KAMI and Terpercaya were initially created with the notion that the EU would contribute funds to help establish more robust, district and provincial level sustainability initiatives.
Officials in both countries were effectively told that the programs would assist in meeting new regulations for palm oil entering the EU.
They included plans that would ultimately lead to broader certification of Malaysian and Indonesian palm oil by promoting their domestic certification approaches and efforts to reduce deforestation.
But the reality was that these projects did no such thing, and these domestic certification approaches are currently under attack by EU regulators and lawmakers in Brussels.
The programs have failed to match these intentions. Why?
There are four reasons.
First, the EU has neglected to engage with local producers and stakeholders in a productive manner.
Missing from the KAMI and Terpercaya equations are smallholders, palm oil companies and stakeholder groups actively involved in domestic sustainability and deforestation efforts. Palm Oil Monitor’s investigation has even uncovered, in Indonesia, that the EU’s on-the-ground coordinator does not speak Indonesian, making direct engagement with local producers and stakeholders nearly impossible.
Second, the KAMI and Terpercaya programs have failed to support domestic certification schemes and sustainability efforts, even as the EU has threatened bans
A stated goal of the Terpercaya program was to accelerate “efforts to accelerate palm oil certification, in particular through the Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO) system.” The KAMI project, operating in both Malaysia and Indonesia, shares a similar goal; however, both programs have been ineffective at supporting both ISPO and Malaysian Sustainable Palm oil (MSPO).
Instead, as the EU has attempted to ban palm oil imports from Indonesia and Malaysia, the KAMI and Tepercaya programs have done nothing to support further efforts by ISPO and MSPO to meet the unrealistic expectations of EU regulators. Even in 2017, when ISPO proposed broad revisions to their scheme to help meet EU expectations, the Terpercaya program offered no support in Brussels.
As Brussels attacks the palm oil sector, the KAMI and Terpercaya projects have sat idle while schemes like ISPO and MSPO are ignored. This is despite the proven benefits to both the domestic palm oil sectors and the European supply chain, a supply chain that is heavily reliant on Indonesian and Malaysian exports of palm oil.
Third, the KAMI and Terpercaya programs have been operating with minimum transparency.
While keeping the public and interested parties in the dark is worrisome, the EU has left the most important group– palm oil sector producers and stakeholders — entirely out of the loop. They have excluded them from conversations regarding implementation of the programs and have failed to consult them on efforts to modify domestic certification schemes and sustainability initiatives.
Lastly, the EU is funding its own version of palm oil sustainability in lieu of supporting certification schemes like ISPO and MSPO, in turn supporting efforts to cut smallholders out of the palm oil supply chain and imposing the EU’s own standards on Indonesia and Malaysia.
These efforts run parallel to current EU efforts in Brussels to impose protectionist bans on imports of palm oil, erect harmful trade barriers and to draft regulation that ultimately destroys the relationship the EU has with valuable trade partners like Indonesia and Malaysia. The EU does not have the best interest of the Malaysian and Indonesian palm oil sectors in mind. Instead of following their mandate to ensure EU acceptance of domestic certification schemes, the programs have instead taken every chance to undermine domestic efforts and impart their own agenda on the palm oil sectors using EU funding and bad intentions.