The complaints procedure of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) is one of the options available to communities threatened by the negative impacts of the palm oil industry. Drawing on direct experiences of supporting communities to use the RSPO complaints mechanism in Indonesia and Liberia, this review summarises how communities can get the most out of this procedure. Realistic outcomes include a temporary freeze on plantation development by palm oil companies while longer term solutions are negotiated.
The RSPO complaints procedure does provide a valuable tool for communities, though it is far from perfect. Given the scale of the challenge communities face standing up to the combined force of powerful corporations and states, this review advises that several advocacy strategies be pursued simultaneously to maximise chances of success. In addition, it highlights that non-judicial remedies such as the RSPO’s should complement but not replace a strong parallel push for systemic national level legal and governance reform.
This note also situates the RSPO complaints procedure in the context of other options for communities wishing to challenge large-scale land deals affecting them, including use of national courts, media campaigns, regional and international human rights law procedures and the complaints procedures of major international finance institutions.
This paper has been produced under IIED’s Legal tools for citizen empowerment project.