Timber, Pulpwood and FSC

Industrial timber production from natural forest logging and pulpwood plantations has major impacts on the rights and livelihoods of forest peoples. Since the 1990s, a plethora of industry standards have been adopted designed to reassure buyers of timber and paper products that their purchases are not contributing to environmental destruction and the abuse of rights.

The standard that goes furthest in requiring respect for the rights of forest peoples is the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) which was set up in 1993 as a multi-stakeholder body and now includes industry, NGOs and indigenous peoples’ organisations. Since 1994, the FSC standard requires operators to respect indigenous peoples’ legal and customary rights and to obtain their free and informed consent to any operations planned on their lands. Working with our partners, Forest Peoples Programme has been independently observing the FSC’s implementation since its establishment.

In 2003, we carried out a detailed study, in collaboration with the national indigenous peoples’ organisation Aliansi Masyarakat Adat Nusantara (AMAN) and the NGO WALHI (Friends of the Earth-Indonesia), which showed how the legal framework in Indonesia made it very difficult for indigenous peoples in forests to secure their land rights (to read the study please click on link in sidebar). Moreover, the way companies secured their permits, made it very hard for indigenous peoples to meaningfully exercise their right to free, prior and informed consent (FPIC). Yet companies were getting FSC certificates for their timber extraction in Indonesia notwithstanding that land rights were not being respected and consent had not been obtained.

In 2015, the FSC standard was revised and it now requires respect for both the legal and customary rights of indigenous peoples and local communities and their free, prior and informed consent. It also goes further, by requiring that operators respect indigenous peoples’ rights in line with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the International Labour Organisation’s Convention Number 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries. FSC also has a Permanent Indigenous Peoples’ Council, with indigenous representatives from boreal, temperate and tropical forests, which advises FSC’s Board on how to ensure these standards are really upheld. These requirements are further elaborated in International Generic Indicators, which have to be adopted into national interpretations which guide how operations should be certified in accordance with the FSC standard taking account of national laws and circumstances.