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Certifying in Contested Spaces: Private Regulation in Indonesian Forestry and Palm Oil


  • John F. McCarthy



Over recent years, systems of civil or private regulation have emerged across several commodity sectors in developing countries. This paper compares two regulatory systems applied to parallel food and forestry problems: the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). Analysing these regulations as attempts to extend procedural and distributional justice into contested forested and agricultural spaces, the paper examines the paradox that, despite successful advocacy campaigns using these regulatory standards, oil palm and timber estates and associated land conflicts continue to proliferate in Indonesia. These regulatory processes provide leverage within bounded spaces, yet they are limited by an incommensurability of values and interests that reflect underlying structural problems. At best these certification schemes provide limited learning tools. Addressing the underlying problems will require legal reforms, effective State engagement and supporting forms of accountability.

Suggested Citation

  • John F. McCarthy, 2012. "Certifying in Contested Spaces: Private Regulation in Indonesian Forestry and Palm Oil," Crawford School Research Papers 1210, Crawford School of Public Policy, The Australian National University.
  • Handle: RePEc:een:crwfrp:1210

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    Cited by:

    1. Otto Hospes, 2014. "Marking the success or end of global multi-stakeholder governance? The rise of national sustainability standards in Indonesia and Brazil for palm oil and soy," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 31(3), pages 425-437, September.
    2. repec:ags:ifaamr:274984 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. repec:eee:forpol:v:91:y:2018:i:c:p:64-72 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Zhang, Daowei, 2016. "Payments for forest-based environmental services: A close look," Forest Policy and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 72(C), pages 78-84.
    5. Ruysschaert, Denis & Salles, Denis, 2014. "Towards global voluntary standards: Questioning the effectiveness in attaining conservation goals," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 107(C), pages 438-446.
    6. Maki Hatanaka, 2014. "McSustainability and McJustice: Certification, Alternative Food and Agriculture, and Social Change," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 6(11), pages 1-21, November.
    7. repec:eee:forpol:v:92:y:2018:i:c:p:82-91 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item


    Regulatory; forestry; land conflicts; Palm oil; Indonesia; certifying working papers series;

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