Thursday, March 28, 2013

Manual on Indigenous Rights in the African Human Rights System

The African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR) and International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA) recently released a manual on the promotion and protection of the rights of Indigenous populations/communities through the African Human Rights System.

According to IWGIA, over the past 10 years, ACHPR "has taken bold steps to understand, expound and address the human rights situation of indigenous communities in Africa. The African Commission’s Working Group on Indigenous Populations/Communities has been the institutional anchor for these efforts... The manual is designed as a training tool for indigenous rights activists in Africa. It is also intended to be a practical instrument for use in the training of judicial officers, lawyers, media activists and government officials on indigenous rights in Africa. The full use of this manual will only be realized if it is used to enhance the capacity of indigenous groups to constructively and sustainably engage with the African human rights system."

The manual is available for download or purchase (including in French) here.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Tokyo Meeting on Articles 19 and 20 of the Nagoya Protocol

Buddha of Kamakura
Kabir Bavikatte (Natural Justice) participated in an informal meeting from 25-26 March 2013 in Tokyo, Japan. The meeting was organized by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs in collaboration with the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity and the United Nations University Institute of Advanced Studies. It included discussions on Articles 19 and 20 of the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing, namely, model contractual clauses, and codes of conduct, guidelines and best practices and/or standards, respectively.

With Articles 19 and 20 being one of the focal topics to be addressed at the upcoming third meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Nagoya Protocol (ICNP3), this informal meeting aimed to facilitate a dedicated discussion on these items among experts from around the world. The outcomes of this meeting would provide valuable inputs to the discussion at the ICNP3.

Conservation and Land Grabbing

Salamander in the
reptile house at London Zoo
(Courtesy of Harry Jonas)
Harry Jonas (Natural Justice) attended a workshop in London (26-27 March) entitled: “Conservation and Land Grabbing: Part of the Problem or Part of the Solution?” The meeting was hosted by IIED, the International Land Coalition, Maliasili Initiatives and the Zoological Society of London and was held at the London Zoo. Harry Jonas presented on the ICCA Legal Review and the Living Convention on Biocultural Diversity. Other presenters included: Lorenzo Cotula (IIED), Fiona Flintan (ILC), Guy Counga (CISDL), and Dorothy Nyingi (National Museums of Kenya). The workshop concluded with a number of tentative conclusions and ways forwards. Harry thanks the organizers for the opportunity to present and looks forward to contributing to the Poverty and Conservation Learning Group.

ICCA Consortium Holds Mesoamerican Regional Meeting in Guatemala

Courtesy of Eli Makagon
On March 23, 2013, the ICCA Consortium held a Mesoamerican regional meeting in Totonicapán, Guatemala. The meeting, held from March 23 to March 27, brought together representatives from a range of different organizations and community groups working on ICCAs in the region. Presentations were made on efforts underway in Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama and El Salvador regarding ICCAs. Participants shared experiences regarding successes they have had and challenges they continue to face. In Tarcoles, Costa Rica, for example, a local fishing community has created a marine reserve where decisions are made at the local level, with government oversight, that has helped increase fish stocks in the area. Other ICCAs in the region have had varying levels of success in obtaining recognition and enforcing local rules. The biggest challenges remain government actions without prior consultation of those affected and lack of respect for customary methods of conservation management.

Several other issues were also addressed at the meeting, including the United Nation’s Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) programs, the effects of payments for ecosystem services that governments in the region are increasingly offering, and the selection of an ICCA Consortium coordinator for the Mesoamerican region. Eli Makagon, with the assistance of Joseph Kuper, presented on the international legal landscape surrounding ICCAs, noting that ILO 169 is a particularly effective treaty in the region given that twelve Latin American countries have ratified it. At the close of the meeting a public event was held to share results and ways forward. It is clear from the experiences shared that despite significant challenges, a robust system of ICCAs exists in the Mesoamerica region and that more and more communities are seeking and obtaining recognition of their conserved areas.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Our Forests, Our Life! Indigenous Peoples and REDD+ Video

The central role that indigenous peoples should play within Reducing Emissions From Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+) is highlighted by a new community friendly video ‘’Our Forests, Our Life! Indigenous Peoples and REDD+’ released by Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP).

The production explains how industrialisation has led to global warming and climate change, and that the global demand for forest products is resulting in deforestation. The international agreement to slow and eventually halt forest loss under the REDD+ mechanism within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is introduced.

The video outlines the relevance of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) to REDD+, and the right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC). It is explained that REDD+ is not fixed and that each country will adapt REDD+ to its particular conditions, therefore the full and effective participation of Indigenous Peoples is essential in all phases of REDD+. The need to include the contribution and participation of indigenous women as equals within the REDD+ process is also highlighted.

This is an excellent educational resource and complementary to the REDD+ e-module.

Report of the Second Meeting of the Asia Regional Initiative on BCPs Now Available

The report of the second meeting of the Asian Regional Initiative on Biocultural Community Protocols, held in Bangalore, India, from 18-20 February 2013, is now available. The meeting was attended by the existing Asian partners and new partners from India to discuss the potential for the growth of this initiative and the challenges faced by the existing partners in the past year. It also included many new partners from India discussing the importance and relevance of biocultural community protocols (BCPs), particularly vis-à-vis the environmental legal landscape in India. The report discusses the following broad thematic areas:
  • The relevance of BCPs in the India context;
  • To distinguish between BCPs and other tools used by communities;
  • To examine the value addition of BCPs in asserting community rights over resources; and
  • To see how organizations gathered can collaborate with Natural Justice and others. 
To read the full report, please click here.

Monday, March 25, 2013

EU Working Towards Implementation of the Nagoya Protocol

The Nagoya Protocol is an international agreement which aims at sharing the benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources in a fair and equitable way. It was adopted on 29 October 2010 in Nagoya, Japan.

The European Parliament is now in the process of passing it into European law and thus giving precedent for the requirements of the European member states for when they pass the Nagoya Protocol into their domestic law.

There are a number of concerns with the EU's draft regulations as they stand. See here for Natural Justice's Letter of Concern to the European Union Parliament. The draft regulations are currently in review and are expected to be tabled in the EU Parliament in October to be ratified by the end of the year.
Click here for the EU's hearing on the ABS Draft Regulations.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Major Geotagged Report on Oil Palm in Palawan, the Philippines

Ancestral Land/Domain Watch (ALDAW) has just released a major report on the environmental and social impact of oil palm expansion on the Palawan UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in the Philippines, with the support of Rainforest Rescue and the World Rainforest Movement. Part I of the report contains information about the biocultural diversity and Indigenous peoples of Palawan, the institutional and legislative framework for the oil palm industry, company strategies to gain official permits and control, the status of plantations in several municipalities, civil society opposition, and ongoing challenges and future trends. It then provides recommendations to a range of key actors, including the national and provincial governments, the Philippine Coconut Authority and Department of Agriculture, the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, international organisations and donors, and civil society in the Philippines.

Part II of the report contains samples of geo-coded photos of oil palm locations and impacted areas (geotagging is the process of associating photos with specific geographic locations using GPS coordinates).

ALDAW is a Philippines-based advocacy campaign network of Indigenous peoples defending their ancestral land and resources from mining corporations, oil palm companies, top-down conservation schemes and all forms of imposed development, on Palawan Island and a fellow member of the Indigenous peoples' and community conserved territories and areas (ICCA) Consortium. Please visit ALDAW's Vimeo page, read other geo-tagged reports from Gantong and Bulanjao (Palawan), and consider signing the following petitions:

Friday, March 22, 2013

ECCHR Workshop on Transnational Accountability

From 19-21 March in Manila, Holly Shrumm (Natural Justice) attended a workshop on judicial and quasi-judicial instruments for holding transnational corporations accountable for human rights violations. The workshop was organised by the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) with the Philippine-Misereor Partnership and generously supported by Misereor and Brot fur die Welt (Bread for the World).

As the final of a series of regional workshops held over the past 3 years, it aimed to address the problem of accountability of transnational corporations involved in grave human rights violations by jointly developing strategies for litigation for cases from the the mining, palm oil, and manufacturing sectors. It included practical considerations such as uncovering internal corporate structures, collecting evidence for proving cases in court, and dealing with power dynamics between lawyers and communities. Soft-law mechanisms such as the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil Dispute Settlement Facility and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, and community instruments such as biocultural community protocols were also discussed. Participants were primarily lawyers and non-profit organisations and networks from South East Asia, as well as legal experts from Europe, the U.S., and Latin America.

Holly would like to thank Jerbert, Clod, and Claudia for their meticulous organisation of the workshop and all of the participants and supporters for making it such a memorable experience.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Workshop on Biocultural Community Protocols Held in Guatemala

Between March 18 and March 20, 2013, Eli Makagon attended a workshop on biocultural community protocols (BCPs) in Totonicapán, Guatemala. The workshop, coordinated by Guatemalan NGO Oxlajuj Ajpop and the Sacred Natural Sites Initiative, brought together representatives from communities in the region interested in learning more about BCPs, including their development and implementation. Over the course of the workshop, members from the communities of San Andres Sajcabaja, Chichicastenango, and Totonicapán shared information, provided background on the challenges their communities face, and discussed ways forward in the struggle for recognition of their customary rights. Challenges include loss of traditionally occupied land to government and external parties, deforestation, and internal conflict between those who ascribe to traditional Mayan beliefs and those who have converted to Christianity, Catholicism or Evangelicalism. The workshop was particularly timely in light of a recent decision by Guatemala’s highest court to uphold a mining law against a constitutional challenge brought by the Western Peoples’ Council (CPO) for lack of prior consultation with indigenous peoples.

Assisted by translator and facilitator Joseph Kuper, Eli presented on BCPs, explaining their purpose and providing examples of where they have been used. Community members met in groups to identify challenges, map stakeholders and allies, and discuss next steps in the BCP process. For the participants, the workshop offered an opportunity to learn more about BCPs as well as to exchange experiences regarding community organization and explore potential partnerships in the future.

Success for Lamu regarding the Environmental Impact Assessment Report

After a flurry of complaints from local community members including an online petition created by Save Lamu supported by people worldwide and a submission from Natural Justice, the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) have called for public comment on the environmental impact assessment for the proposed Port and transport corridor in Lamu.

Monday, March 18, 2013

ABS capacity development workshop in Bhutan

Left to right:
 Dr. Tashi Yangzome (Director, National Biodiversity Center),
Morten Tvedt (Fridtjof Nansen Institute),
Dr. Pema Gyamtsho (Minister for Agriculture and Forests),
 Dr. Kabir Bavikatte (Natural Justice),
 Mani Prasad Nirola (Scientist, National Biodiversity Center).
Courtesy of Kabir
Kabir Bavikatte from Natural Justice and Morten Tvedt from the Fridtjof Nansen Institute facilitated an ABS capacity development workshop in Bhutan from the 12th-14th of March 2013. The workshop was hosted by the National Biodiversity Centre and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests with the aim of developing Bhutan's national ABS capacity.

The workshop was attended by representatives of the various ministries and departments in Bhutan and covered a number of issues ranging from intellectual property to community protocols. Previously Kabir and Morten have assisted Bhutan in developing their national ABS policy and the current workshop sought to provide the context to this policy by focusing on issues of access to genetic resources, benefit sharing and community rights.

Kabir and Morten and their respective organizations were formally thanked by Bhutan's Minister for Agriculture and Forests, Dr. Pema Gyamtsho for their services rendered to Bhutan and its people.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

MRC Workshop in Upington

From 13-14 March 2013 in Upington (Northern Cape, South Africa), Natural Justice, in collaboration with the Indigenous Knowledge Systems unit of the Medical Research Council of South Africa (MRC), facilitated a two-day workshop on the international legislative framework and the South African domestic laws relating to access and benefit-sharing. The workshop, conducted by Laureen Manuel and Lesle Jansen (Natural Justice), included a day-long session on biocultural community protocols (BCPs).

The participants of the workshop consisted mainly of the San and Nama peoples, a significant respresentation of the Rastafarians from the Kalahari, as well as researchers from the MRC, and a representative of the Department of Science and Technology, which funded the workshop. The workshop centred on the international and domestic law on Access and Benefit Sharing, specifically the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Nagoya Protocol, and the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act and Bioprospecting, Access and Benefit Sharing Regulations.

The session on BCPs triggered ardent discussions around issues of spiritual connectedness to the ground, the need for knowledge on laws and the rights of Indigenous peoples. The discussions also highlighted the importance of communities organising themselves and the establishment of governance structures.

The workshop concluded with a prayer and with each participant sharing their thoughts on their experiences throughout the two days.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Urgent: Save Lamu.

The Kenyan government has unconstitutionally submitted the environmental and social impact assessment final report to a select handful of stakeholders without facilitating public consultation and review of the report. Please sign the petition and help Save Lamu.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

IPR and ABS Workshop in Bhutan

Kabir Bavikatte (Natural Justice) is involved in a workshop on 'Intellectual Property Related to Genetic Resources and Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) in relation to the Nagoya Protocol and International Treaties'.

It is being held over four days (12-15 March) in Thimphu, Bhutan.

Keep up to speed on crucial developments here.

Workshop on the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Nagoya Protocol and Indigenous Peoples Held at University of New Mexico Law School

From March 8-10, 2013, Eli Makagon attended a workshop in Albuquerque, New Mexico addressing the rights of Indigenous peoples related to the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Nagoya Protocol. Co-organized by Jorge Garcia of Centro de la Raza, University of New Mexico and Yolanda Teran of RMIB-LAC, the workshop brought together a variety of participants from the United States and Ecuador to discuss issues regarding access and benefit sharing and community protocols. The first day saw presentations providing an overview of the Nagoya Protocol and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Additionally, Eli presented on the Living Convention on Biocultural Diversity, a tool that Natural Justice is developing to facilitate access to justice for Indigenous peoples and local communities.
Role playing exercise to explore
the different perspectives of stakeholders
involved in the development of BCPs.
(Copyright: Eli Makagon)

The second day of the workshop revolved around biocultural community protocols (BCPs). Eli provided a general overview of BCPs and gave examples of some of the BCPs that communities have developed. The participants then broke into small groups to conduct a role-playing exercise that explored the different perspectives of stakeholders who are often involved in the development of a BCP.

On the third day, participants discussed the implications of the fact that the term “indigenous and local communities,” which does not contain the word “peoples,” is used in the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and its subsidiary instruments. The discussion helped to inform a submission that will be made to the CBD Conference of the Parties in 2014 seeking to add the word “peoples” to the term “indigenous and local communities.”

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Major CBD Publication on ICCAs

The Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)  has released a major new publication entitled “Recognising and Supporting Territories and Areas Conserved by Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities: Global Overview and National Case Studies.” The publication was coordinated and edited by Ashish Kothari of Kalpavriksh with Colleen Corrigan, Aurélie Neumann, and Natural Justice’s Harry Jonas and Holly Shrumm. Harry Jonas, Holly Shrumm and Natural Justice Fellow Eli Makaegon were lead authors for Chapters 3, 4 and 6 of the report on international recognition and support of ICCAs, national level legal recognition and support, and recommendations for recognizing and supporting ICCAs. 

From the Executive Summary, “there is increasing recognition that the territories and areas governed or managed by indigenous peoples and local communities contain significant levels of biodiversity (and related cultural diversity), and that the knowledge and practices of these people have contributed to conservation of ecosystem, species, and genetic diversity. This publication responds to the need for greater understanding on how to recognize and support the phenomenon of Indigenous Peoples’ and Local Communities’ Conserved Territories and Areas (ICCAs). Such a need has been voiced by those who work on conservation, indigenous and human rights, local communities, natural resource-based livelihoods and cultural issues. It also arises from the commitment of countries to recognize and support ICCAs, and the peoples and communities that govern them, as part of international conservation and human rights agreements.” 

The publication incorporates past studies on ICCAs and 19 national case studies commissioned as part of a project on ICCA Recognition and Support, undertaken by the ICCA Consortium, coordinated by Kalpavriksh. It also includes key findings from reviews of international and national ICCA legislation coordinated by Natural Justice. 

Download the full publication here. Reviews of national and international ICCA legislation can be found here

Monday, March 11, 2013

Workshop on Legal Tools and Agricultural Investments in Bangkok

Palm oil development in peninsular
From 7-8 March, Harry Jonas (Natural Justice) attended a workshop on Legal Tools for Accountability in Agricultural Investments for South East Asia hosted by Focus on the Global South and the International Institute for the Environment and Development.

Participants engaged with a range of issues over the two days, including: investment protection and promotion in the ASEAN; national legal frameworks; human rights mechanisms; government investor and farmer-investor contracts; and international regulatory frameworks. The workshop was held in Bangkok, and was preceded by a public forum held at Chulalongkorn University entitled: Rethinking Policy and Legal Frameworks for Inclusive and Sustainable Investments in Agriculture in South East Asia.

Harry thanks colleagues at Focus and IIED for what was a useful and thought-provoking few days.

Expert Seminar on Access to Justice for Indigenous People

On February 27, Eli Makagon attended the International Expert Seminar on Access to Justice for Indigenous Peoples including Truth and Reconciliation Processes at Columbia University 27 February – 1 March, 2013.

Pablo de Greiff, the United Nations Special Rapporteur
speaking on the promotion of truth, justice,
reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence.
(Courtesy of Eli Makagon)
The Expert Seminar was co-organized by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Institute for the Study of Human Rights, Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Program, and the International Center for Transitional Justice. The primary objective of the Expert Seminar was to contribute to the United Nations Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples’ study on that topic, as requested by the United Nations Human Rights Council in resolution 21/24 of September 2012. Pablo de Greiff, the first Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, opened the Expert Seminar with a discussion of transitional justice, noting that the field has been integrated into international discourse at an “astounding” level.

During the Expert Seminar, a variety of speakers and panelists, including members of the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous People and the Office of the High Commission of Human Rights, members of local communities, academics, and others discussed issues related to truth and reconciliation processes. Some of the issues discussed were the relationship between truth and reconciliation processes and self-determination, specific challenges of truth-seeking and reconciliation to deal with injustice against Indigenous peoples, and the relationship between indigenous peoples’ access to justice and other rights of indigenous peoples. The views and ideas expressed during the Expert Seminar will be turned into an edited volume that will contribute to the study of the UN Expert Mechanism on Indigenous peoples’ Rights.

Friday, March 8, 2013

AIPP Briefing Paper on Indigenous Women & Access to Justice in Southeast Asia

In conjunction with the 57th Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women, Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) has released a briefing paper entitled "Indigenous Women in Southeast Asia: Challenges in their access to justice". The briefing paper is part of AIPP's advocacy for the respect, protection and recognition of the human rights of Indigenous women. Focusing on access to justice for Indigenous women in Southeast Asia facing development-induced violence, it draws on the results of the Southeast Asia Regional Consultation on Development, Access to Justice and the Human Rights of Indigenous Women, held from 30 October-2 November, 2012, in Chiang Mai, Thailand, in collaboration with the UN WOMEN Regional Office. The cases and testimonies addressed state and corporate development projects  (including dams, mines, plantations, economic land concessions, and national parks) and their impacts on the human rights of Indigenous women in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines.

The common thread throughout the cases was the denial of the right of Indigenous peoples to determine their own path to political, social, economic, and cultural development, which was evident in the lack of efforts to undertake meaningful and substantive consultation and seek their free, prior and informed consent on all projects and activities undertaken in their communities. The lack of or limited access to justice and remedies to violations arising from development projects are exacerbated by their non-recognition as rights-holders with collective rights. Please read the full briefing paper and learn more about AIPP's programme on Indigenous women.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Katiba Institute's Strategic Litigation Conference in Nairobi

On 1 March 2013, Gino Cocchiaro (Natural Justice) attended a regional forum on Litigating Minority/Vulnerable Groups’ Rights in Nairobi, Kenya. The forum was organized by the Katiba Institute which works to promote the understanding and implementation of the Kenyan Constitution. The workshop provided an opportunity for lawyers involved in public interest law from a number of east African countries, including Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, to share lessons on strategies and on litigating on behalf of minority or vulnerable groups. Natural Justice was invited to present on the use of biocultural rights as a strategy for securing minority rights and community protocols as a tool to strengthen minority communities' capacity to advocate for themselves.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Meeting of the African Group of Parties to CBD

On 1 March 2013, the African Group of parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (the African Group) had a meeting on the sidelines of the 7th Pan-African Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) workshop in Phalaborwa, South Africa. The meeting was chaired by Prudence Galega of the Ministry of Environment Protection of Nature of Cameroon. 

The African Group discussed their future involvement in discussions around the draft AU guidelines on ABS. They agreed that the African Group should call for inputs or questions emanating from various fora are strategically important and it is important for the group to raise the African position in all fora. 

With regard to draft EU regulations on ABS, they wanted to explore writing a letter of concern to the European Council. Pierre Du Plessis from the Centre for Research Information Action in Africa mentioned that Kabir Bavikate and Johanna Von Braun of Natural Justice have already drafted something along these lines. The African Group decided to write a one-page document to the European Council to endorse the draft letter of concern to the EU Parliament written by Natural Justice.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Arbitrary and abusive use of power against the Pandumaan-Sipituhuta Indigenous People in North Sumatra, Indonesia

The Pandumaan-Sipituhuta Indigenous People depend on benzoin forests for their livelihoods. Since 2009 the Toba Pulp Lestari company (TPL) has been clearing the community’s forest under a concession that disregards their ancestral claim to the forests.

Peaceful resistance to the destruction of the forests
The community has used non-violent methods of resistance against company attempts to destroy their forests and their livelihoods and yet the communities have been repeatedly criminalised.

Between 25-26 February, 31 community members were arrested after 250 residents went to protect the benzoin forests from renewed clearing. Fifteen have since been released, 16 remain in prison in Medan.

The Pandumaan-Sipituhuta demand:
  • Release all arrested community members and drop the charges against them;
  • Police protection and service to the people not TPL company;
  • Halt to any further plantation expansion on their lands;
  • Recognition of their customary land and removing it from the concession given to Toba Pulp Lestari.

Watch this video for more detail.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Side Event on Proposed EU ABS Regulations

On 28 February 2013, the ABS Capacity Development Initiative held a side event on the draft EU ABS regulations during the 7th Pan-African Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) workshop in Phalaborwa, South Africa. The draft regulations were presented by Soren Jensen of the ABS focal point at the Danish Ministry of the Environment. 

With regard to the process of adoption, he recalled that the draft regulation was published on the 4 October 2012 by the European Council. The draft is being discussed in the EC but the European Parliament will have the final say. A council of ministers is scheduled for 21 March 2013. He further outlined the definitions, scope and objectives of the draft regulations. The objective of the regulations is to implement the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization to the Convention on Biological Diversity in the EU and to enable it to ratify Protocol.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

FAO Report: Biofuels and the Sustainability Challenge

Via the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation has released a new report entitled “Biofuels and the Sustainability Challenge.”

From the summary by IISD, the report “addresses the issue of biofuel sustainability based on a global assessment of major commodities and feedstocks. The report is guided by the need to understand the economic, environmental and social sustainability dimensions of biofuels, and how these elements can be used to address the challenges of land-use change, food security and climate change. The report evaluates the role of biofuel certification schemes in promoting sustainability. It relies on a survey of a large number of country case studies, as well as analyses of trends in crop policies, production and markets. The report questions whether certification schemes are adequate to assure sustainability.” 

Find IISD’s summary of the report here. Download the report here.

Submission to UN Working Group on Human Rights and Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises

On 1 March 2013, Natural Justice with the Centre for Indigenous Knowledge and Organisational Development (CIKOD) made a further submission to the United Nations Working Group on Human Rights and Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises regarding indigenous peoples, business and human rights.

The submission was in response to a concept and discussion note prepared by the Working Group, given its decision to submit a thematic report to the 68th session of the General Assembly that will focus on the situation of indigenous peoples with regard to the prevention of negative impacts of business activities on the rights of indigenous peoples.

Public consultations were held on 14 February 2013 in Geneva and these, and other, submissions addressed the following focus questions:
  1. Focus: What specific issues and challenges should the Working Group take into account in drafting this report? 
  2. Existing guidance and standards: What existing standards and documents should the Working Group take into account in drafting this report? 
  3. Existing practices and initiatives: What existing practices and initiatives should the Working Group take into account in drafting this report?
  4. What focused insight can the Working Group bring to the issue of business impacts on indigenous peoples, given the role and thematic scope of other UN bodies on the rights of indigenous peoples? 
  5. The submissions included case studies on gold mining in Tanchara, Ghana and Lamu, Kenya. 

This, and other submissions, are available here.

ABS Initiative Team Meeting

From 4-5 March 2013, the ABS Capacity Development Initiative held a team meeting in Phalaborwa, South Africa following the 7th Pan-African ABS Workshop attended by Lassana Kone and Gino Cocchiaro of Natural Justice. The objectives of the meeting were to identify new thematic areas and to provide support to specific countries in the development and implementation of ABS regulations. The team agreed to support the establishment of the argan value chain in Morocco. Ratification, overall ABS strategy, regulatory framework, institutional arrangements, value chain development, dealing with Traditional Knowledge (TK), transboundary issues and stakeholder involvement were among the themes discussed. In terms of the existing tools, the team agreed to raise awareness for national researchers, but also to develop new standardised tools. Tools like biocultural community protocols (BCPs) will be use for the Training of Trainers at the local level and provide legal and commercial advice on Mutually Agreed Terms (MAT) and Prior Informed Consent (PIC). 

With regard to BCPs, a thematic group discussed the way forward and stressed the need to target BCPs in the context of ABS and integrate the work on value chains and biotrade with BCPs, with a specific emphasis on dialogue and business potential for genetic resources. The group further discussed the value of BCPs in cases where many communities share a resource, like the Shea in Ghana or Argan in Morocco. In this case it is not possible to involve only one community but a whole range of community. The Multi-Stakeholder Process (MSP) could be a tool to bring every community under the same umbrella. The group agreed that the next generation of BCPs should strengthen the notion of co-users of resources and use MSPs to secure the use of resources, facilitate and introduce community involvement in regulation, outline how can focal points support BCPs or similar procedures, and support legislation/regulation development. 

Regarding the draft AU guidelines on ABS, Natural Justice agreed to produce an annex to the Guidelines on good principles for community involvement.

Thematic Session on BCPs

During the 7th Pan-African Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) workshop in Phalaborwa, South Africa, six thematic sessions were offered in French and English on 28 February 2013. Participants had the choice to participate in four sessions: interface protected areas and ABS; business models, benefit sharing, and the interface between biotrade and ABS; simplified access for basic research; compliance in Africa; biocultural community protocols (BCPs); and Interface ITPGRFA and the Nagoya Protocol. 

Gino Cocchiaro and Lassana Koné of Natural Justice and Barbara Lassen of the ABS Initiative facilitated the session on BCPs. A presentation was made on BCPs highlighting some practical examples followed by a showing of the BCP film and an engaging discussion. 

Participants attending the BCP sessions agreed that the process of developing a BCP is critical for the self determination of Indigenous and Local Communities (ILCs) and also for the self-management of their genetic resources. Participants also mentioned that similar experiences of instruments have been developed by local communities for many years with different terminology. 

Friday, March 1, 2013

Submission to the UN Global Compact on Practice Note on FPIC

On 1 March 2013 Natural Justice submitted a letter to the United Nations Global Compact, commenting on their Draft Practice Note on Free, Prior and Informed Consent (the draft practice note can be found here). The concept note aims to identify key issues that companies should consider in appropriate engagements with indigenous peoples.

Natural Justice’s submission sought to clarify elements of the draft practice note, bringing it into line with international human rights and environmental legal principles found in instruments such as the Declaration on the Rights on Indigenous Peoples, the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Nagoya Protocol and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights as well as the work of the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and international jurisprudence such as the Centre for Minority Rights Development (Kenya) and Minority Rights Group International on behalf of Endorois Welfare Council v Kenya and Saramaka v. Suriname.

Global Compact was urged to:
1. Amend its practice note to reflect international standards, by specifying the obligations of states to respect the rights of indigenous peoples to free prior and informed consent with respect to projects and decisions that are likely to affect them;
2. Amend its practice note to reflect a company’s obligation to apply and respect internationally recognized human rights (such as the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples), and to honour these rights where there are conflicts with domestic laws.

This and other submissions are available here.

Panel on TK Documentation, Valorisation and Compliance

On 27 February 2013, Gino Cocchiaro (Natural Justice) and Rodney Sibuyi (Kukula Traditional Health Practitioners Association) participated in a panel discussion together with Tom Suchanandan (South African Department of Science and Technology - DST) and Lazarus Kairabeb (Nama Traditional Leaders Association, Namibia). The panel was moderated by Barbara Lassen (ABS Initiative) and dialogue and questions followed brief presentations by panelists. The panel was held as part of the seventh Pan-African Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) Workshop hosted by South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affairs from 25 February to 1 March 2013 in Phalaborwa, South Africa.

Gino presented on “A Traditional Knowledge Commons.” He began by identifying challenges, how knowledge sharing happened before ‘modernisation’, and suggested potential new models for sharing traditional knowledge. He discussed how knowledge can be seen as a relationship between the ancestors, the group of traditional healers, and individual experiences. He further explained how the use of a biocultural community protocol (BCP) by Kukula helped to create and preserve a pool of knowledge. Mr Sibuyi also emphasised the challenges faced by traditional healers and the positive experience with the BCP.

Mr Suchanandan described the South African National Recordal System, an initiative of the DST which will document, record and store Indigenous Knowledge (IK) for the benefit of the communities of South Africa. It takes into consideration the recording of IK in various multimedia formats and aims to promote and conserve community IK. It proposes both positive and defensive protection of IK. The system also aims to collect grassroots community experiences in local languages. 

Mr Kairabeb shared on his experiences during the recent capacity building workshop on the Nagoya Protocol on ABS, Traditional Knowledge and Nagoya – Kuala Lumpur Supplementary Protocol on Liability and Redress of Bio-safety in India.