Recognition of the social and environmental impacts of large-scale land conversion to monoculture plantations such as oil palm has led to numerous voluntary sustainability standards, including the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), to adopt the concept of High Conservation Values (HCVs). These are defined as the critical social and environmental values in ecosystems and landscapes that long-term multi-stakeholder processes have collectively identified as the key values to be conserved and enhanced in the management of natural systems. There are 6 types of HCVs in total and a description of each can be found here.
Member companies of voluntary standards such as the RSPO are required to identify, manage and monitor HCVs, which include both social and environmental values, to protect and enhance them. HCVs 5 and 6 are designed to secure communities’ basic needs and cultural values respectively.
In collaboration with the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), Forest Peoples Programme has developed a Monitoring and Management Protocol for High Conservation Values 5 and 6 with Guidelines for Best Practices in Community Engagement. This Protocol will complement the existing HCV Threat Monitoring System produced by ZSL which focuses largely on HCVs 1 to 4 (values relating to biodiversity). The HCV 5 and 6 Protocol was revised based on the outcomes of two multi-stakeholder consultations held in Indonesia and Cameroon, attended by community members, local and national NGOs, palm oil companies, auditing bodies and researchers. The document was shared for wider public consultation through the High Conservation Resource Network, the RSPO Biodiversity and HCV Working Group, and the RSPO Roundtable in Medan, North Sumatra in November 2013.
Where large areas of customary lands, traditional use or local subsistence are converted into oil palm estates, and then substantial parts of the remaining areas are set aside for conservation of biodiversity and other environmental values, then local peoples’ economies are inevitably put under considerable pressure. Often, such lands have been owned, used, managed and passed on for generations in line with customary norms and practices, and hold a central place in the social and cultural identities, as well as historical attachments, of these communities. The adequate identification, monitoring and management (IMM) of HCVs 5 and 6 is thus critical to ensure that these communities’ basic needs can continue to be met, and that their traditional cultural identities and practices can be sustained, while ensuring the continued protection and / or enhancement of other High Conservation Values. The Protocol thus makes clear that HCV IMM needs to be anchored in recognition that local communities have customary rights over land, regardless of whether these are formally recognised or not under national laws. Furthermore, such processes need to be anchored in respect for the right of communities to give or withhold their Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) to the land acquisition by companies in the first place.
Guidance on the monitoring and management of HCVs 5 and 6 provided in the new Protocol is a welcome and much overdue step towards providing comprehensive data and guidance on best practices in this regard, with the full participation and engagement of local communities who depend on these areas for their livelihoods and cultures. In practice, community participation, consultation and active engagement, where consented to by the communities, in HCV 5 and 6 management and monitoring is not yet widely practised in the palm oil sector. This is despite a growing body of evidence suggesting that consultation with and participation of communities in all three stages of the HCV IMM process can engender positive outcomes for the protection and enhancement of all 6 types of HCVs. Pilot-testing of the Protocol is expected to take place in oil palm concessions in Indonesia and Cameroon in the course of 2014.Further information:
- High Conservation Resource Network website
- Monitoring Protocol for High Conservation Values 5 and 6 with Guidelines on Best Practices in Community Engagement (FPP and ZSL), November 2013. This document will undergo further formatting revisions in the coming weeks, but the text is fixed until further revisions emerge from pilot testing in 2014.