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CIFOR director general Frances Seymour’s welcome speech to Indonesian President

"There could be no greater honor for CIFOR than for the President of Indonesia to choose this place for a global policy address..."

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BOGOR, Indonesia (14 June, 2012)_In the event of a global policy address by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono at the Center for International Forestry Research in Bogor, West Java, Indonesia, on 13 Jun 2012.

Frances Seymour: It is my great pleasure to welcome you to the CIFOR campus.

There could be no greater honor for CIFOR than for the President of Indonesia to choose this place for a global policy address that could set the tone for the Rio+ 20 events next week in Brazil.

I am doubly honored, because this is the second time I have been invited to introduce the President:

Last September, in commemoration of the International Year of Forests, the President inspired us with his words at CIFOR’s Forests Indonesia Conference in Jakarta, and it was on that day that he first expressed an interest in visiting the CIFOR campus.

This occasion marks important milestones in three journeys that we have taken together over the last 20 years.

Indonesia and sustainable development

The first milestone is Indonesia’s journey with the global community toward sustainable development, and in particular, sustainable use of the world’s forests.

Twenty years ago this week, heads of state gathered in Rio de Janeiro for the first Earth Summit, where they reached agreements to cooperate on stabilizing the global climate and conserving biological diversity.

We now know that those global goals cannot be reached without protecting Indonesia’s forests, with their rich stores of carbon both above and below ground, and their wealth of plant and animal species found nowhere else on Earth.

It is perhaps less well-known that the first Rio Summit also produced early commitments to improving what we now call environmental governance.

Today we understand that improved governance is key to achieving the goals of climate protection and biodiversity conservation.

Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration in 1992 called for public access to information about the environment, and public participation and justice in environmental decision-making.

Indonesia has made enormous progress in realizing the objectives of Principle 10 over the last 20 years, including with respect to the management of its vast forests.

In September 2001, Indonesia hosted the first Ministerial on Forest Law Enforcement and Governance to address the problem of illegal logging.

More recently, Indonesia has become the first country in Asia to negotiate a Voluntary Partnership Agreement with the European Union to ensure that timber for export originates from legal sources.

Just over a year ago, the President’s instruction establishing a moratorium on new forest concessions catalyzed an unprecedented process of making forest-related maps available to the public.

The moratorium has fostered a dialogue across ministries, economic sectors, levels of government and stakeholder groups regarding how to balance competing demands on the nation’s remaining forest areas.

And a dialogue is also taking place among indigenous groups, the Ministry of Forestry, and other stakeholders regarding how to resolve long-standing conflicts over forest land tenure.

Clearly, Indonesia is showing leadership in addressing the intricate problems of forest governance on the road to sustainable development.

We learned yesterday of the death of Elinor Ostrom, a friend of CIFOR who won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2009 for her research on the governance of natural resources.

It is fitting to pause and remember her contributions on this occasion.

CIFOR and Indonesia

The second journey marking a 20-year milestone is CIFOR’s partnership with its host country, Indonesia.

Two decades ago, a group of committed countries and individuals working with the CGIAR concluded that the world needed a global center of excellence on forestry research.

And a very determined group of individuals here in Indonesia decided to compete to be the country to host that center, and they succeeded.

In 1993, the late Ali Alatas signed an international agreement establishing the Center for International Forestry Research with Indonesia as its headquarters seat.

So next year will mark CIFOR’s 20th anniversary.

CIFOR has grown from a small group of researchers here in Bogor to almost 200 staff working with hundreds of partners across the humid and dry forests of Asia, Africa and Latin America.

While CIFOR’s mandate is global, Indonesia has always enjoyed a disproportionate share of our research effort.

CIFOR researchers have produced a library full of knowledge, — knowledge about the wealth of goods and services provided by Indonesia’s forests, and the importance of forests to rural livelihoods.

For example, CIFOR has collaborated with the Litbang Kehutanan on studies designed to improve economic outcomes for small-scale producers of timber and furniture.

CIFOR scientists are also working with the Litbang Kehutanan, LIPI, and Indonesian universities to assess the carbon stocks in Indonesia’s wetland forest ecosystems – including peatlands and mangroves.

And we are finding that those ecosystems are even more important for carbon storage than was previously understood.

CIFOR research has also illuminated how Indonesia’s forest wealth has sometimes been squandered, and we have analyzed the underlying causes of deforestation and degradation.

Occasionally, CIFOR’s research findings on topics such as illegal logging and corruption have proven awkward for our host country government

But it is a tremendous credit to Indonesia that CIFOR’s independence has been respected, and even critical findings have often been embraced by the government as constructive inputs to reform.

We have also invested in capacity building and outreach.

The Indonesian-language website on REDD+ that we jointly manage with the Ministry of Forestry has resulted in more than 26,000 downloads of publications in Bahasa Indonesia during its first year in operation.

In addition, we have made it our business to support the sharing of research findings from Indonesia with other forested countries, as well as importing lessons learned elsewhere to improve forest management here.

To give just one example, last year we hosted a South-South Exchange on managing the social and economic impacts of oil palm development.

We are deeply grateful for the government’s support to CIFOR, not least in building this beautiful campus under the direction of former Minister of Forestry Djamaluddin Suryohadikusumo.

We have worked hard to be good stewards of this facility, which we share with the World Agroforestry Centre.

We look forward to celebrating CIFOR’s 20th anniversary with our host country next year – we have come a long way together.

Indonesia and me

The third journey marking a 20-year milestone is my own.

It was 20 years ago that I completed my first assignment in Indonesia, having come here with the Ford Foundation to support a grants program focused on “social forestry”.

When I arrived in 1987, there were few foreigners in the halls of Manggala Wanabakti, and ideas about the collaborative management of forests with local communities were still rather new.

But over the last twenty-five years, those ideas have progressed — in ways that were unimaginable at the time — toward realizing a vision of more sustainable and inclusive management of Indonesia’s forests.

Many of the twenty-somethings with whom I worked back then have risen to become Presidential advisers, leaders of forestry agencies, and prominent public intellectuals.

During my tenure at CIFOR, I’ve had the privilege of extending those connections to like-minded partners here and around the world who share our commitment to managing forests in ways that are equitable, enhance human well-being, and conserve the environment.

It’s now time once again for me to pulang kampong.

My husband and I will be returning to the United States next month, and a new CIFOR Director General will be taking up this position in September.

But before we leave, I cannot think of a greater honor than to welcome, on behalf of CIFOR’s board and staff, the President of Indonesia to our campus.

President Yudhoyono,

Everyone gathered here deeply appreciates your personal commitment to protecting Indonesia’s forests as a legacy to your grandchildren, to your nation, and to our planet.

We recognize that you have taken political risks by stepping forward as the first head of state to make voluntary commitments to reducing climate emissions, with ambitious targets that can only be reached by reducing deforestation and forest degradation.

We admire your courage in signing the Letter of Intent on REDD+ with the Government of Norway, and in imposing a moratorium on new forest concessions.

We were heartened last September at the Forests Indonesia Conference by the dedication of your Presidency to safeguarding the future of Indonesia’s forests.

We look forward to hearing your global policy address.

Click here for a transcript of the President’s speech

Click here for photos from the President’s visit to CIFOR.


The Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) advances human wellbeing, environmental conservation and equity by conducting research to inform policies and practices that affect forests in developing countries. CIFOR helps ensure that decision-making that affects forests is based on solid science and principles of good governance, and reflects the perspectives of developing countries and forest-dependent people. CIFOR is one of 15 centres within the CGIAR.

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Topic(s) :   Climate talks