ELP alum Jael Eli Makagon (’08) is doing great things in the field of international environmental law. In January of this year, Jael left his job at a top notch Honolulu law firm and moved to Cape Town, South Africa to volunteer with an environmental law NGO called Natural Justice: Lawyers for Communities and the Environment. Jael traveled to Maralal, Kenya, a small town in the northern part of Kenya in the Rift Valley. Here, Jael worked with the Samburu, a pastoralist community that faces various pressures, including use of their traditional knowledge and genetic resources without benefit sharing. In 2009, Natural Justice developed a biocultural community protocol (BCP) for this community which documented the community’s identity, natural resources, and principles.
In late March, Jael traveled to Lamu, on Kenya’s northern coast. The Kenyan government is planning to build a giant port in this pristine area, which is a UNESCO site, without meaningful consultation with the community. Natural Justice has helped the community draft a BCP as part of an attempt to facilitate community participation in the development of the port project.
BCPs are a big part of what Natural Justice does, and they are gaining wider recognition in multilateral environmental instruments. BCPs are essentially a community’s constitution, often setting forth the community’s vision, identifying its natural resources, setting out relevant national and international law, and establishing appropriate methods for governments and companies to interact with the community.
This is an exciting area of international environmental law that Jael has just become immersed in. Stay tuned for a future ELP colloquium featuring ’08 ELP alum, Jael Makagon!
To learn more about BCPs and Natural Justice, visit: http://naturaljustice.org/context/biocultural-community-protocols OR http://www.community-protocols.org.
(Picture: ELP alum Jael Makagon ’08 with Samburu pastoralists in Maralal, Kenya)