NGO Position Paper On RSPO Policy On Human Rights Defenders

As the annual meeting of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) approaches, this time in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia on 12-15 November, RSPO announced its decision to adopt a policy on human rights defenders (HRD). This draft is a follow up to their resolution titled “Policy on Human Rights Defenders, Whistleblowers, Complainants and Community Spokespersons” adopted by RSPO members in 2016. It is important to appreciate this policy since many environmental and human rights defenders are still fighting for this at the global stage. This policy draft was issued amidst increased attacks on HRDs, including criminalization, defamation, intimidation, even murders. According to Global Witness, there are around 207 murders in 2016-2017 which concluded that last year was a dangerous year for HRDs. RSPO’s good intention to provide a comprehensive definition was well received, noting that its definition of the term human rights and environmental defenders is in accordance with the latest Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Environmental Human Rights Defenders, 71st Session of the General Assembly, A/71/281, 3 August 2016. In the policy context, inclusivity is evident based on the number of groups that this policy would protect, including HRDs, whistleblowers, complainants and community spokespersons. This policy recognizes the importance of protecting the environment and human rights for all in ensuring people and community’s rights to land, securing just and safe conditions of work, combating corruption and achieving sustainable development. This policy is a step forward. However, there are still inadequacies that must be brought to attention.
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