Asia Pulp & Paper recognizes our responsibility to the rural and forest communities that live and work in and around the boundaries of our supplier concessions. They are vital partners in many areas, including the prevention and suppression of wildfires, the protection of conservation forests, and in the fight against illegal encroachment.
As part of our 2013 Forest Conservation Policy (FCP), we committed to obtain Free, Prior and Informed Consent from affected communities before beginning any development work, even in areas where we already have established operations. The FPIC has since then been part of the development process of each of our pulpwood suppliers’ Annual Working Plan. Through the FPIC process, changes in operations or landscape, such as planting or harvesting, will be communicated to surrounding communities and their consent sought.
We are also committed to addressing land disputes with local communities as part of our FCP, starting with a comprehensive assessment and mapping of all existing land disputes that have not been resolved. This work was completed in 2013 with the help of The Forest Trust, and we began pilot projects to field test our dispute resolution guideline on three disputes that were then being worked on.
Like the report’s authors, we agree that land dispute resolution is a complex process. Each dispute is unique and requires a unique solution. Some disputes are more easily resolved, while others are more difficult, oftentimes requiring external intervention by the Government, such as in the case of overlapping licenses. This is the reason why, as noted in the report, APP classifies the land dispute into six categories, each with different resolution approaches to the others.
From the pilot projects, we learned that information regarding land dispute is sensitive, and sharing such sensitive information does not always benefit the on-going resolution process. The dispute resolution process needs to be protected from interference by self-interested third parties, which can easily derail the mediation process. Despite that, we take the input from our stakeholders, and we recognize the value of adopting a multi-stakeholder approach to dispute resolution.
The multi-stakeholder approach to dispute resolution helps speed up the process, and has better outcomes. Almost all the resolved disputes have involved multiple mediating parties, including local government, professional mediators and NGO representatives. However, involved parties must remain committed to the mediation process. When parties drop in and out of the process, any progress made often ends up being renegotiated, substantially slowing down the resolution.
With this purpose in mind, in 2017, we established Regional Social Working Groups in Riau, Jambi and South Sumatra, facilitated by Eco Nusantara, as an effort to help strengthen and speed up the resolution process. The Group is comprised of various stakeholders, including local government, law and mediation firms, and NGOs. The authors of this report have been invited to be part of this working group.
APP is aware that transparency is important. In 2013 at the beginning of the FCP implementation, APP has set up the Solution Working Group, a closed-door platform which invited several prominent environmental NGOs to discuss the progress and challenges of the FCP implementation. Environmental Paper Network (EPN) attended the meetings of the Solution Working Group.
In 2015, the Solution Working Group was transformed into the Stakeholder Advisory Forum, to provide access to our wider stakeholders, including the wider NGO community, to engage with us and provide their feedback on the implementation of the FCP.
To date, the Stakeholder Advisory Forum has been held eight times. The issue of community disputes and their resolution is often discussed at this forum. For example, at the SAF held on March 2019, we reported that 49% of identified disputes have been resolved, and sought advice from stakeholders on approaches to the remaining disputes, which are more complex in nature and thus, difficult to resolve. The authors of this report as well as EPN were always extended an invite.
Contrary to the report’s conclusions, APP is completely committed to the equitable and legal resolution of all pending disputes. APP suppliers were the first companies to release portions of their concessions to communities in support of the Government of Indonesia’s Lands for Agrarian Reform (TORA) program.
Ultimately, all concessions are owned and governed by the Government of Indonesia. As concession holders, APP and our suppliers have a legal obligation to manage these lands responsibly and in accordance to their designated purpose. Any proposals or requests to alter, set aside or release land for purposes other than the legally designated purpose must be submitted to, and decided by the Government.