Summary: Resolving Palm Oil Conflicts in West Kalimantan
This policy report presents proposals to improve the resolution of palm oil conflicts in West Kalimantan, based on the results of a large collaborative effort to study the trajectories and outcomes of company-community conflicts in the palm oil sector across Indonesia. A team of 19 researchers supported by Andalas University, Wageningen University, KITLV Leiden and six Indonesian NGO’s documented the trajectories and outcomes of 150 conflicts in West Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan, Riau and West Sumatra. This policy report focuses on the 32 conflicts studied in West Kalimantan. The main findings include:
How communities voice their grievances?
- Palm oil conflicts generally stem from a sense of unfairness about how the lands are acquired by the company and how the benefits of land use are being shared.
- Communities generally voice their grievances in a peaceful manner, through demonstrations and hearings with local authorities. Yet we observed a worrying tendency that protest leaders are frequently criminalized by police and company management: community members were arrested in 31 percent of the studied conflicts in West Kalimantan, involving in total 94 arrests. These conflicts led to 12 injured people.
- Palm oil conflicts are rarely solved. In West Kalimantan, in 69 percent of the studied 32 conflicts, the communities did not (or barely) succeed to address their grievances. When conflicts are successfully resolved, the process takes very long: 5 years on average.
Why conflicts are rarely solved?
- An important reason for this large number of unresolved conflicts is that local authorities often fail to adequately facilitate the conflict resolution process between communities and companies. While in West Kalimantan such facilitation and mediation were attempted regularly (in 72 percent of all cases), of the 26 studied attempts by local government officials, DPRD and police to facilitate the resolution
of conflict, only in 3 cases an agreement between companies and communities was reached and implemented.
- Another reason for the large number of unresolved conflicts concerns the difficulties to access formal conflict resolution mechanisms such as the courts and RSPO’s dispute facility. They are rarely employed (in West Kalimantan only 5 cases were taken to court and 5 to the RSPO), as a combination of legal obstacles, costs, distrust and procedural complexities discourage communities from using these mechanisms. Furthermore, when communities win in court (in only 3 cases), these verdicts are often not implemented.
- In contrast, our study suggests that professional mediators with a trained capacity for conflict mediation are much more effective in resolving palm oil conflicts.
Published by Gemawan