One day, close to the middle of 2013, a meeting was held between Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) and several individuals representing non-governmental organizations, such as the Forest Peoples Programme (FPP), the Rainforest Action Network (RAN), The Forest Trust (TFT), and a consulting firm focused on forestry called Asia Pacific Consulting Solutions (APCS).
APP may be an easy target of negative campaigns by environmental NGOs. But it does not mean it’s non-cooperative with other NGOs. The proof resides in a number of pilot projects related to APP to resolve conflicts with local communities, mostly selected based on input from RAN and FPP. They are part of a pilot project in Seinyerang, PT PSPI-Datuk Rajo Melayu, Sorek, and Riding Village. Is APP only able to go as far as land conflict resolution? It seems not. The company seems willing to provide support in the form of training and education for people who are concerned with social issues related to conflict resolution. But the people who really need the support do not want to engage directly with APP, so they approach TFT.
This condition lead to curiosity about how APP and TFT as a corporate associate socialize their procedures and commitment to the local communities involved in APP concessions. The answer is APP and TFT focus on capacity building and training of company employees. On several occasions they involved NGOs as representatives of communities and farmers. Because APP deals with 39 concessions and thousands of villages, they don’t set a high expectation that they will touch the communities directly. It’s therefore strategic for them to deliver their message to the people through the help of NGOs.
Then, in the practice of resolving conflicts with the local community, APP gets input that the training is not only for the personnel, but also for the community. So they would have a better preparation in the process of mediation. We can call the program community capacity building.
TFT gives feedback and APP seeks to embrace local NGOs who have the knowledge and skills to carry out capacity building for local communities. As already mentioned, most local NGOs do not want to be bound to a contract with APP and that’s why TFT emerged with the idea of a partnership under the umbrella of the TFT program so NGOs would feel more comfortable in supporting this process. APCS commented that it would be bad for APP’s position if it supports or funds the program because they will be seen as trying to“buy” the community.
Then input rolls in from FPP that APP does not hold direct funding, but rather other parties do it. In this case, the holder could be TFT or any other parties. APCS then suggests FPP take the role of holding the funds. FPP responds that funding of this kind should be held by the government, but this institution sees the Indonesian government does not have the ability to do so. Without expressing objection, FPP again suggests that the amount to be contributed should be classified, and the community must contribute as well.
FPP probably has a good cause to “hide” APP so that the community and local NGOs can still feel the benefits of the company’s prestigious programs without being overshadowed by their opposition to the company. However, this point is not only talking about the program itself but also money which is so sensitive. That’s why transparency is necessary to ease the comparison between the costs incurred with benefits received by the end-user, in this case, the local community, although the program uses the corporate funds, not government’s. It is important to keep in mind that something that is intentionally kept secret is vulnerable to corruption.