Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Natural Justice's Blog has moved to our new webpage!

Natural Justice has a new website and from August 2017 all future blogs will now appear under the 'News' page. You can also sign up to stay connected with us, and follow us on Facebook,  Twitter and YouTube.

This blog will continued to be maintained as an archive of our past work.

Friday, July 14, 2017

International intern Andrew Williamson reflects on five months with Natural Justice

International intern Andrew Williamson
An internship with Natural Justice (NJ) offers an opportunity to experience first-hand the work and dedication of an NGO within small team having a meaningful and significant impact. I was with Natural Justice from February 17 to July 17 in which I was welcomed into the team as an equal and was provided with an opportunity to really immerse myself into the daily work of the organisation and understand the importance and necessity of the work NJ does.

My time with NJ was shared with Dr. Catherine Traynor and Ms. Lesle Jansen which resulted in a variety of work related to climate change and access and benefit sharing. My work with Dr. Catherine Traynor centred on indigenous rights, community resources and bio-cultural protocols all of which served as a new insight into ongoing and detrimental effects of climate change in Southern Africa. The other half of the work I did at NJ focused on work related to indigenous communities on a national level alongside focusing on the ongoing activities related to Rooibos tea and a little bit of everything in between.

The variety and unexpected quantity and quality of work is something which I very much enjoyed while working with NJ. On any given day, you may be involved in workshops, interviews, meetings, conferences and field work with communities which really demonstrates the value of the work that everybody with NJ does. These daily activities bring together knowledge of the law, political aspects and science. 

Early morning view over the Richtersveld
(Photo credit: Andrew Williamson)
I was fortunate enough to participate in two field work trips, the first being to Kuboes in the Richtersveld area with the Nama people and the second to the Bushbukridge area in Mpumulanga where we met the Kukula traditional practitioners. Both of these areas are certainly not on the ‘tourist trail’ so to speak, but nevertheless provided experiences and personal interactions with community members which will certainly not be forgotten. The Kuboes trip focused on engaging with the community and a follow up to previous activities. With the Kukula, NJ reviewed the ongoing projects with the community and established future areas of work and objectives.

Overall an internship with NJ will provide a unique experience where you will be able to actively participate in every aspect of an NGO with a supportive and interesting team around you. Not only will you learn a significant amount of information related to South Africa both past and present but also the livelihoods and cultures of the communities NJ works with. And it goes without saying you have the opportunity to spend some quality time in the city of Cape Town which is superb! 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

ICCA Global Support Initiative – Legal Support

Natural Justice is proud to announce that it will be coordinating the ICCA Global Support Initiative’s work on legal and policy change. The work is a follow up to the 2012 Legal Reviews also coordinated by Natural Justice. The overall object is to ensure greater recognition of and support for territories and areas conserved by Indigenous peoples and communities (ICCAs) through appropriate legal/policy reforms at national, regional and global levels in order to enhance local livelihoods and conservation effectiveness. Activities will include: the development of up to 20 national legal reviews, an international review and a synthesis report; submission of insights from the national level reviews to regional and international legal and policy processes; production of a number of policy briefs on important and emerging issues, such as ‘other effective area-based conservation measures;’ and the facilitation of policy platforms and in-country processes. Natural Justice looks forward to working with the Secretariat of the ICCA Consortium and its members, the GEF-Small Grant Program, IUCN and other partners in this important endeavor. More information and updates will be posted to this blog and on the consortium’s website:

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Natural Justice Welcomes Kaman Kolemou

We would like to warmly welcome Kaman KOULEMOU, our new Researcher in Guinea for the research project on strategies to mitigate impacts of extractives and infrastructure projects.
Kaman is a graduate in International Relations at the GAMAL ABDEL NASSER University in Conakry. Inspired by his final project on the prevention and management of community conflicts in the region of Guinée Forestière, he set himself the goal of working for peace and social cohesion. To this end, he has received professional training at the Center for Research and Action for Peace (CERAP) in Cote d'Ivoire and at the West African Institute for Peacebuilding Training (WAPI) in Ghana.
Kaman worked with World Education as Project Manager: Community Participation for Peace (P.C. Paix) from 2006 to 2010. He was admitted to the position of ACORD International's Operations Manager in Guinea in 2010, where he was in charge of the project Governance and Transparency in the Mining Sector in Guinea. This project initiated the creation of consultation frameworks and the signing of partnership agreements between actors of the mining sector for peaceful coexistence. This initiative aims to contribute to the promotion of a transparent mining sector in Guinea, which guarantees sustainable economic and social benefits for the state and its citizens, and that respects the rights of local communities. Kaman led a study on practices of expropriation, compensation, relocation / resettlement of communities affected by mining projects in Guinea.
In 2014, Kaman was recruited as a Consultant-Trainer on behalf of the Danish Council for Refugees as part of the establishment and training of peace committees in Guinée Forestière. In June 2017, he participated in the baseline study on the causes of crises and tensions in the border area between Guinée Forestière, West Ivory Coast and Northern Liberia around Mount Nimba. 
Kaman lives in Nzérékoré in the Forest Region of Guinea, and is married with two children. He has just started his work with us and is replacing Bernard Ngalim, who could not move to Guinea due to family circumstances.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Namibia Passes their National Bill on ABS and Traditional Knowledge

Namibia recently passed their national law on bioprospecting called Access to Biological and Genetic Resources and Associated Traditional Knowledge Bill.  This is an historic moment as Namibia’s enactment of their law implements the Convention on Biological Diversity’s Nagoya Protocol.
Their legislation applies to biological and genetic resources as found in or outside of their natural habitat, the derivatives of such resources, associated traditional knowledge, and benefits arising from their use, including commercial use. The law also sets out both to recognize and protect the rights of local communities over their genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge.
The legislation recognizes and protects community intellectual property rights over genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge. It states that the “State must recognize and protect the community intellectual property rights as they are enshrined and protected under the norms, practices and customary law found in, and recognized by, the concerned local communities, whether such law is written or not.”
Namibia is therefore leading in the Africa region in explicitly protecting communities’ rights to recognition of their associated traditional knowledge. This is often the area where the Africa region is still vulnerable.
The text of the bill can be accessed here

Monday, July 10, 2017

African Commission Passes Resolution to Protect Sacred Natural Sites

At its 60 Ordinary Session in Niamey (Niger), the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights passed Resolution 372 on the Protection of Sacred Natural Sites and Territories.
In this resolution, the African Commission recognises that sacred natural sites are one of the oldest forms of cultural conservation, and often harbour rich biodiversity. It highlights the role that custodian communities and their customary systems play in preserving traditional values, and that they require legal recognition and support to do so. At the same time, it expresses concern about the continued rapid growth of environmentally damaging industrial activity and infrastructure development causing irreparable damage in these sacred sites.
The Resolution therefore calls on state parties to recognise sacred natural sites and territories and their customary governance systems, as well as to uphold their commitments under regional and international law and the rights of custodian communities. It urges state parties and other stakeholders, including businesses, to recognise and respect the intrinsic value of sacred natural sites and territories.
In developing this resolution, the African Commission drew on a “Call for Legal Recognition of Sacred Natural Sites and Territories, and their Customary Governance Systems”, which carried the voices of custodian communities from six African countries. Natural Justice was able to facilitate the presentation of this report by the Gaia Foundation to the African Commission’s Working Group on Indigenous Populations/Communities. In a joint press release with the African Biodiversity Network, Liz Hoskins, the Director of the Gaia Foundation, states that “in this landmark resolution, the African Commission opens a space for affirming plurilegal systems, which recognise the Earth as the primary source of law. The Commission positions itself with other progressive initiatives to transform the dominant industrial jurisprudence and recognize indigenous rights and Nature’s rights.

Picture: Benin is one of the few African countries that legally recognize Sacred Natural Sites. Natural Justice works with local partners to support the custodians of these forests, for example through the development of community protocols. 

Friday, July 7, 2017

Kukula Traditional Health Practitioners Association BCP Finalization Workshop, South Africa

Kukula Workshop Participants
On the 28th and 29th June, Natural Justice and K2C facilitated a meeting with the Kukula Traditional Health Practitioners Association at the Timbavati Bush School, Bushbuckridge, South Africa. The overall aims of the meeting were to review the developments of the previous year, to finalize the text of the revised Bio-Cultural Protocol (BCP) and discuss strategies related to leveraging the BCP.
The Kukula traditional health practitioners established the BCP with the intention of regulating their interactions with third parties and protecting their knowledge to enable fair and equitable benefits to their members.
The first day of the meeting focused on a review of the previous year and internal community discussions with Kukula representatives. On the second day of the meeting wider stakeholders were invited to participate in the meeting. Representatives from researchers (Benelex and Dr. Britta Rutert), South African National Parks (SANParks), governmental representatives and legal experts provided an overview of issues that had been identified by the Kukula.
Dr. Louisa Parks (The Benelex Project)
Dr. Louisa Parks (The Benelex Project) shared findings from the first 3 years of the Benelex research project of particular relevance to communities, she highlighted that benefits are more than just limiting damage from a proposed project, they are not compensation, and that they should reflect what a community sees as a benefit – not what others tell them is a good thing. Dr. Britta Rutert (Free University, Berlin) shared the preliminary findings of the ‘Indigenous Entrepreneurs’  research project conducted with the Kukula, she highlighted that entrepreneurship in rural, economically deprived areas with limited infrastructure must be looked as at a “procedural enterprise rather than an economic enterprise”, and organisation, cooperation and negotiation skills were learned and utilized by organisations such as the Kukula in making use of their indigenous knowledge.
Dr. Louise Swemmer (SANParks)
The Kukula have been engaging with South African National Parks (SANParks) on issues related to sustainably harvesting medicinal plants. Discussions focused on opportunities regards integrating Kukula representatives into the roll out of distribution of the medicinal Pepper Bark tree (Warburgia salutaris), which is classified as an endangered on the IUCN Red list. SANParks has been growing hundreds of these tress from seed in their nursery, these trees are in high demand by healers, and SANPaks is spearheading planting of saplings in communal areas, and sustainable harvesting using leaves rather than the bark.
During a legal session, Johan Lorenzen (Richard Spoor Attorneys) provided an update on various laws and policies related to the Kukula, including regulations related to the Traditional Health Practitioners Act as well as the Indigenous Knowledge Systems Bill. This was followed by a presentation by Mr Wiseman Rikhotso (Director, Biodiversity Compliance, Department Environmental Affairs) related to the Threatened or Protected Species (TOPS) Regulations and the compliance awareness drive related to “muthi” (traditional medicine) markets.
The Kukula also discussed the finalization of the update of their bio-cultural protocol (BCP) and how to leverage it moving forwards
.Looking forward the revised BCP text will be finalized, the Kukula together with the Department of Environmental Affairs will host a workshop regards legislation around Threatened and Protected Species (TOPS), and the Kukula will engage with SANParks on supporting the Pepper Bark project in their villages.
Kukula participants

Thursday, July 6, 2017

A New Dawn: The African Court on Human and People’s Rights Historic Judgment on the Indigenous Peoples Rights

Logo Courtesy of African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights   
“The forest is what we call land”
James Sang, Ogiek community member
On 26th May 2017, the African Court on Human and Peoples Rights delivered a historic judgment in favour of the Ogiek, a forest dwelling community.[1] This came after a eight year long legal battle and decades of routinely being subjected to forced eviction, without consultation and compensation, from their ancestral lands by the Government of Kenya (GoK). At the heart of forced eviction was the alleged need to preserve Kenya’s largest closed-canopy forest ecosystem and a water catchment area,[2] spanning about 4000 hectares in five counties,[3] and which has been under threat from illegal settlement and illegal extraction of natural resources.[4]
Following the GoK’s decision in 2009 to evict people living in the Mau forest complex in order to protect the water catchment zone, the Minority Rights Group (MRG), Ogiek Peoples Development Programme (OPDP) and Centre for Minority Rights Development (CEMIRIDE), also the original complainants, on behalf of 30,000 Ogiek members, filled a suit against the Government of Kenya (GoK) at the African Commission of Human and Peoples Rights (“the Commission”) citing the far reaching implications the order had on the political, social and economic well-being of the Ogiek community. Along with it, they requested the commission to issue measures requiring the GoK to halt any land transactions in the Mau Forest Complex and to refrain from any act that would irreparably prejudice the application pending determination.  Subsequent repeated violation of these measures by the GoK led the Commission to transfer the case to the African Court on Human and People’s Rights in 2012 (the current application). The applicant further alleged violation of Article 1,2,4,8, 14, 17(2)(3), 22 and 23 of the Charter and prayed that the court order respondent to halt the eviction, recognize Ogieks historical land, and issue orders as to compensation for the loss suffered through the loss of property, natural resources and freedom to practice religion and culture.
Before addressing the substantive issues of the application, the court at the 28th Ordinary session issued an order of provisional measure on the ground that the respondent, through the Ministry of Land, issued a directive lifting the restriction imposed on all transactions for land measuring five acres or less within the Mau forest complex.[5]
Substantively, the court heard and dismissed objections raised by the GoK on its material and temporal jurisdiction to hear the application as well as the objection on admissibility of the application in as far as the Locus Standi of the of the original complainants, exhaustion of local legal remedies and the nature of the case is concerned. Further, the court addressed the alleged violations of rights provided for in the Charter. Most importantly, the violation of the right to life (Article 4), right to culture and the protection of traditional values (Article 17(2)(3), the right to practice religion (Article 8), the right to property (Article 14) and the right to development (Article 22). It also considered the question of remedy, which in whole included an order to halt the eviction of the Ogiek from East Mau complex, recognizing Ogiek’s historic land and order of payment of compensation.
In the end, the court determined that the Ogiek, having a clear historic attachment to the Mau Forest, are a distinct indigenous people. It also found that the Ogiek had property rights over the land they traditionally occupied and used, even though the colonial and Kenyan authorities had denied them a formal title. The court determined that the practice of religion was inextricably linked to land and any interference with access to land was an interference with this right. In this case, it noted that the Mau Forest is a spiritual home of the Ogiek and that the limitation imposed were unjustifiable. The court further considered the right to culture in a dual dimension: individual nature and the collective nature. It noted that this right was essential to the Ogiek’s identify and that the eviction for the preservation of the natural environment could not constitute a legitimate aim but was rather a measure that violated this right leaving the Ogiek community vulnerable and forcing them to assimilate. Finally, the court found that the GoK had not taken adequate legislative measures to implement the rights violated in the Charter. To this effect, the court ordered the GoK to take appropriate measures within a reasonable period to remedy all violations established. Finally, the court reserved its’ ruling on reparation and instead directed the issue to be dealt with in a different application by the applicant.
This judgment is a huge victory not only for the Ogiek community but also other Indigenous communities in general. Most importantly, by ruling that through a persistent denial of Ogiek land rights, their religious and associated cultural and hunter-gatherer practices were also violated, a strong message was sent to the GoK and other governments on the the need to respect the rights of the indigenous peoples and further, put measures for the realization of these rights. In this case, the court was generous enough to lay down the duty of the GoK to put measures for the implementation of the judgment.  However, the implementation of the orders/ judgment cannot be analyzed without addressing the government’s attitude during this case and in other similar presided cases.  In any event, the GoK has, time and again demonstrated a pattern of empty promises towards implementation of measures and orders made against them.
The Ogiek ought not to lose hope. They must push for the implementation of the court’s decision by lobbying the national government, maintaining a presence in Parliament and using other spaces to remind the GoK of its duty.
[1] ACPHR v GoK
[2] The Mau water catchment feeds into Lakes Victoria, Nakuru, Baringo, Turkana and Natron, and supports the ecosystems and livelihoods of millions of people.
[3] J Sang “Kenya: Ogiek in the Mau Forest” (2001) Forest Peoples Programme
[4] Mau Task Force 17-18. The forest is divided into seven blocs comprising South-West Mau (Tinet), East Mau, Ol’donyo Purro, Transmara, Maasai Mau, Western Mau and Southern Mau.
[5] Summary of fact 2 paragraph 5

Author: Rose Birgen