Conflict or Consent? The oil palm sector at a crossroads
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.
In line with international law, the RSPO’s Principles and Criteria require member companies to respect the collective right of indigenous peoples and other local communities to give or withhold their consent prior to the development of oil palm on the lands they own, inhabit and use. Are companies keeping their promises? This edited volume of 16 detailed independent case studies including two updates, from seven countries in Asia and Africa carried out by a consortium of NGOs, addresses this question.
The studies reveal that the RSPO process has in some cases led to improved understanding, by communities and companies, of how to achieve ‘sustainable development’. In addition, procedural improvements can be pointed to that may provide a basis for resolving some land conflicts. Overall, however, many oil palm companies are not respecting customary land rights, are acquiring lands without consent, are violating or avoiding compliance with national laws or court rulings and are in obvious violation of the RSPO standard.
The gulf between national laws and the RSPO standard highlights the urgent need to reform governance and national laws to adequately protect communities’ lands from expropriation and provide just remedies for abuse of rights. Indigenous peoples and local farmers must be protected from ‘land grabs’, and their right to exercise Free, Prior and Informed Consent over the sale of any land must be respected. Full supply-chain traceability is needed to ensure that environmental protections are matched with comprehensive protections of human rights. Such accountability should also apply to investors.
The RSPO standard needs to be strengthened and enforced, but as long as national laws and policies allocate lands to companies without respect for community rights, company compliance will be hard to achieve and further conflict remains inevitable.
To download each chapter seperately see links below:
- 'Conflict or Consent?' Chapter 1: PT Agrowiratama and the Melayu and Dayak peoples of Sambas, West Kalimantan
- 'Conflict or Consent?' Chapter 2: PT Surya Sawit Sejati and the Waringin people of Kotawaringin Barat, Central Kalimantan
- 'Conflict or Consent?' Chapter 3: PT Mustika Sembuluh and the Dayak Temuan of Central Kalimantan
- 'Conflict or Consent?' Chapter 4: PT Permata Hijau Pasaman I and the Kapa and Sasak peoples of Pasaman Barat, West Sumatra
- 'Conflict or Consent?' Chapter 5: PT REA Kaltim Plantations and the Dayak and Kutai peoples of Kutai Kartanegara and Tabang, East Kalimantan
- 'Conflict or Consent?' Chapter 6: PT Bangun Nusa Mandiri and the Dayak Jelai and Dayak Kendawangan peoples of Ketapang district, West Kalimantan
- 'Conflict or Consent?' Chapter 7: Update on IFC CAO mediation in PT Asiatic Persada (Jambi, Indonesia)
- 'Conflict or Consent?' Chapter 8: Overview of the palm oil sector and FPIC in Palawan, Philippines
- 'Conflict or Consent?' Chapter 9: Sarawak: IOI-Pelita and the community of Long Teran Kanan
- 'Conflict or Consent?' Chapter 10: Sabah: Genting Plantations and the Sungai and Dusun Peoples
- 'Conflict or Consent?' Chapter 11 The Mani people of Thailand on the agricultural frontier
- 'Conflict or Consent?' Chapter 12: Sime Darby oil palm and rubber plantation in Grand Cape Mount County, Liberia
- 'Conflict or Consent?' Chapter 13: Summary case study on the situation of Golden Veroleum Liberia’s oil palm concession
- 'Conflict or Consent?' Chapter 14: The BioPalm oil palm project: a case study in the Département of Océan, Cameroon
- 'Conflict or Consent?' Chapter 15: SG Sustainable Oils Cameroon PLC (SGSOC) in South West Cameroon
- 'Conflict or Consent?' Chapter 16: Democratic Republic of Congo: Congo Oil and Derivatives, SARL
- 'Conflict or Consent?' Conclusions and recommendations