Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Indigenous peoples and local communities welcome proposals to require UK companies to address human rights and environmental impacts abroad


London, 31 March 2020

In these extraordinary and difficult times, FPP welcomes the UK Government’s launch of an important report prepared by the Global Resources Initiative (GRI).[1] The report, developed with input from over 200 representatives from British businesses, financiers, civil society organisations and government over the course of 18 months, charts a strategic pathway and a package of measures intended to reduce the global footprint on deforestation and land conversion associated with the UK’s commodity imports and domestic consumption.

While there are clearly immediate serious challenges for UK policy and action at home and abroad – providing food, health care and broader support to populations hit by Covid-19 – this report proposes progressive measures which the British government can support to enable a much needed transition towards sustainable and equitable trade and supply chains going forward.

Among its 14 recommendations, the report proposes that the UK government “urgently introduces a mandatory due diligence[2] obligation for companies that place commodities and derived products that contribute to deforestation on the UK market and to take action to ensure similar principles are applied to the finance industry” – a proposal that has been cautiously welcomed by representatives of indigenous peoples, local communities and civil society representatives in tropical countries who are on the frontline of deforestation and rights abuses driven by harmful commodity production.

Commenting on the proposal, Norman Jiwan of TuK INDONESIA, a Jakarta-based national association concerned with social and ecological justice, and the human rights impacts of policies and developments in Indonesia, said:

"We welcome the GRI proposal to create due diligence requirements throughout the global supply chains of UK companies. It is vital that UK regulation targets not only deforestation, but also addresses land grabbing, land disputes, and the criminalisation of indigenous, peasant and environmental defenders affected by the production of deforestation-risk commodities.

"Regulation should create a duty of care and provide remedies for continuing and future human rights violations. It must also promote shared responsibility between UK businesses and the suppliers they work with in producer countries, to ensure we see real change on the ground,” he added.

In recent years, several countries have taken legislative steps to encourage or require businesses to undertake due diligence processes in respect of human rights or environmental issues, including the UK (through the Modern Slavery Act 2015), France (through its 2017 Law on a Duty of Vigilance) and the Netherlands (through its 2019 Child Labour Law) – a reflection of the fact that voluntary measures by companies have not been effective, as originally hoped.

“Current voluntary incentives for human rights and environmental due diligence by large companies have not worked in the case of Liberia,” said Program Director of Social Entrepreneurs for Sustainable Development (SESDev) in Liberia, Mina Beyan.

“Mandatory due diligence is needed for all UK companies (small, medium and large) whose activities are linked to human rights violations and environmental damage. UK rules that include real opportunities for enforcement of such regulations and remedies for the victims of human rights infringements would be welcome news,” she said.

The sentiment was echoed by a leader of the Afro-descendant communities in Cauca and representative of the Black Community Process (PCN) (who cannot be identified due to threats to his security) said, “It is positive that the UK is looking at stronger safeguards for the impacts of its trade and investment on communities and our territories in Colombia and other countries. UK regulation is surely needed: it must guarantee that UK companies and financiers do not harm the social fabric and fundamental rights of our peoples”.

Helen Tugendhat of Forest Peoples Programme, who participated in the GRI process, noted “Due diligence legislation must encompass all commodity production linked, directly or indirectly, with UK businesses and its finance sector, regardless of the location of the ultimate importers or consumers.”

She added: “As we emerge from this time of difficulty and look to the future, investing in sustainable and responsible food systems and building positive changes in supply chains will be of paramount importance. The GRI report recognises the importance of social and environmental protections being built within future UK trade deals. FPP views this as crucial to underpinning sustained changes in the way we all behave, protecting us all, including peoples and forests at risk.”

This GRI report will be an important resource for rebuilding a more resilient, sustainable and just economic and social system in the aftermath of the damage caused to societies around the globe by Covid-19. Promoting sustainable production and consumption must be an urgent priority for governments and intergovernmental agendas as they review and put in place new policies and measures following this global crisis.

For more information contact:

Helen Tugendhat, Forest Peoples Programme: helen@forestpeoples.org

Norman Jiwan: normanjiwan@gmail.com or jiwannorman18@gmail.com

Tel: +6285691353429 or +6281315613536

Tom Dixon, Communications Manager, Forest Peoples Programme: tdixon@forestpeoples.org

[1] The Global Resource Initiative is a multi-stakeholder dialogue process and taskforce established by the UK government in late 2018 in order to make recommendations for how the British government could reduce the climate and environmental footprint of key UK commodity supply chains. Dialogues took place over a period of 18 months, and included more than 200 representatives of business, finance, government and civil society, culminating in a report launched on 30 March 2020.

[2] Corporate human rights and environmental due diligence is a concept promoted by the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and also supported by OECD’s Guidance on the Responsible Conduct of Business. It requires companies to identify and assess the impacts on human rights and the environment of their business, take steps to prevent and mitigate these risks, and provide a remedy where its activities cause negative human rights or environmental impacts.

Related link
Global Resource Initiative Taskforce: Final recommendations report 2020

Friday, 7 February 2020





7 February 2020
Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia

We, Indigenous Peoples and Non-Governmental Organisations from palm oil-producing countries in Latin America, Africa and South East Asia demand the right to expose the realities we face in our communities about the impacts of the palm oil sector.

We have gathered here, from Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Guatemala, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ghana, Cameroon, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines, in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia to share our experiences with the palm oil sector and its impacts on our communities, territories and peoples. Together, we want to explore potential reforms in our countries and the industry internationally so that palm oil production brings genuine development and not exploitation, deforestation, land-grabbing and impoverishment.

Yet, while we are gathered here, we witness representatives of the palm oil industry labelling us in the media as ‘toxic entities’[1] and condemning our efforts to expose our realities as a ‘black campaign’. We, representatives of environmental justice, human rights, women’s, youth and indigenous peoples’ organisations, categorically condemn these statements.

‘We are citizens of our countries and we have a constitutional right to speak out and seek justice for our communities’ said Wisdom Adjawlo from Youth Volunteers for the Environment in Ghana. ‘This attempt to restrict our activities and muzzle our voices is not only an abuse of our right to freedom of expression but will lead to worse outcomes for all.’

‘Since when were people protecting their traditional forests, lands and the environment “toxic?”’ asks Andrew Aeria from the Non-Timber Forest Products Exchange Program, Malaysia. ‘Planting oil palm without the Free, Prior and Informed Consent of indigenous peoples is toxic to them, their forests and their lands. It’s the pesticides the companies use that are toxic!’

‘Palm oil companies are destroying our forests and grabbing our lands with the complicity of government agencies’ said Miguel Guimaraes from the Shipibo people in Peru. ‘We have sought justice through the local courts, by appeals to government and filing complaints with the RSPO. Yet, palm oil produced by deforesting our stolen lands is being sold into the international market by RSPO-member companies, even after our complaints were found to be valid. ’

‘In Indonesia, deforestation, peatland clearance and forest fires, much of it caused by oil palm expansion, has made our country the sixth largest emitter of greenhouse gases worldwide – that is the scale of the impact. Local communities cannot accept that this environmental destruction continues’ says Triana Wardani of the Indonesian women’s mass organisation SERUNI. ‘Palm oil has meant that women have lost control over their land and natural resources, forcing them and their families into hardship.’

‘Women are the custodians of our culture and our lands. Our indigenous women are marching in defence of our lands and for our right to maintain our ways of life which are being destroyed by multiple industries including palm oil production’ notes Hernan Payaguaje from the Secoya people of the Ecuadorean Amazon.

‘In Cameroon, loss of access to land and forests that are taken over by palm oil companies forces women into underpaid employment on the oil palm estates, where they are subjected to sexual harassment and violence. Women labourers don’t even have time for basic childcare. Local languages and traditions are being lost, and with them the knowledge of how to live in prosperity in the tropical forests’ reports Carrele Mawamba from Green Development Advocates in Cameroon. ‘The arrival of the oil palm plantations has brought sexual harassment, underage marriage and worse’.

‘In Guatemala, the indigenous Q’eqchi people have already lost much of their lands and now face problems of pollution and diversion of streams and rivers that deprives them of drinking water’, explains Geisselle Sanchez Monge from the local chapter of Action Aid. ‘We want that peoples’ rights are respected and that companies respect the law and their obligations’.

‘Palm Oil is destroying our entire way of life’ says Krissusandi Gunui of Institute Dayakologi from Indonesian Borneo. ‘It has not just taken our customary lands but the very basis for our identities and ways of life. There should be no further expansion so long as palm oil means land grabbing and dispossession’.

‘Land conflicts are rife in Indonesia’ affirms Andi Muttaqien from the Indonesian human rights group ELSAM. ‘These disputes are getting worse as land scarcity increases. Many communities are now forced into stealing palm fruits and even re-occupying small parcels of land within the plantations to grow vegetables for sale in the local markets.’

‘Migrant workers, who are the mainstay of the palm oil industry in Malaysia, face huge problems of exploitation, informal work without contracts or documentation, sub-standard living conditions and even forced labour’ notes Lanash Thanda of the Sabah Environmental Protection Association.

‘Companies should respect labour rights. Providing decent work and decent wages is mandatory to ensure the quality of life for labourers and their families’, adds a representative of trade union OPPUK-SERBUNDO.

‘Companies are not criticised for securing investment from foreign banks, selling their product to foreign markets, or sending their profits overseas, but international NGOs are vilified for standing in solidarity with us’, says Geofani from the environmental justice NGO, Link-AR Borneo. ‘The development and production of biofuels often intersects with environmental problems, the burning of forests, and the loss of land, which is financed internationally. The playing field is skewed against us, so international solidarity is a must. We welcome global efforts to amplify our voices’.

‘Palm oil is a global commodity. Until those who have been impacted can get justice nationally and through local courts, we have to make recourse to international forums to get redress. We welcome the fact that buyers and manufacturers are now refusing to buy palm oil that comes from land-grabbing, deforestation and exploitation’ says Nikodemus Ale of WALHI Kalimantan Barat.

‘All such matters need to be exposed and addressed by the companies and not brushed under the carpet’ says Leili Khainur of the grassroots women’s organisation Serumpun in West Kalimantan. ‘The only ‘black campaign’ in the palm oil sector comes from those who are trying to shut down public debate. Monocultures have diminished local economic options. Our focus now is on rebuilding the diversity of local economies, especially through working with women. They are the real drivers of local development – they farm rice paddies, tap rubber, grow vegetables, gather forest products and raise the future generation.’

Listening to the voices of local communities and smallholders will improve the global industry and the outcomes for local people. ‘To produce sustainable palm oil, companies and governments should not just rely on industry standards, but they should focus on building local smallholders’ capacities and ensure that they are not excluded from the benefits of palm oil production by the powerful large-scale producers’, notes Nurbaya Zulhakim from Setara JAMBI from Sumatra, Indonesia.

We also note that the situation is not all negative, and some companies are making an effort to address these issues. We note that the RSPO and some certified companies are working to address corruption. However, it is a systemic problem and is often ignored or avoided.

Nevertheless, ‘the RSPO standard is very relevant for our communities and smallholders in Colombia, as we lack appropriate national laws for the palm oil sector’, shares Leonardo Gonsalez Perafan from Indepaz, Colombia. ‘We can use the RSPO to push for better behaviour by the companies which are otherwise violating peoples’ rights. The right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent is vital to protect otherwise vulnerable communities.’

‘These voluntary standards are not a solution by themselves’ adds Linda Rosalina from TuK INDONESIA, which tracks investment in the palm oil sector. ‘We also need national legal reforms to uphold rights, provide access to justice and regulate developers and investors. Especially since policies and regulations from our governments often benefit the companies rather than our people’.

‘In Liberia, a new Land Rights Act now promises land security to indigenous peoples, which is a great step forward, but the problems remain for the communities living in the millions of hectares whose lands have already been allocated to companies for 50 years or more’ reports Sampson Williams of the Sustainable Development Institute. ‘Where national laws are weak, we need alternatives at the international level and in consumer countries.’

Representatives of some of the biggest palm oil companies in the world call us unfriendly and toxic for exposing the realities we face in our communities. They want to hide the impacts of their business on local communities, local environments, our forests, rivers, cultures, territories and our planet. We stand firm in our right to expose the reality of the global palm oil industry. We call on all palm oil companies to uphold their duty to respect environmental limits and human rights, including our right to freedom of expression.

Together, we remind our governments that their first obligation is to respect, protect and promote the rights of their people. They should not remain insensitive to the plight of local communities struggling to survive the impacts of the palm oil industry, and they should not become complicit in human rights abuses for the sake of palm oil profits. We call on our governments to endorse the enactment of a binding treaty on business and human rights.

We are not against palm oil, but we do not accept the reckless environmental destruction and rampant human rights abuses that accompanies palm oil production. Neither should the global palm oil industry, consumers or the governments of palm oil producing and importing countries.

Instead of name-calling and censorship, we welcome genuine, good-faith discussions with governments and palm oil companies who take their environmental and human rights obligations seriously.

Green Development Advocates, Cameroon
Instituto de estudios para el desarrollo y la paz (Indepaz), Colombia
Alianza Ceibo, Ecuador
Young Volunteers for the Environment, Ghana
Action Aid, Guatemala
ELSAM, Indonesia
Link-AR Borneo, Indonesia
Setara JAMBI, Indonesia
Institut Dayakology, Indonesia
Sarumpun, Indonesia
TuK INDONESIA, Indonesia
Ecoton, Indonesia
Auriga, Indonesia
SERUNI, Indonesia
WALHI Kalimantan Barat, Indonesia
Yayasan Masyarakat Kehutanan Lestari, Indonesia
Yayasan Pusaka, Indonesia
Sustainable Development Institute, Liberia
Sabah Environment Protection Association, Malaysia
Non-Timber Forest Products Exchange Programme, Malaysia
Federacion de Comunidades Nativas De Ucayali y Afluentes – FECONAU, Peru
National Movement for Justice and Development, Sierra Leone

With support and solidarity from:
Both ENDS, the Netherlands
Forest Peoples Programme, the United Kingdom

[1] ‘Malaysian palm oil bosses urge action against ‘toxic’ environment groups’, Reuters, 4 February 2020: https://www.reuters.com/article/malaysia-palmoil/malaysian-palm-oil-bosses-urge-action-against-toxic-environment-groups-idUSL4N2A42DK.

Wednesday, 20 November 2019

9th Conference on Human Rights and Business in Southeast Asia

9th Conference: on Renewable Energy, Gender and the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
October, 2019 in Bata’an, Philippines

Bata’an Statement

1. Between 27-30 October 2019, 63 participants from 9 countries gathered in Subic Bay, Bata’an Province, the Philippines, to discuss and review human rights issues related to the expansion of business investments and activities in Southeast Asia. The 9th Conference on Business and Human Rights was convened in the Subic Bay area, previously a US military base operating for 99 years until the end of their presence in 1992. Participants in the conference represented National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs), indigenous peoples’ organisations and civil society organisations.

2. The conference was convened by the Commission on Human Rights in the Philippines (CHRP), the Forest Peoples Programme, the Philippines Association for Intercultural Development, and the Indigenous Peoples’ International Centre for Policy Research and Education (Tebtebba), with the support of the Stockholm Environment Institute, the Rights and Resources Initiative and the Samdhana Institute.

3. We acknowledge the hospitality of the Pastolan and Kanawan communities who opened their homes and their communities to us. We respect the many years of hard work that resulted in the Ancestral Domain titles achieved by both communities.

4. The Conference reviewed and discussed national situations in countries in Southeast Asia, hearing from NHRIs in Myanmar, Thailand, the Philippines, Timor Leste, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Nepal, and indigenous peoples and civil society organisations from Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Myanmar, Lao PDR and the Philippines. The Conference participants also shared experiences from indigenous peoples, civil society organisations and NHRIs on issues including the impacts of Special Economic Zones (SEZs), the risks and opportunities of renewable energy transitions, and the gendered impacts of land rights struggles. Common themes were heard, summarised here.

5. Active engagement by NHRIs in Southeast Asia with business and human rights was noted. The first ever National Inquiry launched by the National Commission on Human Rights in Indonesia (Komnas HAM) was on ‘Indigenous Peoples’ Rights on their Territories in the Forest Zone’, the Malaysian Human Rights Commission (SUHAKAM) similarly conducted a National Inquiry into the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which recommended, among others, the establishment of a National Commission on Indigenous Peoples. NHRI representatives noted the investigation and research mandates could be used to good effect (Timor Leste, Thailand, Philippines). Engagement on business and human rights issues was noted by all presenting NHRIs, through investigations and interventions on specific cases, and on awareness raising.

6. However, implementation of the recommendations of NHRIs to governments remain slow in many countries. NHRIs also remain in a limited number in the region, with Cambodia, Vietnam and Lao PDR still not having established these bodies. Funding independent from political interference continues to be a challenge, and most NHRIs lack a clear mandate to investigate and address trans-boundary issues.

7. Experience of direct negotiation between indigenous peoples and businesses continues to be relatively limited, and businesses operating in Southeast Asia continue, largely, to misunderstand and disrespect the human rights of different rights holders, including the rights of indigenous peoples. This includes the right to give or withhold free, prior and informed consent to proposed activities affecting their rights and interests. Business-established grievance mechanisms need to be established where there are none and made more effective and accessible to affected peoples.

8. The conference heard about increasing momentum behind efforts to make human rights due diligence a requirement of companies operating in Southeast Asia, reflecting an academic assessment of the activities of Southeast Asian businesses against the requirements of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights which showed clear weaknesses in implementing due diligence.

9. The establishment of SEZs to promote business investment is seen across the region, including in Timor Leste where resettled communities were promised compensation and construction materials. Experiences from the host country, the Philippines, were widespread and mixed, from the development of the Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Freeport (APECO), where there was no free, prior and informed consent in the declaration of the Zone and persistent problems, to the SBMA where negotiation relationships exist and Ancestral Domain is recognised. The selective waiving of certain standard regulations and laws in SEZ’s to promote investment was noted.

10. Concerns with the status of land laws were raised. Participants from Indonesia noted the stalled negotiations on the draft law on the Recognition and Protection of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Indonesia. While land is a State matter in Malaysia, the Federal Court in 2016 held that the Dayak indigenous peoples of Sarawak cannot rely on their native customary rights to claim title over virgin forests as their territorial domains and communal forest reserves. They can now only claim lands limited to farmed land cleared before 1958. At the same time the Federal Malaysian government is suing the State government in Kelatan to force recognition of native customary title. In Myanmar the legal situation has taken a backwards step, with the Vacant, Fallow and Virgin Land Law being amended in September 2018, effectively turning all unregistered land into ‘vacant’ land and denying unregistered land rights.

11. Land ownership also remains, in too many places, opaque or confused. Overlapping jurisdictions, even where indigenous lands are recognised (Philippines) and where they are not (Thailand, Myanmar, Indonesia), exist in many countries. Participants from Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines noted overlaps with conservation and/or forest areas, in Myanmar overlaps between national and regional land governance systems remain. In a rush for resources, such confusion undermines communities’ ability to resist incursions.

12. Specific cases were raised where indigenous peoples and communities have experienced human rights-related challenges, including the Omkoi mine in Karen areas in Thailand impacting thousands of Karen living in affected communities, and Philippine cases – from the proposed Kaliwa dam where the Dumagat are challenging the outcome of a distorted FPIC process, an open-pit gold mine on Masbate Island affecting local communities, and the contested extension of the OceanaGold mine in Didipio affecting the Ikalahan indigenous people.

13. Serious issues were raised and shared regarding the targeting of individuals and communities defending their rights. Specific targeting of those involved in defending lands and resources through labelling them as ‘terrorists’, ‘anti-State’ and/or ‘anti-development’ was cited in the Philippines, Indonesia and other parts of Asia. In Indonesia, stories of criminalisation, intimidation, threats and violence were shared. In Palawan, Philippines, indigenous representatives spoke of the division in their community and destruction of their forests caused by the massive coconut plantation of the Lionheart Farms Philippines. Militarisation of project zones in Myanmar and the Philippines was linked directly to increased threats and violence. Criminalisation of traditional livelihoods was noted in Thailand and other countries. In too many cases, such intimidation, criminalisation and violence lead to killings of community leaders and individuals, including extra-judicial killings.

14. Specific impacts on women in situations of such violence were raised, as were the strong roles that women have played in defending themselves and their communities against violence. Action to address threats against individuals, communities and peoples were also noted, in particular the United Nations Environment Programme’s ‘Environmental Rights Initiative’ which was welcomed by the conference. The innovative investigatory role of the newly declared Indigenous Peoples Observatory established in partnership with the Commission on Human Rights in the Philippines was also noted as an example for potential replication in the region.

15. Renewable energy was a key theme in the conference discussions, which addressed both the opportunities and risks of the rising investment levels into these forms of energy production. All ASEAN nations have endorsed the Paris Agreement which states that all climate actions must protect uphold and protect human rights, and such commitments support a move towards more renewable forms of energy. Global initiatives by indigenous peoples were also noted, specifically the Right Energies Partnership initiated by the Indigenous Peoples Major Group on the SDGs, which promotes partnerships to support indigenous peoples own initiatives for renewable energy projects.

16. The promotion of biofuels as a form of green energy raises risks for indigenous peoples, with increased pressure on land for expanding fuel production. Government subsidies in Indonesia only heighten demand, where available land resources are scarce. Large renewable energy projects such as solar, hydropower and geothermal can, when implemented without FPIC, increase development aggression in indigenous lands as illustrated by the rush for resources in the Cordillera, Philippines. Where indigenous peoples enter into agreements to host renewable energy projects, often limited information on long-term impacts and equitable benefit sharing arrangements is provided.

17. Renewable energy was also noted as including a very broad range of possible projects and actions, from hydropower and geothermal projects, to biofuel production, wind and solar energy, among others. Potential impacts of these different forms of renewable energy differ. Indigenous organisations from the Philippines and Malaysia shared significant work done in developing community-based or led renewable energy projects, while noting the importance of linking such projects with wider self-determined development priorities and livelihood projects. The high need for technical and financial support to sustain and expand such initiatives was noted, while also noting the importance of community management of such initiatives.

18. In a panel on gender and land rights, gender was understood as addressing unequal power relations within human societies, with a focus on women’s rights and empowerment stemming from relative marginalisation from power in many cases. For indigenous women, multiple forms of discrimination and marginalisation are experienced, from socio-economic to racial and identity based. Women also face specific forms of vulnerability in situations of militarisation and conflict. The strong roles and leadership shown by indigenous women was also noted and celebrated. Challenges noted included the lack of disaggregated data about impacts on women, and a lack and visibility of women’s voices in research and in participation levels generally.

19. On the basis of these discussions, the conference formulated recommendations for action:


1. We support the calls of the Aeta in Kanawan and Pastolan for the SBMA and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to recognise their governance over their ancestral domains. We support equitable benefit sharing as mandated by law between SBMA and the Pastolan community.

For Governments
2. We continue to call on governments to take urgent steps to recognise indigenous peoples in Southeast Asia, and to recognise their associated collective rights to their lands, waters, territories and resources. This includes free, prior and informed consent as an element of the right to self-determination
3. We call on governments to prioritise the effective implementation of positive laws and policies related to the rights of indigenous peoples and other land-dependent communities with customary rights to resources, and repeat our call on Southeast Asian governments to advance reforms in national and state laws and policies to align with international standards on the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities. This includes trans-boundary cooperation where indigenous peoples are found across national borders, and cooperation within the Asia region.
4. We encourage all governments in Southeast Asia to continue to support and widen the work of NHRIs in the region, including through work to establish NHRIs where they do not yet exist, and where they do, promote the strengthening of existing mandates. This may include also collaboration with NHRIs throughout Asia and beyond.

On National Human Rights Institutions:
5. We further call for sufficient and secure funding to be allocated to NHRIs to allow them to carry out their work effectively.
6. We take note of, encourage and support collaborative action between NHRIs, particularly in cases where companies registered in one country are active in another. We take particular note of the regional haze problems linked to burning and recommend a role for NHRIs in Malaysia and Indonesia in joint research and recommendations highlighting ownership, investment in, and responsibilities of the companies linked to these activities.
7. We commit to, and call for, further strengthening of collaborative work between civil society, indigenous peoples and NHRIs. We note the potential of trans-boundary collaboration in this regard.
8. We call on businesses to fulfil their independent responsibilities to respect human rights, as outlined in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), including by recognising the status and associated rights of indigenous peoples and promoting gender inclusion as provided for in the formal guidelines to UNGPs.
9. We continue to urge all businesses to align their business activities to international standards, including the UNGPs, and provide affected communities access to effective remedy in cases where rights violations are alleged. This is particularly critical in countries and areas with weak governance and rule of law, where local administrative and judicial channels are effectively closed.
10. We note the responsibility of businesses to respect the right of access to information, and call for improved transparency and sharing of information to support accountability of the business sector and state-owned enterprises
11. Business should not proceed with projects without the free, prior and informed consent of affected indigenous peoples, noting that the integrity of the FPIC process must be ensured. FPIC includes the right to say no, must be based on respect for indigenous peoples’ own decision-making processes and must ensure representation of all members of the community, including women and youth.
12. We call on businesses to ensure the effective and meaningful participation of indigenous peoples and local communities in all stages of development planning, including in SEZs where certain standard regulations and legal requirements are often waived.
13. We call on businesses in the region to incorporate human rights protections and comprehensive assessment of social and environmental impacts – often called ‘due diligence’ – at all stages of project conception, planning, development and realisation.
14. We encourage business to adopt and implement zero tolerance approaches to end violence, criminalisation, intimidation and killings linked to business activities.
15. We recognise the potential for collaboration with private sector actors and call on business to collaborate with all rights-holders and stakeholders in the region to advance positive outcomes for communities and peoples.

On human rights defenders:
16. We note the increasing use of litigation, intimidation and the threat of violence as a chilling strategy impacting indigenous peoples, and with distinct impacts on women as human rights defenders, and call on all parties to adopt zero tolerance for such tactics
17. We recognise the need for, and call on State agencies to provide, tailored mechanisms to protect and support human rights defenders, particularly for indigenous communities and women defenders
18. We recognise the work of the Commission on Human Rights in the Philippines in its current National Inquiry on Human Rights Defenders, and call on NHRIs to cooperate at regional level to develop guidelines for the effective protection of human rights defenders

On renewable energy:
19. We recommend the strengthening and expansion of existing platforms of knowledge sharing within the region on renewable energy policy and practice
20. We recommend that indigenous-led initiatives on renewable energy projects are fully supported, both financially and technically.
21. We call for ASEAN governments to review ASEAN investment priorities to reduce the focus on mega-infrastructure projects and invest instead on community-based smaller scale renewable energy systems, linked to sustained livelihoods.
22. We note the expanding market for biofuels is, in some cases, driving further expansion of palm oil and related crops, at times with renewable energy subsidies. We recommend a moratorium on new oil palm permits on forest, peat and livelihood areas until land rights concerns have been fully addressed.
23. In accordance with one of the key commitments of the ‘Beijing Platform for Action’ to develop gender-sensitive data collection in collaboration with academics and local women researchers, we recommend governments institutionalise tools such as Feminist Participatory Action Research as a legitimate source of knowledge among women and the communities.
24. We further recommend government (and other) funding be dedicated to providing platforms for women, indigenous peoples and local communities, developing and implementing gender programmes, along with support for capacity building and knowledge sharing among and between indigenous communities including women
25. We call on all parties to adopt the deliberate and conscious participation of women in all decision-making processes with regards to the utilisation of land and waters and to conduct gender impact assessments for their business activities.
26. The development priorities in SEZs (present and future) should be aligned with and incorporate the self-determined priorities of indigenous peoples
27. Indigenous peoples should meaningfully and effectively in participate the governance of SEZs, where their rights and interests are affected
28. We commit to continued collaboration and support for these recommendations and to working together, across borders and throughout Asia, to advance our common interests in securing respect for human rights in Southeast Asia.

30 October 2019

Sunday, 15 September 2019

Citation [Cambridge University Press] accessed 15 Sept 2019



3 - The Political Ecology of the Indonesian Palm Oil Industry

By Norman Jiwan, Head of Department for Social and Environmental
Publisher: ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute
pp 48-75

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This chapter is based on direct interactions and experiences of social and environmental issues pertaining to oil palm plantations in Indonesia. The information has been compiled from various sources from different regions in seventeen provinces, including case investigations, documentations, testimonies, dialogues, legal and policy interventions, and extensive village meetings that were undertaken by Sawit Watch. Sawit Watch is an Indonesian non-government organization (NGO) concerned with adverse negative social and environmental impacts of oil palm plantation development in Indonesia, which seeks to promote sustainable social justice mandates through human rights based approaches in its activities and interventions. It is active in seventeen provinces and networks in related districts where oil palm plantations are now being developed in Indonesia. Since 1998 our focus has been on vulnerable and affected groups of indigenous peoples, oil palm farmers, and plantation workers.

The expansion of palm oil in Indonesia is driven by the cooperation between large corporations and the Indonesian state, which offers “enabling conditions” in its promotion of palm oil. Currently the Indonesian palm oil Industry produces around 21 million tonnes of crude palm oil (CPO) on over 9 million hectares of plantations (Sawit Watch 2010). The Government of Indonesia has set a production target of 40 million tonnes CPO by 2020 (Krisnamurti 2009). There are already 26.7 million hectares under permits for further oil palm plantation expansion. Moreover, the emerging feedstock demand of agrofuels from the European Union markets and the national biofuel mandatory target are leading to an additional 10–12 million hectares of plantations for biofuel production, of which 65 per cent is slated for export (Krisnamurti 2009).

This chapter argues that the particular political ecology of this palm oil expansion is leading to negative environmental consequences, i.e., forest conversion, peatland conversion, agrochemicals, and pollution connected to the waste from palm oil mills (palm oil mill effluent, or POME). Current research suggests that approximately 18 million hectares of tropical rainforests have been cleared and commercially logged in Indonesia (Colchester et al. 2006).

Thursday, 21 March 2019

Press Release: Unsustainable Sime Darby, Buyers and Financiers Must Stop Their Business Relations


This article was originally posted by our partners TuK Indonesia in: Bahasa Indonesian and English

Jakarta, 21 March 2019 – Dayak Hibun indigenous peoples from Kerunang hamlet and Entapang hamlet, Bonti Sub-district, Sanggau District, West Kalimantan express their deep objection with regards to the sale of PT Mitra Austral Sejahtera (PT MAS) by Sime Darby Plantation, a Malaysian corporate entity.

PT MAS, a subsidiary of Sime Darby plantation has broken promises and abused Indonesian rules and regulations, international laws, RSPO voluntary international best practice standards, and OECD Guidelines on Multinational Enterprises.
Sime Darby Plantation looted Dayak Hibun indigenous peoples’ land in Kerunang hamlet and Entapang hamlet by converting indigenous peoples land for PT MAS oil palm plantation concession area (HGU). PT MAS broke the initial promises of socialisation in 1995 that the company only borrowed community land to establish oil palm plantation for only 25-year. However, without information and consent of the community, PT MAS made community land as a business right (HGU).

“Sime Darby and the management of PT MAS do not run away from the responsibility of resolving land conflict that has had dragged on since 1999. The Government of Indonesia must not allow and authorise the sale of PT MAS, until the HGU land conflict with the communities fully resolved. “The customary land that was seized by PT MAS about 1,462 hectares must be returned to the communities of Kerunang and Entapang,” said Redatus Musa, spokesperson of the Dayak Hibun indigenous people from Kerunang – Entapang Hamlet.

Sime Darby Plantations, the largest Malaysian palm oil company in the world is a prominent founder and member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). The divestment of PT MAS constituted an act of arrogant, illegal and arbitrary because Sime Darby was without good-faith ignored deliberations and denied consensus with the Dayak Hibun indigenous peoples before selling PT MAS.

Even within the norms of production and governance of the global palm oil industry, the sale of PT MAS by Sime Darby Group is not in accordance with the spirit and commitment of the RSPO code of ethical business conducts. The divestment of PT MAS is not transparent, in violation of the principle of propriety and compliance with the norms of international law and human rights.
“Sime Darby’s act of divesting PT MAS shows obviously that there has been something wrong with RSPO certification for failures in providing respect, protect and remedy human rights as required by RSPO Principles and Criteria. Since 2012 the RSPO has issued sustainable palm oil certificates for dozen of Sime Darby’s Indonesian mills and oil palm plantations despite the unresolved conflict from land grabbing by HGU in PT MAS. This is violates RSPO ethical and appropriate business conducts, legal compliance, human rights and FPIC as well as responsibility to provide remedies for impacts on human rights by multinational enterprises of the OECD member countries. RSPO General Assembly passed in November 2018 discouraged its members from selling or divesting operations either mills or plantations that are subject to unresolved conflicts,” said Norman Jiwan former social NGO’s RSPO Executive Board.

Sime Darby’s palm oil financiers and buyers also need to take a stand in addressing the said land conflict. From 2012-2018, Sime Darby received financial supports from prominent financial institutions including Maybank, HSBC, Standard Chartered, Deutsche Bank, Credit Suisse and the Norwegian Pension Fund Institution. Some palm oil buyers such as Cargill, Musim Mas, Unilever, and Wilmar International are bound by RSPO policies and their own No Deforestation, No Peat and No Exploitation (NDPE) policies also purchased palm oil from Sime Darby subsidiaries.

“To the financiers, banks, investors, shareholders, and buyers of Sime Darby Group palm oil immediately stopped their business relations with Sime Darby Group. It is appropriate for any business relations to be stopped because since 2012 Sime Darby Group failed to resolve the HGU land conflicts with the Kerunang and Entapang communities as required by the RSPO Principles and Criteria. The RSPO has even proven to have failed to encourage Sime Darby to restore the community’s customary land rights, “said Edi Sutrisno, Executive Director of TuK INDONESIA.

Marcus Colchester of Forest Peoples Programme said:

As an international human rights organisation and member of RSPO, FPP is deeply disappointed that Sime Darby has ignored the Resolution passed by the RSPO in November 2018 which called on members not to divest operations which were the subject of complaints. Sime Darby’s action is bound to be viewed by other RSPO members as an expression of bad faith. The Dayak Hibun have been deprived of their customary rights to their lands by PT MAS without their free, prior and informed consent. This constitutes a clear violation of one of the key provisions of the RSPO standard designed to avoid land grabbing and land conflicts. The Dayak Hibun are requesting the return of their land, as is their right under international law and international human rights treaties ratified by the Government of Indonesia. Unfortunately the RSPO Complaints Panel has been extremely slow over several years in following up on this complaint, to such an extent that the case was taken to the OECD. Now, just as the OECD was beginning to convene meetings to restart the process of conflict resolution, Sime Darby has decided to sell up.

With the outstanding land conflict has deprived of customary land rights caused by HGU land title in PT MAS, Dayak Hibun indigenous peoples of Kerunang and Entapang landowners and heirs call on the Government of Indonesia, OECD-National Contact Point Swiss (Swiss NCP), RSPO, bank, investor, shareholders, and palm oil buyers jointly urge Sime Darby to immediately return back the community’s customary land.

“We are also reminding the company that will be acquiring that until now PT MAS HGU land is still in dispute and having plenty of problems,” close Redatus Musa.

Contact Person:
Mubarok – TuK INDONESIA (0813-1109-8787)

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

PRESS RELEASE: Palm Oil Giant Golden Agri-Resources Removed from Dow Jones Sustainability Index after Bribery and Corruption Scandal – so what next for ‘sustainable’ palm oil?


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.

“Golden Agri-Resources’ operations in Indonesia and Liberia have generated years of controversy, including consistent and well-documented allegations of deforestation, land grabbing and human rights violations,” said FoE in a statement on its website.

The human rights violations and environmental record highlight GAR’s failure to live up to its human rights and sustainability commitments. In 2018, GAR and its subsidiaries were accused of clearing protected forest, establishing shadow companies to continue destructive operations, and disregarding the recommendations of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).

The RSPO has been under pressure for years to rule against GAR’s continuing violations of human rights and its slow action to make remedy in palm oil areas.

“It is ironic that the Dow Jones Sustainability Index is more responsive to evidence of GAR’s misdeeds than the Complaints Panel of the RSPO itself,” said Marcus Colchester of Forest Peoples Programme, a UK-based human rights organisation and member of the RSPO.

Gaurav Madan, senior forests and lands campaigner for Friends of the Earth U.S. said “The removal of Golden Agri-Resources from the Dow Jones Sustainability Index is an important step in holding the company accountable for its consistent abuses. Companies that have caused widespread environmental destruction have no place being greenwashed as sustainable.”

Although this news is welcomed, there are many questions which must be answered if sustainable palm oil can be claimed as such, not least around human rights abuses.

“It is ironic that the Dow Jones Sustainability Index is more responsive to evidence of GAR’s misdeeds than the Complaints Panel of the RSPO itself.” Marcus Colchester, Forest Peoples Programme

Land grabs and palm oil
Land grabs for palm oil plantations in Indonesia form a key tenet of human rights abuses associated with its production.

“Here, in Bengkayang, Indonesia, there are a lot of outstanding and unresolved problems due to palm oil land grabs,” said Niko Andasputra, Chair of AMAN-Bengsibas, a local organisation representing community members affected by palm plantations.

“Now that GAR is delisted from Dow Jones’ list of sustainable companies, what will it do to provide remedies to those who have outstanding problems and how long will that take?” he said.

What next for GAR and ‘sustainable’ palm oil?
Local Indonesian organisations welcomed the news that GAR has been delisted but added a note of caution about what action is taken next.

“The delisting of GAR is good news as it recognises the complexities of the problems in the palm oil sector,” said Norman Jiwan, advocacy lead for AMAN-Bengsibas, a local chapter in Indonesian Borneo of the National Alliance of Indigenous Peoples.

“But international voluntary standards must respect the human rights of affected indigenous peoples and local communities and provide proper remedies for past abuses,” he added.

Rahmawati Retno Winarni, Director of TuK Indonesia, a Jakarta-based NGO advocating corporate accountability said, “[the delisting] should lead to a more robust due diligence of investment decisions so that these decisions respect the rights of the affected communities and do not harm nature.”

Winarni also called upon a similar decisions to be made by the Sustainable and Responsible Investment Index in Indonesia. “Financial services wrongdoing is not a victimless act,” she said.

In Liberia, this view was echoed by civil society organisations, regarding local palm oil giant Golden Veroleum Liberia (GVL)*.

“Golden Agri-Resources is the financial backbone for GVL; GAR should be equally accountable for forest destruction and human rights violations occurring in GVL operations in Liberia,” said Daniel Krakue of Social Entrepreneurs for Sustainable Development (SESDev), a local organisation based in Liberia.

In addition to environmental and human rights issues, GVL faces questions around workers’ rights.

“The failure of GVL to address the safety and protection of workers in their factories are all indication of the company’s failure to respect the rights of human beings working for the company,” said James Otto of the Sustainable Development Institute (SDI), Liberia.

Otto added “GVL needs to reconsider its approach to ensuring that the rights of people are respected and protected at all times – these rights must extend to the movement of civil society organizations working to support the rights of local communities impacted by the company’s operations.”


*Golden Veroleum is owned by the U.S.-based Verdant Fund LP, whose sole investor is Singapore-listed palm oil giant Golden Agri-Resources, the world’s second-largest palm oil plantation company.

GVL tried to self-suspend its membership of the RSPO certification scheme in 2018 after the RSPO Complaints Panel upheld complaints that the company was violating its sustainability commitments. However, the RSPO Board ruled that self-suspension is not an option for members. Members must either adhere to the membership requirements or withdraw from RSPO altogether.

More information:
Dr Marcus Colchester, Senior Policy Advisor, Forest Peoples Programme +441608 652893 | marcus@forestpeoples.org
Tom Dixon, Media Manager, Forest Peoples Programme, +44 1608 690760 | +44 7876 397915 | tdixon@forestpeoples.org

Friday, 18 January 2019

Borneo’s forests under threat from road-building and infra-structure projects, claims new report


Tropical forests in Borneo are under major threat from deforestation from planned infra-structure development, says a new report published today.

The report by academics from Australia and Indonesia, highlights the massive risks to global biodiversity and climate posed by new road and infrastructure projects in Borneo, threatening some of the world's most pristine forest.

"You’d be hard-pressed to identify a scarier threat to biodiversity anywhere on Earth,” said Dr Mohammed Alamgir from James Cook University in Australia, lead author of the study.

“Borneo’s forests and rare wildlife have already been hit hard, but planned roads and railways will shred much of what remains, slicing across the largest remaining forest blocks,” said Professor Jatna Supriatna of the University of Indonesia.

In addition to the environmental risks, the social implications of these developments are very worrying, posing a real threat to indigenous peoples in the region.

"Given the current absence of adequate legal protection of the indigenous Dayak peoples’ land rights and the exclusion of Dayak communities from having a say over the handout of logging, pulpwood and oil palm plantations on their customary lands, the planned expansion of roads throughout Borneo poses a major threat to these peoples’ survival," said Marcus Colchester, Senior Policy Advisor of the Forest Peoples Programme.

"The government needs to urgently pass and implement laws protecting indigenous peoples’ rights, and reconsider its top-down approach to development," he said.

A local Dayak activist, Norman Jiwan from Sanggau, West Kalimantan, said "Our rights are protected under international human rights laws that the government of Indonesia has ratified."

"But despite promises to pass national laws recognising our rights nothing has been done."

"Our national indigenous peoples’ organisation, AMAN, has repeatedly brought this lack of protection of our rights to the attention of the United Nations and its Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD)," Jiwan added.

"AMAN has called on our government to protect our rights. The longer the government delays, the more problems we have. There must be no roads without rights!"


This video highlights findings from the report: https://youtu.be/BN6MscAMIpg
See Press Release and research report, below
Contact: Marcus Colchester, Forest Peoples Programme: info@forestpeoples.org
Press enquiries: Tom Dixon, communications@forestpeoples.org / +44 7876 397915

Monday, 27 August 2018

Press Statement: Indonesia’s largest palm oil company, Golden Agri Resources on the ropes

Source: https://www.forestpeoples.org/en/node/50274

Indonesian, Liberian and International NGOs have just filed five new complaints (attached below) against Indonesia’s largest palm oil company, Golden Agri Resources (GAR). GAR which is part of the huge Sinar Mas (Golden Rays) conglomerate run by the Widjaja family with interests ranging from palm oil and pulpwood to real estate and banking, is failing to comply with the RSPO’s standards, claim the NGOs.

Both GAR and its subsidiary in Liberia – Golden Veroleum Liberia (GVL) – angered NGOs when they recently withdrew GVL’s membership of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), thus dodging a demand from RSPO that it halt development of its palm oil mill on contested lands.

Mina Beyan of the Liberian NGO Social Entrepreneurs for Sustainable Development (SESDev) said:

We have been helping the local communities impacted by GVL to complain about the unfair way that GVL has been acquiring their lands, since 2012. Finally, earlier this year the RSPO Complaints Panel agreed - after a detailed independent investigation - that the complaints were valid. GVL was told to stop the land grab, but they refused. And now they have walked out of the RSPO. This delinquent behaviour challenges the very fabric of RSPO. Are RSPO standards only to be observed in the breach?

According to Liberian NGOs, GVL was pushing ahead with its development despite the refusal of the Blogbo community to cede their lands to the company, despite their complaints to the RSPO, despite their complaints being upheld by the RSPO Complaints Panel and despite the Panel upholding the stop work order it had issued, after overruling an appeal by GVL against the Panel’s decision.

This is a blatant attempt by GVL and GAR to evade their obligations to the RSPO. They use their RSPO membership to attract investment and to market their palm oil but when their bluff is called they just walk away from their responsibilities, said James Otto of the Monrovia-based NGO Sustainable Development Institute (SDI).

Another complaint alleges that GAR is in violation of Indonesian laws which prohibit companies and corporate groups from holding more than 100,000 hectares of land. GAR publicly admits to holding more than four times that amount. Compliance with the law is a core principle of the RSPO standard but the RSPO Complaints Panel has avoided making a ruling on this matter for more than three years.

GAR has also delayed providing promised smallholdings to local Dayak and Malay communities from whom it acquired lands in 2007-2009 in the centre of Borneo, despite being required to do so by the RSPO Complaints Panel more than three years ago after a complaint from Forest Peoples Programme (FPP).

Indonesia says it welcomes investment in palm oil plantations to help alleviate poverty and bring development, says Rahmawati Winarni, Executive Director of the Indonesian NGO Transformation to Justice (TUK), but GAR is just taking peoples’ lands and then wilfully delaying compensating them for it. Why should poor landowners be forced cede their lands and then wait decades for promised smallholdings, while these huge companies reap their profits? Actually, it is the Indonesian government that should be stopping this kind of abuse not just the RSPO, she added.

In 2013, investigations by TUK and Forest Peoples Programme had revealed that GAR was cheating people out of their lands in violation of the RSPO standards - which require members to respect customary rights and only take their lands with their free, prior and informed consent.[1] This led to a detailed complaint to the RSPO, which the complaints panel (CP) upheld in 2015, requiring GAR to make remedy for the lands it had taken without consent. RSPO CP froze all expansion and land acquisition by GAR in all 18 of GAR’s operations that were the subject of the complaint.

Since then GAR has refused to renegotiate these unfair land deals, despite an RSPO ruling that it must make remedy for taking lands without communities’ free, prior and informed consent, notes Marcus Colchester, Senior Policy Advisor for Forest Peoples Programme. ‘Justice delayed is justice denied’ is an apt saying.

The delays have led the NGOs to file the fourth complaint.

As an RSPO member we are active on the standard-setting committees trying to make the system credible and in line with human rights law, Marcus added, but if RSPO members are allowed to get away with violations for years on end, then this all seems a bit pointless. The Complaints Panel must enforce its own decisions.

In a fifth complaint the same NGOs have also called on RSPO CP to investigate what they allege are ‘shadow companies’ owned by Sinar Mas but which GAR has not declared are under its control. This follows a similar disclosure, earlier this year, that GAR’s sister company, the pulpwood giant Asian Pulp and Paper, was hiding Sinar Mas group’s ownership of several timber estates which were caught deforesting contrary to APP’s pledges to halt such.[2] The exposure led to the suspension of APP’s efforts to re-associate with the Forest Stewardship Council with the aim of certifying its huge pulp wood estate.

The credibility of certification systems depends on transparency and verification. If RSPO members are hiding their ownership of non-compliant subsidiaries or are wilfully taking them out of RSPO when they get caught, the RSPO must investigate speedily and uphold its standards, said Norman Jiwan a Dayak human rights activist working with FPP.

The NGOs have called for GAR’s certificates to be suspended, for GAR to be suspended from the RSPO Board of Governors, for GAR to be sanctioned for repeated non-compliance and for the Complaints Panel to investigate GAR’s exceeding the land ceiling and hiding its ownership of majority-owned subsidiaries.


For further information, contact:
James Otto, Sustainable Development Institute (Liberia)
Dr Marcus Colchester, Forest Peoples Programme (UK)

[1] https://www.forestpeoples.org/en/topics/palm-oil-rspo/publication/2014/independent-review-social-impacts-golden-agri-resources-forest
[2] https://news.mongabay.com/2018/07/revealed-paper-giants-ex-staff-say-it-used-their-names-for-secret-company-in-borneo/

Thursday, 25 January 2018

Kalimantan Villagers File Complaint Against RSPO in Switzerland


An Indonesian community rights group filed a complaint against the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) on Tuesday (23/01) for failing to address complaints by residents of two West Kalimantan villages. (Photo courtesy of Greenpeace/Ulet Ifansasti)

By : Dames Alexander Sinaga | on 1:23 PM January 24, 2018
Category : News, Environment, Human Rights
Jakarta. An Indonesian community rights group filed a complaint against the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD, on Tuesday (23/01) for failing to address complaints by residents of two West Kalimantan villages.

The indigenous Dayak community in Kerunang and Entapang villages are accusing Malaysian palm oil giant Sime Darby – a member of the RSPO – of stealing tribal land.

Norman Jiwan, a consultant with rights group Transformation for Justice (TuK Indonesia), said the complaint was filed after the community sent a request urging the RSPO to convince Sime Darby to return the tribal lands.

The RSPO allegedly failed to respond to their request.

"Today, we will submit the complaint," said Norman, who serves as a legal consultant for the affected indigenous communities.

He added that the RSPO has failed to meet its obligations under the OECD Guidelines on Multinational Enterprises.

"The complaint against the RSPO is submitted through the OECD's national contact point in Switzerland, where the RSPO is legally constituted," Norman said.

TuK Indonesia said Sime Darby, through its West Kalimantan subsidiary Mitra Austral Sejahtera (MAS), has been operating on indigenous lands for more than 20 years without free, prior and informed consent.

MAS allegedly approached local communities in 1995 and promised that the plasma plantation development would be followed by electrification, infrastructure developments, housing, hospitals, schools and employment opportunities for residents of Kerunang and Entapang. These promises resulted in an agreement to lease the land until 2022.

Despite no formal contract with the communities, MAS obtained cultivation permits and a land-use contract valid until 2030. The Kerunang and Entapang communities were not aware of these developments.

Since 2007, when Sime Darby acquired MAS, the two villages have been urging the company to prove its right to cultivate the land.

Sime Darby's Response

Sime Darby said in a statement in December last year that the land dispute has been discussed at the RSPO's annual meetings since 2012.

"Throughout this period, RSPO's complaint manager also visited the communities four times. As of December 2017, SDP [Sime Darby Plantation] management has held 25 meetings with the communities surrounding MAS to earnestly resolve the outstanding issues," the statement said.

The Malaysian palm oil giant said it is fully aware of the situation and it sympathizes with the communities of Kerunang and Entapang.

"However, we are unable at this point to unilaterally accede to the community's demands over the main contention areas ... as to do so would result in a breach of Sime Darby Plantation's terms of the concessions agreement signed with the government of Indonesia," the company said.

Sime Darby added that it is ready to assist in dialogue with the relevant government officials to find an equitable and legal solution for all stakeholders.

"The company looks forward to the cooperation of the communities towards ensuring that the eventual return of their land is socially, environmentally and economically viable," Sime Darby said.

The company added that it is also committed to the principles of sustainable development, and that it will continue to work to resolve the situation and fully cooperate with the RSPO's complaints panel.

Press Release: Indigenous Community files complaint against the RSPO at the OECD


24 January 2018/in Press Release /by Mubarok Khalid

Jakarta, January 24, 2018 – The Dayak Hibun Indigenous People from Kerunang hamlet and Entapang hamlet, Bonti Subdistrict in the Sanggau District in West Kalimantan, today filed a complaint against the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) under the OECD’s special complaint mechanism. The community filed its complaint through the OECD’s National Contact Point (NCP) in Switzerland, as the RSPO is legally registered in that country.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) is an intergovernmental economic organization, with the aim of promoting economic development and cooperation. Its’ members are mostly developed countries. As a way to promote fair and sustainable development that guarantees the protection of human and environmental rights, the OECD has published the OECD Guidelines on Multinational Enterprises. These Guidelines are the only multilaterally agreed and comprehensive code of responsible business conduct that governments have committed to promoting.

The community is of the opinion that the RSPO has failed to comply with the RSPO’s own rules and procedures, and that as a result of these failures, the RSPO has failed to protect the community’s rights and it has failed to comply with the OECD Guidelines on Multinational Enterprises.

The community declares that the RSPO has failed to comply with Chapter IV (3) of the OECD Guidelines, which is to “seek ways to prevent or mitigate adverse human rights impacts that are directly linked to their business operations, products or services by a business relationship, even if they do not contribute to those impacts”; and it has failed to comply with Chapter IV (5) to “carry out human rights due diligence as appropriate to [its] size, the nature and context of [its] operations and the severity of the risks of adverse human rights impacts”.

The conflict that originated this complaint is caused by PT Mitra Austral Sejahtera (“PT MAS”), a wholly owned subsidiary of a Malaysian Multinational palm oil Company called Sime Darby Berhad (“Sime Darby”), who is a founding member of the RSPO. The communities accuse PT MAS and Sime Darby from unlawfully excluding the community from 1,462ha of their customary land. As a result, the community has had their fundamental human rights denied.

The RSPO is a multi-stakeholder forum for the production of sustainable palm oil. It is registered in Switzerland and therefore legally bound to the OECD Guidelines on Multinational Enterprises. According to the RSPO standards, the production of sustainable palm oil includes respecting human rights, customary rights and other rights and comply with Free, Prior and Informed Consent Procedures. The RSPO’s Principles and Criteria document for palm oil producing companies, states in criteria 6.13 that “A policy to respect human rights shall be documented and communicated to all levels of the workforce and operation.


Since 2007, Sime Darby and PT MAS have failed to comply with Criteria 2.1, which is to provide evidence of compliance with relevant legal requirements. It has also failed to comply with Criteria 2.2, which is to demonstrate that the right to use the land is not legitimately contested by local people who can demonstrate that they have legal, customary or user rights over it. This is not the case, as the communities of Kerunang hamlet and Entapang hamlet claim their customary land, which is being used by PT MAS. Furthermore, the company has not adopted and implemented a conflict resolution process acceptable and agreed by the Community to resolve “land conflicts” (Criterion 2.2.4); it has failed to obtain Community FPIC (Criterion 2.3); and it has failed to provide evidence that a plan has been developed through consultation and discussion with all affected groups in the communities, it has failed to inform the communities about the legal implications of their use of the disputed land and in particular they failed to inform the communities on the implications of the legal status of community land upon the expiration of the concession or corporate HGU (Criterion 2.3 .2 (c)).

In October 2012, the community submitted a complaint to the RSPO regarding land conflicts involving PT Mitra Austral Sejahtera, a subsidiary of Sime Darby Plantation. The complaint contained 14 demands related to land rights, partnership issues and company promises. In the complaint, the community proposed a roadmap to solve the community’s demands. The first step was that the RSPO Complaints Panel should decide that Sime Darby Plantation should return the community land. Secondly, the Dispute Settlement Facility (DSF) should facilitate a dialogue to solve partnership issues, corporate promises and smallholder (plasma) production rearrangements.

Unfortunately, until 2017 the RSPO Complaints Panel has not responded and has not succeeded in making a written decision regarding the community demand. The Dispute Settlement Facility did not succeed in solving the community problems either. The community is disappointed and frustrated by the RSPO’s handling of their complaint and the lack of action to solve the conflict with PT MAS, a subsidiary of Sime Darby Plantation, a member of the RSPO.

 The communities and TuK INDONESIA see that Chapter IV (3) of the OECD Guidelines clearly applies to the RSPO with the following considerations:
First, the issue or refusal of certificates is a “business operation”. So is the operation of a complaints mechanism;

Secondly, the issue of a certificate to a member despite its failure to respect the human rights of a community affected by its project will be “directly linked” to an adverse human rights impact on the community, because it will encourage the member to think that it can ignore those rights without risk of sanction; if it is still able to sell certified product, its incentive to prevent or mitigate an adverse impact will largely disappear. A failure to operate the complaints mechanism properly will have a very similar effect as long as the failure persists.

Thirdly, by the same token if the RSPO fails to suspend or withdraw the certificate of a non-compliant member until it mends its ways, or to investigate a community complaint in a proper and timely manner, it fails to “seek a way to mitigate” the adverse impact of the member’s conduct.;

Fourthly, the RSPO is clearly in a “business relationship” with Sime Darby, a member which has agreed to pay and to abide by the RSPO rules in exchange for the benefits of membership.

The community has formulated a “Proposal for Solution” for Sime Darby Plantation. The proposal contains steps to return the customary land to the communities of Kerunang and Entapang. Unfortunately, the RSPO has failed to assist and convince Sime Darby Plantation to accept the offer of community solutions.

The community is ready to submit solutions to the Swiss NCP on how the RSPO should implement responsible, sustainable and equitable human rights mechanisms.

As a member of the OECD, the Swiss National Contact Point can facilitate, assist communities and the RSPO to restore the rights of Dayak Hibun indigenous peoples from Kerunang and Entapang hamlets, in accordance with the spirit of the United Nations Guide on Business and Human Rights and the OECD Guidance on Multinational Enterprises .

The communities believe the Swiss NCP is committed, professional and accountable in formulating best practices of human rights remedial measures in the implementation and advancement of the OECD Guidelines policy and in harmony with the spirit of sustainable development and Human Rights.

Media Contact:

Redatus Musa +62 81380663822, Head of Dusun Entapang Community

Edisutrisno +62 81315849153, Deputy Director, TuK INDONESIA

Rini Kusnadi +62 82260152595, Media Relation Officer, TuK INDONESIA

Tags: Kerunang-Entapang, OECD complaint, PT MAS, RSPO, Sime Darby

Thursday, 7 December 2017

RSPO Must Respond to Complaints Against Sime Darby: Rights Group

A community rights group has urged the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) to be more responsive in dealing with complaints against Malaysian palm oil giant Sime Darby. (Reuters Photo/Beawiharta)

By : Dames Alexander Sinaga | on 5:44 PM December 05, 2017
Category : News, Environment, Human Rights

Jakarta. A community rights group has urged the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, or RSPO, to be more responsive in dealing with complaints by residents of two villages in West Kalimantan against Malaysian palm oil giant Sime Darby, which they accuse of stealing their indigenous lands.

Sime Darby has expressed its willingness to resolve the conflict.

"If the RSPO does not provide concrete solutions immediately, the community plans to sue the RSPO through the OECD [Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development]," rights group Transformation for Justice (TuK Indonesia) consultant Norman Jiwan said in Jakarta on Thursday (30/11).

Norman, who is the legal consultant for the indigenous Dayak community inhabiting the villages of Kerunang and Entapang, said his team has already prepared the documents to be submitted to the OECD headquarters in Paris.

"[We] are just waiting for the right moment to file them."

Redatus Musa, who represents the Kerunang and Entapang community, urges Sime Darby to comply with RSPO Principles and Criteria for Sustainable Palm Oil Production and return the land, as Criterion 2.2 of the document says: "The right to use the land can be demonstrated, and is not legitimately contested by local communities with demonstrable rights."

"We have complained [to the RSPO], saying that the Malaysian company has trespassed into our indigenous land and turned it into a plasma plantation," Redatus said, adding that the RSPO's mechanisms have been inefficient, as the complaint, which was filed in 2012, is still unresolved.

According to TuK, Sime Darby, through its West Kalimantan subsidiary Mitral Austral Sejahtera (MAS), has been operating on the indigenous lands since 1995, without free, prior and informed consent.

In 1995, MAS approached local communities and promised that the plasma plantation construction will be followed by electrification, infrastructure developments, housing, hospitals, schools and employment opportunities for the residents of Kerunang and Entapang. The promises resulted in an agreement to lease the land until 2022.

Despite no formal contract with the communities, MAS obtained cultivation permits (HGU) and a land-use contract valid until 2030.

The Kerunang and Entapang communities were not aware of these developments.

In 2007, Sime Darby took over MAS. The two villages have been urging the company to prove its right to cultivate the land.

Sime Darby's Response

Sime Darby said in a statement on Monday (04/12) that the land dispute has been discussed at the RSPO's annual meetings since 2012.

"Throughout this period, RSPO complaint manager also visited the communities four times. As of December 2017, SDP [Sime Darby Plantation] management has held 25 meetings with the communities surrounding MAS to earnestly resolve the outstanding issues," the statement said.

The Malaysian palm oil giant said it is fully aware of the situation and it sympathizes with the communities of Kerunang and Entapang.

"However, we are unable at this point to unilaterally accede to the community's demands over the main contention areas ... as to do so would result in a breach of Sime Darby Plantation's terms of the concessions agreement signed with the government of Indonesia."

Sime Darby also said it is ready to assist in dialogues with the relevant government officials to find an equitable and legal solution for all stakeholders.

"The company looks forward to the cooperation of the communities towards ensuring that the eventual return of their land is socially, environmentally and economically viable," Sime Darby said, adding that it is also committed to the principles of sustainable development, and will continue to work to resolve the situation and fully cooperate with the RSPO's complaints panel.

Friday, 1 September 2017

Rapeculture, fight for its eradication!!!

Opinion by Norman Jiwan

What is rapeculture?

According to wikipedia 'rape culture' is a sociological concept used to describe a setting in which rape is pervasive and normalized due to societal attitudes about gender and sexuality. Wikipedia gives examples of rape culture associated with behaviors like victim blaming, slut shaming, sexual objectification, trivializing rape, denial of widespread rape, refusing to acknowledge the harm caused by some forms of sexual violence, or some combination of these.

Shannon Ridgway in an article "25 Everyday Examples of Rape Culture" shares more rape culture but not limited to:

1. A university in Canada that allows the following student orientation chant: “Y is for your sister. O is for oh-so-tight. U is for underage. N is for no consent. G is for grab that ass.”
2. Pop music that tells women “you know you want it” because of these “blurred lines” (of consent).
3. A judge who sentenced only 30 days in jail to a 50-year-old man who raped a 14-year-old girl (who later committed suicide), and defended that the girl was “older than her chronological age.”
4. Mothers who blame girls for posting sexy selfies and leading their sons into sin, instead of talking with their sons about their responsibility for their own sexual expression.
5. Photo memes like this:
6. Supporting athletes who are charged with rape and calling their victims career-destroyers.
7. Companies that create decals of a woman bound and gagged in order to “promote their business.”
8. People who believe that girls “allow themselves to be raped.”
9. Journalists who substitute the word “sex” for “rape” – as if they’re the same thing.
10. Politicians distinguishing “legitimate rape” and stating that rape is “something that God intended to happen,” among other horrendous claims.
11. Calling college students who have the courage to report their rapes liars.
12. The ubiquity of street harassment – and how victims are told that they’re “overreacting” when they call it out.
13. Victims not being taken seriously when they report rapes to their university campuses.
14. Rape jokes – and people who defend them.
15. Sexual assault prevention education programs that focus on women being told to take measures to prevent rape instead of men being told not to rape.
16. The victimization of hospital patients, especially people with mental health issues and the elderly, by the very people who are there to protect them.
17. Reddit threads with titles like “You just have to make sure she’s dead” when linking to the story of a 13-year-old girl in Pakistan being raped and buried alive.
18. Reddit threads dedicated to men causing women pain during sex (I’m not going to give the thread credence by linking to it).
19. Twitter hashtags that support accused rapists and blame victims.
20. Publicly defending celebrities accused of rape just because they’re celebrities and ignoring or denouncing what the victim has to say.
21. Assuming that false reporting for sexual assault cases are the norm, when in reality, they’re only 2-8%, which is on par with grand theft auto.
22. Only 3% of rapists ever serving a day in jail.
23. Women feeling less safe walking the streets at night than men do.
24. 1-in-5 women and 1-in-71 men having reported experiencing rape.
25. The fact that we have to condition ourselves not to use violent language in our everyday conversations.

Now what can you do?

Let's start to reflect and count if our behaviors or witness one of the above examples in our daily life. You have to admit honestly if you were contaminated and associated with rapeculture behaviors in the past were unacceptable, is currently violating both women and gender rights, and will be intolerable in the future. Accept it even if you did them in the past and then identify possible ways to address factors that triggers rapeculture. Appreciate yourself when you refrain from doing it.

When you notice, see and hear rapeculture then let yourself dare to express protest clearly and disagreement explicitly.

Start now from here and near, from yourself, your family and community.

Monday, 28 August 2017

Land shapes and forms civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights

An opinion by Norman Jiwan

This article tries to explore and review applicable sources of interpretation and information with regards to land and human rights. In 2015, the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights published Land and Human Rights: Standards and Applications. This is a one of most important sources of legal interpretation of international human rights laws that summarizes applicable international human rights standards relevant with land and human rights. It draws all fields of human rights namely (1) non-discrimination and equality; (2) rule of law; (3) right to adequate food; (4) right to adequate housing; (5) right to effective remedy; (6) right to freedom of movement and residence; (7) rights to freedom of opinion, expression, assembly and association; (8) right to freedom of religion; (9) right to information; (10) right to life; (11) right to participation; (12) right to property; (13) right to self-determination; (14) right to take part in cultural life; (15) right to water and sanitation; (16) rights of indigenous peoples to their traditional lands, territories and resources, including water; (17) rights of human rights defenders working on land issues; (18) safeguards against limitation of human rights for public interest; (19) responsibilities of business enterprises and State duties; and (20) International Humanitarian and Criminal Law.

The 4th Amendment of 1945 Constitution (UUD 1945) draws and establishes Chapter XA that stipulates fundamental elements of human rights in Indonesian highest norms and legal framework. This fundamental legal framework becomes major sources of policies, laws and implementing regulations. It shall be a legal reference for adjustment and harmonization towards eliminating and reforming the unjust colonial doctrines and legal practices, discriminatory laws and regulations. There should be no privilege for State and non corporate actors exploit and enjoy the benefits from discriminatory laws and lenience regulations.

Exploiting legal loopholes, for examples, business practices and operations lead to excessive exploitation of land, forests, and natural resources; harassment of workers, smallholders, contractors, etc.; intimidation of agrarian, peasant and women activists; manipulation of local elites; and criminalization against community leaders and rights defenders.

Second examples of justifying non legal means used by palm oil producers, owners, operators, suppliers and investors in order to expropriate land rights, forest and other natural resources from indigenous peoples and local communities namely operating business non exist laws and implementing regulations on FPIC; non exist local regulation on the recognition of rights of indigenous peoples; invoking illegitimate sultanate authorities and rights over indigenous territories and resources, etc.

Some examples of violations of the principles of and FPIC in practices namely the issuance of principle permit, location permit, environmental management license, mill building title; manipulation of information; incomplete information; incomplete description of legal information and implication; manipulation of local elites for favorable decisions; fake community representation; empty benefits and false promises; deficient mitigation and explanation of social, economic and environmental impacts;

Land and Human Rights & Indonesian 1945 Constitution

First, Article 28A Every person shall have the right to live and to defend his/her life and existence. Land is major source of life for land based livelihoods, agricultural activities, customary values, ancestral domain and identities. Land has been cultivated, occupied, used and defined distinctive social and cultural status of native communities from migrant communities and transmigration citizens. Land and territories have been major source of livelihoods and home to primary and secondary forests, agroforest trees and fruits, important sources of fishing and hunting grounds, river and water courses, fresh air, non timber forest produce (NTFP), source of herbal and medicines. The many uses, significant values, roles and functions of land have established a strong relation with human identity and integrity which shall define and establish right to live and defend life of every single person in the community. Contemporary development forms and actions, or past practices with intended and unintended impacts and/or results in impairing, compromising, reducing and taking over land and natural resources are violation of the law and human rights.

Second, Article 28C in particular verse (2) Every person shall have the right to improve him/herself through collective struggle for his/her rights to develop his/ her society, nation and state. The collective struggle to secure and exercise the sustainability of, quality and integrity of human rights shaped and established distinct civil, political, social, economic and cultural norms, beliefs, values, and practices. These distinctive and survive traditional values and practices have long been established, defined and influenced the practices and traditions of ancestor’s land use, occupation, cultivation and conservation that survive and inherited since time of immemorial. Any actions and legal measures interfering, preventing and eliminating or business practices that neglect and disregard the collective struggle for human rights to property [land and natural resources] morally unacceptable, legally unjustifiable and shall be punishable by laws. The collective struggle for individual and community rights in land and natural resources is obvious example of rights to develop society, nation and the state. The collective community struggle for land rights and natural resources shall be construed as legal exercises and categorically justified common practices as struggle for freedom and wellbeing of the Indonesians as independent state.

Third, Article 28D verse (1) Every person shall have the rights of recognition, guarantees, protection and certainty before a just law, and of equal treatment before the law. Recognition, protection, enforcement, advancement and enjoyment of property rights are clear forms and basic practices of a just law and of equal treatment before the law. In light of this article, there should no compelling economic and commercial reason for corporate actors including their subsidiaries and suppliers ignoring and avoiding the basic practices of rule of law and equality before the law as human rights. Developmental activities and business operations without due diligence and attention cannot be justified even if the practices occurred in the past when the constitution is not exist. Property right namely to land and other natural resources shall be established and exercised in the rule of law and equal treatment before the law within the framework of recognition, guarantees, protection and certainty. HGU certificates and land titles issued in the past without FPIC and even if no local implementing regulation on FPIC shall not be used and justified to ignore the progressive implementation of Article 28D since its effective in force. The State officials shall not extend and accept any application to renew and extend HGU and land titles that violated Article 28D of the constitution. After the amendment of the constitution, State officials shall have put corrective legal actions are very important to make sure that problematic HGU and land titles do not diminish the customary land rights of indigenous peoples. Private and corporate actors should establish, take and implement internal due diligence and human rights assessment to assess their business impacts on land rights of indigenous peoples and local communities. An ongoing and outstanding land conflicts due to past expropriation should be resolved properly with immediate remedial measures with proper compensation and restitution to the satisfaction of affected parties as well as guarantee of non repetition.

Fourth, Article 28G verse (1) Every person shall have the right to protection of his/herself, family, honour, dignity, and property, and shall have the right to feel secure against and receive protection from the threat of fear to do or not do something that is a human right. Land and natural resources are fundamental sources that define, determine and establish elements, shapes and states of individual dignity and property. The integrity, dignity and identity of individual and group of individual persons exist and establish economic, social and cultural relations and interactions that form family and community where the collectiveness of individual persons whose human rights to protection of his/her property namely land and natural resources both individuals and collective ownerships.

Ratification of international human rights laws

Indonesia has ratified core united nations’ human rights conventions, into subsequent and respective implementing national laws and regulations relevant with the recognition, guarantee, enforcement and protection of property rights. International convention on civil and political (ICCPR), convention on economic, social and cultural rights (CESCR), convention on the elimination of discrimination against women (CEDAW), international convention on the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination (ICERD), convention on the rights of the child (CRC), and convention on the rights of persons with disabilities (CRPD). In addition to human rights conventions, Indonesia has also ratified into laws some core labour conventions of the International Labour Organisation (ILO). Indonesia also supported and voted in favour of some important declaration of the United Nations especially United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

According to Masstricht Guidelines on the violations of economic, social and cultural rights stipulates that victims, both individuals and groups are entitled to remedies and other responses to violations. Section 22 stipulates that ‘any person or group who is a victim of a violation of an economic, social or cultural right should have access to effective judicial or other appropriate remedies at both national and international levels.’ The Guidelines section 23 further stipulates adequate reparation for all victims of violations which may take the form of restitution, compensation, rehabilitation and satisfaction or guarantees of non-repetition. The Guidelines also stipulate provision on acts by non-state entities which derives from the obligation to protect includes the State's responsibility to ensure that private entities or individuals, including transnational corporations over which they exercise jurisdiction, do not deprive individuals of their economic, social and cultural rights. States are responsible for violations of economic, social and cultural rights that result from their failure to exercise due diligence in controlling the behaviour of such non-state actors.

About Me

Born 8th May 1977, Mabah village of Dayak Kerambai tribe, West Kalimantan, Borneo island. He was trained at pedagogy and education faculty on English teaching at Tanjungpura University, Pontianak, West Kalimantan. Holding certificates on environmental leadership program, research, journalist, fire prevention, teaching, human rights & indigenous peoples in the international system, sustainable forest management, and sustainable palm oil. Co-author published domestic and international books. Experience speaker and resource person in seminars, conferences, workshops, and symposium both regional and international fora including in Brazil, Cambodia, Finland, France, Japan, Germany, Malaysia, Netherlands, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Philippines, United States, and Vietnam. Active member of Executive Board of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil represents Sawit Watch (2008-2012). Currently he lives in Bogor. Volunteer and activist works with WALHI Kalbar (2002-2004) and Sawit Watch (2004-2012). June 2013-2016, Executive Director of TuK INDONESIA. Consultant for Forest Peoples Programme (2013), MFP-III (2015), and ELSAM (2017).


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