Friday, January 30, 2015

Seeking Justice at the International Level - New Guide Published by Natural Justice

Grievance mechanisms are one avenue for indigenous peoples and local communities to have addressed issues and concerns arising from impact by projects, such as those related to extractive industries and infrastructure. However, the processes and procedures of grievance mechanisms are often buried deep in operational policies and guidelines catering toward technocrats, rather than those communities likely to need them. Thus, much work has been done to develop and improve communities’ access to grievance mechanisms by producing publications that break down and explain such mechanisms in a more user-friendly way. 

The goal  of this document ‘Seeking Justice at the International Level: A short guide to Regional and International Grievance and Advocacy Mechanisms For Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities’, is to provide a brief overview of relevant mechanisms that communities can use to potentially address an issue, to get a sense of the focus of each mechanism and in what contexts they might be useful.


Natural Justice: lawyers for communities and the environment is expanding its Nairobi, Kenya office and seeking to hire a full-time lawyer to assist in its projects, with a particular focus on supporting communities impacted by infrastructure and extractive industry projects. The successful candidate will be based in Nairobi.

The role of the lawyer will include: providing legal advice to indigenous and/or marginalised communities and their supporting local organisations (including supporting the development and use of community protocols); supporting communities and community partners in strategizing and addressing infrastructure or extractive industry projects, community land and resource laws; conducting research on LAPSSET and other infrastructure projects; preparing legal pleadings, undertaking litigation and/or briefing counsel; working closely with project coordinators in Kenya and South Africa; providing technical advice to County Government and relevant government agencies; attending relevant meetings and workshops within Kenya, Africa and internationally.

The deadline for applications is 2nd March, 2015, 17:00 GMT. Interviews will commence in early March. Please email your application to Gino Cocchiaro (gino(at)naturaljustice(dot)org) with the job title in the subject line. Include a motivation letter that indicates why you feel you are the best candidate for this position, a detailed CV with three references, and maximum three samples of your past work (for example, articles, research reports or court submissions). Please ensure that your application as a whole speaks to the required skills and experience and desirable traits and attributes listed above. For further details, see  Call for applications: Legal Officer, Kenya.

Community-Company Engagement: “Good” Practice in Extractive Industries

The extractive industries, including mining, oil and gas, continue to have large-scale and systemic impacts on indigenous peoples and local communities that live on or near such projects. Communities, whether they seek to resist the entry of extractive industries on their lands – due to the well-known history of gross violations of their rights as a result of mining activities or due to lack of obvious benefits – or whether they seek to cooperate with the hope of obtaining some benefits, will usually interact with companies in some form or another. 

Over the past years companies and communities have increasingly engaged through amicable means. These types of ‘community-company engagements’ have taken a broad range of interactions inducing dialogue throughout a project’s life cycle, including specific negotiations, agreements and accompanying mechanisms such as grievance mechanisms and development funds. This paper  by Marie Wilke, Laura Letourneau-Tremblay and Stephanie Booker seeks to examine community-company engagement through the lens of communities that, for a variety of reasons, struggle to engage with companies and who seek to use these types of agreements to formalize their role in the process, to obtain clear commitments on key points such as the scope of impact assessments, to draw up mechanisms that can address potential conflicts and to set the stage for more comprehensive socio-economic participation negotiations at a later stage.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Review of RSPO's Complaints System Published

In 2014, Natural Justice was involved in two projects concerning the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). First, from April to November 2014, Natural Justice undertook a review of RSPO’s complaints system in collaboration with BC Initiative, Sdn. Bhd. The review arose from a resolution adopted at the 2012 General Assembly entitled “Guaranteeing Fairness, Transparency and Impartiality in the RSPO Complaints System” and called for the current complaints system to be improved in light of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (particularly Principle 31 on non-judicial grievance mechanisms). After three interim reports and an extensive consultation process, the final report was submitted in December and is publicly available online here.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Natural Justice Awarded OCSDNet Grant

Natural Justice is proud to have been awarded an OCSDNet Grant to focus on Empowering Indigenous Peoples and Knowledge Systems Related to Climate Change and Intellectual Property Rights  This 24-month project, led by principle researcher Dr. Cath Traynor, examines processes of open and collaborative science related to indigenous peoples’ knowledge, climate change, and intellectual property. It assumes and challenges practices of open and collaborative science as a process, one that should involve modes of being both open and closed. 

The notion of science as “open” and nature as “freely accessible” has historically been used to exploit countries in the global south such as South Africa. British and Dutch colonial scientists, for example, characterized land and resources in South Africa as “belonging to no one” under the doctrine of terra nullius in order to take biodiverse plants and produce botanical science. The notion that knowledge and resources should be open and accessible has therefore been historically used to construct South Africa as a mere supplier of raw material, rather than producer of scientific knowledge. In particular, indigenous peoples’ knowledge, resources, and heritage have been cast as free for the taking. More on the project, and the full proposal submitted by Natural Justice is accessible here.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Supporting and Strengthening Communities in Marsabit County, Kenya

Aside from being one of the rockiest parts of East Africa, Marsabit County is the second largest county in Kenya, covering at least 15% of the country’s entire territory. Straddling along the boundary between Kenya and her northern neighbor Ethiopia, this county has over 14 different ethnic groups who call it home with sundry livelihoods: including pastoralists, fishermen, hunter-gatherers and small-scale agriculturalists. This large pocket of Kenya also embodies a most diverse landscape, from the ever foggy and freezing highlands formed from historically volcanic mountains near Marsabit Town to a much warmer low lying rugged terrain spanning thousands of square kilometers, and the world’s largest desert lake – the threatened UNESCO World Heritage Site, Lake Turkana.

From the 4th to the 11th of December, Shalom Ndiku and Achieng Orero, of Natural Justice’s Kenya office, partook in the Kalacha Cultural Food and Music Festival 2014 hosted by the Kivulini Trust. In addition to that, they also facilitated a Regional Workshop for the LAPSSET Community Forum (LCF) communities in Marsabit County through the able assistance of Golbo Integrated and the Heinrich Boll Foundation East and Horn of Africa’s Office.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Workshop on Compliance Monitoring and Ground-truthing, 8th-9th December, 2014

The Natural Justice India team of eight members attended a workshop about Compliance monitoring and ground-truthing in the context of industries. The two day workshop held on the 8th and 9th of December was facilitated by NAMATI represented by Manju Menon and Kanchi Kohli. The first day of the workshop focussed on the process of ground-truthing and how to extrapolate and filter through multiple available legal data and clearance papers. This was followed by an exercise where the participants were divided into groups and collectively went through various official documents where the content was dissected to check for loopholes within compliance conditions. This exercise enabled the participants in a detailed structural industrial review comprising of reading and analysis of official documents such as letters of environmental clearance, reports on environment impact assessment and compliances etc. 

Day two of the workshop was about following up of the ground-truthing methodology within a context. The discussion was kept significantly contextual where a possibility of paralegal involvement as an important methodology was explored. The process of identifying and training paralegals was discussed. Since monitoring is often an issue when one is not based in the context, constant monitoring is included within the ground-truthing process. It was pointed out that the ground-truthing method can also get ingrained in the larger praxis of community involvement and process of paralegal training, also specifically along the lines of a participatory research project.

UN Human Rights Experts Reject World Bank's Proposed Replacement of Safeguard Policies

Anyone following the ongoing update to the World Bank's environmental and social safeguard policies (safeguard policies) would do well to read the 12 December 2014 letter to Bank president Jim Yong Kim from the special procedures mandate-holders of the United Nations Human Rights Council (special procedures). According to the special procedures, contrary to President Kim's repeated reassurances, the draft Environmental and Social Framework (ESF) is a dilution of the safeguard policies they are supposed to replace.

While the special procedures address several issues, they make three critical points:

First, the special procedures note that while the international community has accepted that development must respect human rights, the Bank is "an increasingly isolated outlier" in failing to commit to human rights requirements in the draft ESF. Second, they refute the Bank's oft-repeated claim that taking human rights considerations seriously will put the Bank at a competitive disadvantage. Not only does the Bank's view accelerate a race to the bottom, it is also irrelevant given that human rights are a matter of legal obligation. This relates to the special procedures' third point, which is that not only is the Bank bound by international law; so too are the Bank's 188 member states, all of which have ratified at least one of the core international human rights treaties. The Bank has a "due diligence responsibility" not to be complicit in states' violations of their human rights obligations.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Lima Call for Climate Action

The 20th Session of the Conference of Parties (COP) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change wrapped up over two weeks of negotiations with the release of the ‘Lima Call for Climate Action’. This decision will be the basis of the global climate agreement expected in 2015, and its annex contains elements for a draft negotiating text.

A key component of this agreement are country climate pledges known as ‘intended nationally determined contributions’ (INDCs), these are a countries contribution towards achieving the Conventions ultimate objective, which is to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. Crucially each country is expected to outline their INDCs, and thus the old firewall of developed and developing countries has been breached, and developing countries now have commitments. Countries will communicate these during the early part of 2015 or by the start of October 2015 at the latest, and the UNFCCC secretariat will produce a synthesis report of their aggregate effect. It was agreed that these contributions will be an improvement on a countries existing undertakings, however, missing from the text was the need for an ex-ante review of these commitments, and no common, comprehensive reporting methodologies were specified. This means it will be difficult to assess the potential impact of these commitments over time and also to compare approaches between countries. It is likely that IDRCs will focus on mitigation, as countries are not obliged to provide information on their adaptation plans, although they are free to do so if they wish.

New Publication: South Africa Legal Review

Supported by Ford Foundation Southern Africa, Natural Justice has coordinated a series of legal reviews in Southern Africa, examining the national laws and policies that support or undermine indigenous peoples and local communities. The second of these legal reviews focuses on the legal and policy frameworks in South Africa, examining human rights, land and freshwater, protected areas and sacred natural sites, natural resources and extraction.

This is the second of a series of legal reviews for Southern Africa. You can find the South African legal review here.