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Joint Statement of the Medan Conference on Land Grabbing and Oil Palm Plantations in Southeast Asia

We, the participants of the Southeast Asia Conference on Land Grabbing and Oil Palm
Plantations, hosted by Lentera Rakyat, coming from Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and
Cambodia, gathered in Medan, Indonesia, from November 5-10 2012 to discuss and share
information on land grabbing and the adverse impacts of the expansion of oil palm
plantations on local communities across the region.

The conference reviewed and shared present-day situations of landgrabbing across
Southeast Asia, as experienced by Cambodia, the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia in the
name of State-sanctioned economic development policies. The practice has created a wide
range of adverse impacts, in particular the rapid depletion of tropical forests in the region, a
high number of agrarian conflicts, and the forced eviction of local people from their lands.
About 16 million hectares have been planted with oil palm in Southeast Asia, of which 80 %
has been converted in the last 15 years.1 Land grabbing has also often led to repeated
instances of criminalisation of local people, particularly indigenous peoples and human rights
defenders who struggle to defend their rights and legitimate claims under existing
international human rights laws. In some cases, landgrabbing has been facilitated by formal
State regulations and the use of a repressive State apparatus. More importantly, victims often
are left without any means to exercise their right to remedy.

The conference welcomed and supported the concerns and recommended actions of the Bali
Declaration on Human Rights and Agribusiness in Southeast Asia, which calls for urgent
steps to be taken by governments to address the adverse impacts of the expansion of oil palm
monoculture plantations, including – among others – the adoption of international human
rights standards and policy reforms on land tenure and land acquisition.

The participants of the conference affirmed their support for the Statement of the Phnom
Penh Workshop on Human Rights and Agribusiness in Southeast Asia2, an outcome of the
workshop held in October 2012, convened by the Indonesian National Human Rights
Commission (KOMNAS HAM) and attended by various National Human Rights
Commissions and Institutions (NHRIs) of Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines,
Cambodia, Timor-Leste, Myanmar and South Korea as well as concerned civil society
organizations and the Indonesian representative to the ASEAN Inter-Governmental
Commission on Human Rights (AICHR). The statement calls for concrete actions from the
AICHR, the governments of the ASEAN region and NHRIs to address the human rights
violations of local communities, indigenous peoples and human rights defenders as caused by
the rapid and ill-regulated expansion of agribusiness in the region.

We also support the recommendations of the Southeast Asia Regional Workshop on
Promoting Peoples’ Rights to Land and Natural Resources3 held in Bali on July 2012, hosted
by HuMa, which called for strengthening of CSO networks and capacities in confronting land
grabbing and human rights violations.

We acknowledge that land grabbing is a process of dispossession of people’s rights to land,
natural resources and livelihoods, routinely in violation of their right to Free, Prior and
Informed Consent (FPIC). The country report presentations demonstrated the escalating land
grabbing realities in Southeast Asia. Through the field visits to various affected communities
and victims of land grabbing, we saw a common pattern that exists across the region, such as
the stigmatization among individuals and communities who have for long years and decades
of struggle stood up for their rights to land in the face of extreme external pressures. Some
have been imprisoned, others are on wanted lists. A good number has been released on bail
but is still confronted with various criminal charges. We also found out that existing legal
systems in the region are not in favor of people’s customary tenurial rights, even when they
possess legal and physical evidence of long-term access and use of these lands. Conversely,
the national governments are the institutions that facilitate large-scale businesses to convert
forests, peat lands and productive agricultural areas into oil palm plantations mainly for profit
and export-driven global economy.

At the ASEAN level, despite the mandate of the AICHR, there is no functioning human
rights mechanism in place which could adequately respond to the concerns of local peoples
who continue to suffer from the impacts of land grabbing. The Voluntary Guidelines on the
Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries, and Forests in the Context of National
Food Security, adopted by the Committee on World Food Security on 11 May 2012 has yet to
be implemented and deliver concrete and positive results on the ground.
In reflection of the aforementioned situations, we call on:

  1. The governments of the ASEAN region to respect and uphold the right to land of local communities, especially men and women farmers, and indigenous peoples. We urge governments to judiciously observe the right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) as a mandatory requirement in all national laws pertaining to land tenure. We urge the State authorities to strengthen national legal systems to effectively stop and prevent the criminalization of local peoples and human rights defenders who struggle to defend legitimate tenure rights;
  2. The ASEAN to extend the mandate of AICHR as an independent human rights mechanism to investigate the violation of farmers and indigenous people’s rights; and to encourage its Member States to adopt and mainstream the Voluntary Guidelines in national legislation.
  3. The European Union to integrate in its bilateral trade agreements a transparent monitoring and feedback mechanism which can effectively handle and mediate conflicts that may arise between transnational companies and local communities;
  4. The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) to put in practice the internationally accepted human rights principle of “PANTHER” (Participation, Accountability, Non-discrimination, Transparency, Human Dignity, Empowerment and Rule of Law). We also urge the RSPO to make effective use of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms.
  5. Agribusiness companies and investors to respect the rights of local communities to land and natural resources by strictly observing and not circumventing the Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) process

Adopted by Acclamation on November 9th 2012 by the following:
1. Agus Sutomo, Gemawan Kalbar, Indonesia
2. Ahmad, Walhi Sulteng, Indonesia
3. Alejandro C Carillo, FIAN Philipines
4. Ben Indris, SBPI, Indonesia
5. Carolin Callenius, BftW, Germany
6. Dana Tarigan, Walhisu, Indonesia
7. Dewi Kartika, KPA, Indonesia
8. Estrella F. Catarata, FIAN, Philipines
9. Fatilda Hasibuan, Sawit Watch, Indonesia
10. Florian Johanes, Papua, Indonesia
11. Hawari, Bitra, Indonesia
12. Herwin Nasution, Lentera, Indonesia
13. Imam Bambang Setiawan, SPP, Indonesia
14. Indri Diah Saptaningrum, ELSAM, Indonesia
15. Junpiter Pakpahan, KSPPM, Indonesia
16. Kusnadi, Walhisu, Indonesia
17. Longgena Ginting, Indonesia
18. Maly Seng, Cambodia
19. Michael Schirmer, BftW, Germany
20. Natal Sidabutar, Lentera, Indonesia
21. Nur Hidayati, WALHI, Indonesia
22. Shandi Renata, Lentera, Indonesia
23. Touch Setha, Cambodia
24. Rusliadi, JKMA Aceh, Indonesia
25. Saurlin Siagian, Indonesia
26. Septer Manufandu, Fokker Papua, Indonesia
27. Sisilia, HUMA, Indonesia
28. Starjoan D. Villanueva, AFRIM, Philipines
29. Sophie Chao, FPP, United Kingdom
30. Su Mei Toh, Wild Asia, Malaysia
31. Surambo, Sawit Watch, Indonesia
32. Tandiono Bawor, HuMa, Indonesia

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2 comments

  1. Assalamualaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh, insha allah segala jenis perampasan hak warga pribumi oleh pendatang dapat atau pemerintah dapat diselesaikan, terutama di daerah kami di Medan yang mana lahan kosong telah dirampas oleh warga pendatang untuk membangun rumah sehingga sering terjadi banjir dan kumuh. waalaikumsalam

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