Toward constructive approach on palm oil (Colonne de M. l’Ambassadeur dans le journal Jakarta Post) [id]
Colonne parue le jeudi 13 avril 2017 dans le quotidien indonésien Jakarta Post.
| Toward constructive approach on palm oil|
During their meeting on March 29, visiting French President Francois Hollande and President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo expressed their wish to pursue common initiatives towards a green and sustainable growth model.
The two heads of state also encouraged bilateral cooperation in renewable energy, responsible agriculture, forest preservation and prevention of natural disasters.
On all these issues, France and Indonesia, which both have ratified the Paris Agreement on climate change, are committed to working together in order to find win-win solutions. And palm oil is no exception.
The European Parliament recently passed a resolution on palm oil. I don’t subscribe to the overall tone of the text, which is unilaterally critical and moralizing.
That being said, the resolution contains a few interesting points, particularly regarding the need for an “inclusive” certification, along similar lines to the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) standard, which has proved its worth for tropical timber.
While the European Parliament’s resolution gives credit to recent initiatives taken by Indonesia on this matter, readers unfamiliar with this issue may get the impression that Indonesia and its major firms and smallholders in the palm oil industry somehow “have it all wrong” and are only aiming to accelerate deforestation and violate the most elementary social standards.
It would, undoubtedly, be naive to pretend that everything is perfect across the million hectares of land dedicated to palm oil plantation in Indonesia.
Nevertheless, there is a clear willingness, expressed by Indonesian authorities, to transform this sector, which is crucial for the employment and standard of living of more than 10 million people, through the implementation of stricter, but inclusive, sustainability standards.
With this in mind, I consider punitive approaches, such as taxes and custom duties utterly irrelevant to deal with this issue.
What is needed is a credible certification model, which would be defined, not against palm-oil-producing countries, but with them.
Even if the previous FLEGT model is not replicated identically, it could, however, serve as a source of inspiration to begin new discussions, which will allow us to find a mutually beneficial solution to the presently unsatisfactory situation.
This was the sense given by the talks between President Jokowi and President Hollande during their meeting at the State Palace.
President Hollande’s visit served as an opportunity to showcase the ways France could contribute to finding solutions for the sustainability of the palm oil industry.
For example, CIRAD, the French agricultural center for international development, which has been deeply involved in this issue in Indonesia for many years, signed a cooperation agreement during the presidential visit for the implementation of a platform called SALSA (Training through research for Sustainable Agricultural Landscapes in Southeast Asia).
Many other French institutions are similarly willing and eager to make positive contributions to this essential dialogue and negotiation, which we shall conduct together.
French ambassador to Indonesia