Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Call for Applications: Staff Lawyer / Legal Expert for Natural Justice-India

Natural Justice (Lawyers for Communities and the Environment) is a pioneering international team of legal practitioners. We conduct comprehensive research on environmental and human rights law, support communities and local organisations, provide technical advice to governments and intergovernmental organisations, and engage in key international processes in pursuit of environmental and social justice. Natural Justice currently works in Africa, Asia and Latin America and has offices in South Africa, Malaysia, India, and New York City.

What are we looking for?

Natural Justice has been working with communities, NGOs and government agencies in India since 2009. Due to increasing demand from our partners, we are seeking a full-time lawyer or legal expert to co-coordinate our work in India, with particular emphasis on Orissa. The successful candidate will be expected to begin work immediately and be based in Bangalore for at least six months.

The key roles and responsibilities will include (among other things): working closely with co-coordinators in India and Malaysia; developing strategies, workplans and reports for activities in Orissa and across India; supervising and supporting fellows and interns; conducting research and developing community-friendly legal empowerment materials; providing legal support to communities and local organisations (including in the context of developing and using community protocols); providing technical advice to government agencies; developing a network of law students and recent graduates; further developing partnerships civil society organisations and networks; and organising and attending relevant meetings and workshops within India, South Asia, and internationally.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Melangkap Community Protocol

Alice Matthew (Borneo Conservancy) and Harry Jonas (Natural Justice) spent the week of the 10-14 February, 2014, working with community researchers and community leaders in the Melangkap cluster of villages to assist in the further development of their community protocol. The communities have been working for over a year, as part of the Kinabalu Biocultural Law Project which is sponsored by the Sabah Biodiversity Centre and UNDP Small Grants Programme, to assess their local resilience and set out for others their endogenous plans. The draft protocol will soon be workshopped across all five of the Melangkap villages before being finalized and signed by all community members, including the community leaders.

NJ Facilitates Environmental Law Workshop at NUJS Kolkata

On 15th and 16th of February 2014, Stella James and Arpitha Kodiveri of Natural Justice facilitated a workshop organized by the Society for Environmental Awareness and Activism, a student-run organization at the National University of Juridical Sciences (NUJS).

The workshop was designed to be an experiential one, with the intent to help law students understand the complex social, political, economic and legal dynamics that play out in the field, and to develop the skill to use law as a tool for negotiation in such a scenario. The context chosen was that of Sariska Tiger Reserve in Alwar, Rajasthan, and the students were immersed in the context through narrative and role-playing as different stakeholders.

The students who participated were keen and capable, and eager to explore the field of environmental law. The feedback was that the workshop helped students understand that there is more to environmental law than is taught in law schools, and the format used was thought to be an interesting approach to teaching of environmental law. An important feedback was the need for NJ and other environmental law organizations to have a more continuous engagement with law students.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

ABS in Southern Africa: Developing Policy and Implementing Best Practice

On February 12-14 PhytoTrade Africa and The ABS Capacity Development Initiative for Africa, aided by Natural Justice, invited stakeholders of Southern African countries to discuss and identify good ABS policies and best practice on the basis of a number of regional value chain assessments.

One challenge in implementing the Nagoya Protocol has been to design strong and effective regulations while ensuring a business friendly regulatory environment that can attract investment in the sector and ensure its viability. Insights from already existing value chains and operating businesses across the region are highly useful in aiding governments in their efforts to design such national legislations, while ensuring that they simultaneously compliment and contribute to national development plans and objectives.  

Bringing together more than thirty governmental and non-governmental experts from across Southern Africa, along with representatives from industry, the two-day workshop assessed value chains on baobab, devil’s claw, kigelia and marula in Malawi, South Africa and Namibia.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

NJ Community Training for Chiadzwa Community Development Trust

From 10 to 12 February 2014, Natural Justice conducted initial training on biocultural community protocols with Chiadzwa Community Development Trust and members of the Marange and Arda Transsau, impacted by diamond mining in the region. 

During the training workshops, Trust and Community members discussed their visions for the future, their needs for development and what they would like to address in the development of a community protocol, as a tool to address the concerns the community has with respect to past and impending relocation, impacts on culture, the environment and poverty and as a starting point for dialogue with external parties.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

First SUARA Workshop of 2014 Held in Bundu Tuhan, Sabah

The Borneo Eco Film Festival (BEFF) is now in its fourth year of operation with its headquarters in Sabah, Malaysia. A major part of BEFF is SUARA (“voice” in Bahasa Malaysia) Komuniti, a community filmmaking programme consisting of a series of workshops throughout the year and culminating in an intensive workshop immediately prior to and in parallel with the annual Festival. The overall emphasis of the programme is on supporting community members to communicate their stories, experiences and worldviews relating to Borneo’s biological and cultural heritage in their own voices. SUARA Komuniti participants to date have included a range of Indigenous peoples and local communities from across Sabah, Malaysia, many of whom are working alongside local or national non-governmental organisations such as Partners of Community Organisations in Sabah, Borneo Conservancy Initiative, Hutan, Camps International, and the World Wide Fund for Nature Malaysia to support community conservation initiatives.

The 2014 SUARA Komuniti programme kicked off with its first workshop from 7-10 February in Bundu Tuhan, Sabah, which Holly Jonas (Natural Justice) helped document as a member of the BEFF Board of Directors. The workshop focused on storytelling and was run by veteran SUARA trainer and multimedia talent Zan Azlee Zainal Abidin and two new Sabahan trainers, portrait photographer Flanegan Bainon and writer Evangeline Majawat. Sessions included technical and practical topics such as creative use of multimedia, the ‘three-act’ structure, photo essays, and development of mind-maps and storyboards. The more than 40 community participants worked hard to develop ideas and draft storyboards for short films, which they will further develop at the second SUARA workshop on production techniques (tentatively scheduled for May). Photos will soon be posted on the BEFF and Natural Justice Facebook pages.

Monday, February 10, 2014

'Pluralism, Equality and the State'. 14th National Conference on Women's Studies

Natural Justice's Vaneesha Jain attended the 14th National Conference on Women’s Studies in Guwahati, Assam, India, from 4th to 7th February 2014. The conference was organised by the Indian Association of Women’s Studies in collaboration with Gauhati University Women's Studies Department, TISS Guwahati Campus, Cotton College State University and North East Network. The title of the conference was 'Pluralism, Equality and the State: Perspectives from the Women’s Movement'.

The conference had a total of 10 sub-themes, and Vaneesha presented a paper entitled ‘No Woman’s Land: Exploring Women’s Relationships with their Land and their Legal Entitlements’ under the first sub-theme. Participants in this sub-theme shared theory and field experiences in various Indian states on the subject of women’s access to land and land-based resources. The NJ presentation was well-received, and generated particular interest in its reference to the recent Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement legislation.

Friday, February 7, 2014

“Our Resources, Our Future, Putting Local People First” – 5th Alternative Mining Indaba, Cape Town, South Africa

From 4 to 5 February 2014, Stephanie Booker and Frances Kelsey of Natural Justice attended the 5th Alternative Mining Indaba, held at the Ritz Hotel in Cape Town.

The Alternative Mining Indaba, organised by Bench Marks Foundation, Oxfam, the Economic Justice Network and Norwegian Church Aid, brought together 200 activists from all over Africa as well as from Brazil, Canada and Myanmar to discuss, from the perspective of local communities, the impacts of mining and other extractive industries.

The Alternative Mining Indaba was held at the same time as the African Mining Indaba, an international mining conference taking place at the Cape Town International Convention Centre and therefore provided an alternative space for those organisations working with communities to focus on the local social, economic and environmental impacts of mining. Under the heading “Our Resources, Our Future, Putting Local People First”, various groups - from community forums to international non-governmental organisations presented and discussed their experiences, knowledge and expertise on the impact of mining.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Regional Sensitization Seminar on the Rights of Indigenous Populations/Communities in North Africa

Natural Justice's Lesle Jansen is currently attending a two-day consultation and dialogue organised in Tunisia by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights Working Group on Indigenous Populations (WGIP), with its civil societies in the North African region, around the issue of indigenous peoples.  

The seminar is aimed at gathering information on the situation of indigenous communities in the sub-region, and sensitising them around the legal and institutional frameworks in place – both at the international and regional levels - for the promotion and protection of indigenous peoples’ rights.

The seminar objectives are to:
  • Sensitise stakeholders in North Africa about the Working Group’s approach to the issue of the rights of indigenous populations;
  • Analyze the main problems faced by indigenous populations in North Africa; and reflect towards their resolution; and
  • Identify the principal tenets of a strategy for better collaboration between the Working Group, civil society, and indigenous communities in North Africa.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Designing training materials for legal empowerment initiatives

Arpitha Kodiveri of Natural Justice, India attended a weeklong workshop on designing training materials for legal empowerment initiatives held in Ahmedabad. The workshop was organized by the Center for Social Justice (CSJ), an organization that pioneered the use of principles of adult education in creating innovative legal training sessions.

Community based lawyers from different parts of India partnered with  their counterparts from the CSJ to brainstorm on  different methods  and approaches to  designing training material.  Arpitha worked closely with the group to develop a detailed methodology for providing training in environmental law to paralegals in India.

The training module and methodology is due to be  field tested in the coming few months in Gujarat.

CIEL Guide on Amici in international investment arbitration

Non governmental organizations that work in the area of international investment litigation have been bolstered in their defense of public interest, thanks to the new Guide for Potential Amici in International Investment Arbitrations. This joint publication by the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) and the International Human Rights Program at the University Of Toronto Faculty Of Law explains when and how NGOs can strategically intervene as a third party in international investment arbitrations as an amicus curiae (friend of the court).

The guide also provides background on why international investment disputes arise, the ways in which human rights can be implicated, and how amicus curiae can bolster human rights in investment disputes. 

In particular, this guide  focuses on the potential of filing amicus submissions at the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), which specializes in disputes between governments and companies.

Given the opacity of ICSID-arbitrated proceedings, there is a clearly identified need for NGOs, acting as amici, to highlight human rights concerns, and focus attention towards public interest issues.

The full report, with annexes is available here.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Community Forestry and REDD+ in Latin America

A recent publication “Lessons Learned from Community Forestry in Latin America and their Relevance for REDD+” by the Forest Carbon, Markets and Communities assessed decades of community forestry in the region and the significance for REDD+. Community forestry recognises the rights of communities to establish and enforce rules governing forest use and access and has been particularly successful in the Latin American region.

Some key findings from community forestry for REDD+ included:

Empowerment of Communities: The recognition of the rights and responsibilities of communities to establish and enforce rules regarding forest access and use, which is supported by tenure rights and clear legal frameworks for communities. Suitable approaches to empower communities include free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) and tools such as community protocols which can put communities in the driving seat and create conditions for “doing”.

Governance and Stakeholder Engagement: Self-generated community institutions are generally more effective and should be encouraged. Supportive sectorial polies in areas such as agriculture and macroeconomics are important as are reforms that empower communities. Identifying and applying legal instruments that empower, promoting rights-based approaches and recourse mechanisms are also crucial.