participated in the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) ‘Start Your Own Organization’ Workshop and Strategic Litigation Conference in Berlin from 8-9 November, 2012. Kabir presented to the ECCHR Young Lawyers and Alumni team on the process of setting up and running Natural Justice along with the lessons learnt on organization building from the last six years of operation.

The Strategic Litigation Conference had panels that dealt with issues ranging from Strategic Human Rights litigation to Universal Justice and Business and Human Rights. The panellists included eminent human rights lawyers who have fought high profile cases including Raji Sourani from Palestine, Colin Gonsalves from India, Charles Abrahams from South Africa and Richard Meeran from the UK.