Sambas Declaration  for Just Transition in the Palm Oil Industry

by | Jul 10, 2024 | Focus, Report and Publication, Solidarity


On 28-29th November 2023, an international conference on “Just Transition in the Palm Oil Industry” was held in Sambas, West Kalimantan in Indonesia. The conference was attended by 140 participants, mainly from Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Cambodia, India, Cameroon, Sierra Leone, Germany, and Switzerland.

Those who attended are key grassroots actors who are linked or closely linked with the palm oil industry such as workers and trade unionists, local and indigenous groups, small-scale farmers, environmental justice and agrarian activists, feminist groups, and other allies.

Read more about the conference:

The conference was concluded by a declaration, where the key grassroots demands are outlined including a vision of a radical social-ecological transformation of the Palm Oil Industry.



Sambas Declaration  for Just Transition in the Palm Oil Industry

29 November 2023


In the 21st Century, the palm oil industry is still characterized by serious ecological and social problems. Despite many roundtable discussions and transnational campaigns, production is still based on large-scale monocultures, land-grabbing, and on the exploitation of cheap and precarious workers. This is certified as “sustainable”. Workers, often without a permanent contract or on a decent living wage, know that this is not factual. Instead, monoculture industrial agriculture relies on the exploitation of human and non-human nature to be profitable.

We need a radical social-ecological transformation of the Palm Oil Industry. Just Transition means a strategy for change by the labour movement in alliance with the environmental justice movement, farmers, fisherfolk, women’s movement and indigenous peoples. Just Transition aims for a social-ecological transformation that focuses on human needs within a zero-carbon economy, with respect for more-than-human nature.

A Just Transition will need to be socially and ecologically sustainable: 

  • We demand freedom of association, rights to organize as well as bargain collectively as fundamental rights at the workplace. We call for the end of criminalization of activists.
  • We demand a decent living wage for all workers. This should include healthcare and pensions that provide for dignity in our old age. A decent living wage perspective must move away from remuneration system that relies on physically demanding works with high work target and sanctions.
  • We demand permanent contracts for all workers and an end to short-term contracts and the daily wage system. A secured employment must be guaranteed for all workers.
  • We call for labour rights protection for migrant workers. This includes ensuring a safe and fair mechanism of recruitment and repatriation of migrant workers.
  • We demand equal rights for women workers, peasant women, and indigenous women. Women workers employed as daily workers should be given permanent contracts and equal pay. 
  • We demand the recognition of the indigenous people’s rights, including, but not limited to, communal lands. This includes recognition of indigenous agricultural practices and indigenous plants.
  • We demand health and safety protection for workers, including providing free access to clinics and good health infrastructure. Particularly for women workers, ensuring access to maternity rights and rights regarding sexual reproductive health is critical. Monoculture plantations are bad for the health of workers and should be dismantled.
  • We demand access to education, by providing good quality schools on plantations.
  • We call for access to safe and decent housing infrastructure on plantations.
  • We support more active participation of women in social movements, including the labour peasant and environmental movement. Women need to have an active role in decision making and safe spaces to voice their interests and demands. Reproductive work needs to be shared more equally between women and men.
  • We demand for the end of the use of hazardous pesticides and fertilizers. Instead, we call for the use of integrated pest management or environmental-friendly pesticides and fertilizers We call for the end of land grabbing.
  • We demand the right, workers’ and community’s right to water. Concrete solutions can include the planting of native tree species along the river banks, the prohibition of the use of highly hazardous pesticides, and the mandatory installment of biogas plants at the mills.
  • We demand for agrarian reform, which involves not only local people but also workers as subjects of the reform. Community lands must be returned to the people. The illegitimate debt of smallholders trapped in the plasma system should be canceled so that they have the means to implement Just Transition. 
  • We demand for remediation of land and ecosystem. This includes establishing a democratic mechanism for preparing, conducting and evaluating the remediation.
  • We call for the end of expansion and deforestation. Job security for workers should be secured by improving working conditions in the existing plantations. 
  • We need a transition away from large scale monoculture production to a mosaic landscape. This can include the transformation of existing plantations into mixed crop systems, with native timber and fruit trees, intercropping with agricultural crops, and gardens for workers to produce food for their own consumption. Such landscape must be based on perspective of food sovereignty.
  • We need to acknowledge a broader structural nature of climate crisis beyond the plantations.

Another palm oil production is possible!

This conference is the beginning of an Alliance for  Just Transition in the Palm Oil Industry. We pledge to: 

  • Strengthen international solidarity, particularly with those communities and workers suffering from violence and oppression. The solidarity must be grounded on justice perspective, including, social, environmental and racial justice. 
  • Discuss the perspective of Just Transition  in our respective workers’ unions with the aim of establishing Just Transition as an official policy in those unions, federations and confederations which organize in the palm oil sector and processing industries. Such perspective must take into account gender and must be inclusive.
  • Further develop the concept of and strategy for Just Transition in collaboration with the scientific community.
  • Establish cross-sectoral alliances at local, national and international levels to push for concrete changes towards a socially and ecologically just palm oil production. This includes alliances with peasants and environmental groups, women indigenous movements, as well as other social movements relevant for the industry.



List of endorsement

  • Aliansi Gerakan Reforma Agraria (AGRA) Kalimantan Barat
  • Federasi Serikat Pekerja Industri Perkebunan Sawit Indonesia (FSP IPSI)
  • Gabungan Serikat Buruh Indonesia (GSBI)
  • Gerakan Perjuangan Rakyat Papua (GPRP)
  • Greenpeace Indonesia
  • Informal Alliance Against Industrial Plantations
  • Konfederasi Persatuan Buruh Indonesia (KPBI)
  • Lingkaran Advokasi dan Riset (Link-AR Borneo)
  • Litoral
  • Resist Expansion of Agribusiness Plantations (REAP)
  • Sajogyo Institute
  • Sawit Watch
  • Serikat Buruh Kerakyatan (Serbuk)
  • Serikat Buruh Sawit Sejahtera (SBSS)
  • Serikat Pekerja Kelapa Sawit Indonesia (SEPASI) MAKIN KIU
  • Serikat pekerja sawit indonesia (SPSI)
  • Solidar Suisse
  • Swiss Church Cooperation HEKS/EPER
  • Synergie Nationale des Paysans et Riverains du Cameroun (Synaparcam)
  • Trade Union Rights Centre
  • Transnational Palm Oil Labor Solidarity
  • Wahana Lingkungan Hidup Indonesia/Friends of the Earth Indonesia
  • Women’s Network Against Rural Plantations Injustice



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