Opinion piece by Marcus Colchester, May 2019
In April, the European Parliament by a substantial cross-party majority adopted a report highlighting the human rights violations, labour abuses, land grabbing and environmental destruction associated with the production of palm oil.
On 4 – 6 November, National Human Rights Commissions and civil society organisations of Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, Lao PDR and Myanmar, congregated in Yangon for the Fourth Regional Conference on Human Rights and Agribusiness in Southeast Asia. This year it was hosted by the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission, co-organised by Forest Peoples Programme and RECOFTC – The Centre for People and Forests, and supported by the Rights and Resources Initiative, Ford Foundation, the Climate and Land Use Alliance, and the UK Department for International Development.
The global forest crisis is worsening and infringements of the rights of indigenous peoples and forest-dependent communities are rising, according to a detailed assessment of nine country cases. Climate change mitigation and conservation policies must place community land rights and human rights centre-stage if they are to achieve the goal of sustainably reducing deforestation says the report.
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.
MEDAN, INDONESIA (7 November, 2013)—Members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) are violating the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities in the forests and peatlands of tropical nations worldwide, according to a new research publication released today. The study details the performance of 16 oil palm operations, many run by RSPO members, reporting on their failure to uphold human rights and environmental standards required.
This series of studies provides updated information about large-scale land acquisitions in the region, with the aim of identifying trends, common threats, divergences and possible solutions. As well as summarising trends in investment, trade, crop development and land tenure arrangements, the studies focus on the land tenure and human rights challenges.
Projects and programme interventions of multilateral development banks have a record of systematic and widespread human rights violations for indigenous peoples in Asia. In many countries, indigenous peoples have been subjected to widespread displacement and irreversible loss of traditional livelihoods. Behind these human rights violations is the denial of indigenous peoples’ rights to their lands, territories and resources and to their right to give their free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) to projects and programme interventions, including those in the name of sustainable development and human development. Among them, the large infrastructure (dams and highway construction) and environmental “conservation” projects have had the most detrimental adverse impacts on indigenous peoples. There are a good number of examples of such projects that have negatively impacted indigenous peoples’ communities in Asian countries, some of which follow below.
As multiple international agencies adopt and update their social and environmental policies, this special edition Forest Peoples Programme E-Newsletter reviews experiences of communities and civil society with the safeguard policies of various international financial institutions.
This video, produced by the UNDP-UNEP Poverty-Environment Initiative (PEI), includes interviews with individuals from various NGOs, including FPP and Sawit Watch, during the Public Forum on Inclusive, Sustainable Foreign Direct Investments in Agriculture in South East Asia which took place in Bangkok in March 2013.
12th – 13th March 2013, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Free, Prior and Informed Consent as an expression of right to self-determination of indigenous peoples
Free, Prior and Informed Consent in the palm oil sector in Southeast Asia
Indonesia’s largest palm oil company, Sinar Mas, ran into trouble recently when communities in Liberia complained about a 33,000 ha.
The international meeting of South East Asian Regional Human Rights Commissions on ‘Human Rights and Business: Plural Legal Approaches to Conflict Resolution, Institutional Strengthening and Legal Reform’ hosted by the Indonesian National Human Rights Commission (KOMNASHAM), in conjunction with Sawit Watch and Forest Peoples Programme (FPP) was held in Bali, Indonesia, from 28th November to 1st December 2011.
PRESS INFORMATION – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
A landmark workshop, “Human Rights and Business: Plural Legal Approaches to Conflict Resolution, Institutional Strengthening and Legal Reform”, is taking place at the Santika Hotel, Kuta, Bali, from today until 1 December 2011, convened by the Indonesian National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) and supporting NGOs SawitWatch and Forest Peoples Programme. The event will be attended by over 60 participants, from the National Human Rights Commissions of the Southeast Asian region, the ASEAN Intergovernmental Human Rights Commission, notable academics, representatives of indigenous peoples, as well as members of supportive national and international NGOs.
Nur Kholis, Deputy Chairperson of the Indonesian National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM), said,
“We are taking this initiative in collaboration with the other human rights commissioners of South East Asia as a way of ensuring a more balanced approach to development based on respect for peoples’ rights, with an emphasis on the need to secure livelihoods and the right to food.”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The exponential growth in the palm oil sector, which accounts for a third of the total global trade of 130 million tons of vegetable oil annually, is strongly challenged by indigenous peoples and civil society organisations. Indiscriminate land clearing and acquisition for oil palm plantations is resulting in rapid habitat loss, species extinctions and alarming greenhouse gas emissions. It has also led to the dispossession of both indigenous peoples and the rural poor who depend traditionally on forest habitats for their survival.
This insightful study by Forest Peoples Programme, SawitWatch, Samdhana Institute and the Center for People and Forests (RECOFTC) documents in detail, and for the first time, the way oil palm plantations are now expanding in very different ways across South East Asia as a whole. The study complements better known experiences in Malaysia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea with new case studies of the processes of oil palm expansion in Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and the Philippines.
PONTIANAK - A new oil palm plantation being developed in Indonesian Borneo (West Kalimantan) has relinquished community lands to which it had gained a government permit. The company PT Agro Wiratama, a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and subsidiary of the giant Musim Mas group, agreed to relinquish more than 1,000 hectares of its 9,000 hectare concession back to the community, following interventions by community representatives and NGOs.