Friday, April 25, 2014

"Scraping the Pot": New Report on the Situation of Namibia's San Population

The Land, Environment and Development Project of the Legal Assistance Centre (LAC) have launched what is arguably the most comprehensive report ever on the situation of the San in Namibia. Since Independence in 1990, the country has made tremendous progress in entrenching its citizens’ social, economic and human rights. However, significant challenges remain, not least that Namibia has one of the highest income-distribution disparities in the world.

From 2010 to 2013, the Land, Environment and Development Project, in cooperation with the Desert Research Foundation of Namibia (DRFN), conducted a comprehensive study focusing on the living conditions of the San communities in Namibia. The resulting report  - entitled Scraping the Pot: San in Namibia Two Decades after Independence - highlights the challenges and barriers faced by the San, being some of the country’s citizens who are disenfranchised by this extreme disparity.

“Scraping The Pot” is designed to be a tool for policymakers, multilateral partners and NGOs to enhance the quality of their programmes’ design and implementation, and to provide them with a sound and comprehensive empirical basis for policymaking.

The writing of this report was made possible through funding from the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA), as well as other donors.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A Sublime Aggression

By Lesle Jansen and Kabir Bavikatte
Murder is no test of masculinity. There are macho alternative cultures full of justice and integrity    

Article appearing in the Cape Argus, 22 April 2014
In a disturbing scene in Ian Gabriel’s recent film ‘Four Corners,’ there is a monologue by Gasant, the leader of the ‘26 gang,’ to a group of young recruits about to embark on their first kill. Like a ritual elder at an initiation ceremony, Gasant tells the boys ‘now we got men’s work to do,’ symbolically marking the murder they are about to commit as their entry into manhood. The film raises powerful questions on youthful aggression, rites of passage and what it means to be a man. Whether the fires of our youth tend the hearth of the community or burn down its foundations depends on how we answer these questions.

The film got me thinking on rites of passage for boys in other cultures. On a recent work trip to Japan, I went to the local budokan (martial arts training hall) to train with the judo club. At the budokan, the teacher, a man in his seventies informed me that the word budo in budokan is the samurai version of the knightly code of chivalry. It includes qualities such as justice, benevolence, integrity, honor and discipline. He said that judo means the ‘gentle-way.’ This didn’t mean that it wasn’t devastatingly effective, but rather that it was an art of sublimating raw aggression in a way that elegance overcomes bluster.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Report on Africa Regional Symposium for Community Land and Natural Resources Protection

Following the highly success Africa Regional Symposium for Community Land and Natural Resources Protection, co-hosted by Natural Justice and Namati in Cape Town in November 2013, a report on the outcomes of the Symposium have been released.

Community Land and Natural Resource advocates from around Africa gathered together at this symposium to discuss challenges and brainstorm solutions based on their own experiences, revolving around the following 8 key themes:
  • Community definition;
  • Conflict resolution;
  • Governance and Leadership;
  • Equity and Gender;
  • Conservation and Stewardship;
  • Investor-Community Relations;
  • Government Barriers to Implementation;
  • Policy advocacy and Law-Making.
The organisers look forward to building the momentum created during the symposium. 

Quito II: Second Dialogue Held in Ecuador to Discuss Methods for Financing Biological Diversity

Braulio Souza (centre), Executive Secretary
to the CBD, gives closing remarks at the meeting.
There is no question that biological diversity is being lost at an unsustainable rate and that this trend needs to be halted through a variety of different approaches. Important questions exist, however, about how to pay for those approaches. To help answer those questions, several governments, as well as the European Commission and the CBD Secretariat, convened a meeting in Ecuador called the Second Dialogue Seminar on Scaling up Finance for Biodiversity from 9-12 April 2014 to discuss issues regarding financing biological diversity.

Representatives from governments, intergovernmental organizations (IGOs), NGOs and other organizations presented on a broad range of topics in plenary sessions, including: CBD and UN efforts in the area of financing (the High Level Panel on Resourcing and the Biodiversity Finance Initiative); the Global Environmental Facility's strategy for the next four years; and community monitoring of biodiversity. Jael Eli Makagon from Natural Justice presented on community protocols as a way of ensuring the full participation of Indigenous peoples and local communities in biodiversity financing. Several small group sessions were held, during which specific questions were asked by the organizers regarding many different topics, including perverse subsidies, taxation issues, and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

New Report on Compensation for Communities in Relation to Large Investments

Natural Justice’s  Stephanie Booker has contributed a chapter entitled "Biocultural Community Protocols: A useful means of securing community interests in the context of extractive industries" to a new publication by the Bonn International Center for Conversion (BICC). 

Supported by Bread for the World and Groupe Tchad, the publication, "Compensation Matters. Securing community interests in large-scale investments", provides analyses of contentious issues in compensation matters such as power relations in negotiations, entitlements for compensation,  as well as an examination of the different types of compensation and discussion of a number of issues with respect to affected communities. 

Also included are  a number of tools and approaches that may be/ have been use to approach compensation strategically, aimed at sustainable, just and inclusive outcomes for affected communities.

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Souls of Coloured Folk: Regaining Sense of Self through Traditional Customs and Rituals

By Lesle Jansen and Kabir Bavikatte
(This article appeared in the Cape Argus Newspaper, 4 April, 2014.)

It is a peculiar sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity – W.E.B Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk

Article appearing in the Cape Argus, 4 April 2014
I am told that anthropologists have diagnosed a condition amongst some indigenous peoples as ‘loss of soul.’ Apparently, this means the breakdown of a connection a people have to their traditions and their inner lives. They have forgotten the language and prayers their fathers used to speak to the gods, land and animals. They don’t hear their ancestors and their ancestors are deaf to them. In their lives, they are invisible to themselves, they are nameless, uninitiated and among the living dead. They lack a story that is their own. Instead they drift, trying on the masks and customs of other peoples. Sometimes abhorring vacuum, they accept identities thrust on them. And since none of them fit, they wander carrying a nameless ache they can’t put their finger on.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Call for Applications: Legal Officer, Kenya

Natural Justice: Lawyers for Communities and the Environment is a young and fast-paced non-profit organisation specialising in human rights and environmental law. We are a pioneering international team of legal practitioners, who 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, with its headquarters in Cape Town and regional offices in Malaysia, India, and USA.

What are we looking for?
Natural Justice has been working with communities, NGOs and government agencies in Kenya since 2009. Due to increasing demand from our partners, we are seeking a full-time lawyer to lead and co-coordinate our work in Kenya. The successful candidate will be based in Nairobi and will be expected to begin work immediately.

Application process:
Deadline: 18 April 2014, 17:00 GMT