Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Role and Place of African Customary Law and Traditional Leadership in Constitutional Democracies – Civil Society Perspectives

“As you start walking, the way finds you”, this was the quote which opened the recent workshop on ‘The Role and Place of African Customary Law and Traditional Leadership in Constitutional Democracies – Civil Society Perspectives’. The objectives were to learn from African regional system and experiences about African Customary institutions and leadership, and to understand civil society perspectives including those of women, youth, elders, rural communities, and activists  around the relevance and place of culture, its institutions, and leadership in post-apartheid South Africa then to explore strengthening the ‘Traditional and Khoi-San Leadership Bill, 2015’. The South African Parliament has enacted the Bill which will provide for the recognition of traditional and Khoi-San communities, leadership positions and for the withdrawal of such recognition. The workshop was organised and hosted by Natural Justice with the support from OSISA and the Heinrich Boell Foundation.

Dr. Albert Barume & Mr. Stan Henkeman
The workshop began with a framing by Natural Justice’s Lesle Jansen, followed by a session setting out the issues around the Bill by Dr. Ademole Jegede, University of Venda. A keynote address on ‘Indigenous Peoples and local communities and their customary institutions within the African regional system’ was then presented by Dr. Albert Barume, United Nations Expert Mechanism on Rights of Indigenous Peoples and Expert Member of the African Commissions’ Working Group on Indigenous Populations. Dr. Barume outlined how Africa is currently “re-booting” itself, and shifting from the decades long perspective of building culturally homogenous nation states to recognizing and respecting cultural diversity and allowing it to flourish within a democratic system. He outlined how traditional values and institutions are beginning to be realized with the legal and policy frameworks of the African Union, and that the AU’s ‘Agenda 2063 – the Future we want for Africa’ highlights the importance of African culture and traditions for development. Mr. John Nakuta, Director Human Rights Documentation Centre, Namibia then discussed experiences from post-independent Namibia regarding traditional authorities, their constitutional and statutory recognition, power, duties, functions, government support and challenges. He outlined the importance that traditional authorities be apolitical, must be consistent with all human rights and guard against tribalism.

Panel Discussion: Mr. Zenzile Khoisan, Ms. Constance Mogale, Mr. Henk Smit, Mr. Ivan Vaalboi & moderator Mr. Delme Cupido (OSISA)

During the second day of the workshop civil society perspectives on culture and traditional leadership were shared through a series of panel discussions, these included youth, women, elders, a traditional healer, and activists. Issues that surfaced included recognition for the Khoi and San, restitution and restoration, land, whether the bill undermines or promotes culture and custom, political objectives of the bill, that the bill may reinforce apartheid boundaries, and concerns around elite capture. The bill provides for the long overdue recognition of Khoi and San people, and the bill has currently been passed from government to Parliament. There will shortly be public consultations on the bill and the discussions from the workshop will be further developed into a policy brief for submission.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Increased pledges for climate financing highlight the need for responsive accountability mechanisms

Recently at the Annual Meeting of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund in Lima, several institutions indicated that the amount of climate financing would need to be scaled up dramatically in the near future. The Executive Director of the Green Climate Fund (GCF), requested that the Paris Agreement scale up the Financial Mechanism of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and she also highlighted the need for further funds. The GCF is the operating entity of the UNFCCC Financial Mechanism and the largest climate fund. At the same meeting the World Bank Group revealed that it plans to increase its climate financing to potentially amount to US$ 29 billion per year, thus by 2020 the Bank Group could be allocating more than a quarter of its funds towards climate financing. Currently, the World Bank is the interim Trustee for the GCF. Other institutions followed suit, for example the African Development Bank (AfDB) announced that it foresees climate financing accounting for 40% (or US$ 5 billion annually) of its total investments by 2020.

Climate finance is a key element of the draft text for the UNFCCC agreement, released on 5 October 2015, which contains the basis for the negotiation of the Paris Agreement. To ensure climate financing is transparent and accountable there should be participatory decision-making, implementation and monitoring processes. Lessons from other multilateral financing initiatives has shown that civil society engagement is fundamental to ensuring accountability. The options for Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) to help ensure a robust, well-functioning, and responsive accountability mechanism within the GCF were explored in a Briefing Paper, commissioned by Transparency International (TI), and authored by Both ENDS with contributions from Natural Justice earlier this year. The Briefing Paper was submitted to the GFC Board ahead of its 10th meeting in July, and the findings also contributed to a submission by TI in response to the GCF’s Call for Public Inputs on the Monitoring and Evaluation Framework.

As we head towards a possible agreement at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in November/December in Paris, and consequent implementation of the Convention thereafter, accessible grievance mechanisms which fairly and effectively handle grievances related to corruption  and/or violations of social-environmental safeguards will be essential.