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.

Relevant resources

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Conflict or Consent? The oil palm sector at a crossroads

FPP, Sawit Watch and TUK Indonesia

7 November, 2013

Conflict or consent? The oil palm sector at a crossroads

Click here to read related PRESS RELEASE.

Read this report in English or in Bahasa Indonesia

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.

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Golden Agri Resources postpones palm oil expansion plans in Borneo in response to FPP complaint

23 October, 2014

Forest Peoples Programme has been pursuing a major complaint through the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) charging the Indonesian palm oil company, Golden Agri Resources, with multiple violations of the RSPO standard.

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Indonesia needs political reform, not just legal prosecution, to eradicate corruption in palm oil plantations

10 July, 2014

Workers loading fresh fruit bunches

The article looks at the links between oil palm business and public officials. It comes to the conclusion that the prosecution of corrupt officials is failing to stop corruption by elected officials, and that reform of electoral funding laws is needed so that politicians and political parties do not have to reply on bribes or oligarchs to fund their election campaigns.

To read the full article please click here

 

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Press Release: Communities protest that UK's Equatorial Palm Oil are poised to seize land in Liberia

24 June, 2014

The UK-listed company, Equatorial Palm Oil (EPO), which is threatening to seize land owned by Liberians in defiance of commitments by Liberia’s President, will today receive a visit from affected communities. Members of the Jogbahn Clan, together with representatives from Liberian and international NGOs, will deliver a petition with over 90,000 signatures, reminding EPO that it does not have community consent to expand onto their lands, and that doing so could escalate violence. EPO’s past operations in Liberia have triggered allegations of conflict and human rights abuses.

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Press release: Illegal conversion timber export threatens African countries' forests and agreements with EU

27 May, 2014

Illegal and corrupt behaviour by foreign-owned companies engaged in establishing large palm oil plantations not only threatens local communities and forested areas throughout west and central Africa, but will seriously undermine legislation being set up between African countries and the European Union to prevent just that says Greenpeace International.

In a new report published today, Greenpeace reveals how one company in Cameroon, has colluded with government officials to illegally obtain a permit to export timber that itself was illegally felled in order to establish a palm oil plantation in the South West region of the country.

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Papua New Guinea Communities successfully resist palm oil land grab

22 May, 2014

Indigenous communities in Collingwood Bay in Papua New Guinea are celebrating a victory over Kuala Lumpur Kepong Ltd (KLK), which had acquired two controversial Special Agricultural Business Leases to 38,000 hectares of their customary lands without their consent and planned to develop the area as a palm oil plantation.

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Liberian Community Celebrates President's pledge and asks for international support to ensure it is fulfilled

9 May, 2014

Our partners in the Sustainable Development Institute in Liberia are asking for international help to remind the Liberian President of her promise to protect community land from the UK company Equatorial Palm Oil UK. They are asking as many people as possible to sign their petition.

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Conflict Palm Oil in Practice

Rainforest Action Network

3 April, 2014

Conflict Palm Oil in Practice

EXPOSING KLK'S ROLE IN RAINFOREST DESTRUCTION, LAND GRABBING AND CHILD LABOR

Around the world rogue palm oil companies are destroying rainforests and violating the rights of Indigenous Peoples, rural communities and workers in order to produce Conflict Palm Oil, which is finding its way into hundreds of products lining American supermarket aisles.

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Indonesia: palm oil comany and army kill villager as land conflict escalates in PT AP in Jambi, Sumatra

8 March, 2014

In a further tragic escalation of the long running land conflict between palm oil developer PT Asiatic Persada and the local Batin Sembilan peoples, also referred to as Suku Anak Dalam, soldiers from the Indonesian army took a villager into custody in the company premises last week after which he was tortured and brutalised. When others protested, five of them were also rounded up, arrested and beaten up. Meanwhile other protesting villagers were chased away by the army repeatedly firing off their weapons.

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