Terms of Reference

A.   Stakeholder Standing and Engagement

Parties who shall have primary standing and therefore recourse under the DSF are those who have a direct land-related conflict or other disputes with each other, i.e., individuals, smallholder groups, and/or their communities, and companies. Other stakeholders and associated organizations such as conservation-based NGOs, certification bodies, etc., may be called upon for support by the parties having primary standing, but they may not exercise the DSF as a recourse for disputes they raise from their own organizations; such complaints have recourse through the main RSPO Complaints System.

At the same time, it is important to conduct the DSF in a way that minimizes the likelihood that once a resolution has been reached through the DSF, that the same disputes will not flare up again, the outcomes being contested by other parties who consider themselves also stakeholders (e.g. a section of a community which somehow does not feel their concerns are adequately addressed, etc). In this respect, disputants should, as part of their responsibility under the DSF, be required to demonstrate that they diligently communicate with their constituents on a scale that is broader than their immediate members, such as to district and local levels. This communication process should occur in an ongoing manner as the DSF is employed, through to the proposed resolution, such that the resolution is communicated to the broader context of stakeholders and acceptance thereby maximized.


B.   Oversight and Administration

The RSPO Executive Board (EB) shall have full responsibility for oversight of the DSF and the Secretariat shall oversee the administration of it. The EB may, at its discretion, appoint a “DSF Steering Committee” to oversee the DSF, which shall be entrusted with ensuring its proper functioning, and making recommendations and adjustments to the structure of the DSF as needed. This Steering Committee shall report its activities, as well as any recommendations and adjustments, to the Secretariat on at least a semi-annual basis, with any substantive changes in procedure notified in advance to and duly approved by the EB.

The Secretariat may also outsource any or all of the duties associated with the maintenance and the flow of information involved with the DSF to a contracted service provider (or providers), but said contracted provider(s) shall not have the power to make decisions regarding the outcome of any case where the DSF is used. This service provider shall report to the aforementioned Steering Committee or directly to the Secretariat, as determined by the Secretariat.

To facilitate the mediation processes intended by the DSF, the following components are hereby named as integral and therefore necessary aspects of the aforesaid oversight and administration by RSPO:


C.   Building Capacity to use the DSF

RSPO, working with the DSF Steering Committee shall establish a program to enable RSPO members, local stakeholders and other parties’ awareness of and understanding of how to use the DSF, including how to involve/commence a DSF mediation process, how a mediation process is conducted, what are requirements, and how to prepare oneself. Such a program of education and awareness includes but is not limited to:

  Publications bearing on the DSF and the RSPO that are accessible to and understandable by the people who need to use them (in translation, with easily understandable terms); and
  Meetings in-person and otherwise.

Topics include but are not limited to:

  When and how to pursue mediation as an option;
  How to notify the other side of a request for mediation
  How to notify RSPO of the desire to initiate mediation
  How to choose a mediator
  What to expect from the mediation process
  Recourse when obstacles are encountered
  The broader context of the DSF with respect to RSPO requirements in general and the Complaints System in particular.
  How to develop and disseminate communications related to participation in and outcome of the DSF process.


D.   Approval of Mediators

The Secretariat or a party commissioned by the Secretariat shall maintain and publish a list of approved mediators. Approval of mediators shall follow an accreditation process whereby at least the following criteria are met:

  Each mediator shall have the demonstrated qualifications and/or credentials and experience. These shall be evaluated by the Secretariat or a duly empowered service provider, the criteria for decision (i.e., minimum acceptable qualifications) and approval specified in writing and employed consistently for all persons seeking approval. Qualifications include but are not limited to:
o   Training as a mediator, with adequate experience
o   Availability to actually carry out the work
o   Familiarity with the area/region wherein a dispute is situated
o   Fluency in the (local) language relevant for the region
o   Awareness of local culture and social realities, including but not limited to issues pertaining to Land Ownership Claims, Payments for Land Compensation, Ancestral Land and also its Divisions Amongst Descendants
o   Familiarity with land use related issues
o   Basic know-how of legal framework, national laws and legislation
o   Knowledge of RSPO Statutes, By-Laws, Code of Conduct, P&C, Complaints System, and other relevant motions of the General Assembly, as well as RSPO communications mechanisms
  Each mediator shall submit a full declaration of interests and update this declaration at least annually and also as new interests arise.
  Each mediator shall enter into an agreement with RSPO and with each of the parties involved in the dispute, to maintain confidentiality.
  Each mediator shall agree to follow minimum requirements for conducting and reporting on mediation, as detailed in this document or applicable references stated herein.


E.   Housing of Information and Notification

The Secretariat shall itself house or otherwise have unlimited access to all information held and processed by a contracted service provider for the DSF. Similarly, all relevant information must be accessible to RSPO stakeholders via the RSPO website, taking the following into consideration:

  The DSF aspires to ensure transparency throughout the mediation process and the reporting thereof. Decisions not to disclose information through the RSPO website or other media require motivation on genuine grounds that disclosure will go against the interest of the mediation process and/or may jeopardize the well-being or safety of stakeholders involved, and that non-disclosure does not undermine adherence to the principles and objectives of RSPO, to wit:
1.   The non-disclosed information relates to a legitimate aim, i.e. peaceful and constructive dispute settlement in accordance with RSPO objectives and P&C;
2.   The disclosure of said information threatens harm to that aim; and  
3.   The harm to the aim is greater than the public interest in having the information disclosed.
  In addition, the Secretariat shall make available, on its website and through other media as it deems useful or necessary, summary reports of the information, activities, status, and results of all persons and parties involved with the DSF. This reporting shall be done in a consistent manner per a template or format provided by RSPO that allows comparison and overview of the DSF over time, as a means of better assessing its effectiveness.


F.   Monitoring

The DSF shall formally report to the Executive Board on at least an annual basis about its activities, and the Executive Board shall, with at least the same frequency, review the activities and cases encompassed by the DSF, and thereby evaluate its effectiveness.

Revisions to procedures and practices shall be made along specified timelines, as the EB deems prudent. The EB may assign part of the evaluation work to the Secretariat or to a contract service provider, and these entities may make recommendations, but final decisions on action shall be the exclusive power of the EB.

This monitoring and review process and the associated outcome(s) shall be reported on the RSPO website at least annually.