Friday, February 12, 2016

New Publication: Protecting Community Lands & Resources in Africa

In November 2013, 30 pioneering community and civil society experts from across Africa gathered together in South Africa at the first Africa Regional Symposium for Community Land and Natural Resource Protection (see our original blog here) to share experiences and practical strategies in the battle to protect community land and natural resources. 

Out of this symposium came a commitment to share these practical experiences, success stories, challenges and resources through the development of a publication by these experts and other community partners, with Natural Justice and Namati. 

At a time where threats to community lands and natural resources are peak, "Protecting Community Lands and Resources in Africa: Grassroots Advocates' Strategies and Lessons" is an exciting and innovative collection of case studies written by advocates, for advocates in Africa. Many thanks to Ford Foundation Southern Africa for its support. For a PDF version of the document, please see here

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.

Monday, November 30, 2015

UN Climate Change COP21 Side Event: Monday 7th December 2015


When: Monday 7 December, 15:00 – 16:30 hrs
Where: COP21/CMP11, Parc des Expositions, Le Bourget conference site, side event room - OR 03

This event will share a variety of recent research concerning:

  • Supporting the adaptation practices and traditional knowledge (TK) of Indigenous peoples and local communities, and the importance of biocultural heritage.
  •  The protection of knowledge holders and the sharing of TK in adaptation initiatives.
  •  The role of community protocols as a tool to reach the most vulnerable communities through participation and biodiversity legislation.
  •  The quantity and quality of adaptation finance reaching those most in need.
Who: Dr. Hannah Reid, International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED)

Ms. Krystyna Swiderska, (IIED), Mr. Alejandro Argumedo (ANDES), Peru & Dr. Yiching Song (Centre for Chinese Agricultural Policy, Chinese Academy of Science)

Dr. Cath Traynor (Natural Justice) & Mr. Reino Le Fleur (Griqua representative)

Ms. Roberta Ramos, Grupo de Trabalho Amazonico (GTA), & Munduruku representative

Dr. Carlos Potiatra Castro, University of Brasilia

Mr. Delfin Ganapin, UNDP-GEF Small Grants Programme

You are invited to find out more at this side event. Light snacks will be served at 14.45 hrs.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Kukula Traditional Health Practitioners Association Explore Opportunities with Skukuza Indigenous Plant Nursery, Kruger National Park, South Africa

KTHPA  SANParks staff at Nkuhlu
Enclosure (Photo:  Cath Traynor)
KTHPA discussing medicinal plants with
SANParks staff (Photo: Cath Traynor)

The Kukula Traditional Health Practitioners Association (KTHPA) of Bushbuckridge, South Africa visited Kruger National Park’s Skukuza Indigenous Plant Nursery earlier this year. The Kukula were invited by Michele Hofmeyr, the Manager of the nursery after she attended the Kukula’s Biocultural Community Protocol (BCP) Revision Workshop. The aim of the visit was to explore areas of mutual interest: South African National Parks (SANParks) is developing a list of medicinal plant species of interest to communities in the bufferzone areas of the park, and KTHPA are interested to access propagules of medicinal plant species that only occur within the park.
Members of the Kukula spent an afternoon in the nursery, looking at the existing stock of medicinal plant species, learning how the different species are propagated, and discussing which species may be suitable for KTHPA to propagate themselves. The following day, Nursery staff joined the Kukula on a walk in the Nkuhlu Enclosure, a 139 ha fenced area consisting of dense woody vegetation thickets along the Sabie and Crocodile Rivers. The KTHPA members identified species of particular interest, and SANParks staff collected specimens so that scientific names could be ascertained.

The nursery kindly donated seedlings and plants to the Kukula, including saplings of the pepper-bark tree (Warburgia salutaris), this is a highly sought-after medicinal plant, which is critically endangered, and one that the nursery is cultivating on a large-scale.

KTHPA at SANParks Skukuza
Indigenous Plant Nursery
(Photo: Cath Traynor)
Michele Hofmeyer, SANParks
Skukuza Indigenous Plants Nursery 
Manager sharing her knowledge regards
successfully germinating different
plant species (Photo: Cath Traynor)
Natural Justice, together with partners K2C and Wits Rural Facility are supporting the Kukula Traditional Health Practitioners to revise their BCP, and to utilize it to constructively engage with external stakeholders such as SANParks. Running throughout South Africa’s legislation on conservation is the balance between conservation on the one hand and sustainable use for the benefit of communities on the other. Through collaborations such as these KTHPA hope to both conserve biodiversity and to advance the health of their communities through their traditional healing practices.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Workshop on Financing of Infrastructure Held During World Bank's Annual Meetings

(WBG Logo)

On 10 October 2015, during the World Bank's annual meetings in Lima, Peru, several civil society organizations under the leadership of Eurodad and the Center of Concern hosted a Strategy Workshop on "Financing of infrastructure: global and regional trends and impacts on sustainable development and human rights." At the workshop, participants noted several trends regarding the financing of infrastructure, including the growing reliance on private sources to fund large infrastructure projects and the lack of transparency of institutions that provide financing, such as the Brazilian Development Bank. Participants also noted the challenges that communities face when decisions on mega (and even larger) projects are made as part of discussions to which they have no access. Finally, it was noted how difficult it can be to monitor financing for development projects when the money is directed through financial intermediaries. To begin addressing these and other challenges, participants decided on several outcomes, including:

- The need for a mailing list to link different databases on projects, related information and news about legislative changes in order to facilitate responses to infrastructure projects in the region. In this context it was decided to revitalize the "IFIs en la mira" list, which works in Spanish; and

- The formation of a group of volunteers to drive the work on such a list. The group will focus on holding a strategy meeting to take place early next year, developing a methodology for surveying legislative changes to facilitate infrastructure projects and their financing, and building a roadmap for interdisciplinary work on cross-cutting issues emerging in the implementation of megaprojects. Additionally, it will seek to ensure that relevant information is shared among different groups, including those working on the World Bank, the G20, and others.

These outcomes provide a good basis for further collaboration in this field. In particular, Natural Justice and Columbia University, together with the Heinrich Boll Foundation and Center of Concern will hold a workshop in March 2016 that will examine the trends of development finance and the state of accountability in financing large infrastructure projects. 

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Community conservation initiates: A legitimate solution to climate change and conservation

Fostering Community Conservation Conference Closing Panel: Ms. Vahanen (14th FAO World Forestry Congress), Dr. Campbell (Forest & Farm Facility), Dr. Namirembe (World Agroforestry Centre), Ms. Mulenkei (International Alliance for Indigenous and Tribal Peoples of the Tropical Forests), Dr. Traynor (Natural Justice), Dr. Palenova (All-Russia Research Institute) & Mr. Seiber (Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation). Photo courtesy of  Ronnie Hall/Critical Information Collective
Partner’s Global Forest Coalition have just released a Community Conservation Special Edition of their newsletter ‘Forest Cover’. The editorial highlights that community conservation initiatives are a real legitimate solution to conservation, ecosystem restoration and climate change. Articles include the role of Indigenous and community conservation in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Indicators for the 2030 Vision “Transforming Our World” and Natural Justice’s Cath Traynor contributed a piece summarizing the recent “Fostering Community Conservation Conference” and Relevance for the upcoming meetings of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

Two CBD meetings are being held this week in Montreal, Canada; they are the Nineteenth meeting of the Subsidiary Body of Scientific and Technical Advice, which will consider strategic scientific and technical issues related to the implementation of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020; and the Ninth meeting of the Ad Hoc Open-Ended Working Group on Article 8(j) of the CBD. This will consider, among others, issues related to Prior, Informed Consent of communities for accessing their knowledge, equitable sharing of benefits, and regional cooperation in the protection and sharing of traditional knowledge. The findings and recommendations from the Fostering Community Conservation Conference as well as the reports from the individual country studies provide clear evidence that community conserved areas are legitimate initiatives that bring about real and consistent results in the interests of conservation and human well-being.

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.