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NGOs criticise Indonesia’s “moratorium”

NGOs criticise Indonesia's moratorium. PHOTO: KpSHKOn 19 May 2011, Indonesia‘s President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, signed a presidential instruction bringing into force a two-year moratorium on the granting of new forestry concessions. A group of NGOs has now produced a Briefing Paper criticising the moratorium’s failure to address the causes of deforestation in Indonesia.

The NGOs involved in the Coalition of Civil Society Organizations for the Rescue of Indonesian Forest and the Global Climate, that produced the briefing paper, include WALHI, HuMa, Greenpeace, Sawit Watch, JATAM, Debt Watch, and BIC. The Briefing Paper is available here, in English (pdf file, 123.6 kB) and Bahasa Indonesia (pdf file, 131.6 kB).

The NGOs’ criticisms are many:

  • There is nothing new in the President’s Instruction. “[I]t is only a reaffirmation of old tasks that have not been implemented,” the NGOs note. The vast majority of primary forests and peat lands are already protected (at least under Indonesian law, if not in practice).
  • A Presidential Instruction is less easy to enforce than a Presidential Regulation (which was initially proposed to bring the moratorium into force).
  • Primary forest is not defined in either the President’s Instruction or Indonesia’s Forestry Act.
  • The list of exceptions in the Instruction in effect “renders the moratorium inapplicable,” the NGOs note. For example, the MIFEE (Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate) project would convert forest and peat lands to sugar cane and rice fields. Both sugar cane and rice are excluded from the moratorium.
  • The President’s Instruction is not specifically addressed to the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources or the Ministry of Agriculture. “Without the two ministries, institutionally, the INPRES is merely a lip service,” the NGOs comment.
  • The Instruction fails to address governance in the forestry sector. Instead, the issue of governance is entrusted with the Ministry of Forestry – the equivalent, the NGOs note, of asking a patient who has been ill for decades to cure their own disease.
  • The issue of land tenure and conflict over land is not addressed in the Instruction.
  • The indicative map attached to the Instruction is too small scale to be meaningful. It is based on data that is not publicly available.

Meanwhile, on 6 June 2011, Agus Purnomo, the President’s special adviser on climate change, wrote an article in the Jakarta Globe in support of the President’s Instruction: “The Trap of Idealism”. In his article, Agus attacks the environmental movement:

In its quest for the perfect, the environmental movement is attacking the good. The debate about what could have or should have been is delaying the bigger and more important job of reducing deforestation and cutting the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions.

This is a bizarre argument. There were several options given to President Yudhoyono. He could have signed a Regulation covering primary and secondary forests. He could have signed a Regulation that would have included a review of existing concessions. He could have even signed a Regulation that upheld indigenous peoples’ and local communities’ rights. Yudhoyono chose not to do so.

Agus continues with his attack on the environmental movement:

The environmental movement has been so focused on the two-year moratorium, specifically which parts of Indonesia’s forests are included, that activists have forgotten to look at what’s next. In all the excitement around the moratorium, they have lost sight of the fact that it’s merely a means to an end. It’s a tool to help the government move forward with a broader agenda of sustainable economic growth.

And he explains what the moratorium will do:

What the moratorium does is quite simple. It creates a pause, allowing Indonesia to start with a clean sheet, and to develop and implement policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in line with international commitments.

But Indonesia’s “clean sheet” is covered with existing concessions, many of which overlap each other. The moratorium was perhaps a chance to create a pause but there is no pause for any of these existing concessions. There, it’s just business as usual.

In a response to Agus Purnomo’s article, Bernadinus Steni of the Coalition of Civil Society Organizations for the Rescue of Indonesian Forests and the Global Climate wrote an article for the Jakarta Globe: “For Indonesia’s Forests, a Broken Promise”. In his article, Steni outlines the recommendations that environmental organisations and human rights supporters suggested should be included in the moratorium:

First, we suggested the moratorium cover all existing natural forest and peatlands in Indonesia, including secondary forests that are especially diverse in species and that often contain vast amounts of carbon. Such forest areas are crucial to local peoples’ livelihoods.

Second, we said the moratorium should include a review of existing permits, to assess their compliance with social and environmental requirements.

Third, that there should be a plan for conflict resolution that would help resolve the numerous land feuds around the country.

Fourth, we had expressed a need for a new legal framework that would put an end to the current destruction while also ensuring the rights of marginalized communities that have been denied access to their land and resources.

Fifth, we called for the moratorium to be based on achievements, rather than a pre-set time frame. We hoped it would refer to the real conditions that need immediate and concrete action in order to protect our forests, and last until sustainable and rights-based forest management could be ensured.

Finally, we advised that the moratorium should be based on the achievement of “Social Welfare for All Indonesian People,” as mandated by the nation’s state ideology, Pancasila.

None of these recommendations were included in the President’s Instruction. Steni has a new suggestion for President Yudhoyono to “rectify this weak moratorium”:

Among these steps could be a strong mandate to a new institution, with the power to revise existing concessions and cancel those which are violating our laws, destroying our forests and denying the human rights of our people.


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  1. Shame that Indonesian goverment only keeps their words on paper but not on its implementation. still illegal logging on primary and secondary forest happen without any action to tackle it…..shame

  2. The Indonesian government is not serious about its promise to preserve the remaining tropical forests. We doubt the sustainability of the commitment of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on a moratorium on forest policy in Indonesia.

  3. Meanwhile the Minister of Forestry is now openly backing a network of new interprovincial and inter district highways through Kerinci Seblat National Park under the guise of ‘evacuation’ routes (from ‘natural’ disasters). Inevitably these will fragment Sumatra’s largest national park already plagued by encroachment and illegal logging. What price even this moratorium….