Archive for February, 2011

Ethnoecology and Traditional Resource Rights


Ethnoecology is the study of complex relationships, both past and present, between people and their environment. It transcends the disciplinary boundaries of anthropology, botany, zoology, ecology, economics, archaeology, pharmacology, linguistics and related fields. The emphasis of ethnoecology is on local peoples’ perceptions, knowledge and understandings of their own reality and problems. Few fields are better positioned to provide the background, knowledge, and insights necessary to promote dialogue and find workable solutions to today’s pressing resource management and social justice concerns.


Cultural Practices of the Sungai and Murut Communities - Ulu Kinabatangan, Sabah


Traditional resource rights integrate a bundle of basic rights that include human and cultural rights, the right to self-determination, and land and territorial rights. Traditional resource rights recognize the right of indigenous peoples and local communities to control the use of plant, animal and other resources, and associated traditional knowledge and technologies. They take into account the spiritual, aesthetic, cultural and economic values of such resources, knowledge and technologies.

via International Society of Ethnobiology.



Ethnopedology –  is the study of local (indigenous) knowledge of soils.

The primary concept of ethnopedology could be explained by its etymology: ‘pedo’, from pedon, a Greek word meaning three-dimensional direction; ‘logy’, from logus, Greek, meaning study or knowledge; ‘ethno’, from ethos, Greek, meaning people or nation.

However, the primary implication of the term – study of the soil by a nation, does not agree with the interdisciplinary involved in the ethnopedological study. Especially, when the ethnopedology is applied as the base method for projects for local and participant development. These studies must bring about cultural nuances, ambient, their interaction and the perpetuation of the acquired knowledge, about the environment where a given group is inserted, generation after generation.

via Ethnopedology – Stratification of the Environment in a Vernacular Concept: the Aikewara People, Para (Br)..



Ethnobiology is the scientific study of dynamic relationships between peoples, biota, and environments, from the distant past to the immediate present.



“People-biota-environment” interactions around the world are documented and studied through time, across cultures, and across disciplines in a search for valid, reliable answers to two ‘defining’ questions: “How and in what ways do human societies use nature, and how and in what ways do human societies view nature?”

The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia


The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM) was established by Parliament under the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia Act 1999, Act 597. The Act was gazetted on 9 September 1999. The inaugural meeting of SUHAKAM was held on 24 April 2000.

The initiative to set up a national human rights institution in Malaysia began with Malaysia’s active participation in the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) in 1993-95 when it was elected as a member of the Commission by the United Nations Economic and Social Council. Malaysia was honored in 1995 with the election of the leader of the delegation, Tan Sri Dato’ Musa bin Hitam, as the Chairman of the 52nd session of the UNCHR. Malaysia was elected to serve a second term in the UNCHR from 1996-98 and its third term from 2001-2003.

The impetus for the Malaysian Government to finally consider the setting up of a national human rights institution came from several sources. Malaysia’s active involvement in the UNCHR was one. The international attention on human rights as a result of the success of the 1993 World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna where governments, including Malaysia, agreed that human rights are universal and indivisible, and they recognized the importance of setting up national human rights institutions, also influenced the Government.

As leader of the Malaysian delegation to the UNCHR, Tan Sri Musa, in 1994 first suggested to the Government that the time was right for Malaysia to establish its own independent national human rights institution. Several factors influenced this proposal: the growing international emphasis on human rights and recognition that it crosses boundaries and sovereignty; Malaysia’s active involvement in the United Nations system; the changing political climate in Malaysia with a more politically conscious electorate and dynamic civil society. By the mid-1990s, seven Asian countries, including two from ASEAN – Indonesia and the Philippines – had already established national human rights institutions, while Thailand was in the midst of setting up its own.

On 24 April 1999, five years after the idea was first mooted, the Foreign Minister, Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar, announced that the Government would table a Bill in the July 1999 sitting of

Parliament to establish the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia. The Bill was guided by the Paris Principles of 1992 which provided the international criteria by which an independent human rights commission should be established, and also by the experience of established human rights institutions, especially in the Asia-Pacific region.

On 3 April 2000, the Government announced the appointment of SUHAKAM’s first Chairman, Tan Sri Dato’ Musa bin Hitam, and the 12 other members of the Commission to serve a two-year term, which is renewable. The appointments were made by His Majesty the Yang DiPertuan Agong on the recommendation of the Prime Minister. Although the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia Act allows for the appointment of up to 20 members, it was decided that SUHAKAM would begin its task with 13 members until such time when more are needed. SUHAKAM members were selected to reflect the diversity and pluralism of Malaysian society and also on the basis of the experience, commitment, independence and integrity of the individual.

70 lawyers to act for orang asli


KUALA LUMPUR: Orang asli claims of encroachment into native land should move faster now that 70 lawyers have agreed to act pro bono.

“We are preparing a database which will be used to farm out cases and other disputes to these volunteers,” said Bar Council member Steven Thiru when contacted.

On Dec 1, The Star had reported that more and more cases of encroachment into orang asli lands were coming to light but the council’s Legal Aid Centre did not have enough lawyers to act for them.

Thiru, who is also the deputy chair of the council’s Committee on Orang Asli Rights (COAR), said the lawyers volunteered their services for free after a workshop on Dec 4.

“At the moment there are about 10 cases in Peninsular Malaysia and we are in the process of organising representation for those affected.

“COAR will be sending out a notice to ask members handling orang asli cases to notify us so we can offer assistance,” said Thiru, adding that most cases were of encroachment, either to appropriate native land or the produce on it.

“A major problem for us is to determine who is the trespasser; in many cases, they are independent contractors of state authorities but it is not easy to pin them down.”

On the fund launched on Dec 4 to defray part of the volunteers’ costs, he said a council member had donated RM5,000.

“In our next term (2011/2012), we intend to approach the Bar for contributions,” he said.

The orang asli are expected to come up with the remainder of the money, depending on what they can afford, said Thiru.

“COAR takes the view they must take ownership of their cases and contributing is one way of doing this.”

He said COAR would engage with the orang asli and visit their settlements, with the help of Centre for Orang Asli Concerns coordinator Dr Colin Nicholas.

When contacted, Dr Nicholas, who is also a COAR member, said while 10 cases had been filed, there were between 50 and 60 more such cases.

via 70 lawyers to act for orang asli.

Palm Oil and Indigenous Communities


In response to the urgent and pressing global call for sustainably produced palm oil, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) was formed in 2004 with the objective promoting the growth and use of sustainable oil palm products through credible global standards and engagement of stakeholders.

The seat of the association is in Zurich, Switzerland, while the secretariat is currently based in Kuala Lumpur with a satellite office in Jakarta.

RSPO is a not-for-profit association that unites stakeholders from seven sectors of the palm oil industry – oil palm producers, palm oil processors or traders, consumer goods manufacturers, retailers, banks and investors, environmental or nature conservation NGOs and social or developmental NGOs – to develop and implement global standards for sustainable palm oil.

Such multi-stakeholder representation is mirrored in the governance structure of RSPO such that seats in the Executive Board and project level Working Groups are fairly allocated to each sector. In this way, RSPO lives out the philosophy of the “roundtable” by giving equal rights to each stakeholder group to bring group-specific agendas to the roundtable, facilitating traditionally adversarial stakeholders and business competitors to work together towards a common objective and making decisions by consensus.

Sustainable Development Strategy

Its Chinese New Year, so here is something about China!

China has a population of more than 1.2 billion, and its land natural resources per capita are lower than the world’s average. Official statistics show that China has a land area of 9.6 million sq km, making it the third-biggest country in the world. However, the land area per capita is only 0.008 sq km, much lower than the world’s average of 0.3 sq km per capita. In recent years China’s average annual amount of freshwater resources has been 2,800 billion cu m, ranking sixth in the world; but the amount of freshwater resources per capita is only one fourth of the world’s average. China is rich in land mineral resources, but the amount per capita is less than half the figure per capita worldwide. A real challenge to achieve Sustainable Development Strategy!