As part of a comprehensive outreach effort to support communities and local civil society organisations in palm oil producing countries, RSPO has forged a partnership with the Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy (ELSAM) to create a programme to disseminate discourses on sustainable palm oil and engage closer with smallholders, local communities, Indigenous Peoples, trade unions, and local NGOs. 

In June 2022, the second phase of the outreach programme for Indonesia was launched, following the first phase that was carried out from 2016 to 2018, and covers the four main palm oil producing areas in the country – Kalimantan, Papua, Sulawesi and Sumatera. ELSAM continues to take on the role as the Intermediary Organisation in charge of on the ground implementation,  aiming to bring stakeholders closer so that they gain a better understanding of each other's interests. To achieve this goal, ELSAM carries out various activities, including introducing RSPO governance as well as the complaint mechanism to community groups and organisations that support them, one of which is through training for affected communities and NGOs. 

Set to take place over a span of three years, the programme aims to continue RSPO's efforts to proactively provide support to affected actors, particularly in oil palm producing countries. This approach is part of the RSPO's commitment to provide a level playing field for stakeholders through increased civil society participation. Apart from reaffirming RSPO’s commitment as a responsive institution towards human rights values, it helps build trust among civil society organisations, affected communities and labour forces, including women’s communities, local government and national human rights institutions.

“RSPO’s community engagement programmes are key to building grassroots stakeholder knowledge and a deeper understanding of the RSPO Principles & Criteria, and is at the same time an effort to bring the ambient of sustainable palm oil closer to the ground” said Imam A. El Marzuq, RSPO Senior Manager of Global Community Outreach & Engagement. “These outreach initiatives are vital to building a cohesive relationship between communities and palm oil companies, and enables RSPO in achieving its mission to make sustainable palm oil the norm, including creating a sustainable supply chain.”

Andi Muttaqien, Deputy Director of ELSAM, said, “In addition to increasing the capacity of affected parties, ELSAM also seeks to encourage them to meet directly with business actors and government institutions involved in the palm oil industry. The programme is carried out through a series of multi-stakeholder discussions on sustainable palm oil governance, and through dialogue forums, where each party can express their respective interests and their expectations about how to run a mutually supportive and beneficial way.” 

Benni and Baktar Nasution, residents of Binasari village in South Tapanuli Regency who participated in the programme, shared about the impact they felt from the first phase of the community outreach programme. They said that after holding meetings in Medan, Jakarta, and Bali, communication with companies that previously had disputes with residents were resolved. 

“The company is also often involved and supports religious events in the village. We have also benefited from plasma cooperatives partnering with companies. Because the relationship is already well established, if there are problems that occur between residents and the company it is now easier to resolve, usually through deliberation where residents and companies can wisely negotiate the disputed issues,” said Nasution.

Effective and efficient community outreach programmes that involve palm oil companies and related actors likewise contribute to the compliance with national and international laws and best practices, in particular Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC); High Conservation Values and High Carbon Stock concept, and UN Business and Human Rights Principles.

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