Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Collaborative Community Conservation in Sabah

In Ulu Papar, Sabah, communities erect small huts made of
forest resources as resting places while working in their
rice paddies. Credit: Ephraem Lompoduk (community
researcher from Buayan, Sabah).
On Sept. 28th, Holly Shrumm (Natural Justice) attended the eighth and final workshop in the "Learning Platform for Biocultural Diversity and Conservation" series in Sabah, Malaysia. The Platform was part of a project on traditional ecological knowledge in Sabah between the Global Diversity Foundation, Sabah Biodiversity Centre, and Sabah Parks, with support from the Japan International Cooperation Agency.

The workshop focused on the second component of the project, which aimed to identify potential indigenous peoples' and community conserved areas (ICCAs) in Sabah. Six case studies and a state-wide desk review illustrate the various existing provisions in Sabah law and policy for ICCAs. Some key provisions, especially under the Sabah Land Ordinance, also have the potential to undermine those supportive provisions. Land tenure, including differences between individual title and communal title and notions of "idle land", is of particular concern. The Sabah Biodiversity Council was noted as the institution with the most political leverage and potential positive impact regarding raising awareness about ICCAs and helping establish a process for appropriate recognition in Sabah.

Participants of the workshop included representatives from various government departments, NGOs such as PACOS Trust and WWF, and community members from Bundu Tuhan, Buayan, and Kiau, among others. Raymond Sipanis, a community researcher from Buayan, also screened 5-minute excerpts from the three participatory videos that he and other community researchers have been compiling throughout the project. The final report on ICCAs in Sabah is expected to be released later this year.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Equator Prize Winners Honoured in New York

On September 20, an award dinner was held in the American Museum of Natural History in New York to honour the 25 winners of the 2010 Equator Prize. The evening was divided into a policy forum, reception, and High-Level dinner and focused on the theme of "Biodiversity, Ecosystems and Climate Change: Scaling Up Local Solutions to Achieve the Millennium Development Goals". In addition to the prize winners, those in attendance and presenting included, among many others, the Executive Secretaries of the Convention on Biological Diversity and Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Director General of IUCN, and UN Biodiversity and UNEP ambassadors Edward Norton and Gisele Bundchen. Materials from the evening's programme, including videos, background papers, and media coverage, can be found here.

Friday, September 24, 2010

UNGA High-level Meeting on Biodiversity

Credit: IISD/Earth Negotiations Bulletin
A High-level Meeting on Biodiversity took place on September 22nd, the final day of the Millennium Development Goals Summit, at the 65th Session of the United Nations General Assembly. Co-chaired by the presidents of the Republic of Tajikistan and Slovenia, delegates raised a wide range of issues, including the role of national environmental legislation and initiatives (Canada and the US), the need for an international environmental and climate court (Bolivia) and more marine protected areas (Portugal), the importance of strengthening the science-policy interface (Republic of Korea), and the proposed Satoyama Initiative (Japan).

Key documents and a live webcast of the meeting can be accessed here. Daily IISD coverage of the Millennium Development Goals Summit can be viewed here.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Lack of Consensus at WGABS has Ripple Effect at UNGA

On September 22, world leaders are gathering in New York at the United Nations General Assembly for the Biodiversity Summit, which coincides with the final day of talks on the Millennium Development Goals. The main messages from conservationists and civil society are that concrete action must be taken to reduce biodiversity loss, including through making more explicit linkages between biodiversity and climate change, and that governments must significantly increase spending on these issues. Representatives of IUCN and Conservation International, among others, urged leaders to consider the direct impacts of biodiversity loss on livelihoods and the realization of the Millennium Development Goals (see BBC article here).

In addition, plans for governments to sign off on the establishment of the Intergovernmental Science Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) halted, with the G77 and China bloc refusing to do so until the Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing is finalized (see AFP article here). The proposed IPBES is designed to fulfil a similar function to the Nobel-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Indigenous peoples have since established the Indigenous Peoples' Biocultural Climate Change Assessment Initiative (IPCCA) as a grassroots response to the IPCC.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Tapping into a Gold Mine of Experience

An artisanal mine, including a terrace system that facilitates
the regrowth of plants.
For the past week, Gino Cocchiaro and Johanna von Braun (Natural Justice) have been in Alto San Juan, Choco, Colombia, to accompany the development of a biocultural community protocol in the area. The community protocol is driven by the Instituto de Investigaciones Ambientales del Pacifico (IIAP) and ASOCASAN, a Community Council representing more than 7000 members of a largely afro-descendent community of San Juan.

The community has a rich history in traditional gold and platinum mining practices that, compared to mechanized mining, have very little impact on the environment. Unlike mechanized mining, artisanal mining does not rely on the use of mercury or other chemicals, which contaminate rivers and soil. Artisanal mining also includes a range of mitigation practices that lead to quick recovery of the mined areas. Furthermore, given the much slower pace of traditional mining, such practices provide an income for families over many generations. This contrasts with mechanized mining, which usually exploits an area within less than a year, leaving the land degraded and largely unusable to use for any other activity.

Stalled Talks and Walk-outs: All in a Day's Work at the WGABS

The resumed 9th meeting of the Working Group on ABS (WGABS) of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) ended on September 21, 2010, in Montreal. The negotiations were difficult, peppered with moments when they ground to a near halt due to a lack of political consensus on two major issues: 1) What is the definition of "utilization of genetic resources" for the purposes of triggering benefit sharing? 2) What would be the scope of the ABS Protocol? Relating to the second question, the key issues were the following: whether the Protocol would cover pre-Protocol accessions of genetic resources now in ex-situ collections or be limited to only genetic resources accessed after the entry into force of the Protocol; whether the Protocol would be limited exclusively to genetic resources within national jurisdictions or also cover genetic resources outside territories including Antarctica and the high seas; and whether the Protocol would include or exclude human pathogens.

There was no consensus reached on any of these issues, despite significant areas of convergence in the negotiations...

Monday, September 20, 2010

WGABS: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

WGABS Co-chairs Tim Hodges (centre) and Fernando
Casas (third from right).
The fortunes of the resumed 9th meeting of the Working Group on Access and Benefit Sharing (WGABS) continue to be capricious with steep highs and lows. After a full day on the 19th, Parties negotiated into the wee hours of the morning of the 20th and retired for the night in relatively high spirits, having reached a broad agreement on provisions of benefit sharing and access. While there were still brackets in the text, there was an agreement in principle that user countries will ensure benefit sharing and provider countries will guarantee transparent and clear access standards.

The negotiations on the 20th, on the other hand, have had mixed fortunes...

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Third time's the charm for WGABS?

The Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) began the resumed 9th meeting of the Working Group on Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) on September 18th in Montreal to complete the negotiations of the Protocol on ABS. These negotiations are supposed to be the last round of ABS Protocol negotiations that have lasted for the past 6 years. The mandate of the Working Group on ABS is to complete its negotiations of an ABS Protocol for adoption at the 10th meeting of the Conference of Parties to the CBD in Nagoya in October, 2010.

The negotiations began in earnest with Parties in high spirits. However, the negotiations have already started to flounder with no agreement on benefit sharing relating to genetic resources that were accessed prior to the entry into force of the Protocol - specifically ex-situ collections. The developing countries are insistent that access to genetic resources can only be provided by countries of origin of these resources or by countries that have acquired these resources in accordance with the CBD, thereby challenging the possibility of ex-situ collections also providing access to genetic resources for commercial use. The International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity (IIFB) also stressed that they will not accept the ABS Protocol unless it recognizes their rights over genetic resources where such rights exist. With 2 days of negotiations left, there is a great deal of concern amongst Parties as to whether there will be a Protocol on ABS that will be adopted in Nagoya.

Kabir Bavikatte (Natural Justice) is participating in these negotiations in his capacity as the legal advisor to the African Group of countries.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Regional Protocol to Protect Traditional Knowledge Adopted in Africa

The Swakopmund Protocol on the Protection of Traditional Knowledge and Expressions of Folklore was adopted in August in Namibia by the member states of the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization. The Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) has hailed the Swakopmund Protocol as “an historic step for ARIPO’s seventeen member states, and a significant milestone in the evolution of intellectual property.” For more information, see this August 31st article. Intellectual Property Watch has since posted an article calling attention to the 2010 State of World's Indigenous Peoples report. This report states that the international property rights regime, which is upheld by the World Trade Organization and WIPO, often fails to recognize indigenous customary law and by emphasizing exclusivity and private ownership, reduces knowledge and cultural expressions to commodities. The Sept. 12th IP Watch article can be read here.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Documenting Change

InsightShare was recently in Kenya, Zimbabwe, and Malawi to facilitate three Participatory Video for Monitoring and Evaluation workshops. Participatory video is increasingly being used as a tool and enabling process for community development and advocacy, particularly regarding adaption to climate change. See the photostories from the recent workshops here, watch other participatory videos here, and download Insight's field handbook here.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

South African Parliamentary Committee Discusses Traditional Knowledge

On September 7-8, Kabir Bavikatte and Johanna von Braun (Natural Justice) participated in a two-day workshop for the South African Parliamentary Portfolio Committee for Trade and Industry on the proposed Intellectual Property Law Amendment Bill. The meeting was jointly organized by the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD) and the Intellectual Property Law and Policy Unit of the University of Cape Town (UCT IP Unit).

Monday, September 6, 2010

Bushbuckridge Traditional Health Practitioners Engage with Local Company

Kabir Bavikatte (Natural Justice) was in the Kruger to Canyons UNESCO Biosphere Reserve today to represent the Bushbuckridge Traditional Health Practitioners Association. The members of the Association were undergoing their first round of Access and Benefit Sharing negotiations with a local company, Silk SA, for the use of their traditional knowledge for the purposes of developing a cosmetic. The negotiations were successful and initial terms of a potential agreement were tentatively agreed to, subject to approval by the full membership of the Traditional Health Practitioners Association. The next round of negotiations between Silk SA and the Traditional Health Practitioners Association is scheduled for November, 2010. More information on the Bushbuckridge Traditional Healers and their bio-cultural community protocol can be found here.

Friday, September 3, 2010

African Workshop on Community Protocols Wraps Up

The second and final day of the meeting of the representatives of African Indigenous and Local Communities and Community Based Organizations on Bio-Cultural Community Protocols was held on September 3rd in Cape Town, South Africa. Kabir Bavikatte (Natural Justice) began the day with a presentation on community protocols (and the processes that they could be used in) as a tool to assist communities in engaging with the laws that affect them.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

African Workshop on Community Protocols Kicks Off

A two-day meeting on bio-cultural community protocols started today, bringing together a range of representatives of African Indigenous peoples, local communities, and community-based organizations (CBOs).

The aim of the meeting is three-fold: first, to review existing rights based approaches (RBAs) to biological resources and traditional knowledge; second, to evaluate the potential of bio-cultural community protocols to improve existing RBAs in their efforts to secure, for example, free, prior and informed consent with respect to any activities undertaken that affect the community’s tangible and intangible resources; and third, to discuss the viability and utility of establishing an African collective of indigenous peoples, local communities, and CBO networks that will coordinate activities, share experiences, create linkages, and develop capacity on the use of community protocols at the community, national, and regional level.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Day 3 of the African ILC Prep Meeting

The Second African Indigenous and Local Communities (ILC) Preparatory Meeting on Access and Benefit Sharing and Traditional Knowledge wrapped up on the 1st of September. The 3-day Pan-African meeting, supported by the ABS Capacity Development Initiative for Africa and hosted by Natural Justice, was attended by over 40 ILC representatives and representative organizations from 25 countries in Africa. Over the three days, the participants exchanged their experiences on bio-prospecting and bio-piracy and discussed the status of negotiations on the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) International Regime on Access and Benefit Sharing (IRABS) and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), with a focus on traditional knowledge.