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6 Jul 2015

Tomasz Johnson, Environmental Investigation Agency, for Guardian (UK)

Palm oil companies exploit land, abuse indigenous peoples’ rights, says activist

"Palm oil companies exploit Indonesia's people - and its corrupt political machine", 11 June 2015

Throughout Indonesia...a human rights crisis simmers. Over the past two decades, indigenous communities have seen the government hand their land over to private companies. These companies are largely producing one of two commodities: fast-growing timber species to supply the pulp and paper industry or palm oil...Despite President Joko Widodo’s promise to crack down on deforestation from palm oil expansion..., the launch of the mandatory Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil certification scheme and a raft of voluntary commitments by palm oil companies, destruction and exploitation remain the norm...[T]he Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) found that Golden Agri-Resources (GAR), the biggest palm oil producer in Indonesia, has failed to respect the free, prior and informed consent of indigenous communities. GAR was among the first of the major palm oil firms to commit to an ambitious and wide-reaching voluntary policy to protect forests and rights. The RSPO has now instructed GAR to cease expanding until this is resolved. Indeed, the failure of the Indonesian government to reciprocate progressive reforms within the industry is allowing other smaller, more opaque firms to step in and start working in ecologically sensitive areas that many larger firms avoid. While GAR’s failings undoubtedly represent a step backwards, it is arguably the actions of the sections of the industry not subject to the same reputational pressure that now pose the gravest threat to Indonesia’s forests.