August 30, 2010
The report, Palm oil and indigenous peoples in South East Asia, concludes that the rapid growth of the palm oil industry has outpaced safeguards, especially in Indonesia and Malaysia.
"The global market for palm oil is thus driving a process of rapid land acquisition in the form of consolidated blocks of land, a demand which is testing the capacity of local land agencies, administrators and legislatures to the limits and beyond," states the report, which is authored by Marcus Colchester, director of FPP. "Regulations and procedures, which evolved to deal with small-scale, often informal, domestic land markets, are proving unequal to the challenge posed by this global demand for huge areas of land."
The report runs through a litany of cases in Malaysian Borneo, Kalimantan, Sumatra, and Papua where native peoples' rights have been compromised or ignored in the interest of establishing new plantations. The report notes that while all members of affected communities are impacted, women, in particular, are losing out under current practices.
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The report says that efforts to address injustices have been held up by corrupt courts, weak land laws, and unresponsive local governments, including that of Sarawak, which has continued to block restitution in a case where a judge found that developers had "violated the indigenous peoples’ rights to both life and property which are guaranteed under Articles 5 and 13 of the Federal Constitution."
The report concludes by evaluating the prospects for real reform in Indonesia's forestry and plantations sectors under the recently signed reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD) agreement with Norway.
"If REDD is neither going to respect indigenous peoples’ rights nor curb palm oil expansion, it would seem to be a hollow promise."
Palm oil and indigenous peoples in South East Asia