Midway Assessment: Human Rights Analysis of Indonesia's Palm Oil Industry

PhD Candidate Dinie S.M. Arief at the Norwegian Centre for Human Rights is presenting her PhD project "International and domestic legal approaches on business and human rights: Human Rights Analysis of Indonesia's Palm Oil Industry".

Palm oil farmer pruning palm oil trees with a long tool.

Juan Carlos Huayllapuma/CIFOR, "Pruning Palm Oil". Published at Flickr.com under a Creative Commons license.


  • Assessor: Prof. Radu Mares, Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law
  • Leader of the assessment: Jakob Elster, Associate Professor – Norwegian Center for Human Rights 
  • Supervisor: Prof. Bård A. Andreassen, Professor and Director – Norwegian Centre for Human Rights

About the PhD Project 

This research project assesses international and domestic business and human rights developments, and examines the Indonesian palm oil industry context as a case study. The project delves into several issues: 

First, it analyses the normative framework of business and human rights both in the international and domestic setting. This part aims to illuminate the normative foundation in the business and human rights discourse, both at the global and domestic levels. The part contributes to answering the first research question on to what extent current regulatory frameworks (international and domestic) ensure corporations respect the rights of the community, workers, and vulnerable groups. 

Second, it analyses business and human rights issues in Indonesia's palm oil industry through a human rights-based approach. The analysis in this part aims to answer the second research question on the extent to which corporations in Indonesia's palm oil industry embrace the UNGPs in their code of conduct. It analyses the means for applying the UNGPs, and compares corporations to explore similarities and differences, and assess if some companies are doing better than others.

Third, it analyses and addresses the research question of how the government should incorporate the UNGPs to become a progressive and effective regulatory measure for the future of Indonesia's palm oil industry. As a basis of analysis, the UNGPs are a key tool in the assessment for connecting the dots in integrating business and human rights in the palm oil industry. 

The project aims to offer systemic and evidence-based research on human rights issues in the palm oil industry by exploring the State, corporations, and civil society's perspectives on business and human rights, as well as assessing the availability of adequate access to remedy for victims of human rights abuse caused by corporate conduct. Furthermore, the project analyses possible regulatory solutions to address identified gaps to warrant better the State's obligation as the primary duty bearer for ensuring corporate accountability in respecting human rights in their corporate conduct for the future of Indonesia's palm oil industry. 

The project hypotheses that current initiatives by corporations in carrying out voluntary commitments as outlined in the UNGPs have direct ramifications on social and human rights issues caused by business activities. In addition, in the absence of an international treaty on business and human rights, the State needs to enact hard laws to extend obligations to corporations for mitigating and addressing human rights issues arising from business activities. Lastly, the intricacy of human rights issues and supply chains in Indonesia's palm oil industry calls for a specialised mandatory human rights due diligence law tailored for the palm oil industry. 

    Tags: Human Rights
    Published Sep. 27, 2022 1:12 PM - Last modified Sep. 27, 2022 1:12 PM