Rainforest Action Network Responds to the Forests Agriculture and Commodity Trade (FACT) Dialogue Update at COP27

Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt – Today at COP27 the Forests Agriculture and Commodity Trade (FACT) Dialogue presented an update on the initiative since its launch at COP26. In Glasgow, 28 countries endorsed the FACT joint statement and roadmap which aims to promote sustainable development and trade while protecting forests and other critical ecosystems. The representatives of FACT dialogue represent three-quarters of global trade in forest-risk commodities such as soy, beef, palm oil, cocoa, and pulp and paper.

Gemma Tillack, Forest Policy Director with Rainforest Action Network (RAN), issued the following response: 

“The FACT Dialogue has created a platform to bring consumer and producer countries together but it lacks a human rights framework and has failed in its first year to actually address deforestation where it is known to persist. 

For example, RAN’s research shows that deforestation persists in Aceh Timur, a FACT priority district in Indonesia, home to the Leuser Ecosystem –– a 2.6 million hectare forest landscape on the Indonesian island of Sumatra and the last place on Earth where Sumatran rhinos, tigers, elephants, and orangutans coexist in the wild. To date, the government of Indonesia has failed to stop the deforestation despite the fact that the logging operation lacks SVLK certification –– Indonesia’s timber legality certification scheme that is being celebrated by the FACT Dialogue as an example of a trade and market mechanism for sustainable commodity production.

“The plans for the FACT smallholder support pillar –– which was built to ensure family farmers can meet higher deforestation-free standards and be included in future supply chains –– have not been developed with the inputs of stakeholders nor have they been released publicly. Using evidence obtained through field investigations, satellite imagery analysis, and supply chain research, RAN’s recent investigation showed that the term ‘smallholders’ is being misused to provide a deforestation loophole for local elites that are driving deforestation inside protected areas in Indonesia. It is unclear if this new threat of deforestation outside concessions will be addressed in the actions taken by the FACT roadmap. 

“The FACT Dialogue needs a fifth pillar as human rights must be at the center of efforts to safeguard our climate and biodiversity. This new pillar must include securing land rights, sovereignty, and self-determination for Indigenous Peoples and traditional communities, respecting the human rights of local communities and workers, and zero tolerance for threats to land and environmental defenders. Indigenous Peoples’ rights must be prioritized — not only because it is the just course of action, but because it is the most effective approach to protecting nature and biodiversity and halting expansion of industrial logging, agriculture, and extraction into Indigenous territories.

“The participation of Indigenous Peoples and civil society organizations at a local level must be the foundation of the stakeholder consultation set to begin in 2023 and beyond. The long-term governance structures being established must ensure the involvement of those most affected by commodity production and trade, including Human Rights Defenders, land and environment defenders, smallholder farmers, and civil society. The FACT Dialogue must ensure its participating governments maintain open civic space and assure the rights of the freedom to associate, assemble, and advocate without arbitrary detention and punishment.