Archive for

Africa



05/10/2018

Supporting Local Civil Society Organisations in Ethiopia

By Dina Townsend

By: Nicky Broeckhoven & Dina Townsend (Post-doctoral researchers, Tilburg Law School)

Researchers from Tilburg University and Mekelle University are currently collaborating on a project that aims to investigate the role of civil society organisations (CSOs) in securing sustainable development in Ethiopia. This project examines how CSOs have evolved and changed in response to legislative limitations on their scope of work and funding, and how this has affected their ability to work on and promote sustainable development. In this blog post, we discuss some findings from interviews conducted with a range of organisations, based both in Ethiopia and abroad. This project is part of the ‘New roles of CSOs for Inclusive Development’ Programme which investigates the assumptions underlying the civil society policy framework ‘Dialogue & Dissent’ of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This research is funded by NOW-WOTRO.

JV1 rural ethiopiaIn 2009, the Ethiopian government adopted a new proclamation that governs the civil society sector. At the heart of this law is a system of categorization of CSOs based on their sources of funding and the nationality of their members. The law creates three groups. The first are Ethiopian Charities and Societies who are locally registered, controlled by Ethiopians and receive no more than ten percent of their funding from foreign sources. The second group, Ethiopian Resident Charities and Societies, are organisations registered in Ethiopia and whose members all reside in Ethiopia, but who receive more than ten percent of their funding from abroad. The last group, Foreign Charities, consists of those organisations registered in another country and controlled by foreign nationals, who receive their funding from foreign sources. The significance of this categorization is that only organisations falling into the first group, Ethiopian Charities and Societies, can engage in work related to human rights and democracy, and only these organisations can work on policy advocacy and lobbying. Organisations falling in both the other groups are primarily limited to service-oriented activities.

This regulatory regime has received worldwide attention and has been heavily criticized for closing down the political space of the CSO sector. For the most part, however, this attention has been focused on the impact of the regulatory regime on foreign and foreign-funded organisations (groups 2 and 3).

Over the course of the past few months, we have been conducting a series of interviews with organisations working on and in Ethiopia, in all three groups. What this research seems to suggest is that the impact of CSO laws on local Ethiopian Charities and Societies (group 1 organisations) has been severe, but largely overlooked in current debates in both academic and political fora.

While Ethiopian Charities and Societies can engage in political and human rights work, their ability to do so is radically constrained by their limited access to funding and excessive administrative and reporting obligations. These organisations struggle to raise local funds in a country plagued by poverty and in a political environment that has long viewed CSOs as suspect and as self-serving. Those with the capacity to fund local organisations are reluctant to do so either because they do not want to be associated with a sector historically viewed as hostile by the government or because they feel these organisations lack legitimacy and effectiveness.

JV3 rural ethiopiaThis lack of funding and local support means many Ethiopian Charities and Societies face high staff turnover and have been forced to radically downscale their activities, including reducing the scope of their work and the areas in which they work. Organisations working on environmental and development issues in remote and rural areas have often been forced to shut down regional offices. In one case, an organization informed us that it had to stop its programme on food security and related activities, and focused instead on single groups and rights issues, sacrificing the holistic, multi-faceted approach they had previously adopted and shifting their focus away from sustainable development priorities.

Ethiopia is in a moment of extraordinary political change. It is a moment of change that was almost unimaginable as recently as February this year when the government imposed yet another state of emergency in response to protests in the Oromia region. Under the leadership of the new Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, Ethiopia has taken huge strides towards greater political liberalization over the past few months, releasing political prisoners and welcoming back the exiled political opposition. Prime Minister Ahmed has made it clear that revising the regulation of CSOs is a priority on his list of reforms. A working committee, consisting of various stakeholders, has already been formed to propose reforms in regard to a range of controversial issues, including the Charities and Societies law. For many working in the civil society sector, this is a time of great excitement and hope.

Many of the CSO employees we have interviewed, however, saw an ongoing need for foreign funders and organisations to be closely and carefully regulated, even if they consider the current regulation to be excessive. They believe that legitimate concerns remain about foreign funding, donor agendas and the potential for foreign influence in policy-making through the CSO sector. Even if the new regulatory regime will allow Ethiopian organisations to attract a greater degree of funding from foreign sources, many issues remain. For example, it is possible that greater foreign funding may do more to harm their reputations in an already hostile social environment. Many organisations are working hard to establish their legitimacy with both local communities and local government authorities and it is far from clear that an injection of foreign-sourced funding will improve those relationships. What’s more, foreign-funded projects in the sustainability sector often fail to understand the unique and complex social and environmental context in Ethiopia, resulting in projects that risk doing more harm than good.

JV2 rural ethiopiaThis raises an important question: What role could or should foreign funders play in supporting and assisting Ethiopian Charities and Societies, if any?

Our initial findings suggest that Ethiopian Charities and Societies need support of a number of kinds. These include support through research, networking, training and awareness-raising about their work and impacts. This is particularly important for those organisations working on environmental and sustainability matters who may need greater scientific input, or help communicating with farmers and communities in difficult to reach areas. This is work that can be done without directly funding these organisations and need not wait for regulatory change. Importantly, more efforts are needed to create and support sources of local funding, regardless of any changes that may come to the regulatory regime.

Our research thus far suggests that understanding the social environment in which these organisations operate is very important. In the next phase of our empirical research, we hope to extend our understanding of this environment by interviewing a range of social actors, including community-based organisations, church organisations, private sector actors, regulatory bodies and tertiary institutions.

Rural Ethiopia (All photos: Jonathan Verschuuren)

Rural Ethiopia (All photos: Jonathan Verschuuren)

JV4 rural ethiopia

 

 


14/09/2017

Understanding and Enhancing the Contribution of International Law to Lion Conservation

By Melissa Lewis

As one of the world’s most iconic and charismatic megafauna, the lion, Panthera leo, is a species whose conservation attracts international concern from conservationists and the global public alike. However, lion range and numbers have declined markedly over the last two decades.

In a recent publication in the journal Nature Conservation, two members of the Tilburg Environmental Law Team (Arie Trouwborst and Melissa Lewis) collaborated with biologists and social scientists from the University of Oxford’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit  (WildCRU) to assess the present and potential future role of international wildlife treaties in lion conservation.

Lionesses, Kruger National Park, South Africa (photo: M. Lewis)

Lionesses, Kruger National Park, South Africa (photo: M. Lewis)

Like other species of large carnivores, lions present a special set of conservation issues from a legal perspective due to their great spatial requirements, elevated human-wildlife conflict potential, and role as both keystone and umbrella species. For these reasons, and because of the transboundary nature of many lion populations and some of their threats, international law plays a distinct role.

Lion conservation has featured prominently on the agendas of certain wildlife treaties – including the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and, more recently, the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS). In October this year, for instance, Parties to the latter Convention will decide whether to list the lion on one of the CMS’s appendices, and will further consider the adoption of several draft decisions of significance for lions and other African carnivores. Although sometimes less obvious, a range of other treaties also play a role in the endeavor to conserve the world’s remaining lion populations. For instance, 39 of the sites that are currently designated as Wetlands of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention, and 18 of the areas that have been designated as World Heritage Sites under the World Heritage Convention, are of actual or potential significance to lions.  A myriad of regional instruments are also relevant – examples including the African Convention on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, the SADC Protocol on Wildlife Conservation and Law Enforcement, the various treaties establishing transfrontier conservation areas (TFCAs), and even the Bern Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats.

Lion, Kruger National Park, South Africa (photo J. Lewis)

Lion, Kruger National Park, South Africa (photo J. Lewis)

In this paper, we identify not only a substantial body of relevant international wildlife law, but also a significant potential for enhancing these instruments’ contribution to lion conservation. We argue that the time is right to invest in such improvements, and we provide both general and treaty-specific recommendations for doing so. With the 2017 CMS Conference of the Parties fast approaching, the paper’s support for augmenting this Convention’s role in lion conservation is especially noteworthy. The paper concludes that: 

“Given the fragmented collection of treaties which currently apply to lions and the absence of adequate international instruments and/or institutions for lion conservation in at least portions of the species’ range, an important role appears, in principle, to be reserved for the CMS, both in terms of coordination and gap-filling. Listing lions under the Convention would be a logical step in this regard … [and] would both signal the need to develop more elaborate species-specific frameworks for lion conservation and sustainable use and increase the avenues available for achieving this.”

It further provides recommendations for making optimal use of the Ramsar and World Heritage Conventions and TFCA agreements in sites of importance to lions; outlines possibilities for adjusting CITES’ restrictions on the trade in lions and their parts; and emphasizes the importance of maximizing range states’ participation in, and compliance with, wildlife treaties, and of promoting strategies which involve the local people who live alongside lions.

 

Arie Trouwborst, Melissa Lewis, Dawn Burnham, Amy Dickman, Amy Hinks, Timothy Hodgetts, Ewan A. Macdonald & David W. Macdonald (2017) “International law and lions (Panthera leo): understanding and improving the contribution of wildlife treaties to the conservation and sustainable use of an iconic carnivore“. Nature Conservation 21: 83-128.


05/03/2015

Unconventional natural gas in South Africa: regulating the nexus between energy security and water security – Aspects of a research proposal

By Hennie Coetzee

South Africa faces the challenge of meeting the needs of its (still) growing human population, and of doing it in a sustainable way, namely without affecting the ability of future generations to meet their needs. Energy plays a central role in this challenge, both because of its significance to economic development and because of the number interfaces and impacts it has on other critical sustainability issues – such as water security, among others.[1] In its quest for energy security, the South African government has identified unconventional gas (shale gas and coal bed methane) as a potential alternative energy resource.[2]

Coal bed methane is already being extracted in the Waterberg area of South Africa and the country is also looking to extract shale gas from the Karoo area.[3] The development of unconventional gas, however, poses a number of new challenges to existing regulatory regimes worldwide, including South Africa. These challenges are particularly pertinent to water resources.[4] The development of unconventional gas is (like most other fossil and some renewable energy sources) heavily dependent on water access and use.[5] This is mainly due to the extraction method of hydraulic fracturing whereby large amounts of water is mixed with chemical additives and pumped down a horizontal well under high pressure to enable the extraction of the trapped gas.[6] Studies indicate that the use of horizontal wells during a typical hydraulic fracturing process can require up to five times the water used by vertical wells.[7] The withdrawal of large amounts of groundwater can lead to the depletion of aquifers, and the hydraulic fracturing fluids known as flowback water, poses risks to water quality.[8] Issues of water security relating to water quality, quantity and availability are therefore at stake.[9] Because of the interdependence between the energy and water sector, an increase or decrease in one sector (energy or water) will immediately affect the other. South Africa is already struggling to maintain security of both water and energy supply and hence the energy-water nexus is very much related to its goal of achieving energy and water security.[10]

A report by the World Economic Forum highlights the interrelated risks between energy and water security as a security problem.[11] In addition other nexus frameworks include the notion of security as a normative goal complementing or even replacing the notion of sustainability.[12] The “nexus approach” is a new way to frame the interconnected challenges in water and energy governance, including within sustainable development policy goals. What is new about the nexus approach is that it considers multiple sectors as equally important.[13] Common features of existing energy-water nexus frameworks are interdependency between policy sectors, the need for integrated management across sectors and scales, and a focus on promoting security.[14]

While large amounts of water is needed for producing almost all varieties/types of energy – for example, cooling, storage, biofuels, hydropower – it is the process of hydraulic fracturing within unconventional gas development that poses the biggest risk to water quality in South Africa.[15] Concomitantly large amounts of energy are needed for pumping, storing, transporting and treating (for example, desalination) of wastewater – such as wastewater created from the hydraulic fracturing process during unconventional gas development.[16] An increase or decrease in one sector (energy or water) will immediately affect the other – if water is in short supply during droughts it may well lead to energy crises.[17] As per the World Energy Council:[18] “freshwater is required for each step – energy extraction and production, refining and processing, transportation and storage, and electric-power generation itself.” Without water and energy it will neither be possible to satisfy basic human needs nor achieve economic growth.[19] Notably, energy and water security risks depend upon the balance between economic, social and environmental consequences.[20] The cost of attaining energy and water security could be economic (eg) building new or replacing old energy and water infrastructure), social (eg closing energy and water allocations to restrict demand) or environmental (the pollution and deterioration of freshwater systems to reduce the risk of water shortage etc).[21]

While the drivers of energy and water security risk include socio-economic factors (such as population growth and economic activity) and natural phenomena (such as natural disaster, climate change impacts) it is the policies of each sector that are the biggest cause of risk.[22] This is the result of spill over effects – for example, the creation of incentives to meet energy security objectives results in the distortion of the demand for water.[23] Managing energy and water security risks necessitates the managing of trade-offs between separate or sector policy instruments.[24] Uncoordinated policy aimed at security in one area may result in less security in another: for example, less water security may be at the cost of greater energy security through unconventional gas development. Law as a social regulatory instrument is used to change human behaviour – and to achieve certain outcomes. Although a number of instruments within any regulatory framework could be used to meet energy and water security target(s) it is direct regulatory instruments such as laws or regulations stipulating, for example, quality standards, bans on certain products or practices, requirements for the application of best available techniques, obligations to obtain authorisations that are representing the bulk of instruments used.[25]

The nexus between energy and water related security objectives are not routinely addressed nor fully understood.[26] While the existence of the interdependence between energy and water is acknowledged in energy and water security terms[27] it is not certain whether the nexus (between energy and water security) is reflected in the South African regulatory framework generally, and specifically with regard to the development of unconventional gas. Regulatory frameworks that do not reflect the nexus between energy and water security, could, instead of ensuring energy and water security, achieve the opposite, namely energy and water insecurity.[28] This is applicable to regulatory regimes worldwide, including that of South Africa. Therefore it may be necessary to determine how other countries regulate and facilitate unconventional gas development and production within an energy and water security nexus.

A focus on the environmental impact(s) that pollution and depletion of water resources from the process of hydraulic fracturing within unconventional gas development may have on energy security (being an essential element of the energy/water security nexus) may provide a reference point for a comparative study on how other countries manage the energy and water security nexus in their respective regulatory frameworks.

[1] Bierbaum and Matson “Energy in the context of sustainability” 2013 Dædalus, the Journal of the American Academy of Arts & Science 142-1.

2] Gulati “Understanding the food energy water nexus: Through the energy and water lens” WWF-SA (South Africa 2004) 14 (henceforth Gulati).

[3] Esterhuyse, Kemp and Redelinghuys “Assessing the existing knowledge base and opinions of decision makers on the regulation and monitoring of unconventional gas mining in South Africa” International Water Resources Association (2013) (henceforth Esterhuyse).

[4] Reins “The shale gas extraction process and its impacts on water resources” 2011 20(3) Review of the European Community and International Environmental Law 300 (henceforth Reins).

[5] Vairavamoorthy et al “Water and Energy in the Urban Setting” in Jägerskog et al (eds) Energy and Water: The Vital Link for a Sustainable Future (Report Nr 33 SIWI Stockholm 2014) (henceforth Vairavamoorthy).

[6] Ross and Darby “Unconventional Gas: Coal Seam Gas, Shale Gas and Tight Gas” Research Paper for Parliament of Victoria (December 2013) (henceforth Ross and Darby).

[7] Polzin “Under Pressure – How our material consumption threatens the planet’s water resources” Global 2000 (Vienna 2011).

[8] Freyman “Ceres Report Hydraulic Fracturing & Water Stress: Water Demand by the Numbers” (February 2014).

[9] Freyman, Martin and Fisher The energy-water nexus: Energy demands on water resources (2012) http://www.groundwork.org.za/ClimateHealthRoundtables/water-energy-nexus.pdf [date of use 20 October 2014].

[10] World Energy Council 2013 World Energy Issues Monitor” 28 (henceforth World Energy Council 2013).

[11] Waughray (ed) Water Security: the water-food-energy-climate nexus (Washington 2011).

[12] Stein, Barron and Moss Governance of the nexus: from buzz words to a strategic action perspective” Nexus Network Think Piece Series Paper 3, (Economic & Social Research Council 2014) (henceforth Stein et al).

[13] Stein et al.

[14] Stein et al.

[15] Gulati; Vairavamoorthy.

[16] OECD Studies on Water “Water Security for Better Lives”, (2013 OECD Publishing DOI: 10.1787/9789264202405 115 (henceforth OECD 2013).

[17] Clausen et al “Energy and Water: The Vital Link for a Sustainable Future” (2014) 7 (henceforth Clausen); OECD 2013.

[18] World Energy Council 2010 “Water for Energy” (henceforth World Energy Council 2010).

[19] Clausen.

[20] OECD 2013.

[21] OECD 2013.

[22] Grafton et al “Global Insights into Water Resources, Climate Change and Governance” 2013 (3) Nature Climate Change 315-321.

[23] OECD 2013.

[24] OECD 2013.

[25] OECD 2013.

[26] OECD 2013.

[27] World Energy Council 2010.

[28] OECD 2013.

Category: Africa, Shale gas, water

19/11/2013

Climate change and land grabbing in Africa

By Jonathan Verschuuren (TLS)

Since 2008, civil society groups and transnational networks have drawn attention to one discrete source of conflict that is on the rise in the wake of resource scarcity: transnational agro-investment (Oxfam 2011; GRAIN 2012; FOE 2012). In practice this form of investment revolves around the acquisition of large areas of land, usually located in the global South and on a doubtful legal basis, often labeled as ‘land grab’. Governments of poor states are eager to welcome investments, even though there is no clear sight on beneficial long-term effects of associated changes in land use (FAO, 2012; ILC, 2012). Most contracts for these long-term transactions are effectuated between foreign investments (often government driven) and national governments that control and own the land. Some (not all) foreign investors are driven primarily by reasons that are related to climate change (we can call this ‘climate induced transnational agro-investments’). First, countries that foresee reduced domestic availability of suitable land for food production due to climate change and rapid population growth try to avoid future food shortage and high prices by producing food overseas (China being an example here). Second, most developed countries have set targets in their energy policies in attempts to cap greenhouse emissions. To meet these targets they are searching outside their own jurisdiction for suitable and affordable land to grow crops for biofuels and forestation. There is, however, another link between land grabbing and climate change: intensified land use for the African host countries not only impairs immediate food and water availability at the local level, but also reduces local communities’ resilience to engage with future climate change (hence, reducing their adaptive capacities). This, in turn, leads to serious and often irreversible socio-economic impacts, such as the displacement of local communities. Climate-induced transnational agro-investment has been on the rise in several countries in Africa, such as Ethiopia and Uganda, where large areas of fertile farmland have already been earmarked for long-term transfer to foreign investors. Companies from China, Germany, India, Israel, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, UAE, UK, The Netherlands, Norway and the USA have concluded land lease agreements for biofuel projects with government. Tensions and conflicts are looming as a result of discontent created by the marginalization and loss of property rights of the local communities as well as lack of their participation and a benefit-sharing scheme for use of resources. There already are numerous instances of displacements of the local population as well as clearing of forests and related resources on which the livelihood of the local population depend. These activities of the investors have caused widespread fear and threats to the livelihood of the local communities and have already led to conflict in some localities. An early example of such a conflict in Uganda is the so called FACE-case. The Forests Absorbing Carbon-dioxide Emissions Foundation (FACE) is a Dutch organization that entered a partnership with Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) to carry out a reforestation project in Mount Elgon National Park, commencing in 1994. The project involves planting of trees inside the boundaries of Mount Elgon National Park. The idea was that FACE assists with the planting of 25,000 ha of trees to absorb carbon dioxide so as to offset emissions from a new 600 MW coal-fired power station in the Netherlands. A year before the project started, the government declared Mount Elgon a National Park and the people living within its boundaries lost all their rights. People residing in the designated area were evicted without any compensation, and court cases aimed at protecting the community interests, did not yielded much. This resulted in conflicts, where communities deliberately destroyed the trees in the park. Evictions have continued throughout the 2000s, without compensation. Although there exists an assumption that the investment is legally secured by contract law, pertinent legal questions arise about the compatibility of property rights, environmental norms, human rights and participation rights. In general, five sources of law apply to foreign agro-investment: (a) National law of the host state; (b) Customary law of local and indigenous people; (c) International law (treaty and customary law, e.g. investment law); (d) Social responsibility norms and codes of conducts; (e) National law of the investor’s home state. It is unclear, however, how the legal norms of this complex multilevel system interact in practice. Such legal questions regarding changes in land change within the bigger climate change context have largely escaped the attention of environmental, human rights and investment lawyers to date. Legal analyses of the phenomenon of foreign direct investment and its impact on local communities’ rights are scarce. Moreover, evidence shows that legal entitlements and rights are not evenly distributed. In general it can be stated that while investors’ interests are legally enforceable and thereby protected, the interests of local and indigenous people are mostly regulated by ‘soft norms’- e.g. the principle of free prior and informed consent that in practice is extremely difficult to enforce. As climate change threatens to become an ever more acute and serious problem, and population pressure increases, foreign agro – investment is an increasing source of conflict. This being so, we can no longer postpone thinking about the legal nature and the legal implications of climate-induced foreign agro-investment. One promising legal pathway is to focus on the legal agreements through which long-term land deals are being completed. These contracts or bilateral investment treaties contain critical information that determines the scope and terms of the investment deal, including the distribution of risks among stakeholders. The nature of the parties signing the contract (private or public) and through what process, significantly impacts on the extent to which local communities are involved and can make their voices heard. Practice suggests that local communities and rural landowners are rarely consulted in negotiations. Likewise, the terms of the contracts could have profound and possibly irreversible consequences for food security and stability in the host countries. It is hence crucial that contractual arrangements also address both environmental and social issues (e.g. job creation, infrastructure development). This is an area where linking contract law to customary, national, and international law and codes of conduct is particularly important for a full understanding of the implications of the contracts. Recently, several codes of conduct and principles for responsible investment (e.g. World Bank, FAO, IFAD, the UNCTAD, OECD, IFC standards, Ruggie Principles in Responsible Contracts, etc.) have been added at the international level to the existing body of law regulating foreign agro-investments. Similarly, at the regional level there has been increasing activity concerning promoting responsible investment; the African Land Policy Framework and Guidelines Initiative that is being led by the African Union for example addresses the issue. However, how these soft norms relate to individual contracts is far from clear and needs to be explored. It appears that domestic practices throughout Africa are quite diverse, ranging from no relationship whatsoever, to, for example, an explicit coverage of responsible and sustainable investment clauses in all contracts and the duty to have each contract ratified by parliament, as is the case in Liberia. Zambia has largely regulated foreign agro-investments, with the aim to guaranteeing continued supply at fair prices to local markets and the use of local farmers who have to earn a decent salary. A search for best practices in Africa is a good way to start researching effective regulatory frameworks for responsible and sustainable transnational agro-investments!

Category: Africa, Climate

Recent Posts

Recent Comments

Archives

Categories

Meta