Highlights from the Forest Tenure, Governance and Enterprise Conference »
Indonesian government agrees to implement joint strategy granting land rights to people who live in and around the country's forests
The Indonesian government agreed yesterday to work closely with civil society and indigenous groups to develop and implement a new national strategy to grant significant land rights to the people who live in and around the archipelago’s estimated 130 million hectares of forest.
The historic statement, made at the closing of the major forestry conference in Lombok, follows the release of studies by the Rights and Resources Initiative suggesting that Indonesia’s failure to implement meaningful land rights has made it an outlier among Asia’s forest nations, several of which have successfully stopped the destruction of their own forests after turning over hundreds of thousands of hectares to forest communities over the last 20 years. The research also reports a pivotal role for insecure rights in ongoing conflict and increased carbon emissions from Indonesia’s forests.
“Until now we have always been the outsiders. This is the first time we have been asked to participate at such a high level with the Ministry of Forests,” said Abdon Nababan, head of AMAN, a coalition of Indonesia’s indigenous and forest community groups. “But we must remember that the problem of land rights in Indonesia is about corruption and the lack of tenure, and reforms must be about resolving those two things. If we do not, the forests of Indonesia will die.”
Specifically, the Ministry of Forests agreed to meet in coming days with civil society Indigenous Peoples groups to map out a plan of action over the next 3-6 months to implement the recommendations of the conference and to take steps that will lead to expanding the rights of Indonesia’s forest communities.
Release of the joint declaration, which proposes urgent steps by governments, international organizations and private companies to recognize the rights of the world’s forest dwellers, brings to a close the week-long forestry conference. Co-organized by the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry, RRI and the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO), the event brought more than 300 researchers, policymakers, and Asian forest community leaders to focus attention on the fundamental role of local control and improved forest governance in alleviating poverty, expanding legal, sustainable forestry, and reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation or REDD, an initiative whose long-term implementation is still in negotiations.
In his closing remarks, Pak Hadi Pasaribu, a high-level official with the Ministry of Forests said, “the policies we have now are not effective in solving the tenure problem, but at least we have committed to doing much better.”
Representatives of the nation’s civil society groups said they are cautiously optimistic, but their message to the government suggests the expect action.
“With no clear tenure rights in the 70 percent of Indonesia that is forest, the country cannot meet its goals in terms of economic growth, food security and climate change,” said Andy White, coordinator of RRI, a global rights coalition and forestry research group. “Our research in other nations suggests that if Indonesia does as it says it will do, it will slow the destruction of the nation’s forests and unleash the entrepreneurial energy of an estimated 50 million people, who are right now no more than squatters on their own land.”
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Read the joint declaration in full here.
Read the Press Release accompanying the release of the joint declaration here.
Posted By Jenna DiPaolo at 11:27am on July 16, 2011
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