Opinion piece by Marcus Colchester, May 2019
The Dow Jones Sustainability Index has removed the world’s second largest palm oil company, Golden Agri-Resources (GAR), from its list of sustainable companies, reported Friends of the Earth (FoE) this week.
Indonesian, Liberian and International NGOs have just filed five (5) new complaints against Indonesia’s largest palm oil company, Golden Agri Resources (GAR), after its failure to comply with RSPO standards.
FPP and Both ENDS have provided a submission for the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Vicky Tauli-Corpuz, as a contribution to her crucial thematic report on the criminalisation of indigenous peoples.
The global forest crisis is worsening and infringements of the rights of indigenous peoples and forest-dependent communities are rising, according to a detailed assessment of nine country cases. Climate change mitigation and conservation policies must place community land rights and human rights centre-stage if they are to achieve the goal of sustainably reducing deforestation says the report.
The UN General Assembly during its 69th session, on 22-23 September this year, will convene a high-level plenary meeting - the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples – to review the implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) since its adoption in 2007, and to identify outstanding issues and actions pertaining to indigenous peoples and development.
What are the prospects for securing the land rights of indigenous peoples, local communities, and women in the foreseeable future?
Significantly, the report of the United Nations Secretary-General’s High Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, under Goal 1 to “End Poverty”, sets a target to “Increase by x% the share of women and men, communities, and businesses with secure rights to land, property, and other assets”.
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.
MEDAN, INDONESIA (7 November, 2013)—Members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) are violating the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities in the forests and peatlands of tropical nations worldwide, according to a new research publication released today. The study details the performance of 16 oil palm operations, many run by RSPO members, reporting on their failure to uphold human rights and environmental standards required.
"GENEVA (07 August 2013) –States need to do more to honour and strengthen their treaties with indigenous peoples, no matter how long ago they were signed, UN human rights chief Navi Pillay has said in a statement to mark International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples on 9 August.
“Even when signed or otherwise agreed more than a century ago, many treaties remain the cornerstone for the protection of the identity, land and customs of indigenous peoples, determining the relationship they have with the State. They are thus of major significance to human rights today,” she said.
"The annual thematic report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, which he will present to the Human Rights Council in September 2013, addresses issues related to extractive industries and implications that they have for the rights of indigenous peoples.
Mutual recognition, mutual respect and mutual benefit are among the desirable attributes of all human relationships. Indigenous peoples and other forest peoples also expect these qualities in their relationships with others – be they governments, private corporations, NGOs or other indigenous peoples’ organisations and communities. This issue of Forest Peoples Programme’s E-Newsletter reports on the state of various relationships between forest peoples and different institutions – as these are forged, tested or broken –in the course of assertions for upholding basic human rights, social justice and solidarity.
In 2011, the World Bank Group (WBG) adopted a Framework and Strategy for investment in the palm oil sector. The new approach was adopted on the instructions of former World Bank President Robert Zoellick, after a damning audit by International Finance Corporation’s (IFC) semi-independent Compliance Advisory Ombudsman (CAO) had shown that IFC staff were financing the palm oil giant, Wilmar, without due diligence and contrary to the IFC’s Performance Standards. Wilmar is the world’s largest palm oil trader, supplying no less than 45% of globally traded palm oil. The audit, carried out in response to a series of detailed complaints from Forest Peoples Programme and partners, vindicated many of our concerns that Wilmar was expanding its operations in Indonesia in violation of legal requirements, Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) standards and IFC norms and procedures. Almost immediately after the audit was triggered, IFC divested itself of its numerous other palm oil investments in Southeast Asia.
Public indignation about the depredations of ill-regulated business has led to a growing recognition of the responsibilities of businesses to respect human rights, as well as the need for stronger regulations to improve the way products are made and ensure that environments and peoples’ rights are respected and protected. There is now greater awareness that what is urgently needed is strengthened environmental stewardship and land governance, reforms of land tenure, and improved enforcement of revised and just laws.
As multiple international agencies adopt and update their social and environmental policies, this special edition Forest Peoples Programme E-Newsletter reviews experiences of communities and civil society with the safeguard policies of various international financial institutions.
This video, produced by the UNDP-UNEP Poverty-Environment Initiative (PEI), includes interviews with individuals from various NGOs, including FPP and Sawit Watch, during the Public Forum on Inclusive, Sustainable Foreign Direct Investments in Agriculture in South East Asia which took place in Bangkok in March 2013.
The importance of ensuring respect for the rights of forest peoples’ to control their forests, lands and livelihoods, becomes ever clearer and yet more contested. As the articles in this edition of our newsletter starkly reveal, land and resource grabs are not just being imposed by commercial developers but are being actively promoted by governments, whose principle responsibility should be to protect the rights of citizens. Yet these same impositions are also being resisted, sometimes at great personal cost, by local communities and indigenous peoples.
Indonesia’s largest palm oil company, Sinar Mas, ran into trouble recently when communities in Liberia complained about a 33,000 ha.