Highlights from AFi Consultation Workshops Around the Globe

The AFi team recently engaged with stakeholders in West Africa, Southeast Asia, Europe, and North America to gather feedback on the Accountability Framework. Each of the consultation workshops included participants from across the private sector, production groups, civil society, and regional governments. The discussions were rich and productive, yielding some great insights into how the Framework can be of value in producing regions and across supply chains more broadly. Read some highlights below about the workshops in each of these locations:

Monrovia, Liberia – Jan 23 to 24

On 23-24 January, the Accountability Framework initiative held a regional consultation workshop in Monrovia, Liberia. Diverse participants from the civil society, palm oil, timber, CSO and government sector came together to provide feedback on the Accountability Framework and on how it might bring value to the initiatives taking place in Liberia. This workshop was driven and coordinated by AFi regional partners Silas Siakor and Proforest.

Participants highlighted the current initiative to develop national guidelines on Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) and how the AFi’s FPIC guidance could help ensure that global best practice is incorporated into this effort. In the past, FPIC was either not conducted or was done improperly, and has caused significant problems which is hoped to now be ameliorated with robust national guidelines. There are also plans underway to revise the manner in which monitoring and reporting on concessions occurs, and participants pointed to AFi’s guidance on monitoring, verification, reporting and disclosure as information that will help inform this work.

Accra, Ghana – Feb 6 to 7

On 6-7 February in Accra, Ghana, the AFi brought together diverse stakeholders to share and solicit input on the draft Accountability Framework. Dr. Seth Osei Akoto, Director of Crop Services Directorate, Ministry of Food and Agriculture gave the opening remarks. He noted widespread concern about deforestation and applauded the emergence of the AFi to halt deforestation, ecosystem conversion and human rights abuses in global commodity supply chains. He commended the fact that the Framework is being developed with key stakeholders including government, private sector and civil society organisations and expressed the hope that regional and sector initiatives will integrate elements of the Framework as part of an integrated approach to stem the tide of commodity-linked deforestation, ecosystem conversion and human exploitation.

During one of the sessions, Proforest delivered a presentation on the Africa Palm Oil Initiative (APOI). It was generally agreed by participants that the AFi and APOI were aligned, particularly in respect of stated commitments / principles and keen interest was shown in how these would translate to implementation of action plans and guidance. It was noted that the next phase of APOI, which will focus on implementation, could benefit from referencing and incorporating AFi guidance.

For another session, a representative of the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF) presented on the CFI, providing an overview of progress and showing areas for possible alignment with the AFi. Subsequently, participants discussed the CFI, including the scope for alignment with the AFi and how both initiatives reinforced each other.

Washington, DC – Feb 11

The AFi held a consultation on February 11th, 2019, at the offices of steering group member WWF in Washington DC. Representatives from various human rights and social accountability groups, with expertise ranging from forced labor, human trafficking, conflict resources, labor rights, migration, and beyond, convened to provide input and advise on the Core Principles and Operational Guidance relevant to their work.

Following presentations and discussions on the Framework in general and a number of the Core Principles, some key themes emerged from the discussion. For one, there is a need to address the issue of companies being afraid to admit risk – how can we encourage companies to get to a place where they are comfortable saying they have risk and then communicating that they are trying to mitigate this? Another insight was that the Framework is only as valuable as the companies that adopt it, as it is able to attract new companies, and as are able to deal with the legal implications. An important question to consider is: “what would the legal counsel of a company think of this?” This is the primary audience that needs to agree in order for this initiative to be hugely successful.

Jakarta, Indonesia – Feb 19 to 20

On 19-20 February, in Jakarta, Indonesia around 30 participants from civil society, palm oil and pulp, paper, timber producers, traders, manufacturers and standard holders came together to provide their feedback on the draft AFi guidance and the direction for AFi activities in the region for 2019 and beyond. Discussions were focused on deforestation and conversion, human rights, M&V and Reporting and Disclosure and applicability of AFi guidance on these topics as they encounter local realities and contexts.

Stakeholders requested further guidance on peatland management and high forest cover landscapes. Early in the the workshop someone asked “Accountability for whom?” everyone agreed that AFi should become a common reference point not just for companies, but also civil society, standard holders, financiers and governments for it to achieve its vision. To this point, an underpinning factor is achieving agreement on definitions of deforestation and conversion by all stakeholders, participants stressed.

Several times companies in the room highlighted the potential for AFi to be the ‘voice of progress’ for ethical supply chains and next steps should include stakeholder engagement efforts to broaden the scope of AFi’s exposure in the region, pilot projects and showcasing case stories of application. When asked what they think about AFi at the end of the 2 day workshop, an interactive poll showed a resounding majority of ‘Sounds good! Let’s work on the details’ – a clear signal to focus more of AFi’s work towards regional application.

London, England – Feb 21

The AFi hosted a one-day workshop in London aimed at gathering feedback from key companies across a range of sectors, with a focus on retailers and other downstream companies. Attendees, representing a number of companies as well as NGOs and service providers, spent the day walking through the Core Principles and Operational Guidance that make up the Accountability Framework, discussing each component in turn. This format provided an opportunity to get input on the applicability and completeness of each section of the Framework with regard to these key supply chain actors.

The group offered feedback regarding the importance of sector-wide transformation in enabling fulfillment of commitments, the use of a company’s leverage or potential impact to help prioritize activities and engagements, and the utility of various approaches to traceability and supply chain controls. The workshop identified a number of topics for further consultation with companies throughout the finalization of the Framework and its adoption by company users.

Douala, Cameroon – Feb 26 to 28

The AFi consultation workshop in Douala, Cameroon, hosted by the local WWF team, drew more than 45 participants, representing government ministries, companies, producers, and civil society. The two-day workshop began with an introduction to the Framework itself, but soon developed into a lively and in-depth set of conversations about the applicability of the principles and guidance to the Cameroonian context. Discussions focused on the key role of smallholder producers of cocoa and palm oil, and the importance of developing ethical supply chains that addressed producer livelihoods, as well as the role of government and civil society in facilitating supply chain initiatives.