|EJF Home |||EJF Annual Auction |||Fall Benefit |||EJF Board |||EJF Fellows |||Make a Donation |||Public Interest at UGA |||Application Process|
Natural Justice Internship – Cape Town, South Africa:
Enhancing My Career, My Worldview, and Myself
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
– Nelson Mandela
Pictured above: Hermanus, South Africa – world-renown for its whale-watching
My time in summer 2009 with Natural Justice in Cape Town, South Africa vastly enriched my professional understanding, historical perspective, and personal adventures. The dynamic people, diverse setting, and engaging exploits I encountered during my travels left me with a lasting impression that will stay with me for a lifetime, helping to shape the professional as well as the person I become. I cannot fathom a more positive summer experience, and I am grateful to Natural Justice, my Equal Justice Foundation Fellowship and UGA Law’s Global Externship Program for making this opportunity possible.
Pictured above: Natural Justice (left to right) – Harry Jonas, Scott Dunlop, Roshan Khan,
Johanna von Braun, Kabir Bevikatte, Rob Wilson, Jenah Zweig, and Misha Rehman
This summer I worked as a summer intern for Natural Justice in Cape Town, South Africa from May 23rd to July 27th. As a dynamic organization that draws diverse interns and sends its dedicated employees to conferences and meetings all over the world, Natural Justice is based in South Africa, with main offices in Cape Town and Upington. Currently, Natural Justice focuses on Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) law, engaging with communities and policy makers at the interface between customary law and environmental regulations. Specifically, Natural Justice cooperates with the United Nations and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) to work towards collective goals in the creation of effective international regulations involving biocultural protocols.
As their website expounds (http://naturaljustice.org.za/), Natural Justice is a not-for-profit organization that provides communities with a range of legal expertise to promote their involvement in protecting and managing the environment. According to the principle that any person who will be affected by a decision should be involved in the decision making process, Natural Justice puts communities at the heart of implementing the United Nation’s Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), its related international instruments, and domestic laws. It works with communities, legislative bodies, and businesses to achieve the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of the environment, and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the use of natural resources.
Natural Justice believes that one of the major contributing factors to social inequality and environmental devastation is the information, knowledge and decision making asymmetry that exists between local communities and international, national and local laws and lawmaking processes. By bridging this gap, Natural Justice endeavors to create a space for the participation of local communities ensuring legal pluralism and a genuine interface between customary and state law.
Pictured above (right/left): Hangings on the Natural Justice walls in the Cape Town office
Pictured above (center): Mercantile Building directory for the 5th floor
As Natural Justice’s first intern, I created an infrastructure for future Natural Justice employees. Whether generating documents to introduce traditional knowledge (TK). Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS), Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), biocultural protocols, and Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) or simply helping other interns get acclimated with Cape Town as a city, my efforts made a difference in the lives of the three interns that came from Calgary, Canada and Lahore, Pakistan respectively during my time in Cape Town.
Additionally, the overall spectrum of my work provided foundational work with background research and initial proposals on two biocultural protocols with Namibian San Conservancies and input on two further programs. This work directly dealt with the inter-relationships between biodiversity, communities’ culture and spirituality, and their customary laws, with ‘biocultural ethics’ represented at the intersection of all three circles. Specifically, I helped begin the development of a community-based approach with biocultural protocols that empower communities within the ABS framework, offering an innovative way for communities to harness the international regime towards conserving biodiversity and promoting their culture. An example of this work involved a proposal for the Byde River Dam that analyzed previous best practices from the PES framework as a beneficial way to share the benefits of hydroelectric turbine currently undergoing construction.
As the heart of the organization, Harry Jonas and Kabir Bevikatte possess dynamic personalities that made working for their organization a pleasure. From the minute I first spoke to them, their passion for their work was evident and unparalleled to anyone else I have encountered in the field of law. Their personable natures drew partnerships from around the world, as they actively worked and made me realize how my day-to-day tasks practically contributed to a larger and more meaningful end result. Kabir even invited all the interns to his home for an informal home-cooked meal, as a chance to get to know each other better and forge more meaningful relationships. Although they traveled frequently during my stay, Harry and Kabir were consistently accessible, always providing me with enthusiasm, guidance, and encouragement. I only hope I am lucky enough to work in a similar environment at some point in the future.
In addition to the intellectually stimulating content of the work I researched and conducted daily, the environment and location of the Natural Justice office enhanced my quality of life on a day-to-day basis. Located in the heart of Cape Town in the City Bowl, a walk to work or lunch outing would often present an adventure. If I forgot my watch, the “noon gun” would always alert me of midday, and a commotion of a political parade or rally never proved uncommon at the City Hall, conveniently located a couple blocks away.
Pictured above: Green Market in Cape Town – located two blocks away from the Natural Justice office
I enjoyed my work with Natural Justice because of the organization’s positive, innovative, and unstructured environment. Natural Justice is an organization centered on the creation of legislation as opposed to strictly the implementation of rules and regulations that already exist. Instead of applying a situation to a standardized method, this internship pushed me to think more critically about how to take what is and improve it to make something more effective on an international front. My open mind, organized nature, and optimistic attitude definitely helped me to get the most out of my time with Natural Justice, and I feel incredibly lucky that I had the opportunity to partake in such a phenomenal opportunity and experience of a lifetime.
Pictured above: City Hall in Cape Town, South Africa – where Nelson Mandela gave his first speech as President of post-apartheid South Africa
Post apartheid South Africa has only existed for approximately fifteen years. As a visitor to the country, I took in how far this nation has come, along with how far this nation has to go. South Africa currently faces many of the same issues we face in the United States regarding equal education and career prospects, nearly fifty-five years after desegregation. In spite of some similarities, the biggest difference from the United States resides in the fact that in South Africa, economically and socially, the ten percent white minority must help create equal footing for the ninety percent black majority. Historians, politicians, professors, and the people themselves all have different takes on how to make this happen—and taking in this ongoing dialogue left me with a lasting imprint of what it means to be South African. Despite having one of the most progressive constitutions in the world, the poverty and lack of education provide some of the greatest barriers in true equality and prosperity, and only time will tell if the nation can truly begin a legacy of a better life for all.
Traveling within South Africa, I could see history being shaped around me. During my time in South Africa, I visited Drakensberg Prison, a township in Kalksteenfontein, and even the High Court. Seeing first-hand the way their legal system works, along with their rehabilitative efforts, strengthened my respect and curiosity surrounding this developing democratic nation. Prisoners spoke of their day-to-day life and what keeps them going; professors critically analyzed every aspect of what South Africans have and what the South African constitution promises; school administrators spoke of their efforts to distinguish their curriculum to give their students a more promising future; and judges provided us with a perspective on the evolution of the South African legal system as a hybrid of the peoples who have once ruled the nation. From prisoners to judges, all have their own take that contributes to a more nuanced understanding of today’s South Africa.
Pictured above: Kalksteenfontein Primary School students
With its rich history, South Africa goes to great lengths to preserve, remember, and never repeat its darker past through institutions such as Robben Island, the Slave Lodge, and the District Six museum. At Robben Island ex-prisoners and at the District Six Museum ex-residents take the time to guide part of your tour, offering visitors a personalized account of their encounters, for better and for worse. The prisoner at Robben Island resonated with me the most because of the stories he used to explain the inequalities he experienced as a “bantu” or black person. The unique layout of these museums provide a window into the past, documenting the way South Africa once was, but thankfully will hopefully never be again.
In South Africa one of my favorite activities involved simply walking down the street, taking in the perspectives around me. Some individuals were expats from the Congo or Zimbabwe, while others used to be architects in Ireland—but all have been impacted, with different outlooks on the social change and climate of the country. Taking time to talk to these people provided some of the most enriching encounters of my stay in South Africa. One friend spoke to me of his account as the first black person to go through what were once white, private schools. A taxi driver discussed the xenophobia he faces as an expat, and the safety concerns that forced him to send his family back to their country despite the political unrest and dangers that awaited them there. All of the stories I encountered depicted the resilience of human nature, leaving me with a lasting imprint of powerful stories depicting the strength of human nature and the South African rainbow nation.
Pictured above: Safari in Kruger National Park, South Africa –
(left to right) Jenah Zweig and Samantha Mogg
Once I established a heightened awareness for the safety concerns of Cape Town, I embraced everything the city and southern Africa as a whole had to offer. My accommodations in South Africa were ideal because I shared my two-bedroom apartment located behind Long Street with two students from the Loyola University of Chicago School of Law. Because of my central location, I did not have a car and could take well-priced taxis to anywhere within the city limits with relative ease. Additionally, living downtown gave me more day-to-day cultural encounters that really made me feel a part of the city I lived in for the summer.
Cape Town has so much to offer. Some days I would make my way to the beach of Camps Bay to watch an afternoon soccer game, while others I took a cable car up Table Mountain or hiked Lions Head at sunset to take in the spectacular views. When the weekend rolled around I traveled to the vineyards in Stellenbosch or Constantia to enjoy wine tasting or took a road trip on the Garden Route for some of the most scenic views off winding roads in the world. The culture and diversity ingrained in the South African lifestyle broadened my perspective, as I found myself continually taking a step back in awe of my surroundings.
Pictured above: Cape of Good Hope Scenic Walk, South Africa
When it comes to adventure, South Africa resides in a stratum of its own. During my stay, I went bungee jumping off the tallest bridge in Africa and the highest commercial bungee jump in the world, falling a staggering 216 meters. That merely got my adrenaline pumping, and the rest of my trip included petting cheetahs, paragliding, shark diving, and even skydiving. One thing is certain: the view of Cape Town is breathtaking from over 9,000 feet in the air! Each thrill-seeking exploit forced me to face my fears, enjoy exhilarating moments, and bond with those around me.
Pictured above (top left): Tsitsikamma Forest, South Africa – bungee jumping off Bloukrans Bridge
Pictured above (top right): Sossusvlei, Namibia
Pictured above (bottom left): Klein Constantia Estate, South Africa – breathtaking wine vineyards
Pictured above (bottom right): Tenikwa Wildlife Awareness Centre in Plattenberg Bay, South Africa –
sunrise “cheetah walk” with Thandi
My South African summer was truly the experience of a lifetime, and I am already witnessing the ways in which the experience will impact my life. Although I have always considered myself an independent person, living in a completely different country for two months with strangers gave me a deeper understanding of personal strength and success that will resonate with me as I embark on future endeavors.
Thank you for taking to time to read my Equal Justice Foundation Fellowship Report.
Questions? Feel free to contact me at Zweig@uga.edu.