Monday, April 30, 2012

Save Lamu Holds Stakeholder Meetings

On 25 and 27 April 2012, Natural Justice partner Save Lamu held two stakeholder meetings for Lamu County’s two districts: Lamu West and Lamu East. The meetings were designed to facilitate dialogue among community members, civil servants, and other organizations and individuals involved in and affected by the Lamu Area Port South Sudan-Ethiopia Transit corridor (LAPSSET) project. Over thirty stakeholders attended the 25 April meeting for Lamu West, including the District Commissioner and local chiefs. They listened to the community’s concerns and heard their demands, which included sharing of information by the government, preparation of an environmental and social impact statement, and investigating and addressing land rights violations. As the Chairman of the Lamu Council of Elders stated, the community “is informed, but never consulted.” Importantly, the District Commissioner acknowledged that an environmental impact assessment needs to be prepared for the entire LAPSSET project (as opposed to different phases of the project in piecemeal fashion) and that land rights are an important issue that needs to be dealt with. He committed to engaging with the community as plans for the port develop. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Ulu Papar Community Congress

Harry Jonas attended a Community Congress focusing on biocultural diversity from the 18-22 of April. The Congress was hosted by the communities of Ulu Papar, held in Buayan and organized by the Global Diversity Foundation's community researchers. It was attended by a range of community members, including from Batu Puteh, Kudat and the Kinabalu area. 

Over the two main days of work, community representatives, NGOs and Sabah Parks representatives engaged in a number of sessions including on indigenous and community conserved areas, medicinal plants, community-based tourism, agriculture and tree planting, land issues, traditional knowledge, customary law (tagal), and the development of Ulu Papar. Community members also developed a draft resolution that among other things references the Ulu Papar Biocultural Community Protocol. In addition to the work, participants enjoyed Kampung Buayan's hospitality and good food, played football (Kg Buayan triumphed!), engaged in cultural performances and sang songs together. Harry thanks Pastor Julius and Irene for putting him up, JKKK Albert and KK John for hosting the Congress, and GDF for the excellent organization.

View photos from the Congress here.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Resource Kit on PA Governance Update

After an in-depth review of the Convention on Biological Diversity's (CBD) Programme of Work on Protected Areas, the CBD and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Commission on Protected Areas identified a lack of progress on governance, participation, equity and benefit sharing. The CBD requested that GIZ lead the development of a resource kit on protected area of governance with support from many key actors in protected areas management. 

The structure of the resource kit is currently in two volumes. The first volume is focuses on defining key conceptions and ‘offers some step-by-step advice on how to assess the state and quality of governance of protected area systems and sites, identifying gaps and understanding possible remedies.’ The second volume ‘contains activities to help trainers to design and conduct capacity development workshops.’ 

The final version of the resource kit will be ready for comments in late June, 2012. Read more and find how to volunteer to comment on the resource kit here.

Friday, April 20, 2012

New IUCN Academy e-Journal

The third issue of the IUCN Academy e-Journal, which focuses on innovations in social justice and environmental governance and was edited by Elizabeth Kirk and Alexander Paterson, is now available online. The journal includes interesting articles and country reports from scholars in more than 25 nations. 

The first article, ‘Neoliberal Land Conservation and Social Justice’ by Jessica Owley, explores some of the social and economic concerns stemming from conservation easements and how they might be addressed. In ‘Environmental Justice, Social Change and Pluralism’, Jordi Jaria i Manzano interrogates underlying assumptions in the western constitutional model and searches for means to engage global and local communities in redefining concepts of social welfare and environmental justice. Finally, Michelle Scobie’s ‘Environmental Governance and Marine Governance in the Caribbean’ examines the connections between regional marine governance and social justice. 

A description of the e-Journal by the editors can be found here. Download the complete e-Journal here.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

South Africa Consultation on BABS Regulation

On 18 April 2012, Johanna von Braun and Laureen Manuel of Natural Justice participated in a half day workshop organised by the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) of South Africa on the proposed amendments to South Africa’s bioprospecting, access and benefit sharing (BABS) regulations. The workshop is one of many stakeholder consultations being held nationwide during April and May 2012. 

South Africa is a global leader in its bioprospecting legislation but there are many challenges surrounding the implementation of the environmental laws and policies. The purpose of the consultations, therefore, is to draw on the experiences and suggestions of the various stakeholders to inform the amendment process. Some of the challenges raised by participants at the workshop related to benefit-sharing and material transfer agreements, difficulties with issuing authorities, lengthy waiting periods with permit applications and the dynamics between the national and provincial legislatures. Participants called for, among other things, simplified processes where only major users of indigenous biological resources are regulated and for increased capacity and resources at the offices where applications for permits are processed. 

When the consultations are complete, the DEA will develop draft language incorporating concepts and ideas collected from participants. The proposed amendments to the regulations will be then presented to stakeholders for further comment and input.

Friday, April 13, 2012

New Contributions on Forest Peoples' Rights from RRI

With immense historical injustices and significant challenges around forest rights and tenure for forest peoples, an incredible amount of work needs to be done to address these challenges. In this context, a new report entitled ‘Turning Point: What Future for Forest Peoples and Resources in the Emerging World Order?’ has been released by the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI). 

According to the abstract, the report ‘takes stock of the current status of forest rights and tenure globally, assesses the key issues and events of 2011 that shape possibilities to improve local rights and livelihoods, and identifies key questions and challenges that the world will face in 2012 and beyond.’ 

A recent illuminating interview with Jeffrey Hatcher, Director of Global Programs at RRI, ‘commenting on the large-scale creation of indigenous territories in Brazil, and the role of indigenous peoples in forest conservation, also highlighting the Brazilian experience.’ 

Read the full RRI report here. Read the full transcript of the interview with Mr Hatcher here.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

BIOPAMA Programme Inception Workshop

© Jim Thorsell
The BIOPAMA (Biodiversity and Protected Areas Management) Programme started at a global inception workshop held at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)’s headquarters in Gland, Switzerland. Over fifty programme partners and experts participated in the workshop to better understand the project’s aims and contribute to programme planning. The programme will be implemented in two components, one focused on Protected Areas and the other on Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS). The Protect Areas component will be managed jointly by IUCN and the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre while the ABS component will be managed by GIZ’s ABS Capacity Development Initiative

The project will establish regional observatories to adapt the project to regional contexts and facilitate dialogue between local, national, regional and international stakeholders. According to IUCN’s press release, the project will make better use of data on biodiversity and socio-economic issues to “enhance the understanding of the ecological and human factors that influence the management of protected areas. Regional capacity building programmes will be developed in partnerships with existing institutions, such as regional training centres and universities. These programmes will involve updating and expanding curricula on conservation and protected areas, developing tool kits to solve priority regional issues, training of decision makers, protected area staff, and others. The observatories will build on global efforts for collecting data, directly from the ground, from national services, and from international institutions holding relevant information on biodiversity, pressures and threats. They will have the general mandate of ensuring the awareness and effective buy-in to the necessity to maintain efforts on biodiversity conservation of political institutions of the three regions.” 

Read more the BIOPAMA Programme and the inception workshop here.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

New Website on India's Forest Rights Act

The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, is a vital tool for communities in India to claim restitution for the deprivation of forest rights and begin to undo the historic injustices done to these communities. Unfortunately, implementation of the Act has been limited. To support communities and their allies to proactively claim the rights granted to them by the Forest Rights Act, an Orissa-based non-profit, Vasundhara, has developed and launched a website on the Act.

The website,, includes well labelled links to general information on the Forest Rights Act and resources on how to use and understand the Act. The resources include a Citizen’s Report on the Act, national and state orders and circulars, guidelines, and background on community forest rights.

The Act can be accessed in English here and Odia here. The website can be accessed here.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Manila Declaration on ICCAs

Signing of the Manila Declaration via
The “Nature in the Footsteps of Our Ancestors” Conference in the Phillipines, attended by leaders of indigenous communities, government representatives, local and international NGOs and UN agencies in Manila over the 29-30 March, 2012, adopted the Manila Declaration on Indigenous Peoples’ and Community Conserved Areas and Territories (ICCAs). The adoption of the declaration was the culmination of three sub-national workshops held in November, 2011, which engaged over 100 indigenous leaders on the status of ICCAs, the importance of intellectual property (IP) rights in ICCA processes and the threats the leaders’ communities face. 

This broad engagement with community leaders is reflected in the text of the Declaration. The Declaration seeks to guide government and other actors in how to appropriately recognise and engage with ICCAs. Among other things, it asks government to “support the indigenous peoples’ capability to manage their ICCAs... [and] do not invent new systems or processes from somewhere else that will undermine them.” 

Please read the full text of the declaration here. The press release offers more context and can be found here. Find more community declarations here.

Supporting Bhutan's ABS Policy Drafting Process

Kabir Bavikatte from Natural Justice and Morten Tvedt from the Fridjof Nansen Institute were in Bhutan from the 28th of March to the 7th of April to provide legal assistance to the Bhutan's National Biodiversity Centre (NBC) to develop Bhutan's Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) Policy. Bhutan, which is a signatory to the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing, began the process of developing its national ABS Policy in April 2011 with the assistance of Kabir and Morten. The multi-stakeholder consultation in April 2011 led to a draft national ABS Policy. 

The national ABS Policy has been through a number of public consultations since, most recently in Central and Southern Bhutan. Kabir and Morten were involved in some of these consultations assisting the NBC in a re-draft of the ABS policy based on the inputs from these consultations. The NBC will conduct further community consultations on the Policy in the East of Bhutan after which the draft ABS policy will be presented to the Gross National Happiness Commission and the Cabinet of Bhutan for approval. The Policy, if it is approved, is likely to become one of the most innovative ABS policies in the world as it will ensure the conservation and sustainable use of Bhutan's biodiversity while foregrounding the social, spiritual and economic wellbeing of Bhutan's communities.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

New Book on Extractive Industries, Indigenous Peoples, MNCs and States

The United Nations Research Institute for Social Development has released a new book titled "The Politics of Resources Extraction: Indigenous Peoples, Multinational Corporations, and the State" by Terence Gomez and Suzana Sawyer. 

From the website, "International institutions, including the United Nations and World Bank, and numerous multinational companies (MNCs) have voiced concern over the adverse impact of resource extraction activities on the livelihood of indigenous communities. Yet the scale and scope of problems confronting indigenous peoples caused by mineral extraction projects endorsed by governments, international agencies and MNCs is monumental. This raises a paradox: Despite the burgeoning number of international charters and national laws asserting the rights of indigenous peoples, they find themselves subjected to discrimination, dispossession and racism. The authors explore this paradox by examining mega resource extraction projects in Australia, Bolivia, Canada, Chad and Cameroon, India, Nigeria, Peru and the Philippines."

Read more here.

Monday, April 2, 2012

NGT Cancels Clearance for Orisha Steel Plant

Photo credit:
India’s National Green Tribunal cancelled clearance for a major South Korean steel plant in Orisha on Friday. The steel plant was being constructed despite a committee of enquiry constituted by the Indian Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) finding that environmental and forest clearance permits had been illegally issued. Communities continued to protest the plant in the face of numerous arrests. 

The National Green Tribunal has directed that a ‘fresh review of the project’ be undertaken before any clearance to proceed with construction is issued. Key issues to be considered in this review are water, pollution, impact on surrounding wetlands and mangroves, and cyclone risk. Please read more about the cancelled clearance here

Gaharu for Social and Ecological Justice

Harry Jonas of Natural Justice spent the day with Dr. Anthony Tibok (pictured) in Kuala Penyu, Sabah. Dr Tibok demonstrated how growing Agarwood (a type of tree) in community forests promotes the conservation of forests while providing community members a good revenue stream. Gaharu, a resin produced by the tree, is prized for its aromatic qualities and is highly sought after in, among other places, the Middle East. Interestingly, Gaharu grows best in shaded areas, making it ideal for growing in pre-existing forests. It therefore provides a very useful crop to communities who are keen on keeping their forests standing but also seek to generate an extra income. More information on Gaharu is available here. Harry thanks Anthony for a fascinating day.