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

Syndicate content

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.

Read more

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.

Read more

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.

Read more

Palmed Off - No Accountability, No Rights

1 June, 2015

The palm oil industry’s bad reputation has survived the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), which commits member companies to social and environmental sustainability. The RSPO logo certification is visible on many everyday groceries containing palm oil.  However whilst RSPO boasts many of the biggest palm oil producers and buyers among its members, displacement of indigenous peoples from their lands, farms and forests is rife.

Read more

Press Release: Palm oil regulator asked to investigate illegal land grabs by Wilmar Group supplier in Borneo

1 June, 2015


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Borneo human rights organization files complaint alleging multiple breaches of RSPO standards by palm oil supplier PT. Swadaya Mukti Prakarsa (SMP) / First Resources.

Kalimantan, 1st June 2015: Acting on behalf of local indigenous communities, on 11th May 2015 human rights and environmental organization Lingkaran Advokasidan Riset (LinkAR) Borneo delivered a complaint letter to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) alleging multiple violations of RSPO requirements by PT. Swadaya Mukti Prakarsa (PT. SMP) - a key Wilmar Group supplier and subsidiary of First Resources Group.

Read more

Expansion by Indonesia’s largest palm oil company frozen for disobeying RSPO standards

25 May, 2015

The RSPO’s Complaints Panel has upheld the Forest Peoples Programme in its complaint against Golden Agri Resources, which was seeking to expand 18 of its operations in Kalimantan. After concluding that it has ‘reasonable grounds’ to conclude that the company is in violation of several RSPO norms, the latest ‘determination’ by the Panel notes:

"The Panel hereby prohibits GAR from acquiring or developing any new areas until this complaint has been dealt with to the satisfaction of the Complaints Panel."

Read more

To make palm oil 'sustainable' local communities must be in charge

14 May, 2015

Ecologist 14th May 2015

The palm oil industry's repeated failure to keep its promises illustrates why global initiatives to achieve 'sustainable palm oil' must place communities centre-stage, writes FPP. Standard-setters like the RSPO must demand action, enforcement and accountability - not just lofty commitments that inspire hope, but rarely deliver.

Read more

Golden Agri's wings clipped by RSPO in West Kalimantan

8 May, 2015

By Philip Jacobson / Mongabay.com

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) has prohibited Golden Agri-Resources (GAR), one of its most prominent members, from "acquiring or developing any new areas" pending the resolution of a formal complaint against the palm oil giant in Indonesia's West Kalimantan province.

The decision by the RSPO, the world's largest voluntary certification scheme for palm oil, is a stern directive from an organization that has been criticized for failing to take action against companies that flout its standards.

Read more

Press Release: Expansion by Indonesia’s largest palm oil company frozen for disobeying RSPO standards

7 May, 2015

Palm oil conglomerate ordered to halt expansion of operations following multiple violations of RSPO standards.

7th May, 2015: The RSPO’s Complaints Panel has upheld the Forest Peoples Programme in its complaint against Golden Agri Resources, which was seeking to expand 18 of its operations in Kalimantan. After concluding that it has ‘reasonable grounds’ to conclude that the company is in violation of several RSPO norms, the latest ‘determination’ by the Panel notes:

Read more

Oil Palm Free Islands

5 May, 2015

From outsiders to political representatives, the indigenous struggle in the Mentawai islands is a 20 year struggle to be heard. We learn through the eyes of Gugen, a future Indigenous leader, as he meets the villagers, shamens, newspaper & radio stations that unify these threatened islands.

Oil Palm Free Islands from Handcrafted Films on Vimeo.

Read more