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SOURCE: RRI

Support team helping with Komnas HAM National Inquiry
Support team helping with Komnas HAM National Inquiry 

The release of a new series of reports in March by the Indonesian National Commission On Human Rights (Komnas HAM), the government’s human rights agency, marks the first official process to examine the human rights impacts of land rights conflicts on Indigenous Peoples throughout Indonesia’s forest areas. The state-led “Inquiry,” which looks at 40 case studies of land conflicts across the country, is the result of a yearlong process which included public hearings, ethnographic studies, and discussions on the non-recognition of local communities’ customary land rights. According to RRI Collaborator AMAN (Indigenous Peoples’ Alliance of the Archipelago), resolution of some of these 40 conflicts is just a matter of law enforcement. Following the National Inquiry, the situation has improved for Indigenous Peoples in some cases; however, violence has increased in others.

Forest zone determination started during the colonial reign of the Dutch East Indies, but 70% of Indonesia’s land was declared as “forests” during the Suharto Regime — without recognizing the rights of the thousands of indigenous communities who live in them. Vast areas of these forests have also been handed over to private companies as logging, plantation, and mining concessions, or declared as protected areas. The dispossession and exclusion of Indigenous Peoples from their own customary territories has led to an increasing number of conflicts; Komnas HAM estimates that as much as 20 percent of all complaints received by the agency relate to land disputes.

The Inquiry found that communities involved in these land disputes experience numerous abuses — including displacement, intimidation, violence, and takeover of traditional indigenous forests. Report findings also show that conflicts result from an array of factors: lack of legal certainty in recognition of indigenous territories; lack of standard police guidelines in handling natural resource conflict; and a state development agenda that is strongly biased toward protecting corporations over community rights.

The report was officially launched in mid-March in Jakarta, in the presence of state representatives from the Office of the President, Ministry of Environment and Forestry, and the Anti-Corruption Commission. Teten Masduki, Chief of Staff of the Office of the President, welcomed the publication of the report results and reaffirmed President Joko Widodo’s commitment to respecting, protecting, and recognizing the rights of Indigenous Peoples. Despite this commitment, contradicting legal interpretations of a Constitutional Court decision that says adat forests are to be excluded from State forests has proved to be a major blockage to increasing protection for Indigenous Peoples’ territories.

The report’s concrete policy recommendations—including passage of the Law on Recognition and Protection of Indigenous Peoples’ Rights, and the establishment of an independent Task Force on Indigenous Peoples—have prompted calls for the government to enact needed reforms. RRI Partners and Collaborators continue to advocate for effective implementation of Komnas HAM recommendations across Indonesia and encourage prompt government action to recognize community rights.

The Komnas HAM report is composed of five books on the “National Inquiry on the Rights of Customary Law-Abiding Communities Over Their Land in Forest Areas”:

  • Book One: Provides an overview about the National Inquiry process, main findings and recommendations
  • Book Two: Addresses specifically the situation of Adat Women
  • Book Three: Goes deeper into each of the conflict cases, providing ethnographic information and testimonies
  • Book Four: Describes main lessons learnt from this National Inquiry approach
  • Booklet: A policy brief summarizing key findings and recommendations of this inquiry to improve laws and policies

The full reports are available in English and Bahasa Indonesia.

– See more at: http://rightsandresources.org/en/news/landmark-report-investigates-human-rights-abuses-suffered-indigenous-communities-affected-land-conflicts-indonesia/#.VylH54RcSkr

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SOURCE: RRI

Realizing full potential of Forest Rights Act will transform land ownership, forest governance, and rural livelihoods for tens of millions of forest-dwellers on at least 40 million hectares of land

DOWNLOAD THE FULL REPORT HERE

Fun & FlowersNEW DELHI, INDIA (22 July 2015)—A new study has revealed that India’s 2006 Forest Rights Act (FRA) has the potential to recognize the rights of approximately 150 million forest dwellers on at least 40 million hectares of forested land.

Conducted by Vasundhara, NRMC India, and the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI), the study finds that if the FRA is properly implemented, it would initiate the largest ever land reform in India, shifting forest governance from an undemocratic, colonial system to a decentralized, democratic one where Gram Sabhas are decision-makers. Such a process would also conform to the Indian State’s constitutional obligations towards its tribal citizens.

Utilizing government data, the study followed a two-step process to assess forest areas that under the FRA are vested with forest-dwelling communities.  The study examined the Forest Survey of India and census data to assess forests that are already listed as a land-use category within revenue village boundaries. The second step added customary forest areas of the North Eastern states which were not covered by FSI. The study then suggested additional work to assess forest area customarily used by forest-dwellers outside of revenue village boundaries and thus eligible under the FRA.

Through this process the study found that at least 170,000 villages – one fourth of the villages in the country – have vested CFR rights based on forest land within their revenue village boundaries. Due to a lack of data, the estimate does not include forest area customarily used by forest-dwellers outside of revenue village boundaries.

Other findings from the report indicate:

  • The districts with the largest potential for CFR recognition overlap with the country’s tribal population and poorest areas. These are also the districts with the maximum number of land-based conflicts.
  • The total forest area over which CFR rights have been recognized so far is less than 500,000 hectares, implying that barely 1.2 percent of the CFR rights potential in the country has been recognized.
  • CFR rights recognition is already leading to dramatic examples of major livelihood improvements in certain regions where FRA implementation is underway.

The study comes shortly after Prime Minister Modi’s directive to the Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MoTA) to implement the FRA within two months. But while the Prime Minister’s directive is a welcome move, it does not fully take into account ground realities inhibiting the FRA’s implementation.

“Claim making and recognition of CFR rights under the FRA is a time-consuming process,” said Tushar Dash, a researcher at Vasundhara and one of the study’s authors. “It involves a democratic process of determination, delineation, and mapping of these rights, and preparation of claims by Gram Sabhas and Forest Rights Committees. Given the intensive and participatory nature of the process, the given timeline is unrealistic.”

The FRA implementation process has been slow with state governments largely emphasizing individual claims while ignoring collective rights, including CFR rights. No concurrent campaign to spread awareness about this historic law has been undertaken by any States.   To date, most of the 3.13 million hectares of land where rights have been recognized under the FRA is held individually. Furthermore, the study highlights that a lingering impediment to effective implementation has been the reluctance of the existing forestry bureaucracy to relinquish control.

“For land rights to be granted to India’s tribal citizens, the government first needs to deal with the forest bureaucracy’s stronghold on power,” said Arvind Khare, Executive Director at RRI. “This historical transformation can’t be achieved if there is still little understanding of the Act’s potential and implications in government agencies.”

In light of these findings, the study puts forth the following recommendations:

  • The Government of India, specifically MoTA, needs to take immediate and definitive action to ensure the full, proper, and effective implementation of the FRA, including CFR rights recognition.
  • The initial list and data of the 170,000 villages with forest lands within their village boundaries cited in this study should be made available to state and district administrations to facilitate effective FRA implementation and CFR rights recognition.
  • A massive awareness campaign should be initiated to ensure that identified Gram Sabhas are aware of the FRA, specially its CFR provisions; and to create capacities at the district level to undertake CFR rights recognition.
  • The Prime Minister’s Office and Chief Ministers should ensure that all current state orders and procedures which violate FRA provisions are withdrawn immediately.
  • Civil society organizations that have mapped customary forest areas outside of revenue village boundaries are a significant source which can be used to train district functionaries in mapping in districts and identifying customary forests eligible for CFR claims.

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SOURCE: FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

20/03/2015 Bangkok, Thailand

With pollution levels off the charts in some Asian cities and haze from forest fires blanketing much of Southeast Asia, this year’s International Day of Forests on 21st March reminds us what’s at stake if countries don’t get more serious in dealing with deforestation and climate change, an official at the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said today.

“The present efforts to address climate change clearly need to be stepped up to include more effective forest management and expansion of forest cover,”  said Hiroyuki Konuma, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific, adding that “more than 11 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions result from deforestation and forest degradation.”

Forests are crucial in allowing our planet to adapt to climate change as they help ensure water availability, protect against landslides, prevent desertification and provide livelihoods for people. Forests cover 31 percent of global land area and almost as much carbon is stored in forests (650 billion tons) as in the atmosphere (760 billion tons).

Some improvements in Asia – but more is needed

While the Asian region as a whole has achieved a small increase in forest cover in the last decade, due to massive reforestation programmes in a few countries such as China and Viet Nam, continuing loss of natural forests, forest degradation and declining forest health continue to be a concern in most countries of the region.

“Protecting the remaining forests of our region conserves the biodiversity that is vital for plants, humans and other animals to adapt to climate change,” Konuma said. “If we stop the damage now, we will not only avoid massive release of forest carbon into the atmosphere, but our forests will also potentially be able to absorb more than one-tenth of global carbon emissions and store them long-term in the form of forest biomass, in the soil and in wood products.”

Forests, women and climate change

A new report, just released by FAO and RECOFTC – The Center for People and Forests, highlights that women could be a major force in countries’ strategies to improve forest management. Studies confirmed the key roles of women in managing and protecting forests in the Asian region.  Their contributions are therefore seen as critical in dealing with the challenges associated with climate change.

“It is time to acknowledge the major role that women have in managing forests,” said Konuma. “Women have to be given more opportunity to play leading roles and given far greater say when decisions are made about trees and forests; it is very clear that no initiative aimed at addressing climate change or forest management will be successful without the full involvement of women.”

Raising awareness of policy makers, practitioners and the general public

International Day of Forests, held annually on 21 March, helps raise awareness of the importance of forests to people.  More than 1.6 billion people depend on forests for their livelihoods, medicine, fuel and food.

In Asia and the Pacific, FAO is working with all levels of society to raise awareness of the importance of forests, through debate involving high-school and university students at FAO in Bangkok this week, and a high-level executive forest policy course on people, land use and forests in the ASEAN region next week.

“Raising awareness is important, as is successful conclusion of negotiations on a comprehensive international climate change agreement,” said Konuma.  “But what really matters is how we address these challenges on the ground.  In this aspect, we need the support of everyone, including the critical contributions of women in ensuring sound forest management.”

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SOURCE: Earth Security Group

Air pollution from haze is a serious public health concern in Singapore. The haze primarily originates in Indonesia’s forest fires that are used to clear land for agriculture. Singapore will be increasingly pressured to act to reduce air pollution as health risks undermine the quality of life of its population and its ambition to be a leading global commodities hub. Indonesia’s new president Joko Widodo has made poverty-reduction the centrepiece of his term’s vision. Forest fires affect the health of Indonesian rural communities and undercut his presidential pledge, resulting in his recent pronouncement against mono-crop corporate agriculture.

Adding to the complexity is the contestation of land tenure in Indonesia, a major obstacle to clarifying responsibility for forest fires. The future position of companies listed in Singapore and Malaysia is threatened, particularly given Indonesia’s desire to limit foreign land ownership. In this web of political complexity, concession permits for large palm oil, paper and timber companies in Indonesia will be increasingly scrutinised, despite over 50% of fire alerts originating outside concessions. Companies that have made public commitments to ‘zero burning’ and ‘zero deforestation’ have the most at stake, as they will not be able to deliver on their commitments without decisive government action.

Strategic Opportunity 1

For companies with land concessions in Indonesia

Companies that have made public commitments to zero deforestation and burning, to help fill the gap that exists for robust and uniform transparency, disclosure and the development of a land monitoring system for use by public policy makers’ and the private sector.

Strategic Opportunity 2

For the government of Indonesia

Encourage Indonesia’s own legal schemes for sustainable palm oil and wood products The Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO) system, and the Indonesian Timber Legality Assurance System (SVLK) to directly address the haze issue through coordinated independent verification of certified plantations for compliance with no-burning policies.

Strategic Opportunity 3

For the governments of Singapore and Malaysia

Quantify the economic and health costs that forest fires in order to make more informed political decisions about its impacts. Accelerate the development and implementation of disclosure and transparency guidelines for companies listed in their stock exchanges or privately held in their jurisdictions that operate large land assets in Indonesia.

Strategic Opportunity 4

For ASEAN policy-makers

ASEAN has the goal to strengthen regional economic integration in 2015. The existing ASEAN Business Advisory Council has a role to play in driving the effectiveness of the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution. The creation of an ‘ASEAN Business Working Group on Transboundary Haze’ is an opportunity to consolidate the business voice across these countries regarding policy priorities and implementation.

ASEAN’s agreement: a foundation for trans-boundary cooperation

The Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution is a regional treaty signed by 10 ASEAN countries (Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia) that came into force in 2003. Indonesia only ratified the treaty on 16 September 2014. The agreement requires parties to develop and implement prevention, monitoring and mitigation measures, respond to information requests made by affected states, and take legal or other measures to implement obligations under the agreement.ASEAN cannot sanction parties that fail to comply with its provisions and parties have significant leeway in how to meet their obligations. Greater transparency and exchange of technical information, such as concession maps, is essential, but Indonesia argues that the disclosure of concession maps is in contravention with its laws. Intergovernmental cooperation has been limited to Ministries of the Environment, with weak coordination with other ministries responsible for key areas of the economy, finance and industry or with other strategic areas of ASEAN’s agenda on economic integration, food security and agriculture.

Indonesia

Forest fires undermine the government’s rural development goals

In 2013, Indonesia ranked as the top producer of palm oil in the world (28.4 MT) as well as the largest global consumer of palm oil, accounting for 23% of global consumption. Top importers of Indonesian palm oil are India (28%), China (15%) and Malaysia (8%), reducing the effectiveness of western market led sustainability certifications. Globally, Indonesia is the 10th largest paper and paperboard producer and home to APP, the largest company in the global market. Illegal burning for oil-palm and pulpwood plantations has had devastating effects domestically, where haze has caused hundreds of schools and local airports to close, and respiratory infections in thousands of people.

Malaysia

Malaysia chairs ASEAN in 2015

Malaysia holds the chair of ASEAN in 2015: Malaysia is now the second largest producer of palm oil (19.2 MT in 2013) after Indonesia and the 5th largest consumer of palm oil. Primary importers of Malaysian palm oil are China (19%), India (15%), and Pakistan (8%). While Malaysia is not currently a significant player in the global market for pulp and paper, the sector is poised to expand. Malaysia is itself responsible for some haze episodes, but it is the prevailing westward winds carrying the haze pollution from Indonesia as far north as Kuala Lumpur that can push air pollution above the level considered hazardous. In 2013, Malaysia’s Air Pollutant Index (API) reached ‘hazardous’ levels around the capital, closing airports and schools, and a state of emergency was called in Johor State.

Singapore

Health and business disruption costs in a global commodities hub

Many of the region’s most significant palm oil, pulp and paper and timber companies are domiciled or listed in Singapore, an increasingly significant global commodities hub that supports trade and financing in both sectors. While Singapore has effective plans and policies in place to manage its dependencies on food, water and energy imports, it is increasingly exposed to health and economic impacts from transboundary haze. At the height of the 2013 haze crisis, record air pollution in Singapore was classified as hazardous to human health, damaging Singapore’s reputation as an attractive business and financial hub renowned for its high quality of life.

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17 March 2014: STAR Kampuchea and the Krakor District Administration, Pursat province co-organized a meeting to form a working group for forestland institutions and stakeholders. A Technical Working Group for Community Forestry Demarcation (TWG-CFD) was formed with clear responsibilities, mandate, and schedule. TWG-CFD is recognized by the Krakor District Governor and comprises of district and deputy-district governors, district land department and land office, district councils, commune councils, heads of the forestry communities and other stakeholders. The mandate of TWG-CFD is to demarcate forestland of 1,300 hectares, involving 12 communities in the three communes – Kbal Trach, Anlong Tnout, and Ansa Chambok. These three communities were granted this forestland to organize forestry communities. Even though each community has organized committee members, clear boundaries of each community is a prerequisite for obtaining official registration.

 

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JKPP, Indonesia

May 2013

The Constitutional Court in Indonesia court decided to scrap the word “state” from Article 1 of the 1999 Forestry Law, which says “customary forests are state forests located in the areas of custom-based communities”. The court also ruled that the government had to recognize indigenous communities’ ownership of customary forests. “Indigenous peoples have the right to own and exploit their customary forests to meet their daily needs” (see: Jakarta Post, 18 May 2013). Such developments provide greater opportunities to IPs to claim their forest lands in Indonesia.

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