Monday, June 30, 2014

Supreme Court of Canada Grants Aboriginal title over Tsilhqot'in First Nation land

A Supreme Court of Canada decision has granted the Tsilhqot'in First Nation of British Columbia Aboriginal title over a wide area of traditional territory. The unanimous 8-0 decision, gives the Tsilhqot'in First Nation rights to more than 1,700 square kilometers of land. The group now has rights to the land, the right to use land and the right to profit from the land. Reports indicate that this is the Supreme Court's first on Aboriginal title, and can be used as a precedent wherever there are unresolved land claims.

In 2012, the B.C. Court of Appeal granted the Tsilhqot'in rights to hunt, trap and trade in its traditional territory, but agreed with both the federal and provincial governments that the Tsilhqot'in must indicate specific sites where its people had lived instead of claiming a broad area. The Tsilhqot'in criticized that initial decision, arguing that they had traditionally never resided permanently in one area of the land and that the government had failed to consider their traditional way of life.

This decision by the Supreme Court of Canada now requires governments to meet one of two criteria before conducting economic development on Aboriginal land.

Natural Justice holds BLINC Workshop in Bangalore

BLINC, a two day workshop-cum-exhibition organised by Natural Justice and designed by the LED Laboratory at the Srishti School of Art,  Design, and Technology, was held in Bangalore on June 27 and 28, 2014. BLINC’s vision is to bring Balance in the Landscape though Imagination, Negotiation and Collaboration. The Workshop brought together NGOs, academics, activists, designers and individuals or groups interested in the overarching theme of ‘Asserting community rights over the environment’.

FAO's State of the World's Forests 2014 Report Published

FAO has just published 'State of the World's Forests 2014'. The report – available here, along with various other briefs - looks a the potential that the world’s forests, trees on farms, and agroforestry systems have in supporting the livelihoods of rural people by providing employment, energy, nutritious foods and a wide range of other goods and ecosystem services. There has been a lack of clear evidence of this, which the report seeks to address by systematically gathering and analyzing available data on forests’ contributions to people’s livelihoods, food, health, shelter, and energy needs.

"Catching a Leopard by its Tail": SBSTTA 18 Wraps Up, Ahead of COP12

SBSTTA Chair Gemedo Dalle Tussie
The 18th meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA) closed on 28 June 2014 after six intensive days of discussions and negotiations among the Parties and observers. In keeping with the format first used at the SBSTTA 17 in October 2013, the CBD Secretariat developed official and information documents, but left the task of developing draft recommendation to committees convened during the meeting. As the Chair of SBSTTA Gemedo Dalle Tussie (Ethiopia) stated in opening the meeting, this format was akin to catching a leopard by the tail, and once you have done so, you must hold on tight.

Friday, June 27, 2014

UN Human Rights Council Approves Resolution on Binding Standards for TNCs

The United Nations Human Rights Council has approved a resolution to start developing an international legally binding instrument on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights. The resolution, presented by the Plurinational State of Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, South Africa, and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, seeks to establish an intergovernmental working group with the mandate of developing an international legally binding instrument to regulate the activities of transnational corporations.

Despite intense opposition from several powerful countries, the resolution was finally adopted with 20 votes in favour, 14 against and 13 abstentions. All western states members of the Human Rights Council voted against the resolution. The majority of developing countries, including most of African states as well as China, India and Russia, voted in favour.

Natural Justice and ICCA Host Side Event at SBSTTA 18

On June 26, 2014, Natural Justice and the ICCA Consortium held a side event during SBSTTA 18 on Indigenous peoples’ and community conserved territories and areas (ICCAs) and how they can help in achieving the Aichi Biodiversity Targets. The side event focused in particular on Locally Managed Marine Areas (LMMAs), a type of ICCA that encompasses coastal and ocean territories and areas. This topic was particularly relevant given SBSTTA 18 Agenda Item 4 on marine and coastal biodiversity (link to agenda).

The side event featured two speakers, Onel Marsadule, Executive Director of the Foundation for the Promotion of the Indigenous Knowledge, and Taghi Farvar, President of the ICCA Consortium. Onel's presentation focused on the Kuna Yala people of Panama, whose territory includes a large marine ecosystem on Panama's Caribbean coast. Onel noted that the Kuna people have their own system of governance for the protection of marine and coastal biodiversity of their territory. For the Kuna, the importance of protecting marine resources and ecosystems is not only food dependency, but also on a holistic, cultural and spiritual relationship with the marine ecosystems. The Kuna have codified their customary laws into a written text, and one provision requires any project or activity affecting natural resources and biodiversity (which would include marine resources and biodiversity) to have an environmental impact study. He concluded by observing that it is essential to recognize indigenous resource management of marine ecosystems and called on Parties to strengthen customary laws and practices of conservation and traditional institutions.

Ninth Issue of [square brackets] Published

The Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the CBD Alliance have jointly produced the ninth issue of the [square brackets] newsletter to coincide with the recent meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice.

This issue of [square brackets] includes articles on coral reefs in the Western Indian Ocean, implementation of Aichi Target 3 in the livestock sector (by Mia MacDonald and Simone Lovera), and biofuel subsidies, among others. The ninth issue of [square brackets] is available for download here.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Exploring the Oil Palm Landscape in the Telupid Forest Complex

Meeting participants in Telupid. Credit: Forever Sabah
Oil palm is one of the biggest commodities in Southeast Asia and is often considered the backbone of the Malaysian economy. However, it has also had an undeniable widespread impact on tropical forests and on the thousands of Indigenous peoples and communities who depend upon them for livelihoods and survival. At the same time, a growing number of communities have small-scale oil palm plantations and are seeking ways to balance environmental protection with income generation.

In the heart of Sabah, Malaysian Borneo, the  25-year initiative Forever Sabah is working to bring together communities, smallholders, large oil palm companies, government agencies, and NGOs to address these and other issues in the Telupid Forest Complex. From 23-25 June, a multi-stakeholder team from PACOS Trust, LEAP, Natural Justice, the Drainage and Irrigation Department, and the Forestry Department held meetings with oil palm smallholders and with the managers of a large plantation with high conservation value areas and a mill, in order to identify constraints, bottlenecks, and opportunities for further improvement. An additional series of meetings is being planned for July to explore the issues in greater detail.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

18th Meeting of the CBD SBSTTA Begins in Montreal

23 June 2014 marked the opening day of the 18th meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA) in Montreal. Several critical issues are on the agenda this year as the Parties prepare for the 12th Conference of the Parties in South Korea in October. These issues include synthetic biology, marine and coastal biodiversity, the fourth edition of the Global Biodiversity Outlook (GBO-4), invasive alien species, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), and harmful incentives (link to meeting documents).

Synthetic biology is important for a number of reasons, including the potential for users to bypass the Nagoya Protocol through the transfer of digital information rather than genetic material itself. It is anticipated that countries in favor of synthetic biology will call for additional studies and argue that an agreed definition of the term is needed in order to delay any action on the matter by the CBD. However, several studies have already been undertaken, and extensive precedent exists for Parties entering into agreements despite a lack of of key terms being defined (i.e. the Cartagena Protocol). Marine and coastal biodiversity is also a key issue, and civil society has called for real action to address ocean acidification, underwater noise and marine debris.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Community land rights in the “Zero Draft” of the Post-2015 Agenda

The Secretariat of the International Land Coalition together with various partners, including Natural Justice, has produced a technical brief with suggesting improved targets on land rights in the “zero draft” of the Open Working Group 12 on the Sustainable Development Goals (June 16-20). This brief complements a first input that builds on the consensus achieved through the Global Land Indicator Initiative.

The necessity for land-concerned organisations and delegations to voice their concern is the speed with which negotiations are advancing, coupled with the ever-present risk that even basic wording on land rights will be substantially eroded in the process.

Natural Justice at IDLO Roundtable at WGRI 5 on Legal Preparedness Regarding NBSAPs

On 21 June 2014, IDLO and the CBD Secretariat hosted a Roundtable on Legal Preparedness for Implementing and Mainstreaming National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAPs). The event was designed to raise awareness of legal tools available to assist countries to use law to achieve the Aichi Targets and to allow Parties to share their experiences regarding implementation of their NBSAPs. Several countries shared their experiences, with many noting common themes such as inadequate awareness of legislation relevant to biodiversity; inadequate funding for biodiversity; and the related issue of difficulty with obtaining funds due to cost/benefit analysis that does not adequately capture the value of biodiversity.

Several organizations, including the ABS Capacity Building Initiative, the IUCN, and Natural Justice also gave interventions regarding their work. Jael Makagon highlighted the ICCA Legal Reviews coordinated by Natural Justice in 2012, noting that recognition of and respect for ICCAs is a way of achieving all of the Aichi Targets. While supportive formal law and implementation of law are crucial aspects of conserving and sustainably using biodiversity, achieving the Aichi Targets also needs institutional support as well. One way of doing so is for Parties to recognize and support ICCAs in their NBSAPs.

CBD Executive Secretary Braulio Dias provided closing remarks, noting that while the "political will" of government officials is important, the political will of society is even more important to put pressure on the government to achieve the goals of the CBD. He also highlighted the importance of governments partnering with communities to achieve the Aichi Targets, and hinted that the issue of traditional knowledge, which has been discussed for so many years at WIPO without much progress, will be taken up substantively at this year's Conference of the Parties.

Friday, June 20, 2014

New Report on Indigenous Peoples’ Rights, Forests and Climate Policies in Guyana

The Forest Peoples Programme (FPP) and the Amerindian Peoples Association (APA) have published a new special report entitled ‘Indigenous Peoples’ Rights, Forests And Climate Policies In Guyana: A Special Report'. The report, edited by Kate Dooley and Tom Griffiths, highlights the vital need for good land tenure governance in the development of sustainable forest and climate initiatives.

One for the key findings, based on detailed fieldwork, is  that insecure land rights and gaps in national legal frameworks as they relate to indigenous peoples’ rights are a major obstacle to the effective and efficient implementation of national land use and climate policies in Guyana.

The authors call  for timely reforms and strengthening of national laws and policies to ensure proper protections for customary land rights and adherence to the core standard of free, prior and informed consent (FPIC).

The report also underlines the pressing need for robust measures by bilateral and multilateral international agencies to ensure compliance with their own safeguard policies in ongoing forest governance, livelihood, infrastructure, energy and climate programmes.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Heroes Project: Character Design - Designing the Mantis

During his research period of The Heroes Project designer Abhishek Choudhury came across a lot of folktales which spoke of a trickster deity called /Kaggen in their stories. In folklore of the /Xam people, /Kaggen is seen as the most important deity as a trickster and a creator. /Kaggen is said to be a shape-shifting bushman shaman and often represented as a mantis. The bushman shamans often spoke about physical transformations and shape-shifting in the spirit realm. /Kaggen, the mantis, is said to be the one who created the moon and also the first Eland and other antelopes. In Phase 1, he did an analysis into the character of /Kaggen in an effort to understand the natural and cultural forces that could have moulded this character. More on the character design process.

The urgent need to protect and promote the human right to water in the UN Sustainable Development Goals

In response to the exclusion of the human right to water from the Zero Draft of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) published on June 2nd, recognizing the significance the SGDs will have on the UN development agenda for the next 15 years, and echoing civil society’s consistent demands for a rights-based framework of the SDGs, nearly 300 organisations, including Natural Justice, cosigned a letter titled, “The urgent need to protect and promote the human right to waterand sanitation in the UN Sustainable Development Goals.”

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

BLINC Workshop and Exhibition: 'Asserting Community Rights over the Environment'

Natural Justice India office is hosting a two-day workshop and exhibition called BLINC on the 27th and 28th of June, 2014. BLINC aims to bring together NGOs, academics, activists, designers and individuals or groups interested in the overarching theme of ‘Asserting community rights over the environment’. Some of the objectives guiding this workshop and exhibition are:
  • To bring together interested individuals and groups to discuss their approaches when they encounter challenges on the field while working with communities;
  • To experiment with new methods of conducting such workshops;
  • To work with the participants in arriving at new ways or potential approaches to challenges they experience in the field whilst engaging in such work.

UNGA President Convenes Informal Interactive Dialogue to Discuss WCIP 2014

In preparation for the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples (WCIP) to be held in September 2014, the President of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) is holding an informal interactive dialogue at UN Headquarters on 17-18 June 2014 (link to agenda; link to more information). During the dialogue on 17 June, governments and representatives of Indigenous peoples discussed the WCIP, particularly what the content of the Zero Draft of the WCIP outcome document that will be the subject of the WCIP should contain. Natural Justice's Jael Eli Makagon and Dr. Johanna von Braun will both be attending the dialogue.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Indigenous World 2014 Published, with Chapter by NJ's Lesle Jansen

Natural Justice’s Lesle Jansen has contributed a chapter on South Africa to the International Working Group on Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA) annual publication, Indigenous Affairs. The 2014 edition contains a comprehensive update on the current situation of indigenous peoples in 73 articles written by indigenous and non-indigenous scholars and activists.

The chapter on South Africa is one  of 58 country reports and 15 articles on international processes, reflecting ongoing worldwide human rights violations, especially with regards to indigenous peoples’ land, territories and resources.

The reports also reflect indigenous peoples’ path towards the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, their participation in climate change negotiations, engagement with the Post 2015 Development Agenda, and their local struggles for the implementation of their right to development with free, prior and informed consent, among many other issues of importance in 2013.

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Heroes Project: Graphic Narrative

Natural Justice's Heroes Project is an initiative started to revive the mythology and folklore of the Khoi-san as a spiritual and cultural relief to face their present day socio-political struggles. The Heroes Project phase 1 of the project started in July 2013 which led to the creation of a workshop model for teenagers aged between 13-15.

The workshop combined elements of theatre, dance, shadow puppetry and mythology to create a space for sharing personal stories and experiences. The idea for such a space came from the ancient story-telling culture of the Khoi-san, which is almost extinct. The space was intended to be a bridge between the reality of the personal stories to the mythology/ folklore of the Khoi-San. Read more about the Project. 

Monday, June 9, 2014

E-module on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) for Communities

Natural Justice has developed learning e-modules on reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+), a mechanism under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) through which developing countries are encouraged to contribute to mitigation actions. Over fifty developing countries are engaged in REDD+ and globally there are hundreds of projects and initiatives. The majority of the Earth’s forests are inhabited by Indigenous peoples and rural communities, many of whom may be affected by REDD+ policies, programmes and projects.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Legal Training for San Youth

cc !Khwa ttu
On 4th of June, Natural Justice held a one day legal training with San youth at !Khwa ttu, the San Education and Cultural Centre. The legal training was held with fifteen San youth from southern Africa and focused on the rights of indigenous peoples, intellectual property rights and environmental law. The legal training course will be held on two further occasions in 2014.

The students taking part in the legal training course are part of an 8-month accredited Nature and Cultural Site Guide Skills Programme run through !Khwa ttu's Training Department. During the course, San youth learn about their roots, culture, history and traditional knowledge.

Natural Justice provides legal support and training to San and Khoi communities in southern Africa through partnership with Heinrich Boell Foundation and the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa. For more information on the work of Natural Justice with the San and Khoi please refer to our website and the Heroes Project.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Centre for Applied Legal Studies Launches its Community Engagement Policy

On Thursday, 29 May 2014, the Centre for Applied Legal Studies launched its own Community Engagement Policy. Given the existence of codes of conduct and rules that guide the conduct of lawyers when working with individual clients, this policy was developed to address the particular skills, dynamics and challenges involved in working with urban and rural communities. Taking into consideration the dynamics in engaging with people who are often marginalised, the policy articulates a standard of community engagement, intended to facilitate meaningful representation, partnerships and mitigate power imbalances. A number of guiding principles are devised and elaborated on, drawing on international standards and personal experiences.

Attended by members of legal and non-legal civil society organisations across South Africa, the launch was opportunity for participants to learn about the policy and its development and to learn more of particular case studies and share experiences. With Benchmarks Foundation, Lawyers for Human Rights and Legal Resources Centre, Natural Justice representative Stephanie Booker gave reflections on the policy and case studies based on her own experiences working with communities impacted by extractive industries and infrastructure projects.