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