Fighting for ecological justice

Leveraging the IEU CEPA to Improve Environmental Governance in Indonesia

Author: Mardi Minangsari

Indonesia and the European Union are currently negotiating the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (IEU-CEPA), which presents a crucial opportunity to address environmental and human rights concerns. The trade deal’s chapter on Trade and Sustainable Development (TSD) offers a platform to strengthen sustainable practices and improve governance around key commodities like palm oil.

Indonesia’s palm oil industry has faced challenges related to deforestation, land conflicts, and labor rights violations. The EU’s strict sustainability criteria, as reflected in policies like the Renewable Energy Directive II (RED II), have posed trade barriers for Indonesian palm oil exports. However, Indonesia can strategically utilise the CEPA negotiations to drive much-needed reforms in the sector rather than view this as a challenge.

The TSD chapter should include binding mechanisms to ensure compliance with environmental standards and respect for human rights. This could involve incorporating the Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO) certification scheme and strengthen its standards to align with global best practices. Provisions for dispute settlement mechanisms and sanctions for violations would provide teeth to these commitments.

Importantly, the negotiation process itself must be transparent and inclusive. Engaging a wide range of stakeholders, including smallholder farmers, labor unions, and civil society organisations, can help shape an agreement that truly benefits all. Enhanced transparency and accessible grievance mechanisms would further improve accountability.

By proactively shaping the CEPA, Indonesia has the opportunity to both boost trade and catalyse sustainable development and enhance environmental governance, thereby strengthening its position in the global market and contributing to the environmental sustainability and welfare of its people.


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