Baseline Information of Indonesia

Indigenous Peoples, Forest and REDD in Indonesia

Indonesia consists of more than 17, 000 islands, covers a land area of 1,919,440 km2, and has a population of around 220 million people. Indonesia is an ethnically extremely diverse country. Over 700 different languages have been identified. Indonesia is still a unitary state with a strong central government, even though political and governmental structures have been decentralized after the resignation of President Suharto in 1998. The government officially recognizes 365 ethnic and sub-ethnic groups as so-called komunitas adat terpencil (isolated adat communities). They number about 1.1 million. However, there are many more ethnic groups that consider themselves, or are considered by others, as indigenous peoples. The nation-wide indigenous peoples’ organization, Aliansi Masyarakat Adat Nusantara (AMAN – Indigenous Peoples’ Alliance of the Archipelago), uses the term masyarakat adat to refer to indigenous peoples. A conservative estimate of the number of indigenous peoples in Indonesia amounts to between 50 and 70 million.

Since the fall of ex-President Suharto ’ s centralized and autocratic government during 1997–98, the Republic of Indonesia has undergone rapid decentralization. Considerable degrees of administrative and regulatory responsibility across broad segments of the economy have been transferred from the centre to the country’s district governments. This has resulted in changes to the institutions and processes governing the management of natural resources in the country.5 The rapid expansion of commercial logging under Suharto has led to Indonesia’s forest coverage declining by over a third from the late 1960s until the late 1990s.6 Since 1998, governance over forests has shifted haphazardly, from a centralized system of logging concessions and protected areas to one now informally controlled by over 300 district-level governments.7 These changes have resulted in newly empowered forest-dependent communities exerting property rights over customary (adat) forest, leading in many cases to communities negotiating directly and legitimately with logging companies in exchange for access to financial and social benefits.8 Moreover, district heads were permitted to issue small-scale forest conversion licences, but only if a harvesting agreement had been negotiated between the company and the community first.

Laws and Policies related to land, Forest and indigenous Peoples

In 2000, the Ministry of Forestry issued a regulation forbidding local governments from issuing small-scale logging licences, although all the districts under study continued to issue permits until 2002 and 2003. Thus, from a local government and community perspective, these permits continued to be perceived as legal, even though on a central-government level they were not. Therefore, from the local perspective, this did not appear to affect negotiations. Community rights are, however, still weakly defined in a legal sense.9 Coupled with endemic corruption in the Indonesian forestry sector and a general decline in state law and enforcement, this means that local government rarely, if ever, enforces community-firm logging agreements. As a consequence, communities came to depend more on self-enforcement rather than the state to enforce their property rights.10 Alternatively, companies could claim property rights by making agreements that are not complied with later11 or simply log without community consent.

Forest Acts

Promulgation of various sectoral Acts following Basic Agrarian Law-BAL, such as the Forestry Acts (Act No. 5 of 1967 and Act No. 41 of 1999), Mining Act (Act No. 11 of 1967) and the Protection of Biological Natural Resources and the Ecosystem (Act No. 5 of 1990), has led to further marginalization of adat communities. If BAL provides recognition of adat communities and their ulayat right (right of disposal), these various sectoral Acts promulgated since 1967 (since the New Order period began) tend to ignore the existence of those communities and their ulayat right. Act No. 5 of 1967 concerning Basic Forestry Law, promulgated in the first year of the New Order period, was based on the goal of accelerating development to improve economic growth through extraction of natural resources, including forest resources. This Act and its implementing regulation54 facilitated the issuance of forest concessions to big companies. The Act divides the forest area into two categories, namely, state forest and proprietary forest. State forest is defined as forest growing on land not covered by any proprietary rights. Included in the category of state forest is ulayat or adat forest. Proprietary forest is forest growing on land covered by proprietary rights. By including ulayat forest as state forest, this Act ignores ulayat rights of adat communities over their forest area. Based on this policy, the Government, without prior consultation with adat communities, granted forest concessions to logging companies.

Act No. 5 of 1960 concerning Basic Regulations on Agrarian Principles (or Basic Agrarian Law)

The Basic Agrarian Law (BAL) provided general principles that accommodate recognition of adat communities, ulayat land rights, and adat laws, as can be found in Article 2 Para. 4, Article 3, and Article 5. As basic law, this Act needs implementing legislation to make it effective. To date, only a few implementing regulations have been promulgated. As a consequence, there have been many deviations in the implementation of the Act. These deviations have been partly due to the concept of “eminent domain“ or right of control by the State, which is provided as a basic principle in Article 33 of the Constitution, and which has been interpreted and understood in such a way as to lead to the denial of the ulayat right of adat communities.