Saturday, August 31, 2013

Significant Victory for Lamu

Kenyan national newspaper, The Daily Nation, reported on a recent legal victory for the community of Lamu, as a result of application by Lamu Resident and the Vice Chairman of Save Lamu, Mr Mohamed Mbwana.  Mr Mbwana sought judicial review to quash directions of the Lamu County Commissioner who, in August 2012, directed that community land in Mvundeni be subdivided and given to private individuals, effectively depriving communities in Mvundeni rights over their traditionally held, occupied and utilised lands.

In his judgement, Justice Angote of the High Court of Kenya, sitting in Malindi, noted that such unalienated government land could only be dealt with as provided for by the Constitution of Kenya – by the National Lands Commission.

This is a significant judgement in favour of the community of Lamu.  You can read the article here.

Land allocation and large-scale population migrations are just some of the flow-on effects of the impending LAPSSET (Lamu Port, South Sudan, Ethiopia Transport corridor) project.  Other consequences of the planned multi-billion dollar port, transport hub, pipeline, oil-refinery, industrial complex and resort city were set out to selected members of the Lamu community in a recent workshop by the Kenyan Physical Planning Office in July.  Member of Save Lamu, Hadija Bwanaadi, set out some of the concerns arising from the “Envisioning Lamu Metropolis” workshop in her article in the East African on 27 July 2013, located here.

In it, Hadija describes the new information the Lamu community received about the sheer size and scale of the LAPSSET project – not previously set out to the community and not even envisaged in the Environment and Social Impact Assessment.  Given revised upward estimates of the project, it is likely to have an even greater impact on the Lamu community – including its environment (relied upon for livelihoods), society and culture.

To learn more of the work of Save Lamu, visit their website or follow them on facebook.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Natural Justice attends Fracking Lecture at University of Western Cape

On 26 August 2013, Stephanie Booker and Lesle Jansen of Natural Justice attending a lecture entitled: “Fracking: Towards a Promised Land or a Broken Promise” presented by Ralhus, a project of the Faculty of Law of the University of Western Cape.

A Fracking billboard at the lecture
Three guest lecturers, Professor Jan Glazewski of the Institute of Marine and Environmental Law at the University of Cape Town, Jonathon Deal from Treasure the Karoo Action Group and Matt Ash of Norton Rose Fulbright, presented on various topics within the current fracking debate in South Africa.  Presentations included taking a precautionary and principled approach towards fracking within the South African legal framework, whether the efficacy of shale gas mining for South Africa has been sufficiently proven to permit exploration and an analysis of facts on shale gas and hydraulic fracturing.

Presentations were followed by a lively panel discussion of the different viewpoints within the fracking debate in South Africa, considering South Africa’s current energy requirements, the need for a strategic environmental assessment and actual potential for community inclusion in future employment and benefit sharing.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Natural Justice legally supports the National Khoi-San Council in historic benefit sharing agreement

On 19 August 2013, the indigenous San and Khoikhoi groups signed a historic benefit sharing agreement with Cape Kingdom Nutraceuticals Pty under South Africa’s Biodiversity Act 10 of 2004. Cape Kingdom Nutraceuticals is a pharmaceutical company that processes Buchu, a small shrub endemic to the Western Cape used for its essential oils. Buchu’s medicinal qualities are associated with the traditional knowledge (TK) of the Khoikhoi and San peoples. The agreement acknowledges that the Khoikhoi and San’s medicinal plant knowledge predates that of subsequent South African inhabitants and that the Khoikhoi and San are “legally entitled to a fair and equitable share of the benefits that result from the commercial development of the Buchu plant.” Although the San Council was previously involved in entering into similar agreements, this marks the first time the Khoikhoi represented by the National Khoi-San Council (NKC), entered into such an agreement where their TK is recognized as such.

During November 2012 Natural Justice entered into a memorandum of understanding with the National Khoi-San Council. Under this agreement, Natural Justice offers legal support to the NKC in its ongoing struggle for legal recognition of its collective rights which includes amongst others, legal processes relating to benefit sharing.  Natural Justice was also able to assist the NKC in forming a negotiating team with the San council represented by Roger Chennels.  In terms of this historic partnership,the NKC and the San council act as a representative structure for the Khoikhoi and San peoples to protect their rights around associated traditional knowledge for related plants. 

It is all too rare for a private company to recognize, especially financially, traditional knowledge and the intellectual property rights of indigenous peoples. Under the benefit sharing agreement with Cape Kingdom, the Khoikhoi and San communities will receive 3 percent of the profits related to Buchu products. Cape Kingdom also commits to share its knowledge of the commercial use of the plant with the indigenous communities in exchange for the San and Khoikhoi endorsing the products. In response to the agreement, NKC Chairperson Cecil LeFleur stated: “We are very proud and excited to be part of this process. Today we share the benefits of our historical knowledge with Cape Kingdom Nutraceuticals. We feel that this partnership will be to the benefit of the Khoikhoi and San people in South Africa, and will contribute to our development and empowerment.”

Thursday, August 15, 2013

2013 Global Environments Summer Academy (GESA)

In early August, Natural Justice participated in the 2013 Global Environments Summer Academy (GESA) on socio-ecological interactions that brought together eighteen young environmental change-makers from around the world and from a myriad of sectors, professions and disciplines. Most participants have extensive experience in working with indigenous and local communities.

Marie Wilke from Natural Justice and a GESA alumni lead a three-day workshop on “Law, Policy & Advocacy”. The aim of the course was to equip the participants with the tools needed to proactively engage with international, regional and domestic law-making and shaping processes. Through interactive group work, case studies and moot courts the course aimed at making law available to non-lawyers and to introduce useful approaches for engaging in legislative and adjudicative processes.
During the first day the participants produced small universes of international law by ordering different international organizations, laws, courts and actors that they were familiar with according to themes, legal subjects and hierarchies.

These systems informed the group work on day two, when the participants developed legal strategies for three fictional indigenous and local communities that were confronted with challenging policy changes such as large-scale infrastructure projects, prohibitions of customary practices for conservation and animal welfare reasons, and land right reforms and competing land claims. Some groups opted for court action in the light of recent jurisprudential developments, in particular in regional human right courts, while others preferred negotiated settlements. Importantly, using Natural Justice’s Toolkit, all groups found that bio-cultural community protocols were useful tools for jointly developing legal strategies with the communities. 

On day three the GESA participants argued a fictional case before the International Court of Justice (ICJ). The Moot Court case developed by the International Law Student Association (ILSA) concerned a small island nation that lost it’s homeland due to rising sea levels and that now struggles to find a new land and appropriate shelter for it’s climate refugees. The participants developed important legal arguments on the status of climate refugees, the collective responsibility for climate change, and on responsible developing lending. The diverse backgrounds of the participants were definitely of great help as all suggested approaches were informed by the perspectives of non-lawyers.

In a final discussion the participants agreed that international law yields many (unforeseen) opportunities for disadvantaged groups and that there is ample space for engagement, but that the biggest challenge remains the inaccessibility of law for non-lawyers.

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Saturday, August 10, 2013

UN Secretary General Calls on States to Honor Treaties With Indigenous Peoples on International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples

Friday, 9 August 2013, was the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples. This important day was recognized at United Nations headquarters in New York, where Indigenous peoples from around the world gathered for a special event with the theme "Indigenous peoples building alliances: Honouring treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements." Prior to the start of the special event, hundreds of indigenous and non-indigenous rowers arrived several blocks north of UN Headquarters in Manhattan, after having collectively travelled thousands of miles on rivers and horseback to honour the first treaty -– the Two Row Wampum -– concluded between Dutch immigrants and the Haudenosaunee (a confederacy of six nations, with capital in the Onondaga nation, in NY State) 400 years ago, in 1613.

The special event was chaired by Paul Kanyinke Sena, Chair of the UNPFII, who moderated a panel made up of Mary Morgan Moss, Ambassador, Deputy Permanent Representative of Panama to the UN; Ivan Šimonović  UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human RIghts, and Chief Oren Lyons of the Onandaga people. Also attending was UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who spoke of the importance of honoring treaties between States and Indigenous peoples. He noted that while Indigenous people had made it clear that they want development, such development must "take into account culture, and identity and the right to define their own priorities." He stated that "the post-2015 development agenda needs, therefore, to incorporate the rights, perspectives and needs of Indigenous peoples" and "urged member states to take concrete steps to address the challenges facing Indigenous peoples, especially their marginalization and exclusion, by honoring all commitments and examining what more can be done."

Mr. Šimonović highlighted four key messages that should help narrow the gap between the promises made in treaties and the realities on the ground: first, we must ensure that there are effective remedies available in cases of violations of treaties, in particular when they involve human rights issues; second, UN and regional mechanisms should pay increasing attention to treaty observance, and those involved in the implementation of treaties should engage with human rights bodies when human rights issues are at stake; third, while it is crucial that we monitor and address violations, we should also identify and learn from situations where compliance with treaty obligations has been achieved; and fourth, as the need for compliance with existing treaties is stressed, we should also pay attention to the ongoing work in many states to draw up new treaties in order to ensure that their eventual content is fully in line with the rights of Indigenous peoples. He noted that we should start by ensuring a process that is fully in line with the principle of free, prior and informed consent and other human rights principles. (Note: all uses of the pronoun "we" by Mr. Šimonović.)

J. Eli Makagon from Natural Justice attended this event.
More information on the International Day can be found here.
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Friday, August 2, 2013

Natural Justice partner works to alleviate poverty and protect biodiversity

Natural Justice attended the Annual General Meeting of Phyto-Trade Africa from the 29th to the 31st of July. During the 3-day meeting, Gino Cocchiaro (Natural Justice) met with Phyto-Trade members to discuss their strategies on collaborations with communities in the bio-trade industry.

Natural Justice has previously presented on its work with communities, particularly on biocultural community protocols and biocultural dialogues, which has assisted communities set out terms for engagement with biotrade companies. Natural Justice will also be collaborating with Phyto-Trade Africa and the Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) Initiative on a programme of work that will identify best practice examples of ABS in southern Africa.

Phyto-Trade Africa is a trade association of the natural product industry in Southern Africa with an aim to alleviate poverty and protect biodiversity in the region by developing an industry that is not only economically successful but also ethical and sustainable.