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.