Friday, August 31, 2012

Yanomami Community Members Killed in Clash with Miners

While details are still emerging, it appears that as many as 80 Yanomami community members in the Amazon in Venezuela have been massacred by illegal gold miners. According to a submission to prosecutors this week in Puerto Ayacucho, the massacre occurred in early July. The national prosecutor’s office has appointed two officials to lead investigations, and the Venezuelan military has conducted interviews with witnesses. 

Survival International's Director, Stephen Corry, demanded that Amazonian governments "stop the rampant illegal mining, logging and settlement in indigenous territories." 

Read more from the New York Times here and from the BBC here.

UEBT Hiring Project Officer

The Union for Ethical Biotrade (UEBT), a Natural Justice partner on work around communities, dialogue and biotrade, is seeking a Project Officer on Business and Biodiversity Policy Implementation. The Project Officer will “work closely with other UEBT staff to provide support to companies developing systems and procedures on issues such as community engagement, contribution to local development and access and benefit sharing (ABS).” 

For more information on the position and how to apply, visit UEBT’s page here.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Belo Monte Construction Allowed to Resume

Rendering of the proposed Belo Monte dam via
The $13 billion Belo Monte mega dam is under construction again in the heart of the Amazon as the Brazilian Supreme Court has provisionally overturned a Regional Federal Tribunal’s ruling that construction should be stopped. According to the Supreme Court's website, the ruling of Judge President Britto may be reviewed once the court conducts a “more detailed analysis of the merit of the case.” 

The government supported the decision, stating it prevents “major and irreparable damage to the economy, to public property and to the country’s energy policy.” Amazon Watch’s Executive Director, Atossa Soltani, stated "this unfortunate decision doesn’t invalidate the Tribunal’s judgment that the project is unconstitutional.” The Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office is expected to appeal the decision and demand a review by a full bench of the Supreme Court. 

Read this earlier blog post for more context. Learn more about Amazon Watch's opposition to the dam's construction here. Read more from Indian Country Today, the BBC, the Washington Post, and Reuters.

Participate in IUCN WCC

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Conservation Congress starts next week and the latest newsletter from IUCN has spotlighted the many ways that people from around the world can participate and contribute without traveling to Jeju.

Questions for prominent experts, politicians and CEOs participating in dialogues on the Congress’s five themes (climate, food, development, people and governance, and saving nature) can be asked through this link. Many of the events will be broadcast live and can be viewed here. The conversation on Twitter will be grouped around the #IUCN2012 hashtag and IUCN’s Facebook Page will also be updated frequently.

Natural Justice will be attending. Please share any thoughts on the Congress with us on Twitter (@NaturalJustice) or at our Facebook Page.

Khwe Indigenous Values Workshop in Bwabata National Park

More photos here
From 19-22 August, 2012, Natural Justice attended and helped to facilitate a Khwe Indigenous Values workshop held in Bwabwata National Park, West Caprivi, Namibia as the beginning of a bicultural community protocol (BCP) process. The workshop was hosted in partnership with the Open Society for Southern Africa's (OSISA) Indigenous Rights Programme, the Kyaramacan Association, and Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation (IRDNC). The workshop was attended by several community representatives from all 10 villages within the park, including elders, youth and Khwe conservation officers, a representative from the Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism and youth of the San community from Botswana. 

For historical reasons, the Khwe community is slowly losing many of their values, some of which incorporate important knowledge around sustainable use and management of natural resources. Further, very little intergenerational transfer of traditional knowledge is taking place. This is leaving the Khwe community vulnerable on many levels. In the community's partnership to co-manage the park with the government, their knowledge and relationship with the resources in the park is essential. 

The workshop ran over three days and focused on the indigenous values of the community. Healing and respect were among some of the values the workshop emphasised. Participants were asked to bring any natural resource they hold knowledge of to share with the workshop. The women and men went in separate groups and collected plants and certain roots. They also demonstrated how they to harvest a root from a tree sustainably. On the final day, the participants selected a custodian committee comprised of elders, women and youth. 

Imbak Canyon Ethno-forestry

Harry Jonas of Natural Justice presented on "ABS: From International Law to Local Realities" at a workshop hosted by Yayasan Sabah and Petronas in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. The workshop focused on how best to develop and implement an ethno-forestry study in Imbak Canyon. The study is "a long term project leading towards the positioning of Imbak Canyon as the centre of learning for indigenous communities in biodiversity conservation and sustainable use of natural resources, for gene bank conservation and the exploration of pharmaceutical and biotechnological potentials." Other presenters included Dr Agnes Lee Agama (Global Diversity Foundation) and Dr Charles Vairappan (University Malaysia Sabah).

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

OSISA Briefing on San Values Workshop

The Open Society for Southern Africa, a partner and funder of Natural Justice, released a briefing this week on workshop held in Bwabata National Park on San Values and Biocultural Community Protocols (BCPs) run jointly by Natural Justice, Kyaramacan Association, Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation, and the Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism. The workshop sought to “exploit the synergies between on-going work on San values and on Bio-cultural protocols to help empower poor and marginalised indigenous communities.” 

The OSISA briefing describes two reasons why the workshop was important. Firstly, “it will contribute to the establishment of a Khwe custodian committee for maintaining and promoting traditional knowledge, skills and values amongst the youth and residents.” Secondly, “it will serve as a planning session for the proposed bio-cultural community protocol (BCP) in Bwabwata National Park.”  

The briefing notes that the workshop is part of a broader effort by OSISA’s Indigenous Rights Programme and Natural Justice to support the development of BCPs by Indigenous communities in southern Africa. 

The briefing can be accessed directly here. Learn more about OSISA’s Indigenous Rights Programme here and find OSISA's Facebook page here and Twitter handle here. Read about Natural Justice’s previous work in Bwabata here.

Natural Justice Joins GNHRE

Natural Justice has recently joined the Global Network for the Study of Human Rights and the Environment (GNHRE). The network, which describes itself as a network for the creation of change, is an “internet-based project aim[ing] to build a dedicated portal for the exchange of scholarship, thinking and insights drawn from community-embedded experience and praxis at the interface between human rights and the environment.” 

The aim of the network is “to build a global network of researchers, policy-makers, opinion-formers and community activists whose diversity forges new conversations and relationships. We are building a network for the creation of change – and it starts with the transformation of thinking.” As part of this mission, the network produces the Journal of Human Rights and the Environment.

Read more about the GNHRE here. Information on the Journal of Human Rights and the Environment can be found here. Find Natural Justice’s profile on the GNHRE website here.

BCP Initiative Briefing Note

The briefing note first seeks to articulate what biocultural community protocols (BCPs) are, offering a clear definition of BCPs and detailing how BCPs are developed and used. It then offers a number of examples where communities are working through the Initiative to develop BCPs. Included are the Tanchara and Daffiama communities of northern Ghana, which are developing BCPs on gold mining and shea nut conservation, respectively. The work of a community in the Ulu Papar Valley of Sabah, Malaysia, who used various forms of participatory action research to establish a Community Use Zone in a state park that overlaps with their customary lands, is also presented. Communities developing BCPs in Kenya, India and South Africa are also spotlighted. 

The note also briefly outlines Biocultural Community Protocols: A Toolkit for Community Facilitators, which was developed by Natural Justice to support community members and supporting organisations in facilitating BCPs. The new Community Protocols website, as well as the numerous key publications available on the Natural Justice website, are also presented. 

The briefing note can be downloaded here. Learn more about BCPs at the new website here and on Facebook here.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

FPP Report: Indigenous Peoples and the Green Climate Fund

The Forest Peoples Programme and the Indigenous Peoples’ Network of Malaysia (JOAS) have drafted a technical briefing for Indigenous peoples, policy makers and support groups entitled Indigenous Peoples and the Green Climate Fund. The note seeks to offer background on and critically analyse the fund created to support global action on climate change at the 17th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, concluding that the “views and recommendations of Indigenous Peoples are not being taken fully into account.” 

The briefing includes a section on understanding the Green Climate Fund (GCF), offering basic details to those just learning about the GCF as well as summaries of the latest updates. The briefing also considers the key challenges faced by Indigenous peoples in the development of the GCF and lists three recommendations with detailed justifications: 1) ensuring effective environmental and social safeguards and a rights-based approach to climate financing; 2) ensuring Indigenous peoples’ access to a dedicated fund for financing climate change actions; and, 3) ensuring Indigenous peoples’ full and effective participation in governance. 

The full briefing can be downloaded here. Read more about the Forest Peoples Programme here, and follow them on Facebook here and on Twitter at @ForestPeoplesP.

Environmental Law Association Conference in Cape Town

Photo via
On 25 August 2012, Laureen Manuel of Natural Justice attended the Environmental Law Association’s annual conference, which focused on the legal challenges facing South Africans in a changing world and country in the context of sustainable development. The conference was attended by environmental lawyers, specialist academics and authors, and government and NGO representatives. 

The conference included five sessions with topics including the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), water and waste law and management, biodiversity conservation, community involvement and energy efficiency, as well as the implications of the South African Maccsand court case which held that mining companies must not only seek permission from the Department of Mineral Resources but also from local authorities if the land is not zoned for mining. The final session included presentations on the challenges and possible solutions relating to planning and environmental law with a specific focus on land use and requisite multiple authorisations.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

New SANBio Guidelines

The Southern Africa Network for Biosciences (SANBio), which is under the New African Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) of the African Union, has released new Traditional Knowledge and Plant Genetic Resources Guidelines. Natural Justice’s Kabir Bavikatte served as an external reviewer of the guidelines. 

From the Executive Summary, “These Guidelines were developed as a result of growing concerns of a lack of policies and laws in several SADC countries that govern the use of TK, biological resources and benefit sharing, despite the fact that these countries have signed the CBD. As a result of these concerns, the African Ministerial Conference on Science and Technology in 2003 adopted an outline of a “plan of action” now known as Africa’s Science and Technology Consolidated Plan of Action (CPA). The CPA, as well as decisions by the SADC leaders, emphasized the need to develop a framework for strengthening the capacity to harness and protect biological resources, as well as those associated with traditional knowledge, by encouraging co-operation in science and technology through harmonized policies and regulatory frameworks.” 

The guidelines include sections on Traditional Knowledge, Access and Benefit Sharing, Recognition and Protection of Farmers’ Rights, Intellectual Property Rights, Stakeholders, and Cross-Cutting Issues. The guidelines can be accessed here.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Sacred Natural Sites Interview

Natural Justice's Lesle Jansen has been featured in a new Sacred Natural Sites series of interviews with custodians, indigenous peoples, scientists, conservationists, protected area managers and others on "What is a Sacred Natural Site and why is it important to you?" Her interview discusses the sacred sites of the Khoi and San communities of South Africa and can be accessed above or directly here. More interviews from the interview series can be accessed here.

South African BABS Guidelines Drafted with Natural Justice Support

To ensure the effective implementation of South Africa’s regulations on the conservation of biodiversity and implementation of Access and Benefit Sharing, South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affairs has promulgated new guidelines for providers, users and regulators of South Africa’s biodiversity. Natural Justice provided technical support to the Department in drafting the guidelines, and Kabir Bavikatte, Johanna von Braun and Laureen Manuel of Natural Justice drafted the second chapter for providers. 

Holding 10% of the world’s plants, 7% of its reptiles and 15% of its coastal marine species, South Africa is the world’s third most mega-diverse nation after Indonesia and Brazil. Out of this richness, the nation’s biodiversity has faced severe threats to species and ecosystems from human activities. To address these challenges, the National Environmental Management Biodiversity Act (the Biodiversity Act) was promulgated in 2004 and the Bioprospecting, Access and Benefit Sharing (BABS) Regulations were passed in 2008. To support actors using South Africa’s biodiversity understand and adhere to these new requirements, South Africa’s “Bioprospecting, Access and Benefit-Sharing Framework: Guidelines for Providers, Users and Regulators” has been promulgated. 

The first section of the guidelines, drafted by Natural Justice, offers guidance to those who would provide indigenous biological resources and traditional knowledge on their uses, including discussions demarcating the discovery and commercialisation phases, elaborating upon community ownership of resources and knowledge, details on the kinds of benefits that can be expected, and guidelines on concluding agreements with users. The second section elaborates upon the requirements for users of biological resources and knowledge. It discusses permits, dialogues with communities around prior informed consent, and agreements with providers of resources and knowledge. The final section provides guidelines for regulators of bioprospecting. 

The full guidelines can be accessed here. The guidelines for providers, drafted by Natural Justice, can be accessed directly here. Learn more about Natural Justice’s work around bioprospecting in South Africa here.

Third Regional Preparatory Meeting for IPLCs for CBD COP 11 in Asunción, Paraguay

Photo credit: 
From 13-16 August 2012, Johanna von Braun of Natural Justice attended the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity’s (CBD) third regional consultation for indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs) in Asunción, Paraguay. Previous consultations were organised by the Secretariat and attended by Natural Justice team members in Bujumbura, Burundi and Chiang Mai, Thailand. The workshop brought together approximately 55 regional representatives from Latin America and the Caribbean in order to prepare recommendations for the 11th CBD Conference of the Parties (COP), to take place in Hyderabad, India in October 2012. 

During the first three days of the workshop participants familiarized themselves with the CBD in general as well as the history and nature of the participation of IPLCs in the work around the Convention. Particular attention was placed on articles 10c and 8j of the Convention, the 2011-2020 Strategy for Biodiversity and the Aichi Biodiversity Targets as well as the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing

Significant time was spent discussing the crucial role community protocols, featured in article 12 of the Nagoya Protocol, could play in implementing the Protocol at the local level while asserting and affirming IPLC’s rights over traditional knowledge and genetic resources. Several case studies of community protocols, presented by a representative of the Kuna Yala community and Dr von Braun, supplemented this session. 

The final day of the workshop included an internal meeting in which IPLC representatives finalised the forum’s recommendations for COP11. After the end of the workshop, some participants stayed for an additional two days to participate in a more in depth training for facilitators on issues around the CBD and the Nagoya Protocol.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Major Court Victory over Belo Monte Dam

Photo credit: Cristina Mittermeier/
International League of Conservation Photographers
In a major victory for indigenous peoples’ rights, Brazil’s Regional Federal Tribunal has held that construction must be suspended immediately on the massive Belo Monte dam until indigenous communities have been consulted. The Tribunal’s judgment cited UN International Labour Organisation’s Convention Number 169 and the Brazilian Constitution in the ruling. The dam, if constructed, will displace 16,000 people by government estimates but may displace thousands more. The decision will be appealed. 

Judge Souza Prudente, who authored the ruling, said "A study on the environmental impact of the project was required before, not after, work on the dam started. The legislation is flawed…The Brazilian Congress must take into account the decisions taken by the indigenous communities. Legislators can only give the go-ahead if the indigenous communities agree with the project." 

Read more about the ruling through the BBC here, National Geographic here, and the Guardian here. For more information in Portuguese, read here.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

National Consultation on Protected Areas & Forest Rights

Sankar Pani of Natural Justice participated in a National Consultation on the Protected Areas and Forest Rights Act (FRA) on 12-13 August, 2012, in New Delhi. The consultation was organised by the Future of Conservation Network (FoC), a network of ecological and social organizations and individuals committed to the effective and equitable conservation of biodiversity. FoC's objective is to foster dialogue and engagement in complex conservation issues, and to help tackle increasing threats to both biodiversity and livelihoods. 

The basic objective of the consultation was to discuss the issues relating to poor, improper, and/or non-implementation of the FRA in protected areas such as Sanctuaries, National Parks and Tiger Reserves. Many participants suggested that the Nodal Ministry should appoint an independent committee to review the implementation of the FRA in protected areas. They also emphasised that until the recognition process is completed no person should be evicted or relocated from their existing occupation and residence. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Collective Statement of Khoe Tribal Groupings

On the occasion of the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, representatives of the Griqua National Forum, the Khoi Heritage and Development Council, the Indigenous Peoples of Africa Coordinating Committee (IPACC) and Natural Justice released a collective statement. The statement recognises the historic denial of rights and degradation of Khoe and San culture experienced under colonialism and Apartheid. It notes the continued lack of formal recognition of Khoe and San customary communities and leadership post-Apartheid. 

The declaration closes by embracing the recommendations of Professor Rodolfo Stavenhagen, the former UN Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples’ Rights, which include: 

  • Indigenous communities should be recognized as such constitutionally in parity with the speakers of the 11 official languages; 
  •  National framework legislation, as recommended in the Status Quo reports should be promptly enacted with the full participation of the indigenous communities; 
  • In the case of indigenous communities that were dispossessed of their lands during colonial era and discriminatory legislation or practice before the Native Land Act of 1913 positive legal and judicial action should be undertaken to enable these communities and legitimate claims for restitution within a wider perspective of human rights and transitional justice. Likewise the government is urged to provide the necessary resources and technical cooperation to these indigenous communities, enabling them to file claims; 
  • Official socio- economic statistics should be disaggregated to specify indigenous communities and special poverty relief and social services delivery programs should be designed to target indigenous communities within South Africa’s efforts to meet their Millennium Development Goals.  
The full declaration can be downloaded here. Other community declarations can be found here.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Natural Justice is Seeking Volunteer Interns in New York

Natural Justice: Lawyers for Communities and the Environment is an international team of lawyers and legal experts. We engage with environmental, human rights and cultural heritage law to support Indigenous peoples and local communities, and provide technical advice to governments and intergovernmental organisations to secure environmental and social justice. Natural Justice currently works in Africa, Asia and Latin America, and has offices in South Africa, Malaysia, and India. In order to facilitate its work in North, Central and South America and the Caribbean, Natural Justice is setting up a new office in New York City.

In the medium term, the New York office will have three core functions. First, it will aim to feed the experiences of Natural Justice's community work in Africa, Asia and Latin America into relevant UN and other North America-based intergovernmental and other processes. Second, it will function as the regional hub for our emerging work in the Americas. Third, it aims to become engaged in fundraising and outreach for the broader Natural Justice network.

Natural Justice is currently looking for volunteer interns to support the functions of the newly emerging New York office. Specific tasks will include: supporting Natural Justice in assisting Indigenous peoples and local communities, community-based organizations and NGOs in the Americas; supporting the development, adaptation and translation of legal empowerment materials; researching and following up with fundraising opportunities; participating in and providing technical input into New York-based processes such as the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues; and supporting the administrative and logistical aspects of setting up a Natural Justice office in New York.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Joint Submission on Programme of Work on Article 8(j)

The Forest Peoples Programme, Natural Justice and 24 other Indigenous peoples’ and community-based organisations and supporting NGOs made a joint submission to the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) concerning the further development of the Plan of Action for customary sustainable use as a new major component of the revised Programme of Work on Article 8(j) and Related Provisions. The submission suggests that the new component addresses secure land, resource and tenure rights as a fundamental condition for effective customary sustainable use of biological resources.

Overall, the submission states that the draft Plan of Action should encourage Parties to the CBD to: 
  • Take necessary measures to secure indigenous peoples’ and local communities’ territories and land, resource and tenure rights; 
  • Promote and support stewardship, governance and management by indigenous peoples and local communities; 
  • Ensure that laws, policies, and decision-making processes at all levels appropriately recognize and respect customary laws, institutions, worldviews, resource management practices, and traditional knowledge, languages, educational systems, and occupations; 
  • Review, revise, enact, and implement laws and policies at all levels in accordance with the ecosystem approach and with the full and effective participation and free, prior and informed consent of indigenous peoples and local communities; and
  • Respect and apply the right of free, prior informed consent of indigenous peoples and local communities in all actions that may affect their territories, lands and waters (including and inland, coastal and marine).
The joint submission is available for download here. Other legal submissions compiled by Natural Justice and its partners can be found here.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

New Report Critical of Biofuels

Science Magazine reports that the German National Academy of Sciences has issued a negative report on biofuels, suggesting they are not sustainable. The report, drafted by a panel of more than 20 experts from various disciplines ultimately concludes that “biofuels use more land area, generate more greenhouse gas emissions, and have a greater impact on the environment than other alternative energy sources such as photovoltaic solar energy, solar thermal energy, or wind power.” In addition, biofuels and food crops compete for land. 

The report can be accessed here. The summary by Science Magazine can be found here.

Friday, August 3, 2012

IACHR Victory for Sarayaku Community

Sarayaku President José Gualinga via
Indigenous peoples claimed a major victory when the Inter-American Court on Human Rights ruled in favour of the Sarayaku community of Ecuador in Sarayaku v Ecuador. The ruling is the culmination of a decade long process by the community and their legal representatives, Mario Melo and the Centre for Justice and International Law

The case was launched when the Ecuadorian government decided to allow a foreign oil company to encroach upon the land of the Sarayaku community without permission from the community. The court found that the government had violated the community’s right to consultation, to their property and cultural identity, and to their safety as the company had placed over 1,400 kg of explosives in their territory. 

Sarayaku leader José Gualinga said, “the Sarayaku are extremely satisfied with this victory, reached thanks to the efforts of our people and the help and solidarity of organizations devoted to the rights of Indigenous Peoples”. Fernanda Doz Costa of Amnesty International said “this sentence will have a far-reaching effect on countries across the region – it makes it crystal clear that states bear a responsibility to carry out special consultation processes before engaging in development projects affecting Indigenous Peoples and their rights.” 

Read more about the case here.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

REDD+ Readiness Workshop in Sabah

From 31 July to 1 August, Holly Shrumm (Natural Justice) participated in a workshop on Malaysia's emerging national institutional framework for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries (REDD+). The meeting, held in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, was part of a three-year "REDD+ Readiness" joint project between the United Nations Development Programme and the federal Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment (NRE).

The workshop included presentations on the following topics:
  • "Introduction to REDD" by Dr. Elizabeth Philip, head of REDD+ Unit, NRE;
  • "Sabah REDD+ Preparedness Roadmap" by Fred Kugan, Sabah Forestry Department;
  • "Draft Recommendations for Institutional Framework" by Lee Kian Foh, project consultant; and
  • "Free, Prior and Informed Consent within REDD+" by Maximilian Conrad, REDD+ Unit, NRE.
The workshop also included breakout groups and subsequent plenary discussions on social and environmental safeguards, financing and sharing of benefits, and measuring, reporting and verification. Natural Justice participated in the safeguards group alongside local organisations such as Partners of Community Organisations (PACOS) Trust and Jaringan Orang Asal SeMalaysia (JOAS), the Indigenous Peoples Network of Malaysia.

More information, news and analysis of REDD+ is available at: