Thursday, July 17, 2014

Human Rights Website Spotlights Conduct of Over 5600 Companies

The Business & Human Rights Resource Centre (BHR) launched its multi-lingual, re-designed website. The site shines a spotlight on the human rights conduct of over 5600 companies globally: it includes advances they are making, allegations of human rights abuse, and how they are responding to concerns.

Key new features include:
  • Full navigation and homepages in seven languages: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, Portuguese and Spanish;
  •  “Big Issue” areas on topics ranging from information technology and human rights, to the UN Guiding Principles and calls for a binding international treaty;
  • A searchable record of over 2000 approaches to companies, inviting them to respond to allegations of human rights abuse (with a global response rate of 70%);
  • Commentary and blog posts by BHR’s global team, and easily-accessible regional and sector-specific briefing papers; and
  • An effective search so users can get quickly to what they need.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Natural Justice Engagement in Mutare, Zimbabwe

Natural Justice worked with members of the Marange and Arda Transsau communities from 7-8 July in Manicaland in Zimbabwe, to support the development of the community's biocultural community protocol. All were involved in peer-to-peer learning activities designed to support the collection of materials for the community's biocultural community protocol. Activities included institution and resource mapping, mapping of community and other development activities within the communities, now and historically, development of historical timelines and role play activities.

The two day workshop was an incredibly rich opportunity to engage in endogenous development and participatory action research methodologies by Natural Justice and community members alike.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Food and Climate Justice Research Validation Workshop Held

Natural Justice's Cath Traynor of joined Oxfam and partners at a Research Validation Workshop, on 8th July 2014, Pretoria Johannesburg. During the workshop a number of preliminary research pieces were presented, these included a review of the effects of climate change and adaptation mechanisms on women and small-holder farmers in Africa, a review of SADC level policies and protocols, and investments in agriculture, that affect women small-holder farmers. The preliminary findings were discussed and critiqued by participants. 

Country level research reports from several SADC countries were presented, and the specific climate change impacts, challenges and opportunities facing women small-holder farmers highlighted. A clear picture emerged, that women small-holder farmers, the majority of whom are reliant upon rainfed-agriculture, are particularly vulnerable to the negative impacts of climate change.  Although there are some supportive policies, the realization of these on the ground is challenging at the national level.  Participants discussed ways to improve and develop the research and brain stormed potential policy products which could be developed and used for advocacy.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

New Report Published on the Impacts of Mining in Uganda

Focusing on Uganda’s Bunyoro region,  the report reveals how mining is significantly threatening ecosystems and communities.  It advocates for the recognition and protection of watersheds, food sovereignty areas, and Sacred Natural Sites and Territories as No Go Areas for mining and extractive activities.

Mining and extractive activities are growing rapidly in Uganda and across Africa. The Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development in Uganda estimates there are 3.5 billion barrels of oil and gas deposits in Uganda’s Albertine region alone.  The impacts of mining are of grave concern to communities and civil society organisations across Uganda and beyond.

The Origins of the Khoekhoen in Southern Africa

Prof Smith addressing participants
Natural Justice met with Professor Andrew B. Smith, emeritus professor in the Department of Archaeology at the University of Cape Town, Cecil le Fleur, the Chairperson of the National Khoi & San Council also attended the meeting.

Prof Smith has specialized in the origins and development of herding societies of Africa, he has excavated key sites and worked with Khoekhoen (Khoi) descents in South Africa. Prof Smith introduced the Khoekhoen, who were aboriginal herders in the Western and Southern Cape, South Africa and Namibia. The Khoekhoen were similar to other transhumant pastoralists, their livelihoods were based on stock and they moved with their herds on a seasonal basis. 

Prof. Smith pieced together evidence from archaeological excavation sites, including animal bones, pottery shards, and stone tools, which together with an examination of the linguistic origins of the very diverse Khoekhoen language, and genetic DNA analysis of Khoi descendants, indicates that the Khoekhoen herders are linked to East Africa. The various evidence suggests that the Khoekhoen arrived in the Western Cape approximately 2200 years before present, and that they had migrated with their herds, which were predominately sheep, from the North, probably East Africa.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Developing FPIC Guidance for Oil Palm Companies

Indigenous community representative from West Malaysia.
Though not without its critics, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) is an important forum for developing voluntary certification standards and has the potential to tip the balance of the industry in favour of a more viable path for conservation and people, alongside economic development.

In 2008, Forest Peoples Programme published a guide to free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) for RSPO member companies. With the recent revision of the RSPO's Principles and Criteria, Forest Peoples Programme is accordingly updating the FPIC guidance in collaboration with Natural Justice and other members of the new Human Rights Working Group. As part of this process, the first of two stakeholder consultation workshops was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, from 30 June to 1 July. The objectives of the meeting were:
  • To listen to the views of all parties on what constitutes a successful process for recognising the right of indigenous peoples, local communities and other users to give or withhold their FPIC to land acquisition for the establishment of oil palm plantings;
  • To learn lessons from communities, companies, auditors and NGOs and from Social Impact Assessments, complaints and dispute resolution about what has and has not worked;
  • To contribute insights into how the RSPO Guide for Companies on FPIC can be strengthened; and
  • To examine more broadly FPIC in relation to the planning and establishment of oil palm holdings, including the possibility of joint ventures with communities, communities leasing lands, communities as smallholders and other options.
Participants included representatives of Indigenous peoples from West Malaysia, Sabah, and Sarawak, supporting NGOs, oil palm companies, and RSPO Secretariat staff. Holly Jonas (Natural Justice) presented on FPIC in international law. The outcomes of this and the second workshop in Jakarta (to be held in late July) will be incorporated into the revised guidance, release of which is planned for the next RSPO Roundtable in November. For any questions, please contact holly (at)

Monday, June 30, 2014

Supreme Court of Canada Grants Aboriginal title over Tsilhqot'in First Nation land

A Supreme Court of Canada decision has granted the Tsilhqot'in First Nation of British Columbia Aboriginal title over a wide area of traditional territory. The unanimous 8-0 decision, gives the Tsilhqot'in First Nation rights to more than 1,700 square kilometers of land. The group now has rights to the land, the right to use land and the right to profit from the land. Reports indicate that this is the Supreme Court's first on Aboriginal title, and can be used as a precedent wherever there are unresolved land claims.

In 2012, the B.C. Court of Appeal granted the Tsilhqot'in rights to hunt, trap and trade in its traditional territory, but agreed with both the federal and provincial governments that the Tsilhqot'in must indicate specific sites where its people had lived instead of claiming a broad area. The Tsilhqot'in criticized that initial decision, arguing that they had traditionally never resided permanently in one area of the land and that the government had failed to consider their traditional way of life.

This decision by the Supreme Court of Canada now requires governments to meet one of two criteria before conducting economic development on Aboriginal land.

Natural Justice holds BLINC Workshop in Bangalore

BLINC, a two day workshop-cum-exhibition organised by Natural Justice and designed by the LED Laboratory at the Srishti School of Art,  Design, and Technology, was held in Bangalore on June 27 and 28, 2014. BLINC’s vision is to bring Balance in the Landscape though Imagination, Negotiation and Collaboration. The Workshop brought together NGOs, academics, activists, designers and individuals or groups interested in the overarching theme of ‘Asserting community rights over the environment’.

FAO's State of the World's Forests 2014 Report Published

FAO has just published 'State of the World's Forests 2014'. The report – available here, along with various other briefs - looks a the potential that the world’s forests, trees on farms, and agroforestry systems have in supporting the livelihoods of rural people by providing employment, energy, nutritious foods and a wide range of other goods and ecosystem services. There has been a lack of clear evidence of this, which the report seeks to address by systematically gathering and analyzing available data on forests’ contributions to people’s livelihoods, food, health, shelter, and energy needs.

"Catching a Leopard by its Tail": SBSTTA 18 Wraps Up, Ahead of COP12

SBSTTA Chair Gemedo Dalle Tussie
The 18th meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA) closed on 28 June 2014 after six intensive days of discussions and negotiations among the Parties and observers. In keeping with the format first used at the SBSTTA 17 in October 2013, the CBD Secretariat developed official and information documents, but left the task of developing draft recommendation to committees convened during the meeting. As the Chair of SBSTTA Gemedo Dalle Tussie (Ethiopia) stated in opening the meeting, this format was akin to catching a leopard by the tail, and once you have done so, you must hold on tight.