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.
The principle that the enjoyment of human rights is both the means and the goal of development, highlights the importance of human rights monitoring as a means for empowering rights-holders to exercise their rights, whilst holding States and other actors accountable for their human rights obligations.
Balancing human beings’ need for decent livelihoods against the imperative of securing our environment is, arguably, the biggest challenge facing our planet. This struggle between ‘development’ and ‘conservation’ is being played out in global policy negotiations, with the decisions of so-called policy-makers being imposed on the ground. But not everything is or should be ‘top down’. Enduring solutions also spring from the grassroots, from the ‘bottom up’.