A.   Overview and Objectives

RSPO requires in its Code of Conduct and in its Principles & Criteria (P&C) that members adhere to specific requirements. When stakeholders wish to raise a complaint or dispute against a member regarding conformity with RSPO requirements, recourse is ultimately available through RSPO’s Complaints System. In order to engage this Complaints System in a practical and more efficient way, parties are encouraged to seek avenues for resolution of disputes under a framework that applies the relevant sections of the P & C in a consistent manner that is complementary and subordinate to the Complaints System. The addition of a Dispute Settlement Facility (DSF) under RSPO attempts to fulfil this need; the DSF addresses disputes arising from issues relevant to certain RSPO P & C, as detailed in Section I.B below.

RSPO acknowledges the need to work within the legal framework of each nation, but also acknowledges that the legal system and judiciary sometimes fall short of resolving land-related disputes. Inconsistencies within and implementation of the legal system can also contribute to or complicate such disputes. Additionally, there is an apparent need for a non-legalistic approach, which could act more in the realm of conflict resolution and prevention than arbitration.

The aim of the DSF is thus principally to:

1.   Provide a means for achieving fair and lasting resolutions to disputes in a more time efficient and less bureaucratic and/or legalistic manner, while still upholding all RSPO requirements including compliance with relevant legislation.
2.   Alleviate administrative and technical burdens placed on the currently existing Complaints System and its executors.


B.   Context

How the context of the DSF falls into the larger context of the Complaints System is depicted in the Flow Diagram and the document of RSPO Complaint System.

Palm oil land related disputes show they mostly result from lack of FPIC, recognition of the community voice, and respect for customary rights. The RSPO P&C criteria 2.2, 2.3, 6.4, 7.5, and 7.6 specifically require certain kinds of interactions regarding how producers are to proceed when dealing with issues surrounding land use and customary rights of local peoples, and most notably to follow processes of Free, Prior, Informed Consent (FPIC) as specified in the P & C. Furthermore, requirement 4.2.4 in the RSPO Certification Systems document states that certification is not possible when there are ongoing disputes. To more expeditiously settle disputes of these kinds between RSPO members and their respective stakeholders, RSPO has thus created an additional Dispute Settlement Facility (DSF), described herein.

The DSF enables a mediation process that may be undertaken by mutual consent of the parties involved in the dispute. While the primary intention of this DSF is to address land-related disputes, parties may choose this system as a way to resolve other forms of disputes as well. In all cases, parties are encouraged to first try to settle disputes on their own, i.e., by directly engaging the other side, without seeking outside help. Failing this, the preferred course of action, for the reasons described above, is to seek mediation through the DSF as a way to achieve resolution. The DSF is subordinate to the RSPO Complaints System, which may be further pursued if a party rejects the mediation process or the DSF mediated process fails to achieve a resolution.


C.   Categories of Disputes

For the purposes of the DSF, disputes shall be divided into five categories:

1.   A dispute that has existed and is known by the RSPO member, but is not divulged once they have initiated the certification process – Disputes of this category require that the member agree to the mediation process detailed in section IV of this document immediately as applicable and if so requested by the disputing party(ies). Certification shall be suspended until a resolution has been achieved between the two sides on their own, through the DSF, or through the Complaints System.
2.   A dispute that has been “acquired,” or “assumed” by a member via their acquisition of land or operations from another company, but the member is otherwise in good standing - In this category, the member must agree to the mediation process detailed in section IV of this document immediately as applicable and if so requested by the disputing party(ies). As long as the member cooperates, certification status of other operations shall not be adversely affected. A prerequisite to this is that it must be clarified and agreed, from a historical perspective, who the parties initially involved in the dispute were. In any case, this category of dispute shall not be construed as a means for any member to acquire such a disputed situation as a way to alleviate another company of responsibility and/or penalty under point (1) above.
3.   A new dispute that arises only after certification has been granted.
4.   A dispute that had been settled and recognized by relevant parties (and perhaps the authorities) but for whatever reason the dispute resurfaces. For example, a dispute over land, which had been settled amicably between the elders of the local community and a plantation company and the settlement, was duly witnessed by the district government. However, with the passage of time, some younger members of the local community felt that their community had not been given a fair deal and called for a renegotiation for a better compensation, thus leading to the resurrection of a previous conflict.
5.   Other disputes brought to the DSF at the discretion of the parties directly involved in the dispute.