Making the Bali Declaration effective: The Phnom Penh Workshop on Human Rights and Agribusiness in Southeast Asia

National Human Rights Commissioners of South Korea, Timor-Leste, Malaysia, the Philippines and Myanmar at workshop
By
Sophie Chao

Making the Bali Declaration effective: The Phnom Penh Workshop on Human Rights and Agribusiness in Southeast Asia

On 9 – 11 October 2012, Forest Peoples Programme and Sawit Watch, with the support of Cambodian NGO Community Legal Education Center (CLEC) co-organised a workshop, ‘Making the Bali Declaration Effective: The Phnom Penh Workshop on Human Rights and Agribusiness’, as a follow-up event to the Bali Workshop on Human Rights and Agribusiness of 2011. Hosted by the Indonesian National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM), the workshop was attended by National Human Rights Commissioners from Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, Myanmar, South Korea and Timor-Leste, the Indonesian representative to the ASEAN[1] Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR), concerned Southeast Asian NGOs and the UN Special Rapporteurs on the Right to Food and on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The purpose of the workshop was to consolidate the outcomes of the Bali Workshop and the Bali Declaration on Human Rights and Agribusiness by encouraging the AICHR to receive or (better) recognise the Bali Declaration and to encourage the AICHR to urge Members States to implement it nationally. Informative updates on the situation of agribusiness and human rights across the Southeast Asian region were shared by National Human Rights Commissioners, and the workshop participants gained important knowledge about the AICHR and the progress being made to establish an ASEAN human rights mechanism. A field visit to a sugarcane Economic Land Concession in Koh Kong, Southern Cambodia, provided firsthand insights for all participants on the realities of land grabbing, food and water insecurity and forced evictions by transnational corporations; in this case, a Thai and Taiwanese joint venture, where the Thai Human Rights Commission has found prima facie evidence of violations of human rights including the right to life and the right to self-determination.

The workshop resulted in a Joint Statement by all participants appealing to the Cambodian Government to resolve the long standing land conflict in Koh Kong Province, and to the European Union, the sugar importers Tate and Lyle and the American Sugar Refining Company to investigate the continuing human rights violations. Since the field visit on 9 October, negotiations have taken place between the community of one affected village, Trapang Kondo, and high level company representatives, who have offered increased compensation, which some families have accepted as satisfactory. At the international level, on 29 October 2012, the European Parliament called for a moratorium on forced evictions and recommended that the European Union suspend tariff-free imports of agricultural goods linked to human rights abuses in Cambodia, with specific reference to the sugarcane plantation industry.

In another related development, the Bali Declaration on Human Rights and Agribusiness and the Phnom Penh Joint Statement were endorsed and supported in a Joint Statement produced by participants of the ‘South East Asia Consultation on Land Grabbing and Palm Oil Plantations: CSO and Academic Responses’, held in Medan on 5 – 10 November 2012 and organised by NGO Lentera Rakyat. The Joint Statement calls on the governments of the ASEAN region to respect and uphold land rights for local communities and indigenous peoples, and to make the right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent a mandatory requirement in national laws pertaining to land tenure. It also calls on ASEAN to extend the mandate of AICHR as an effective and independent human rights mechanism to investigate the violation of farmers’ and indigenous peoples' rights and to encourage Member States to domesticate the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries, and Forests in the Context of National Food Security, adopted by the Committee on World Food Security on 11 May 2012, into national legislation. 

Related sources:

  • Chao S 2012 Free, Prior and Informed Consent and oil palm expansion in Indonesia: Experiences in human rights advocacy with the palm oil sector. Paper presented at the South East Asia Consultation on Land Grabbing and Oil Palm Plantations. Lentera and University of Darma Agung, 5 – 10 November.  Medan, Indonesia: http://tinyurl.com/axs93sf
  • Chao S & M Colchester (eds) 2012 Human rights and agribusiness: Plural legal approaches to conflict resolution, institutional strengthening and legal reform. FPP & SawitWatch, Bogor: http://www.forestpeoples.org/sites/fpp/files/publication/2012/09/bali-proceedings-2012.pdf
  • Joint Statement of the participants of the ‘South East Asia Consultation on Land Grabbing and Palm Oil Plantations: CSO and Academic Responses’http://tinyurl.com/cheprzc
  • Statement of the Phnom Penh Workshop on Human Rights and Agribusiness in Southeast Asia: Making the Bali Declaration Effectivehttp://tinyurl.com/afa2eoz

[1] Association of South East Asian Nations

Village representative showing map of customary lands within Koh Kong concession from which local communities have been evicted
By
Sophie Chao