A group of Indonesian and international NGOs concerned about palm oil expansion recently came together to salute the African NGOs and activists who are also voicing their concern on industry practices. Read the statement below.
We, as Indonesian and international NGOs concerned about the processes by which large scale oil palm plantations are expanding both in South East Asia and Africa and other parts of the world, take this opportunity to express our solidarity with African NGOs and community activists who share our concerns.
We note with disappointment the uncritical publicity being given to misleading statements by the palm oil industry in Indonesia and Africa which imply that all who raise concerns about oil palm expansion are ‘anti-palm oil’ or represent competing industry interests in Europe and the USA (Tempo interaktif 18 February 2013).
By contrast, we as NGOs note that the African oil palm has been an integral part of African farming in west and central Africa for thousands of years. However, we do object to the way palm oil businesses are now expanding their operations in Africa without respect for local communities’ and indigenous peoples’ rights and ways of life. We observe that extremely large-scale plantations are dispossessing the communities of their lands, depriving them of their livelihoods and even destroying their properties, without their free, prior and informed consent. This is contrary to the norms that the same companies, mostly based in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, have subscribed to as members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil. We also note with great regret that African Governments themselves are implicated in facilitating these land grabs, in violation of the rights of their citizens and in apparent violation of their countries’ Constitutions which guarantee their people’s rights.
We note with extreme concern that African lawyers and activists who challenge this process, for example by filing complaints with the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, have been threatened and harassed by Government officials. Local community members have been charged and arrested just for raising concerns about the way their lands have been taken without due process and without fair compensation for their loss of lands and livelihoods.
Palm oil is not in itself an evil crop but plantations must be developed in ways that respect peoples’ rights and improve their livelihoods. Industry interests which characterise those who struggle for their own survival and for justice, as ‘anti-development’ or ‘anti-palm oil’, in the name of an imagined ‘peasantry’, only reveal their false rhetoric.
We salute the brave activists and community members of Africa who are demanding respect for their rights and for a just form of development that builds on, instead of replacing, community initiatives and rights.
Bogor, Jawa Barat, 19 February 2013
Signatories to the statement:
3. Institute Social and Economic Change, Riau
5. Serikat Petani Karet Mantangai Hulu, Kecamatan Mantangai, Kabupaten
Kapuas, Kalimantan Tengah
6. Jaringan Masyarakat Gambut Riau
7. Serikat Petani Kelapa Sawit
8. Serikat Tani Serumpun Damai, Sambas, Kalimantan Barat
9. WALHI Eksekutif Nasional (Friends of the Earth Indonesia)
10. Sawit Watch, Bogor, Indonesia
11. Sarikat Hijau Indonesia
12. CAPPA (Community Alliance for Pulp and Paper Advocacy)
13. JASOIL Papua
14. SKP KAMe
15. FOKER LSM Papua
16. Lembaga Gemawan, Kalimantan Barat
17. Yayasan Merah Putih, Sulawesi Tengah
18. POKKER SHK Kalimantan Tengah
19. Yayasan Petak Danum, Kalimantan Tengah
20. Aliansi Rakyat Pengelola Gambut (ARPAG), Kalimantan Tengah
22. Forest Peoples Programme, United Kingdom