The Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment and the Human Rights Institute co-hosted a discussion with Sam Balaton-Chrimes, from Deakin University, Australia. In this interactive session, Sam talked about community complaint making about land rights violations in the context of a palm oil plantation in Indonesia formerly held by Wilmar, one of the world’s largest palm oil producers and traders. Community members in Sumatra lodged a formal complaint regarding the plantation to the International Finance Corporation’s Compliance Advisor/Ombudsman mechanism and spent significant time and resources engaging in the dispute resolution process, only to see Wilmar divest from the plantation after more than two years of negotiations.
Sam Balaton-Chrimes’ research is concerned with enduring political questions about how difference is negotiated in contexts of power asymmetries. Her work is interdisciplinary in nature, engaging political theory, anthropology and development studies. Her most recent research focuses on international development and global North/South relationships as they play out ‘on the ground’, particularly through practices of participation, consultation, consent-giving and complaint-making as tools for the management of disagreement over development. Her 2015 book, Ethnicity, Democracy and Citizenship in Africa: Marginalization of Nubians in Kenya explores the relationship between citizenship and ethnic difference in Kenya, and generates important insights into the risks, as well as the possibilities, of a relationship between ethnicity and democracy.