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Conflict or Consent? The oil palm sector at a crossroads

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Growing global demand for palm oil is fuelling the large-scale expansion of oil palm plantations across Southeast Asia and Africa. Concerns about the environmental and social impacts of the conversion of vast tracts of land to monocrop plantations led in 2004 to the establishment of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), which encourages oil palm expansion in ways that do not destroy high conservation values or cause social conflict. Numerous international agencies have also called for reforms of national frameworks to secure communities’ rights and to develop sound land governance.

Request for Further Consideration of the Situation of the Indigenous Peoples of Merauke, Papua Province, Indonesia, under the UN CERD's Urgent Action and Early Warning Procedures. 25 July 2013

The subject of this request is the extreme harm caused to indigenous Papuans by the Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate project (the MIFEE project), a State-initiated, agro-industrial mega-project implemented by a variety of corporate entities that, to-date, encompasses around 2.5 million hectares of traditional indigenous lands in Merauke. The affected indigenous peoples have already lost a considerable area of their lands due to acquisition by these companies and conversion to plantations of one kind or another. The irreparable harm they have already experienced continues to expand and intensify as more companies commence operations. 

The World Bank’s Palm Oil Policy

In 2011, the World Bank Group (WBG) adopted a Framework and Strategy for investment in the palm oil sector. The new approach was adopted on the instructions of former World Bank President Robert Zoellick, after a damning audit by International Finance Corporation’s (IFC) semi-independent Compliance Advisory Ombudsman (CAO) had shown that IFC staff were financing the palm oil giant, Wilmar, without due diligence and contrary to the IFC’s Performance Standards. Wilmar is the world’s largest palm oil trader, supplying no less than 45% of globally traded palm oil. The audit, carried out in response to a series of detailed complaints[1] from Forest Peoples Programme and partners, vindicated many of our concerns that Wilmar was expanding its operations in Indonesia in violation of legal requirements, Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) standards and IFC norms and procedures. Almost immediately after the audit was triggered, IFC divested itself of its numerous other palm oil investments in Southeast Asia.

A Política do Banco Mundial sobre o Óleo de Palma

Em 2011, o Grupo Banco Mundial (WBG na sigla em inglês) adotou um Quadro e Estratégia para investimentos no setor de óleo de palma. A nova abordagem foi adotada sob instruções do ex-presidente do Banco Mundial, Robert Zoellick, depois de uma condenatória auditoria realizada pelo Compliance Advisory Ombudsman - CAO - (Ouvidor para a Verificação do Cumprimento das Regras) da International Finance Corporation - IFC- (Corporação Financeira Internacional) ter revelado que o pessoal da IFC estava financiando o gigante do óleo de palma, Wilmar[1], sem a devida diligência, e contrário às Normas de Desempenho da IFC. Wilmar é o maior comerciante de óleo de palma do mundo, abastecendo nada menos que 45% do óleo de palma comercializado mundialmente. A auditoria, realizada em resposta a uma série de reclamações detalhadas do Forest Peoples Programme e dos seus parceiros, confirmou muitas das nossas preocupações de que Wilmar estava expandindo suas operações na Indonésia, em violação às exigências legais, normas da Mesa Redonda sobre Óleo de Palma Sustentável (RSPO na sigla em inglês) e as normas e procedimentos da IFC. Quase imediatamente depois do início da auditoria, a IFC desfez-se dos seus outros inúmeros investimentos em óleo de palma no sudeste da Ásia.

New briefing: Free, Prior and Informed Consent and the RSPO; Are the companies keeping their promises? Findings and recommendations from Southeast Asia and Africa

This briefing, launched on the occasion of the 10th Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RT10), draws together the key findings of fourteen studies on FPIC in RSPO member/certified plantations based on the RSPO Principles & Criteria (P&C) and related Indicators and Guidance, and makes recommendations for reforms in the way palm oil companies honour the principle of FPIC and respect customary rights to land.

Making Palm Oil Accountable?

Globally oil palm plantations continue to expand at a rapid rate. World leader, Indonesia, has raced past Malaysia to become the number one producer. Latest data from the Indonesian watchdog NGO, SawitWatch, suggests that oil palm plantations in Indonesia now cover 11 million hectares, up from 6 million hectares only five years ago. New plantings are spreading to the smaller islands of the archipelago and to the less developed areas of eastern Indonesia. Hopes that a Presidential promise of a 2 year moratorium on forest clearance would slow the crop’s expansion – part of a deal to reduce green house gas emissions - have also evaporated as the government has excepted areas where preliminary permits have already been handed out.

Press Release: New Report Exposes Human Rights Abuses in Wilmar Group Plantation in Jambi, Indonesia. Embargoed for 00:00 GMT, November 21 2011

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EMBARGOED for 8 am Malaysia 21 November 2011

A new report released today exposes how local Indonesian police (BRIMOB) in Jambi, working with plantation staff, systematically evicted people from three settlements, firing guns to scare them off and then using heavy machinery to destroy their dwellings and bulldoze concrete floors into the nearby creeks. The operations were carried out over a week in mid-August this year and have already sparked an international controversy. Andiko, Executive Director of the Indonesian community rights NGO, HuMa said: 

“Forced evictions at gun point and the destruction of the homes of men, women and children without warning or a court order constitute serious abuses of human rights and are contrary to police norms. The company must now make reparations but individual perpetrators should also be investigated and punished in accordance with the law.”

HCV and the RSPO: Report of an independent investigation into the effectiveness of the application of High Conservation Value zoning in palm oil development in Indonesia

This report summarises the findings of a field investigation and legal study which shows how voluntary efforts by companies to set aside areas for community livelihoods and for conservation are being frustrated by the ill-fit between the RSPO's procedures - using the 'High Conservation Values' approach - and national laws and procedures. The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) is to meet in Kuala Lumpur from 1-4 November 2009.

Promised Land: Palm oil and land acquisition in Indonesia – Implications for local communities and indigenous peoples

Oil palm plantations are expanding to meet escalating demand for edible oils and new markets for biofuels - of which Indonesia plans to secure a large share. But the widespread forest clearasnce to cater for this expansion has major implications for rural Indonesians, affecting settlements, ecosystems, trade activities and government agencies. This research documents the issues affecting local communities and their recommendations for national reforms to safegurad their rights under international law.