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Welcome to the Vance Center eNotes, where you can read about our organization's latest news and developments.

May 2014

Vance Center Participates in Review of Indigenous Rights Rapporteurship


Attendees of the meeting for Professor Jim Anaya's multi-lateral review of his Rapporteurship

The outgoing United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Professor James Anaya, a Vance Center client, recently convened a multi-lateral review of his six years in this position. Vance Center Committee Vice-Chair Todd Crider and Executive Director Alexander Papachristou attended, along with staff of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the University of Arizona’s Support Project for the Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples; members of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues; and others who have worked closely with Professor Anaya during his tenure as Special Rapporteur. Also present was Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, recently confirmed by the United Nations Human Rights Council as Special Rapporteur succeeding Anaya in June 2014.

The meeting reviewed the various work areas engaged in by the Special Rapporteur, including the communications that the Special Rapporteur has with UN Member State governments regarding cases in which indigenous peoples’ rights are being threatened or violated, Anaya also raised for discussion the thematic studies that he has undertaken on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and its implementation; the duty of States to consult with indigenous people on matters affecting them; corporate responsibility with respect to indigenous rights; the need to harmonize the myriad activities within the United Nations system which affect indigenous peoples; and violence against indigenous women and girls.

A signature initiative of Anaya has been a three year study on extractive industries affecting indigenous peoples. The Vance Center provided pro bono legal support for this initiative, including assistance identifying best practices in accommodating rights of indigenous peoples in natural resource development projects worldwide. The meeting also reviewed the country visits that the Special Rapporteur has undertaken, focusing on the overall circumstances of indigenous peoples or on specific cases in the countries visited. Finally, it considered the role of the Special Rapporteur in bringing together indigenous peoples, government entities and other actors, including business enterprises, as well as coordinating with other United Nations entities focusing on indigenous rights.

Tauli-Corpuz provided closing remarks regarding her interests and plans. An indigenous leader who founded Tebtebba, she has chaired the Permanent Forum, led advocacy for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and also been active on climate change and other environmental issues. The Vance Center subsequently met with her to consider continued support for the Special Rapporteurship.


Vance Center Convenes Global Pro Bono Videoconference


The Vance Center, Comisión de Trabajo Pro Bono e Interés Público, Colegio de Abogados de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires (Argentina), and (South Africa) held a bi-hemisphere videoconference on May 19, 2014, at which pro bono counsel and coordinators from law firms in Argentina, South Africa, and the United States shared strategies and experiences about managing law firm pro bono programs.

Participants from Comisión de Trabajo Pro Bono e Interés Público, Colegio de Abogados de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires

Participants from 19 law firms discussed how to encourage lawyers to take on pro bono projects and also ensure appropriate supervision of pro bono work by partners or senior associates.  Another topic was whether their firms give associates credit for pro bono work in determining bonuses and promotions and, if so, what credit they give. Vance Center Committee member Lorraine McGowen of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe and Vance Center Managing Director Elizabeth Millard participated in the videoconference from Johannesburg and Vance Center Director of Pro Bono Partnerships Dina Stukanow participated from New York.  Click here for a complete list of the participants.

Estudio Bruchou, Fernández Madero & Lombardi in Buenos Aires, Werksmans Attorneys in Johannesburg, and White & Case LLP in New York generously hosted the videoconference. The Vance Center wishes to thank Delfina Balestra and Josefina Ros of Comisión de Trabajo Pro Bono e Interés Público, Colegio de Abogados de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires, Erica Emdon of, and Louise Bick of Werksmans Attorneys for their assistance in organizing this videoconference.

From L-R: Harlene Katzman of Simpson Thacher & Bartlett; Saralyn Cohen of Shearman & Sterling; Vance Center Committee member Marcia Maack of Mayer Brown and Rene Kathawala of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe


Vance Center Supports Censorship-Busting Satellite Information System


Vance Center client, the Media Development Investment Fund, has begun incubating an innovative venture that promises to overcome censorship and the Internet divide worldwide, by giving most anyone access to independent news and information. Outernet is a start-up company combining latest developments in satellite, Wifi, and other technologies.  It will relay information through a system of mini-satellites to smart phones, Wifi-enabled computers, and USB sticks and potentially enable users to communicate with each other as well.

Outernet is developing in stages, based on available technologies and funding.  Yet, even at its earliest stage, it will jump over firewalls, trump poor Internet penetration, and restore communications amidst natural disasters.  Users worldwide will enjoy direct access to news and information that Outernet transmits, and it will be free of charge.  The plan is to launch this system as soon as this summer.

Outernet has been a sensation since founder Syed Karim publicly launched the project in January 2014.  Its website received 150,000 unique visitors in the first 72 hours, and hundreds of news, tech and media sites quickly jumped on the story. Notably, it gathered extraordinary attention on the Chinese web: on February 10 it was the no. 1 trending subject on Baidu, China's equivalent to Google.  Something similar happened in Russia.  Articles appeared in Novaya Gazetta and Russia Today, and thousands of articles and discussions about the project appeared on the Russian language web. Here is a sample of some of the press coverage:


New Signatories to the Pro Bono Declaration of the America


The Vance Center is pleased to announce three new signatories to the Pro Bono Declaration of the Americas, joining the extensive list of signatories who are dedicating themselves to pro bono service:

For a complete list of signatories of the Pro Bono Declaration of the Americas, please click here.