Thursday, December 17, 2015

Recognizing the Rights of Communities and Knowledge Holders in Climate Change Adaptation – UNFCCC COP21 Side Event

Ms. Swiderska, Dr. Reid, Mr. Argumendo, Dr. Song, Dr. Castro, Dr. Traynor & Mr. Le Fleur
(Photo courtesy of Matt Wright/IIED)

During the recent UN Climate Change Conference in Paris (30th November – 12th December), the Adaptation Committee released its 2015 Overview Report “Enhancing Coherent Action on Adaptation 2012-2015”, the publication provides information on adaptation to Parties and the broader adaptation community. Within the report the Adaptation Committee recommends that Parties underline the importance of indigenous and traditional knowledge (I&TK), and encourage their integration into National Adaptation Plans (NAPs). They suggest, one way that this integration can be supported is through enhancing the accountability and enforcing implementation of existing laws, rules and procedures dealing with I&TK and practices thus ensuring recognition of the rights of communities and holders of I&TK and practices throughout the adaptation process.

Natural Justice’s Dr. Cath Traynor’s presentation entitled “Indigenous Knowledge in Climate Change Adaptation: Recognition of the Rights of Communities and Knowledge Holders” spoke directly to this issue. Dr. Traynor was part of a panel on the NJ, GTA, IIED co-hosted Side Event “Supporting Poor, Vulnerable, and Indigenous Communities”, 7th December, 2015. Dr. Traynor introduced preliminary findings of the “Empowering Indigenous Peoples and Knowledge Systems Related to Climate Change Adaptation and Intellectual Property Rights” OCSDNet project, these included reflections on the university research ethics procedures, which although they seek to ensure the protection of and consent from human subjects, at the same time secures power relations, between ‘expert’ researchers who are seen to produce knowledge and vulnerable subjects who produce mere data. Efforts towards more open and collaborative research needs to understand these complex tensions that shape, and are shaped by, knowledge production and engage critically in the ethics procedures themselves. To ensure that community rights are recognized in adaptation, community-researcher contracts have also been developed, their purpose is to ensure that community intellectual property in adaptation is controlled and protected in accordance with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and South African Policies and Laws. Mr. Reino Le Fleur, Indigenous Griqua youth representative and Community Co-Researcher on the OCSDNet project, then shared his experiences and his plans for connecting youth with I&TK of their elders, a linkage which in some communities in South Africa is being lost due to the historical dispossession of lands, and the negative impacts of colonisation, apartheid and globalisation upon traditional livelihoods.

During the Side Event, Ms. Krystyna Swiderska (IIED), Mr. Alejandro Argumento (ANDES) and Dr. Yinching Song (Centre for Chinese Agricultural Policy, Chinese Academy of Science) discussed the importance of biocultural heritage in adaptation practices and highlighted 5 key actions and the benefits of farmer to farmer seed networks

Dr. Carlos Potiatra Castro (University of Brazillia/GTA) then shared experiences from the development of the Bailique Community Protocol, Brazil. The process entailed integrating customary norms and internal governance structures into the protocol, consideration of national and international legislation as it applies to the communities and public policies that they have a right to access. To date, the process has resulted in land regularisation, and empowerment of the communities to negotiate with external actors. The community protocol approach is highly relevant to landscape scale mitigation and adaptation programmes and projects and could also contribute to REDD+ as a recent Policy Brief illustrates (search for “BCPs” here).

Dr. Hannah Reid (IIED) then summarised a study that aimed to quantify the funding for local adaptation activities against ten principles intended to guide good ‘quality’ funding allocations. Projects scored well in terms of effectiveness, flexibility and sustainability but poorly on transparency, accountability and urgency.

The session drew to a close with questions from the audience, which included asking how a community is defined, and the pro’s and con’s of an I&TK database, and a wrap-up from Mr. Delfin Ganapin (UNDP-GEF Small Grants Programme). Presentations and related materials can be found on the UNFCCC Side Events webpage, search for the “Natural Justice” adaptation session held at 15:00-16:30 hrs, Monday 07 December, 2015. 

Monday, December 14, 2015

Rooibos Traditional Knowledge holders meet with Industry

Rooibos industry
Mr. Cecil Le Fleur, Chairman, National KhoiSan Council
The San and Khoi are the rightful knowledge holders regards traditional knowledge related to the rooibos plant, and they are currently negotiating with the rooibos industry in terms of the South African Access and Benefit Sharing legislation. They are legally supported by Lesle Jansen from Natural Justice and Roger Chennells from Albertyn Chennells Inc.   A basic industry-wide agreement is being sought, based purely upon traditional knowledge in the light of the South African legislation, which will simplify the access and benefit sharing and permitting requirements for the rooibos industry. The traditional rooibos farming communities will be the primary beneficiaries under any agreement reached.  The agreement will have significant benefits not only for the Khoi and San traditional knowledge holders, but also for the rooibos industry.  These stakeholders met on 2nd December 2015 in Clanwilliam to further develop these negotiations.

Harvested rooibos, South Africa

Traditional rooibos farming communities from Wupperthal and surrounding areas, South Africa

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Are We There Yet?: Grievance Mechanisms of DFIs Meet with Civil Society in Paris to Discuss the Grievance System

How can the rights of communities be protected in the face of global development? The answer is complex, but one part of it involves the grievance mechanisms development finance institutions (DFIs). Over 20 years ago, the World Bank created the first of these mechanisms, called the Inspection Panel, in order to provide a venue for communities impacted by Bank funded projects to assert their rights. Today , most of the major DFIs have a grievance mechanism, which are often called independent accountability mechanisms or IAMs.

The IAMs first started meeting annually as a network in 2003, and for the last three years, the meetings have included a day where civil society participates. These meetings provide a space for sharing of information and experiences, and for civil society to advocate for improvements and raise issues related to the IAMs' operations. This year, the meeting was held in Paris on 9 December 2015 on the sidelines of the UN climate conference. The agenda included three main issues. The first panel discussed the status of grievance mechanisms for emerging financing mechanisms to combat global warming, such as the Green Climate Fund. The second panel addressed the launch of a report by Human Rights Watch on reprisals against those who criticize World Bank projects. The last panel provided an opportunity to discuss a new report that several organizations, including Natural Justice, worked on to analyze the effectiveness of IAMs and their associated DFIs from a human rights perspective. This report will be launched in January 2016, and it will mark a new phase of advocacy around and collaboration with IAMs and DFIs to improve the system as a whole.

Representatives of the IAMs congratulated civil society on the report, noting that it was an effort that needed to be undertaken. They recognized the importance of transparency and learning lessons in the accountability process. While they raised some questions around how data in the report was interpreted, overall they agreed with the report's conclusions.

Although there are many critical aspects to meetings such as these, one of the most important is that they take place at all. If you spend enough time in international development conferences, you will often hear lip service paid to the need for civil society keep states and institutions in check, to articulate responsibilities, and to call attention to transgressions. At the same time, civil society is often marginalized, whether directly persecuted in certain countries or by more general efforts to limit participation. However, the meetings with the IAMs do provide an important opportunity to share information, discuss ways of collaborating, and call for overall improvements in the system. In light of the  ambitious infrastructure and other development projects planned in the coming decades, and the increasingly complex methods for financing these projects, the collaboration between the IAMs and civil society will be critical for ensuring that communities' human rights are truly integrated into sustainable development.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Start of a new community protocol process in Boeny, Madagascar

Cinnamosma fragrans
From 25-27 November 2015, representatives of the local communities of the municipality of Mariarano, Madagascar, came together to discuss their aspirations and challenges regarding the valorization of Cinnamosma fragrans, and to exchange views with other actors involved in the value chain. The communities explored the advantages and possible elements of a Community Protocol to clarify conditions for access to their resources and benefit sharing, and to facilitate dialogue with commercial users, researchers and government authorities. The meetings took place in Mahajanga and were organized by the GIZ “Programme d’Appui à laGestion de l’Environnement” (PAGE) with input from Natural Justice. 
Madagascar is currently developing its national framework to implement the Nagoya Protocol on Access to genetic resources and Benefit Sharing (ABS). Cinnamosma fragrans, locally known as "Mandravasarotra" or "Motrobe", is one of the most sought after medicinal plants in the region of Boeny, in North-West Madagascar. It is used traditionally to treat a number of diseases and sold on the national and international market as an essential oil. 
Community representatives discuss the issues
to share with other actors of the Motrobe value chain
In a first internal meeting, the community representatives shared their aspirations and the challenges they are facing with the valorization of Motrobe. The issues include a lack of transparency in the issuing and enforcement of collection permits, the challenge for the communities to negotiate better prices with private operators, and inadequate sharing of benefits for example from collection fees. PAGE introduced ABS and the Nagoya Protocol, and Natural Justice shared information on the development and use of Community Protocols and examples from other communities in the region.
In the second meeting, participants from the local communities, the private sector and government administration exchanged their views on the challenges and possible improvements around the Motrobe value chain. Finally, the community representatives came back together to discuss the way forward. They decided to create a new Union to improve their coordination, agreed on the usefulness of developing a Community Protocol as the basis for their interactions with other actors, and discussed the main elements of such a protocol. Natural Justice and PAGE will be assisting them in 2016 to facilitate the process.