Speaker: Dr Marcus Colchester, Senior Policy Advisor, Forest Peoples Programme
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Efforts to slow tropical deforestation through reforms of State forestry policies have had little effect, notably in Asia, so environmental campaigns have targeted the commodity trades to get change. Most of the high profile brands and their major suppliers have now pledged ‘sustainable production or ‘zero deforestation’, ‘zero peat’ and ‘zero exploitation’ supply chains in order to curb forest loss and mitigate climate change. How effective are these promises? Based on long term field work with impacted communities, the talk examines on the realities on the ground with the production of timber, palm oil and pulp-and-paper for international markets. How accountable are the companies making these pledges and do the non-judicial grievance and complaints processes really work to enforce these voluntary policies? Expecting the main agents of deforestation to become forest protectors is counter-intuitive to many forest peoples, who have long looked after their forests and who now demand that their land rights be respected and they be rewarded for forest protection on their ancestral territories.
Marcus Colchester received his doctorate in social anthropology at University of Oxford and has carried out extensive field research in applied anthropology in Amazonia, South and South-East Asia over the past forty years. His human rights advocacy related to development and conservation has earned him a Pew Conservation Fellowship and the Royal Anthropological Institute’s Lucy Mair Medal for Applied Anthropology. He is a founder member of the World Rainforest Movement and Founder-Director of the Forest Peoples Programme, where he is now Senior Policy Advisor, and has carried out several consultancies for international organisations. He is a member of the High Conservation Values Resource Network Management Committee, a Senior Advisor of The Forest Dialogue and member of several RSPO working groups and advisory bodies. He has published extensively in academic and NGO journals and is the author and editor of numerous books including ‘The Struggle for Land and the Fate of the Forests’ (1993), with Larry Lohmann, Salvaging Nature: Indigenous Peoples, Protected Areas and Biodiversity Conservation (1994, 2nd edn. 2004). He has been actively involved in developing standards and safeguards for international institutions including for the World Bank, World Commission on Dams, Extractive Industries Review, FAO, FSC, RSB and RSPO, notably with respect to the right to free, prior and informed consent.
Since 2004, much of his work has focused on the impacts of palm oil on indigenous peoples and other local communities and he has co-authored and edited numerous articles and books on the subject including Promised Land: Palm Oil and Land Acquisition in Indonesia – Implications for Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples and Ghosts on our own land: oil palm smallholders in Indonesia and the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (both in 2006), Land is Life: Land Rights and Palm Oil Development in Sarawak (2007), Oil Palm Expansion in South East Asia: trends and implications for local communities and indigenous peoples (2011) and Conflict or Consent? The oil palm sector at a crossroads (2013). He has also published detailed reports based on field studies of the challenges off applying High Carbon Stock and High Conservation Value concepts in customary rights areas.