Forest Peoples Programme Supporting forest peoples’ rights

Palm oil & RSPO

Palm Oil and Forest Peoples’ Rights

The rapid growth in palm oil production to feed global demands for edible oils and biofuels is causing serious social and environmental problems yet plantations are set to double their extent in the next 20 years. In close partnership with affected peoples and supportive non-governmental organisations (NGOs), Forest Peoples Programme (FPP) has been documenting these abuses and challenging the palm oil industry to stop grabbing people’s lands without their consent and resolve the huge number of existing land conflicts. 

With our partners, we have played a key role in ensuring that the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), formed in 2004 in response to the urgent and pressing global call for sustainably produced palm oil, both adopts and upholds standards consistent with international human rights laws and respect for the rights of indigenous peoples.  The RSPO is a not-for-profit association composed of stakeholders from seven sectors of the palm oil industry - oil palm producers, palm oil processors or traders, consumer goods manufacturers, retailers, banks and investors, environmental or nature conservation NGOs and social or developmental NGOs - to develop and implement global standards for sustainable palm oil. As part of a coalition with international and national NGOs and community based organisations in Africa and South East Asia, Forest Peoples Programme helps document abuses, promote dialogue with palm oil companies aimed at securing community lands, resolving existing conflicts and preventing further abuse, in line with international laws and agreed norms.

While the aim of the RSPO is to divert the expanding palm oil frontier away from primary forests and areas of high conservation value and to proscribe land-grabbing, Forest Peoples Programme and partners have focused their efforts on requiring member companies to respect the customary rights of local communities and indigenous peoples, including their right to give or withhold consent to palm oil operations planned on their lands (Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC)). FPP and partners are also involved in the RSPO Smallholders Task Force, the RSPO Biodiversity and High Conservation Value Working Group, and the, yet to be activated, RSPO Human Rights Working Group.

In 2012, Forest Peoples Programme carried out a series of field studies in RSPO member/certified companies across Southeast Asia and Africa to provide detailed field information on how and whether the right to Free Prior and Informed Consent is being applied adequately by companies, to expose any malpractice of palm oil companies and to argue for a strengthening of national laws and policies and of the RSPO procedures and standards. Through field research, irregularities were documented and the information was made available to relevant parties in order to support redress. The studies are also being used as inputs to the RSPO’s ongoing review of its own standard in which FPP and partners are closely engaged.

Forest Peoples Programme and partners are also active in many other fora to reform the palm oil sector and halt the abuse of people’s rights, including through investors such as the World Bank Groups and private sector banks such as HSBC, the activation of human rights complaints procedures and efforts to reform regional standards and national laws so that they respect forest peoples’ rights.

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Press Release: “We are going to kill you”: Indigenous activist’s life in danger after opposing destruction of Peruvian Amazon

18 November, 2015

London, 18 November 2015: Washington Bolivar, an indigenous activist in Peru has received another sinister death threat in the immediate wake of his efforts to challenge the destruction of Amazon rainforest for timber extraction and conversion to oil palm.

In the course of the last month, human rights defender, Mr Bolivar received the following handwritten and explicit notes in quick succession:

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International civil society alarmed by Conviction of Cameroonian environmental human rights defender

15 November, 2015

Cameroonian authorities must stop the repression of environmental human rights defender according to an international coalition of six environmental and human rights organizations, which includes Greenpeace Africa, the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), GRAIN, Fern, Oakland Institute and SAVE.

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Press Release: Human Rights groups call for palm oil moratorium in Palawan, Philippines

11 November, 2015

***Press Information for Immediate Release: 11th November 2015***

Human Rights groups call for palm oil moratorium in Palawan, Philippines: End land grabs and forest destruction now!

Puerto Princesa: 11th November 2015 - A recent fact-finding mission by regional human rights groups in the south-western island of Palawan, the last ecological frontier of the Philippines, has revealed a pattern of land grabs and forest destruction by palm oil companies, partly owned by Malaysian and Singaporean investors.

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Oil palm land grabs and deforestation in Philippines condemned by human rights groups

9 November, 2015

A regional network of Asian human rights commissions and supportive NGOs has issued a strong statement supporting calls for a moratorium on palm oil expansion in the Philippines southern island of Palawan. The call came at the conclusion of a week of fact-finding trips and discussions of the 5th South East Asian Regional Conference on Human Rights and Agribusiness which was hosted by the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines, the Coalition on Land Grabbing of the Philippines supported by the Forest Peoples Programme.

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Peru’s failure to address indigenous peoples’ land struggle and control illegal deforestation exposes empty pledges of its government to tackle deforestation

2 November, 2015

The failure to resolve the underlying land tenure problems of indigenous peoples is one of the main factors behind the increasing deforestation in Peru as reported in a national deforestation study produced by FPP and AIDESEP and launched at the UN Climate talks held in Peru in 2014.  Peru hands over the Presidency of the climate change talks to France in Paris this year and since 2010 has made ambitious pledges to resolve indigenous peoples’ landrights struggles as part of its commitments to protect forests and mitigate climate change in which it has pledged to reduce net deforestatio

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PRESS RELEASE: Peruvian indigenous leader in London to denounce illegal deforestation of 5000 hectares of Peru’s Amazon for palm oil

2 November, 2015

London, 2nd November 2015: Robert Guimaraes Vasquez, a leader of the Shipibo-Konibo indigenous people in Peru’s Amazon has travelled to a global forum in London on business, deforestation and human rights to highlight the destruction of his people’s traditional lands by an international agribusiness group and member of the RSPO (Round Table for Sustainable Palm oil), a global body that certifies that the production and trade of palm oil is sustainable and respects human rights.

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Territories of Life Video on Company Tactics

20 October, 2015


'Company Tactics' describes the tactics that companies use to convince communities to accept and support their projects, and shows that these tactics are used across continents and industries. When communities are aware of these tactics and are prepared for how to counter them, they are more likely to be able to maintain their position in dealing with land decisions concerning outside developments.

The video is based on the experiences of communities in Cameroon, Indonesia and Paraguay.

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Video: Infrastructural violence and the monopoly system in Indonesia’s oil palm plantation zone

9 July, 2015

A video lecture about oil palm in Indonesia and its social, economic and political impacts. Based on long term research in Sanggau District in West Kalimantan, Indonesia, carried out by dozens of students and two professors from Gajah Mada and Toronto Universities, it provides academic confirmation of what many of us have been saying for years, backed with detailed facts and statistics. Time for a rethink of the (neo-)colonial plantation model.

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PRESS RELEASE: Palm oil giant Wilmar resorts to dirty tricks

7 July, 2015

Full Release: English / Bahasa Indonesia

World’s largest palm oil trading company, Wilmar International Ltd., under scrutiny as communities accuse its suppliers of harassment, deception and rights abuses.

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Herakles abandons all operations in Mundemba and Toko concession areas, Cameroon

4 June, 2015

Mundemba: May31, 2015 (SEFE/FR/MY01/2015)

Herakles Farms, a New York based investment Firm and the parent company of SG Sustainable Oils Cameroon (SGSOC) which has been under the spotlight of increasing local and international opposition for its intention to establish oil palm plantations in protected areas (including the iconic Korup National Park in south west Cameroon) has abandoned all operations in the Mundemba and Toko Subdivisions respectively and in Ndian Division on May 29, 2015.

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