Transforming conflict in plantations through mediation: Lessons and experiences from Sumatera, Indonesia

The further expansion of plantations in Indonesia is expected to exacerbate existing and create new conflicts over land and forest resources which can have detrimental impacts on local communities, plantation companies and government. Mediation facilitated by a third-party is widely considered an effective method in transforming conflict over natural resources. This study analyses the application of mediation in transforming two conflicts in Sumatra, Indonesia involving oil palm and pulpwood plantations. Our findings suggest that mediation has played a crucial role in transforming the two conflicts, particularly in reducing conflict intensity, reaching an agreement and improving relationships between the conflicting parties. In helping to address the conflict, the mediators played important roles including facilitator, capacity developer, advisor and motivator for the parties. The paper suggests that the plantation projects in Indonesia and beyond must include carefully devised conflict transformation mechanisms, including mediation, as an integral part of their management. Additionally improvement of conflict transformation capability among mediators and plantation stakeholders through targeted training programmes on conflict transformation is also needed. The paper also suggests promotion of mediation as an alternative mechanism to the judicial system in transforming plantation conflicts.

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