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.
Mutual recognition, mutual respect and mutual benefit are among the desirable attributes of all human relationships. Indigenous peoples and other forest peoples also expect these qualities in their relationships with others – be they governments, private corporations, NGOs or other indigenous peoples’ organisations and communities. This issue of Forest Peoples Programme’s E-Newsletter reports on the state of various relationships between forest peoples and different institutions – as these are forged, tested or broken –in the course of assertions for upholding basic human rights, social justice and solidarity.
The considerable threats faced by the forests of the Democratic Republic of the Congo continue to draw global attention because of the crucial role these large forests play in regulating the global climate. Estimates indicate that the forests of the Congo Basin as a whole capture and store about 10 to 30 billion tons of carbon, an increasingly significant ecosystem service in light of concerns about climate change. In recent years, projects aimed at the reduction of emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) have been developed to provide financial incentives based on performance to the owners of large areas of forests in order to reduce the loss of forests and promote the improvement of carbon stocks through conservation and tree planting.
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.
The right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) in the Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) Principles and Criteria establishes how equitable agreements between local communities and companies (and governments) can be developed in ways that ensure the legal and customary rights of indigenous peoples and other local rights-holders are respected.
In July and August 2012, three civil society organisations in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) - Actions pour les Droits, l'Environnement et la Vie (ADEV), the Centre d’Accompagnement des Autochtones Pygmées et Minoritaires Vulnérables (CAMV), and Cercle pour la défense de l'environnement (CEDEN) - organised a series of legal workshops in collaboration with the Forest Peoples Programme and with financial assistance from the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA). The workshops sought to reinforce the legal capacity of these organisations and to promote a better understanding of indigenous peoples’ and local communities’ rights to land and natural resources and of the mechanisms to advocate for and defend the rights of communities in the REDD+ process in the DRC.
In May, Forest Peoples Programme (FPP), along with national partners Action pour le Developpement, l’Environnement et la Vie (ADEV) and Cercle pour la Defense de l’Environnement (CEDEN), hosted The Forest Dialogue (TFD) on Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) in Kinshasa, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
In terms of natural resource endowment, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is one of the wealthiest countries in Africa. However its citizenry are amongst the poorest in the world. Some of the most impoverished and politically marginalized people – indigenous and local forest communities - live here. They mostly rely upon forests and other natural resources to secure their basic livelihoods through subsistence forest hunting and gathering, and small-scale agriculture. These forest peoples currently have little or no influence over national and provincial decisions about how their customary lands will be used by commercial or conservation groups, whose interests are often in conflict with forest communities’ needs, priorities and basic human rights.