Paving a Path Forward for Commodity Roundtables Standards

On 16th – 18th October 2012, Forest Peoples Programme, with the support of RECOFTC – The Center for People and Forests and funds from the Rights and Resources Initiative, organized a technical workshop to review commodity roundtables standards on Free, Prior and Informed Consent, customary land, conflict resolution and high conservation values.

Concern about the long term social and environmental implications of accelerated land acquisition has grown and there has been a proliferation of standard-setting in the private sector suggesting how certain norms and procedures should be respected by investors. The workshop was held with the participation of six voluntary commodity standards (Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels, Roundtable on Responsible Soy, Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, BonSucro, Shrimp Aquaculture Dialogue and Forest Stewardship Council) and concerned NGOs.

The purpose of this workshop was to compare and stimulate review and discussion of the various commodity systems and operational procedures to identify their strengths and weaknesses with the aim of drawing out the key lessons from each of them. By clarifying current operational standards and proposing ways of making the standards more effective, the workshop aimed to harmonize existing voluntary standards with each other and with international law. As the first of its kind, the workshop brought together different standards to focus discussions on how the following four issues are (or are not) accommodated and incorporated in the standards: 1) The right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC); 2) Recognition of legal and customary rights (particularly in regards to land and natural resources); 3) Conflict and conflict resolution mechanisms and; 4) Protection and management of areas containing high conservation values including areas crucial for environmental services, livelihoods and cultural identity.

Insightful and critical cross-comparison ensued and an exploration of how these themes could be better recognized and/or secured through the standards, and, going beyond the standards themselves, how they could encourage the inclusion and translation of these themes into wider legal and policy reform. The workshop resulted in a realization of the need for greater consistency of use of key community protections by commodity roundtables, as well as of the need for systematic information sharing between commodity roundtables about workable certification standards relating to the issues above.

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