On 24th September 2018, the RSPO Board of Governors adopted a new RSPO Policy on Human Rights Defenders, Whistleblowers, Complainants and Community Spokespersons. This was facilitated by the RSPO Human Rights Working Group, following the adoption of Resolution 6(e) by the 13th General Assembly (2016) calling for a policy where Human Rights Defenders, Whistleblowers, Complainants and community spokespersons can, in confidence, lodge complaints with the RSPO Complaints Panel on the activities undertaken by, on behalf of, or in connection with the activities of a RSPO member which may result in risks to the safety and/or security of said persons.
Human Rights Defenders (HRD's) are defined as individuals, groups or associations who promote and protect universally recognised Human Rights and contribute to the elimination of all forms of violations and fundamental freedoms of individuals and peoples.
The new policy endeavours to do the following:
i. to create a platform for human rights defenders, whistleblowers and community spokespersons to lodge complaints with the RSPO Complaints Panel on activities undertaken by RSPO members which may undermine their safety and security;
ii. to establish clear operational guidelines on the coordination, administration and response to the allegations of threats;
iii. to ensure the commitment of RSPO members in developing internal policies and mechanisms to prevent harm, protect and respond to complaints on any alleged threats or violence committed against or by their affiliates.
In adopting a zero-tolerance policy against any threats against HRDs, RSPO has also made a commitment to safeguard the confidentiality of those involved in this process e.g. HRD's and/or victims. The protection referred to in the HRD policy extends to those persons who have reported in good faith and on reasonable grounds against a member or an affiliate.
While not mandated to provide physical protection such as extraction or relocation of HRDs to safe houses, RSPO will endeavour to facilitate this by identifying other organisations in relevant jurisdictions to provide assistance to mitigate risks or provide additional support (e.g. NGO's, National Human Rights Institutions and/or Regional/International Human Rights Mechanisms).