Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Latest Natural Justice E-module: Introduction to the United Nations (UN) Human Rights System

Natural Justice has developed a draft e-learning module introducing the UN Human Rights System to support communities and practitioners in increasing understanding of key international human rights legal frameworks.  This e-learning module supplements existing e-learning modules and the "BCP: A Toolkit for Community Facilitiators".

The module seeks to provide an insight into:
  • The United Nations;
  • Human rights generally (including the International Bill of Rights and core human rights treaties non-derogable rights and permissible restrictions on rights);
  • The implementation and monitoring of human rights standards (including charter-and treaty-based mechanisms); and,
  • Key human rights institutions and enforcement mechanisms for Indigenous Peoples.
It is targeted at communities and anyone who is interested in an introduction to the UN human rights system.

The module can be downloaded here.  The document is not final, and any comments can be directed to Holly Shrumm (holly (at) and Harry Jonas (harry (at)

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Protocols for Sustainable Harvesting in Protected Areas Workshop

Gino Cocchiaro and Cath Traynor of Natural Justice, and partners Kruger to Canyons Management Committee and Kukula Traditional Health Practitioners Association (KTHPA) attended the Protocols for Sustainable Harvesting in Protected Areas Workshop hosted by Wits University Rural Facility on 13th July 2013. The workshop was the first of a series to start a conversation to achieve a common understanding concerning the possibility for traditional healers to access protected areas in order to harvest medicinal plants. A variety of stakeholders including protected area managers - both national, provincial and private, traditional healers, civil society organisations, and academics attended.

Twenty-seven million (72%) South Africans use traditional medicines and the industry has an annual turnover of more than 3.2 billion Rands. Over 2,000 plant species (10%) of the South African flora is utilised in traditional medicines, and many of these species are declining. Gino Cocchiaro presented on biocultural community protocols (BCP), including the BCP of the Kukula Traditional Health Practitioners Association and Rodney Sibuyi (KTHPA) presented on the history of the Kukula Traditional Health Practitioners Association and discussed some challenges regarding accessing traditional medicinal plant species and their management. South African National Parks highlighted parks-based protocols for non-commercial harvesting, and park objectives concerning plant harvesting which includes promoting sustainable use, alternatives, reducing illegal harvesting and monitoring. Difficulties managing traditional medicinal harvesting was illustrated by the case of Warburgia salitaris (Pepperbark tree), the bark is a popular traditional medicine. Kruger National Park has two of the largest surviving populations of this endangered tree, and recent increases in commercial harvesting pressures have resulted in collection methods changing form the sustainable harvest of small strips of bark to ringbarking trees which results in their death. Issues raised included defining ‘communities’, identifying benefits, who has rights to them and their equitable sharing, costs of access, unity and consensus among beneficiary groups. Important sustainability issues included determining what is ecologically sustainable, adaptative strategies, and addressing situations where demand is greater than supply. The outputs of the workshop will feed into further workshops which will aim to include a greater diversity of stakeholder groups.

Kukula Traditional Healers Practitioners Management Committee Meeting

Gino Cocchiaro and CathTraynor (Natural Justice) attended the Kukula Traditional Health Practitioners Association Management Committee Meeting on 15th July in Bushbuckridge, South Africa. During the meeting with the healers, Biocultural Community Protocol was revisited, and current concerns of the group discussed. Key concerns centred around recognition, access to plants, loss of knowledge, and livelihoods issues. Participants summarised the groups main activities since the formation of the Kukula Traditional Healers group which included discussions with government departments, local private nature reserves, training on prior, informed consent, and development of the traditional knowledge commons pool – a platform to share knowledge among themselves. Participants discussed the future workplan and various ideas and activities to address their priority concerns.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Pillars in Practice: Multi-Stakeholder Forum on Business and Human Rights in Zimbabwe

On 20 June 2013, Stephanie Booker (Natural Justice) attended the "Pillars in Practice: Multi-Stakeholder Forum on Business and Human Rights" in Zimbabwe, held by Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) in partnership with the Danish Institute for Human Rights (DIHR) and Social Accountability International (SAI).  

"Pillars in Practice" is an 18-month initiative to advance the UN Guiding Principles on business and human rights.  The Project's objective is to "establish the trianing capacity of local civil society partners to sustainably promote and assist companies, governments, trade unions and other non-government organisations in the implementation of the Guiding Principles, to operationalise the "Protest, Respect and Remedy" Framework.

Joined by more than 75 participants from Zimbabwean businesses, government agencies, civil society organisations and communities, the multi-stakeholder forum was an opportunity for participants to be introduced to the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and for participants to discuss the major issues affecting human rights with respect to mining.  Participants made concrete recommendations for government and business and suggested steps forward for stakeholders in the implementation of the Guiding Principles.  You can read the recommendations here.

More information can be found on the "Pillars in Practice" facebook page, or the Danish Institute for Human Rights webpage here.

Photo: Courtesy of "Pillars in Practice" facebook page.

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Right to Responsibility - Our Latest Book for Peer Review

We’re pleased to announce that Natural Justice and the United Nations University – Institute of Advanced Studies (UNU-IAS) have just released a new book for peer review, entitled: The Right to Responsibility: Resisting and Engaging Development, Conservation, and the Law in Asia. This edited volume explores how Indigenous peoples’ and local communities’ resilience to external factors is often undermined by laws, institutional arrangements, and judicial systems. It also examines how particular peoples and communities are striving to overcome such structural barriers to self-determination by resisting unwanted developments and engaging proactively with a range of actors at multiple scales.

It is edited by Natural Justice’s Holly Jonas and Harry Jonas and UNU-IAS’s Suneetha M. Subramanian, and comprised of the following three parts:

Friday, July 12, 2013

EMRIP Side Event on the Relationship between ICCAs and Access to Justice

At the Sixth Meeting of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP) a side event was hosted on 11 July by Natural Justice, the ICCA Consortium and the Indigenous Peoples of Africa Coordinating Committee (IPACC) to discuss the relationship between access to justice and Indigenous peoples’ and community conserved territories and areas (ICCAs).

Grazia Borrini-Feyerabend (ICCA Consortium) opened the expert panel with an introduction to the concept of ICCAs and stories of diverse ICCAs around the world. Two local examples from the Indigenous Pygmy peoples from North Kivu (Joseph Itongwa, PIDP-Kivu) and from the Ogiek peoples (Daniel Mpoiok Kobei, Ogiek Peoples’ Development Program) from Kenya followed. Marie Wilke (Natural Justice), Nigel Crawhall (IPACC Secretariat) and Kanyinke Sena (Chairperson, UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues) concluded the panel with presentations and statements on the legal perspective and the opportunities provided by the legal recognition of ICCAs as a means of environmental conservation.

The panel and the audience concluded that the concept of ICCAs provides a great opportunity for Indigenous peoples’ and local communities’ self-determination as it enables them to emphasise the benefit of their customary practices to society at large in the form of conservation, rather than simply arguing from their position as rights-bearers. Recognition of ICCAs in turn would also achieve recognition of land titles, collective rights and legal standing for customary institutions.
More information about EMRIP 6, including the draft study on access to justice, is available here. Submissions by Natural Justice to the study on access to justice are available here.
The full event report is available here.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Natural Justice Meets with Khoi & San Communities in the Eastern Cape

Lesle Jansen and Steph Booker of Natural Justice attended a three day meeting of the Khoi & San communities in the Eastern Cape from 28 to 30 June 2013.  Set in Graaff-Reinet, the heart of the Karoo, representatives of the Khoi-San communities met to discuss issues of land claims in terms of the Restitution of land rights Act 22 of 1994 and possible impacts of fracking by Shell and other international companies in their traditionally owned and utilized territories.  Supported by Treasure the Karoo Action Group, Mr Jonathan Deal and Pastor Barry Wuganaale (of the Ogoni Peoples from Nigeria) shared their views on the likely impacts of fracking on the environment (such as impacts on water sources), on the community (such as a lack of meaningful employment), and the very threats to the Khoi & San as Indigenous Peoples of South Africa.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Advanced Seminar on the Implementation and Promotion of Indigenous Peoples’ Rights in the Namibia context

Lesle Jansen and Stephanie Booker of Natural Justice presented in Windhoek, Namibia on the topics of indigenous peoples and the environment; post-2015 UN development agenda as well as a situational analysis on extractives industries in Southern Africa. The presentations formed part of a four-day Advanced Seminar on the Implementation and Promotion of Indigenous Peoples Rights in the Namibia context. It was hosted by the University of Namibia in partnership with Open Society Foundation in Southern Africa (OSISA) and the International Labor Organization (ILO). 
The seminar was hosted from 01 – 04 July 2013 with about 30 participants from different sectors ranging from University of Namibia staff and students; civil society; media and government officials. The objectives to the seminar were:

Natural Justice and Indigenous Information Network send letter to ENVI Regarding Concerns over Nagoya Protocol Implementation

Photo Credit: World Intellectual Property Review
On 2 July 2013, Natural Justice, jointly with the Indigenous Information Network, sent a letter to the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) of the European Commission expressing their concern about the way the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization (Nagoya Protocol) might be implemented in the European Union through the current draft Access and Benefit Sharing Regulation of the European Commission (Draft ABS Regulation). 
In the letter, which has been signed by over 50 individuals or organisations representing or supporting indigenous people and local communities, Natural Justice and the Indigenous Information Network highlight in particular that the Draft ABS Regulation: potentially excludes traditional knowledge (TK) covered by the Nagoya Protocol; only covers genetic resources (GRs) and associated TK that are physically accessed rather than utilized after the Protocol comes into force for the EU and provider country, thereby excluding millions of compounds and associated TK that are available as they have already been accessed from provider countries and communities; and essentially fails to fight biopiracy effectively. 

Workshop on Spatial Planning for Conservation and Sustainable Development in Sabah

Hand-held GPS units have been used by communities
around the world to map their territories and important
resources and cultural sites.
On 8 July, Holly Shrumm (Natural Justice) attended a day-long meeting on spatial planning for conservation and sustainable development in Sabah, Malaysia (the third in a series organised by Hutan and the Malaysian branch of the World Wide Fund for Nature). Building on the discussions undertaken in the previous meeting in late May, this meeting included the following:
  • An update from the consultants compiling the draft 2013-2033 Sabah Structure Plan;
  • An update from the NGO team compiling biodiversity data, including the latest spatial assessment of forest cover in Sabah;
  • Discussion about several planning scenarios produced by the initial spatial analyses; and
  • Suggestions about possible policy amendments or new policies that may be needed to address current and future challenges such as climate change and voluntary conservation by communities and companies alike.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Community forest rights in villages of Maharastra paved the way for economic empowerment

The Vidarva region of Maharastra is infamous for the highest number of farmers’ suicide cases in India. Few people know the brighter side of the region and more particularly the stewardship rights of natural resources asserted and exercised by the community that have led to gross economic empowerment. There are villages that earn revenues in crores of rupees per annum and able to meet the all of their developmental needs without depending on any government grants. 
The villages of the region have set a trend for the rest of the country in exercising the ownership rights over minor forest produces like bamboo, kendu leaf (used for Bidi), and Mahua. The kendu leaf is a nationalized forest produce, so the state has monopoly over it in the market and it is not a freely traded forest produce. The only option for the villagers is to pluck the kendu leaf for the state forest corporation, which has the authority of storage and marketing the forest produces. The forest dwellers or kendu leaf pickers used to get some wage for plucking and drying the leaves. Similarly, mahua (mostly used in preparing liquor) is an excisable product and there has been a cap on hoarding the mahua and it is allowed only for domestic consumption. In the case of bamboo, the Forest Corporation has the authority to trade it and the villagers were mostly engaged in cutting the bamboo for which they were paid some nominal wage. The villagers never enjoyed ownership rights or were able to trade as they wished.

Friday, July 5, 2013

ABS and BCP Workshop in East London, South Africa

On 3 and 4 July 2013, the Department of Science and Technology, in collaboration with the Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS) unit of the Medical Research Council of South Africa held the third and final pilot workshop on the international legislative framework and the South African domestic laws relating to Access and Benefit-Sharing.  The workshop was held in East London with twenty-eight participants and six resource persons.  Laureen Manuel and Gino Cocchiaro of Natural Justice conducted the workshop, which included presentations, group discussions and role plays on biocultural community protocols (BCPs).  
Members of seven different communities from villages in Uitenhage, Grahamstown and Willowbridge, as well as two representatives from the Mokgola community in Zeerust, participated in the workshop. Some of the participants are traditional healers and others are engaged in the farming of various types of tea leaves.  
International and domestic law on Access and Benefit Sharing, specifically the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Nagoya Protocol, and the Bioprospecting, Access and Benefit Sharing Regulations of South Africa were among the topics covered under the session on laws. 
The workshop concluded with participants readily taking part in the group discussions and role plays on BCPs, where they were required to engage with challenging questions about their own communities' visions for the future and their decision-making processes. 
The short report for the African BCP Initiative 2011-2012 can be found here.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

LED Lab interviewed for Tactical Technology Collective

Arpitha Kodiveri of Natural Justice was featured in the micro magazine that was published as a part of the evidence and influence conference organized by the Tactical Technology Collective in June, 2013. The magazine features interviews of environmental activists from across the world who have attempted to use creative techniques for intervention. The interview highlights the role of design in the communication of law, an approach which is being experimented with at the Law,  Environment and Design Lab. The LED Lab is an innovative space set up collaboratively between the Srishti School of Art, Technology and Design and Natural Justice. This interview features its pioneering efforts to create a board game on a progressive law in India called the Forest Rights Act, 2006 as well as a paralegal toolkit that uses puppet theater to speak about this law and its importance. The interview is available for viewing here.

Participatory Mapping Workshop in Melangkap

From 29 June to 1 July, Holly Shrumm (Natural Justice) joined Borneo Conservancy Initiative for the first of a series of participatory mapping workshops with the villages of Melangkap (Sabah, Malaysia). The workshop involved sketch mapping by each of the five villages, comparisons of certain overlapping areas and common resources, and a basic introduction to taking Global Positioning System (GPS) points with hand-held units.

Subsequent workshops will involve creating 2-D and 3-D maps on the basis of GPS points currently being collected, and as part of an ongoing process to document and develop a community protocol.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Natural Justice Submits Letter to US Secretary of the Treasury Regarding World Bank Safeguard Policies

Natural Justice, along with several other organizations, endorsed a July 1, 2013 letter to US Secretary of the Treasury Jacob Lew regarding the ongoing review and update of the World Bank safeguard policies. The letter asks Secretary Lew, who is responsible for the management of the United States’ interests in the World Bank, to support four threshold issues during an upcoming World Bank Board meeting on July 23, 2013 where the safeguards review will be addressed. These threshold issues include: The safeguard policies and procedures, to avoid weakening, must continue to be based on mandatory, detailed, enforceable, time-bound requirements; the Bank’s Board needs an informed basis for making decisions on the scope of application of the safeguard policies; the review must continue to focus attention on the emerging areas identified by the Bank; and the updated safeguards must be accompanied by a detailed implementation plan.