Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Natural Justice Facilitates Biocultural Community Protocol Training for the Ogiek Community

On 17 April, Natural Justice facilitated a biocultural community protocol (BCP) training workshop for the Ogiek Community in Nakuru, Kenya.  Lack of recognition of their status as indigenous peoples, an increase in wildlife conservation and development in the region has caused displacement from their traditionally-owned lands.  The Community have brought their issues to the African Court on Human and People's Rights, with the African Court recently providing interim measures to stop the eviction of the Ogiek from the Mau Forest by the Government of Kenya.

The BCP training was attended by a variety of community members including women, youth, elders and the NGO supporting the community.  The development of the BCP will complement the Community's advocacy work within the region and will, amongst other things, highlight the community's history and customary laws and norms and rights at a local, regional and international level. See here for the interim measures. 

Release of "Guidelines for Environmental Protection in Foreign Investment and Cooperation" by Chinese Ministries

The Chinese Ministry of Commerce and the Ministry of Environmental Protection recently released its "Guidelines for Environmental Protection in Foreign Investment and Cooperation".  The Guidelines are to "guide enterprises in China to raise their environmental protection awareness, and to understand and observe environmental protection policies and regulations of the host country in foreign investment and cooperation, so as to realize mutual benefits".
Based on recommendations by a Chinese NGO, Global Environmental Institute, the Guidelines consider a range of topics, including respect for community religious beliefs, cultural traditions and national customs, international standards, environmental protections and environmental impact assessments. The Guidelines are non-binding, but do provide civil society groups with an opportunity to hold Chinese companies responsible for their actions overseas. The Guidelines can be found here.

Friday, April 26, 2013

"FPIC and the Extractive Industries: A Guide to Applying the Spirit of Free, Prior and Informed Consent in Industrial Projects

The International Institute for Environment and Development has published a resource on free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) as it relates to extractive industries. FPIC and the Extractive Industries: A Guide to Applying the Spirit of Free, Prior and Informed Consent in Industrial Projects points out that corporations are increasingly aware of the need to secure and maintain a ‘social license to operate’ because implementing a project without the support and trust of local communities can lead to operational delays, financial costs and litigation; even project closure, violence and loss of life. The Guide is targeted primarily at companies, and those working with them, who are looking to engage with FPIC in a meaningful way. It advocates respect for communities’ customary practices, and sets forth a three-point framework for companies to follow that seeks to move companies beyond compliance with minimum standards to achieving the spirit of FPIC with all communities. Among the resources for “flexible systems for participation and deliberation [that] will provide companies with guidance on how to achieve the spirit of FPIC” the Guide lists the Biocultural Community Protocol Toolkit developed by Natural Justice for community facilitators. The publication can be found here

World Bank Conference on Land and Poverty Stresses Land Governance

Photo: World Bank
From 8-11 April 2013, the World Bank Group held its annual World Bank Conference on Land and Poverty in Washington, DC. The theme for this year’s conference was “Moving towards transparent land governance: Evidence-based next steps” and stressed the importance of land governance and its relationship to agriculture productivity and food security. The conference aimed to share good practices and advance reforms in six thematic areas:
  • Securing land rights and improving land use at the grassroots; 
  • Adjusting laws and institutions to address urban expansion and governance; 
  • Innovative approaches towards spatially enabling land administration and management;
  • Supporting a continuum of rights in a decentralized environment; 
  • Mobilizing the private sector to improve land governances; and 
  • Sharing benefits from exploitation. 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Impacts of Private Land Titling in Indigenous Communities in Cambodia

Photo courtesy of firstpeoples.org
Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) has released a new publication in collaboration with the Ratanakiri Communal Land Titling Working Group entitled "Directive 01BB in Ratanakiri Province, Cambodia: Issues and impacts of private land titling in indigenous communities". AIPP introduces the research with the following description: "Asia has more than 200 million indigenous people who have maintained their lands, territories and resources sustainably for centuries. Land grabbing in the name of 'development' however, is taking place at an alarming rate, further increasing indigenous peoples’ marginalization, denying them of the material base for their distinct cultures and identities, and threatening their collective survival.

The situation in Cambodia exemplifies this issue. It deserves public attention and urgent government action. The current state of affairs needs to be addressed with a sense of urgency as indigenous peoples are being coerced to acquire private titles and sell them to make way for economic land concessions. Private titles are not consistent with the customary land tenure arrangements of indigenous peoples. They do not recognize the collective nature of indigenous communities, are limited to an area that is insufficient for traditional agricultural practices, and include other conditions that make them inappropriate.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

New Research on Large-scale Agricultural Investments in Zambia

Photo courtesy of ifad-un.blogspot.com
The German Institute of Global and Area Studies (GIGA) recently released a new working paper by Kersten Nolte entitled "Large-Scale Agricultural Investments under Poor Land Governance Systems: Actors and Institutions in the Case of Zambia". According to GIGA's abstract, "[t]his paper reveals how the outcomes of large‐scale land acquisitions made by foreign investors in Zambia are determined by the characteristics of the country’s land governance system. Proposing a conceptual framework adapted from Williamson (1998), and using evidence constituted by expert interviews and focus group discussions, we scrutinize the nature and evolution of the Zambian land governance system, the steps that an investor has to go through in order to attain land and the actors shaping the acquisition process. Shedding light on the acquisition process for land, we find that enforcement of formal rules is currently weak. Depending on how the actors “play the game,” land acquisitions can feature aspects of both “land grabs” and of “development opportunities.” If customary land is targeted, consultation, displacements and compensations become especially problematic issues. Moreover, we find that the power balance between actors has been altered by the presence of these investors. In particular, local authorities have gained greater power and influence."

The working paper is available for download in English; other GIGA working papers are available here.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Webinar on Livestock Management in Sustainable Landscapes

Courtesy of the e-Institute.
On 17 April, Holly Shrumm (Natural Justice) participated in a webinar entitled "The Role of Livestock Management in Sustainable Landscapes". It was hosted by the e-Institute of the World Bank and the discussant was Pablo Manzano (Global Coordinator of the World Initiative for Sustainable Pastoralism, International Union for Conservation of Nature). On the basis that traditional pastoralists have thrived during millennia in areas with low productivity and hard conditions, the webinar considered questions such as what are the keys for sustainable pastoralism, what opportunities does livestock bring for environmental restoration and poverty reduction, and what is the role of mobile pastoralism for climate change adaptation and mitigation.

Throughout Mr. Manzano's presentation and subsequent discussion with participants, topics included, among others, ecological benefits of agropastoralist systems; the interrelated pillars of pastoralist systems (namely, natural resources, the herd, and the family and wider social institutions); the central importance of mobility in food security; the role of rangeland soils in carbon sequestration; buffering against climate crises by increasing access to financial services (for example, to restock herds after a disaster); the use of pastoralist networks; and biodiversity conservation in large landscapes.

Please visit the e-Institute website for more information about free online courseswebinars, and more.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

US Supreme Court Backs Corporation in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum

Photo courtesy of Huffington Post

On the 17th of April 2013, the US Supreme Court released its decision on the case of Kiobel v Royal Dutch Petroleum. The unanimous court decision found that “acts committed on foreign soil by foreign entities against foreign citizens typically cannot be resolved in American courts.” It limited the scope of the Alien Tort Claims Act by finding that “corporations are often present in many countries, and it would reach too far to say that mere corporate presence suffices.”

EarthRights International campaign website Too Big To Punish? summarized the case as follows: “On October 1st, 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum (Shell Oil), a case which will determine whether corporations complicit in human rights abuses overseas can be sued in U.S. courts. Shell, through their work alongside the brutal military regime in Nigeria, is accused of complicity in the execution of nine peaceful protesters and the torture of many others in the Ogoni region of Niger Delta. The case hinges on a law called the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), which allows foreign citizens to bring lawsuits in U.S. courts for violations of international law. Shell says the ATS doesn't apply to them, simply because they are a corporation. Only two years after the Supreme Court used corporate personhood to grant corporations unprecedented influence over U.S. elections, Shell is asking the same nine judges to give corporations immunity from human rights litigation under the ATS. […].”

Although a sad day for many human rights groups and activists fighting for corporate liability for human rights abuses, the US Supreme Court has not completely closed the door on the possibility of bringing cases against corporations in US courts.

For more information, please view read this CNN article and follow the discussions on the Supreme Court of the United States blog and the Opinio Juris forum.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Exchange Workshop on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples held in Banjul, The Gambia

Courtesy of the African Commission.
With a view to sharing experiences, synchronizing efforts, and further enhancing collaboration between the various regional and international mechanisms working on the rights of indigenous peoples, the African Commission’s Working Group on Indigenous Populations/ Communities, in collaboration with the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs, organized an Exchange Workshop on Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Between the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the ASEAN Inter-Governmental Commission on Human Rights, and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights from 5 to 6 April 2013 in Banjul, The Gambia.

The workshop brought together experts from the three regions and regional organizations and the United Nations. The UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Prof. James Anaya, was present during the workshop and made the keynote address. The UN Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN Independent Expert on Minority Issues, Ms. Rita Izsák, also attended. 

The workshop provided a platform for the exchange of experiences between the three regional organizations and that of the UN; it also provided the opportunity for these organs to lay down the grounds for future collaboration and cooperation, and synchronization of their efforts in the promotion and protection of indigenous peoples' rights. The final communique is available here.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Save Lamu Calls Upon NEMA to Refuse Issuance of ESIA License for Lamu Port

Save Lamu has called upon the National Management Environmental Authority (NEMA) to refuse the issuance of an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) License for a proposed Lamu Port, which environmentalists say will destroy delicate marine life and choke coral reefs and mangroves. A report by Reuters states that the Kenyan government is spear heading a $25.5 billion project to link landlocked South Sudan and Ethiopia to the Indian Ocean port of Lamu by constructing a major highway, a railway and an oil pipeline, which would take many years. The Kenyan government recently awarded a Chinese firm the first tender for the Lamu Port Project. Save Lamu has criticized the report published by the ESIA, citing lack of proper methodology, poor consultation, and inadequate mitigation plans. Researches acknowledged that the study was carried out in haste, overlooking numerous steps. Among many other concerns, marine surveys were not undertaken due the Ministry of Transport’s financial constraints.

Lamu Island falls within a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its ecosystem has worldwide recognition as one of the richest along the coastline of East Africa. Its preservation and protection is a point of national significance, as well as an international concern. Other concerns, besides inadequate research, listed in Save Lamu’s petition to NEMA include inadequate assessment of project alternatives and a lack of comprehensive public consultation which is required under the Kenyan Constitution. Save Lamu’s petition to NEMA is available here.

Member of Parliament, Dr. Wilmot James, Submits New Protection of Traditional Knowledge Bill

Dr. Wilmot James, Member of Parliament
Photo courtesy of Democratic Alliance 
A Protection of Traditional Knowledge bill based on the bill drafted by the incumbent of the StellenboschChair of IP Law, Professor Owen Dean, was published in the official government gazette and was tabled in Parliament by Dr. Wilmot James earlier this year. This bill, referred to as “Wilmot’s Bill” serves as an alternative to the widely criticized Government bill. President Zuma refused to sign Government bill citing constitutional concerns and ordered it returned to Parliament for consideration by the House of Traditional Leaders. The Portfolio committee, despite the President’s objections, recommended that the Government bill be passed into law. In addition to creating dedicated legislation to the protection on traditional knowledge, Wilmot’s bill would also provide for the establishment of a National Register of Traditional Knowledge as well as a National Council and National Trust and trust fund in respect of traditional knowledge.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Submission on Indigenous and Local Knowledge to IPBES

On 15 April, Natural Justice made a submission to the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) on an information document entitled 'Consideration of initial elements: recognizing indigenous and local knowledge and building synergies with science'. The submission suggested community protocols as an effective tool in building synergies between traditional knowledge and science and as a framework that ensures that the approaches adopted in different sources of information used for understanding traditional knowledge is in compliance with Indigenous peoples' and communities' customary and ethical protocols. The submission focused on the following broad themes:

  • To allow for the effective inclusion of community protocols in the process of building synergies with science, which includes study, documentation, and approaches and methodologies relevant to indigenous and local knowledge, specifically through the IPBES work programme;
  • To ensure that the principles and protocols considered of relevance to indigenous and local knowledge adopts a holistic approach with the incorporation of relevant principles and protocols emerging from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (1992), UN Convention to Combat Desertification  (1992), and the FAO International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (2001), in addition to those already listed from the Convention on Biological Diversity; and
  • To suggest changes that facilitate adequate representation of Indigenous peoples and local communities and their interests in this process.

The IPBES submission and other submissions made by Natural Justice and partners are available here.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Advancing the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda

From 20-22 March, Civil Society from around the world met for a conference entitled "Advancing the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda: Reconfirming Rights – Recognising Limits – Redefining Goals" in Bonn, Germany. This global conference brought together nearly 300 civil society activists and representatives from key stakeholders in order to offer inputs into the Sustainable Development and Post-2015 discussions, and to agree on joint demands and strategy for a post-2015 development agenda.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

ABS and BCP Workshop in Zeerust, South Africa

A workshop on the international legislative framework and the South African domestic laws relating to access and benefit sharing was held in Zeerust, South Africa on 9 and 10 April 2013. This workshop was the second of three workshops in a pilot project funded by the Department of Science and Technology and the National Research Institute, and organised by the Indigenous Knowledge Systems unit of the Medical Research Council of South Africa. Laureen Manuel and Stephanie Booker of Natural Justice conducted the workshop, which included presentations and training on biocultural community protocols (BCPs).

The participants of the workshop included committee members and youth from the Mokgola community in Zeerust. The topics covered the international and domestic law on Access and Benefit Sharing, specifically the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Nagoya Protocol, and the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act and Bioprospecting, Access and Benefit Sharing Regulations of South Africa.

The presentation and group discussions on BCPs revealed some community tensions which ended in concurrence that there needs to be more discussion within the community to reach agreement on certain issues.


Lassana Koné from Natural Justice will participated in a 1-day bioprospecting workshop organised by the South African Department of Home Affairs in Durbanville, Cape Town on 10 April 2013. 

The purpose of the workshop is to identify areas in the bioprospecting sector that require support to enhance its contribution to the South Africa Economy. This workshop aims to provide an environment for industry experts to brain-storm and address gaps and challenges faced by the sector and also look into the strategic vision on how to overcome the constraints. Areas that will be discussed during the workshop will include the following: 

  • Scope of South African industries engaged in bioprospecting activities.
  • The state of the bioprospecting industries in South Africa using indigenous biological resources. 
  • Contribution of the bioprospecting industries to the country’s economy in terms of the industry’s scale and scope. 
  • The drivers and constraints affecting the bioprospecting industry both locally and internationally.
  • How national and provincial trends, issues and policies within South Africa affect the bioprospecting industry
  • Social contributions of the bioprospecting industry. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Training on IPRs and ABS commences in Gaborone, Botswana

A week-long training on Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) and Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) commenced in Gaborone, Botswana, on 6 April. The target audience of the training are ABS focal points as well as policy makers from national and regional IPR authorities from anglophone Africa. Approximately 40 participants have been gathered for the training. The training is hosted and facilitated by the ABS Capacity Development Initiative and the Secretariat of the Southern Africa Development Community, with Morten Walloe Tvedt (Fridtjof Nansen Institute), Juliana Santilli (Brazil’s Public Prosecution Office), and Johanna von Braun (Natural Justice) as resource persons.

During the intensive training, participants are being exposed to an overall introduction to IPRs; specific sessions on patent law, geographical indications and trademarks; the protection of traditional knowledge; the global and national institutional landscapes of ABS and IPR policy making; and the role of IPRs in the negotiation of ABS agreements and contracts.

This is the first of four trainings that the ABS Initiative will facilitate on ABS and IPRs in 2013. A further training will take place for each of French- and Portuguese-speaking African representatives as well as for representatives of Indigenous peoples and local communities.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Call for Comments on Lamu Port EIA by 16 April

The Business and Human Rights Resource Centre produces "On the Horizon", a practical bulletin on what is ahead in the field of business and human rights, five times a year. In the April 2013 issue, Save Lamu and Natural Justice made a contribution on the port element of the Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport and Economic Development Corridor.

It reads: "Save Lamu would like to announce that on 19 March, the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) of Kenya called on members of the public to comment on the "Environmental and social impact assessment study report for construction of the first three berths of the proposed Lamu port and associated infrastructure" (EIA). Save Lamu urges human rights and environmental law practitioners and EIA experts around the world to read and comment on the EIA with respect to the proposed construction of the first three berths of the Lamu Port and transport corridor in Lamu District. Deleterious impacts on water quality, fisheries, mangroves, coral reefs, archaeological, historical and cultural sites, land ownership, induced risks (such as health and safety, influx of disease) are set out in the EIA. Construction has already commenced.

The environmental and social impact assessment is located here and comments can be directed to NEMA until 16 April. They should be sent to the Director General of NEMA at dgnema (at) nema.go.ke, and copied to Edward Menza, NEMA-Lamu at menzae (at) yahoo.com, and the Chair of the Public Complaints Committee at pcc.environment (at) gmail.com."

Monday, April 8, 2013

New IIED Publication on Legal Empowerment and Accountability in Africa's Land Rush

The International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) has released a new publication entitled "Accountability in Africa's Land Rush: What role for legal empowerment". According to IIED website, "In recent years, there has been a renewed interest in acquiring farmland for agricultural investments in lower-income countries. Whilst such investments can create jobs, improve access to markets and support infrastructure, many large land deals have been associated with negative impacts for local populations, including the dispossession of land and other resources and increased conflict over economic benefits. There is growing evidence on the scale, geography and impacts of large deals. But less is known about how the legal frameworks regulating this land rush shape opportunities and constraints in formal pathways to accountability; and how people who feel wronged by land deals are responding to seek justice, and to what ends. 

This report assesses the state of evidence on pathways to accountability in the global land rush, with a focus on Africa. It also identifies areas for a new research agenda that places accountability at its centre." The publication is available in English here.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

CIFOR Guide for Research on Forest Tenure Rights

A new guide by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), entitled "Tenure Rights and Access to Forests: A Training Manual for Research", attempts to help students, researchers and practitioners understand and tackle forest tenure issues. It addresses the following questions in particular: what is forest tenure and why does it matter; what determines tenure security and how does it affect people and forests; how do we ensure equitable distribution of benefits; and how do we manage competing interests in forests?

In an article on the training manual for the CIFOR blog, Anne Larson, CIFOR scientist and author of the manual, says, “Researchers have been grappling with complex forest tenure issues for 30-40 years now, yet these are still not widely understood and incorporated adequately into a broad range of forestry research.” According to Peter Holmgren, director general of CIFOR, “Understanding forest tenure is fundamental as international and large-scale investments compete with local stakeholders’ interests in forest land and forest services. This is particularly important in the dynamic interface between forests and agriculture, where decisions determine the fate of livelihoods and forest resources.”

The training manual is available for download in English.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Petition to Halt Mining on Mountain Range in Odisha

The Mining Zone Peoples' Solidarity Group, an international research group focusing on new economic policy, has drafted a petition directed towards Sonia Gandhi, the Chairperson of the National Advisory Council, about grave concerns and environmental devastation resulting from iron ore mining in the sensitive Khandadhar mountain range in Odisha, India.

The full petition is copied below (unedited) and available for signing here.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Book on the Right to Consultation for Indigenous Peoples in Latin America

The Konrad Adenauer Foundation has recently published a book in Spanish called “The right to consultation for Indigenous Peoples in Latin America” as part of their Regional Program on the Indigenous Political Participation. The book consists of a compilation on the current stage of the right to consultation for Indigenous Peoples in several countries of Latina America, such as Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, Panama and Peru.

The book can be found in Spanish here, with Brazil’s chapter written in Portuguese.

El Derecho de la Consulta Previa de los Pueblos Indígenas en América Latina

El Programa Regional de Participación Política Indígena (PPI) en América Latina de la Fundación Konrad Adenauer acaba de publicar el libro denominado “El derecho de la consulta previa de los Pueblos Indígenas en América Latina”. Es una recopilación del estado de consulta previa a Pueblos Indígenas en diversos países de América Latina como Bolivia, Brasil, Colombia, Guatemala, México, Panamá y Perú. Los diferentes autores del libro elaboran ensayos sobre los avances jurídicos en cuanto al reconocimiento de este derecho en los respectivos países, tanto a nivel nacional como internacional.

El libro está disponible en español aquí.