Indonesia lauded for laying REDD groundwork: Next step, true forestry management reform

Can REDD+ provide a platform for the recognition of the rights of local communities living in forests?

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The groundwork’s been laid for REDD+ in Indonesia, but the road ahead may yet be rocky. Manuel Boissiére/CIFOR

BOGOR, Indonesia (6 November, 2012)_Though Indonesia gets high marks for addressing governance challenges that affect the forestry sector, many of which are linked to the structure of the economy and its dependence on the extraction of natural resources, a new study points to key obstacles that will have to be tackled to advance a U.N.-backed scheme to reduce emissions from deforestation.

The report examines Indonesia’s development of the scheme Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) over the past five years — from 2007 when the concept first gained traction at the Bali climate change conference, until 2011 when Indonesia began developing an institutional framework for implementing a national REDD+ program.

State-owned forest area accounts for more than 70 percent (an estimated 130 million hectares) of Indonesia’s entire land cover. Many areas are inhabited by local and indigenous peoples claiming customary rights; some have been allocated or earmarked for future development activities, including oil palm plantations.

Two of the report’s authors — Daju Resosudarmo of the Center for International Forestry Research and Prayekti Murharjanti from the Indonesian Center for Environmental Law (ICEL) – spoke to Forests News about the most pressing issues Indonesia needs to address as it moves forward in implementing a national REDD+ program.

Q: The country profile documents the process of REDD+ policy development from 2007 to 2011. What is the next step for advancing REDD+ in Indonesia?

Resosudarmo: While some policies are in place, practical guidelines to advance REDD+ in Indonesia have yet to be formulated. For example, the REDD+ unit/agency that is to be responsible for implementing REDD+ is not yet established.  This institution has to have a strong legal mandate, widely accepted in practice and must be embraced by all relevant sectors and REDD+ stakeholders.  We have now an interim agency, the REDD+ Task Force, but I believe its mandate will cease at the end of this year.

Similarly, the financial and MRV (monitoring system for measurement, reporting and verification of REDD+ activities) mechanisms are not yet in place. REDD+ policies also have to be in line with the National Action Plan for Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions (the RAN GRK), which is now being translated into regional level action plans.

Q: Which aspects of forest management are the most critical to address in relation to REDD+? 

Resosudarmo: One of the most fundamental is resolving land use issues, including land use planning and land tenure issues. Provincial and district spatial planning must be completed to be used as a reference for all land-based development activities, and land tenure must be clarified to prevent conflicts. Different maps are currently used by different sectors and government offices.

There needs to be one map that all sectors and levels of government can refer to in the planning of activities and allocation of licenses for plantation, logging and mining concessions, as well as REDD+ projects. Indonesia is working towards establishing one map – to serve as one reference, standard, database, and geoportal. This is a big job and should be supported.

Rights to land (tenure) also need to be clarified, because this is tied to rights to participate (or not) and benefit from REDD+, as well as responsibilities for the delivery of carbon.

Murharjanti: Establishing a legal framework for REDD+ to move forward is one of the first things that must be addressed.

Currently there is very minimal legal recognition of indigenous people’s rights to their land. There are enabling provisions within the law that officially recognize indigenous rights, but in practice there is very little actual recognition of indigenous people’s rights over their land.

The lack of community entitlements to land is also a major obstacle. It is a common practice to see local governments granting logging concessions to companies on huge areas that communities have resided or owned for decades, raising conflicts that are not easy to resolve. Although on many occasions, the government has recognised the urgency to clarify land tenure in Indonesia, this shows that they lack the willingness to actually settle land tenure problems.

Q: So what must happen to change that?

Murharjanti: First of all, we need to change the Forestry Law (laws that define forest boundaries/Forest Estate, particularly in the aspect of participation and openness of the process) land use plans and the rights of local communities who live in the forests and depend on forests for their livelihood.

Secondly, within the existing legal framework, indigenous people’s lands must be identified. We need to clarify what land is theirs, and this is what the REDD+ Task Force is trying to do in Central Kalimantan (the REDD+ pilot province), in collaboration with the working group of the pilot province and in cooperation with the governor of central Kalimantan. The state has to start doing this. Some groups within civil society (e.g. The Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN)) have tried to develop participatory mapping to identify indigenous people’s land, which within the current legal framework, should be the responsibility of the local governments.

There is also a lack of harmony between different laws that affect indigenous rights. For instance, under the Forestry Act, indigenous (customary/adat) forests are regarded as State Forests. This, for some views, is not in harmony with the Agrarian Act, which recognizes that indigenous people have rights over their land, and therefore should not be considered a part of the forest area administered by the state. This is for example the basis for the case brought by AMAN to the Constitutional Court.

Youth of Pengerak Village in Danau Sentarum National Park – their ancestral lands.
CIFOR/Ramadian Bachtiar

In addition to providing legal clarity, the government must establish a transparent, participatory and accountable system for land delineation. Such a system must also respect communities’ rights over their land and provide a mechanism for resolving conflict resulting from overlapping claims. A single map must be produced to provide a clear reference for everybody to minimize conflict. Once the laws, accountability system and a single map are in place, the government must use them to resolve overlap in entitlements and enforce the law without delay.

Resosudarmo: REDD+ policies and projects can present new risks for forest-dependent communities and for vulnerable groups, including indigenous peoples, in various ways. For example, without adequate and balanced information, communities may be unaware of the risks and responsibilities involved in participating in a REDD+ program, and as a result they may get locked into unfavourable legal agreements. The concentration of REDD+ incentives in particular areas may create perverse effects, such as ‘resource rush’ that can challenge community rights, increase migration into a forest-rich area and speculation by powerful investors that can result in land disputes and conflicts with local communities.

On the other hand, if community rights are clarified (and respected by other REDD+ stakeholders) and if local communities are sufficiently informed about REDD+, including the rights and responsibilities involved, they would have the option to choose  between participating (and thus benefiting from REDD+) or not.

A range of measures will be needed to mitigate these risks during the design and implementation of REDD+ projects. These could include: clarifying ownership and legal rights to benefit from carbon (carbon rights in Indonesia are not explicitly separated from land tenure rights); improving access to REDD+ information in local languages; defining how revenues will be channeled to forest-dependent communities; securing effective redress and dispute resolution mechanisms; prioritising the broader development interests of local communities and governments,; and introducing creative approaches to community-based monitoring.

Q: Are there any cases of successful forest management reform in Indonesia that can serve as models for the rest of the country?

Resosudarmo: As I see it, one positive and related concrete improvement has been the granting of hutan desa, i.e., village management rights, to local communities by the Ministry of Forestry. However, clarifying tenure and resolving overlapping rights and forest boundaries continue to remain a challenge.

Q: Can you tell us a bit about what the report recommends for resolving the issues surrounding land licensing in Indonesia?

Murharjanti: There are many problems in the issuing of licenses and permits due to the lack of coordination among different government offices. For example, in Central Kalimantan we have found that many concessions or plantation licenses were issued without the acknowledgement or knowledge of the Ministry of Forestry. Also, there are often different documents specifying what is forest area and what is not. And data used by the local government to issue permits is not always readily available or understood by the central government.

This is not just the case in Central Kalimantan. Other provinces also face these same issues. There is no legal requirement to have coordination among different government offices. For example, within the legal framework that guides the process of granting plantation licenses, there is no legal requirement for local governments to have the approval of the Ministry of Forestry.

Under the law, plantation licenses can only be given for land outside the forest area. But the fact is — because of the lack of coordination with the central government and the lack of reliable maps—local governments can issue permits for any areas where they want to allow plantations or mining activities.

Legally speaking, plantation licenses can only be given outside the forest areas, and within any forest area approval by the Ministry of Forestry is needed before permits can be issued. But in fact this is not happening in many instances, and it is one of the major sources of deforestation and degradation. And in some instances, companies are cutting forests and conducting plantation activities even before they obtain any land titles.

So the licensing process must be tightened so that permits for plantations, logging and mining are not issued until it is verified that the area in question is not a forest area.

Q: How can the report be useful to REDD+ policy developers and stakeholders?

Resosudarmo: It’s important for all REDD+ stakeholders to understand the political-economy context of forest and land use in any country that’s developing REDD+.

Understanding the process of policy formulation and the process of establishing REDD+-related structures and institutions involves understanding the underlying drivers of deforestation and degradation, which can stem from sectors outside forestry, in addition to the forestry sector itself.

This work is part of CIFOR’s Global Comparative Study on REDD+, which is supported by The Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD) and AusAid.

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