Civil society groups assert their right to expose the impacts of palm oil production
Civil society organisations from around the world condemn the statements by representatives of palm oil companies during a meeting with the Malaysian government. In this meeting, the company representatives called critical NGOs "toxic entities" and asked the Malaysian government to not let these NGOs into the country. Both ENDS' partners have published a reaction in which they defend their right "to expose the realities we face in their communities about the impacts of the palm oil sector".
On 4 February 2020, Reuters reported that during a meeting with Malaysian government officials in Kuala Lumpur, representatives from some of the world's largest palm oil companies and industry lobby groups have stated that NGOs were "toxic entities", that they were "orchestrating attacks on palm oil" and suggested that governments should ban international NGOs from entering their countries and should "do something drastic for once".
CSOs meet to address impacts of palm oil
Coincidentally, at the same time Both ENDS and Forest Peoples Programme gathered with local partners and civil society organisations from around the world in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia. The meeting brought together 33 representatives of 25 environmental justice, human rights, women's, youth and indigenous peoples' organisations from 11 palm oil-producing countries from Latin America, Africa and South East Asia who are working to address the negative impacts of the palm oil industry.
The purpose of this meeting was to build connections between civil society groups responding to the local impacts of the industry at a global level, to explore potential reforms in the countries and the industry internationally so that palm oil production brings genuine development. It provided a space to share their experiences across borders and regions, and to discuss potential reforms in their home countries and internationally to address the devastating environmental and human rights impacts of the palm oil business.
Freedom of expression
Statements seeking to vilify and discredit civil society groups for defending the human rights of local peoples, to silence efforts to expose the realities of palm oil production on local communities and the environment, or to incite government sanctions or punishment for local civil society or community leaders that exercise their right to freedom of expression have no place in public debate and should be condemned in the strongest terms.
Therefore we are glad to read in the same article that two Malaysian ministers confirm that the government wants to continue working with NGOs.
Kota Kinabalu Statement on Palm Oil and Freedom of Expression
As a reaction, the civil society organisations issued the Kota Kinabalu Statement on Palm Oil and Freedom of Expression. This statement highlights the range of impacts suffered by local people in plantation zones and exposes how government policy and company behaviour increases, rather than reduces, the impacts, difficulties, risks and dangers faced by local communities and the civil society organisations helping them defend their rights.
Both ENDS and Forest Peoples Programme support the Kota Kinabalu Statement. We call on all palm oil companies to uphold their duty to respect environmental limits and human rights, including the right to freedom of expression. We remind governments of both palm oil-producing and consuming countries that their first obligation is to respect, protect and promote the rights of their people.
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