Fixing legal loopholes in Indonesia’s forest and land use governance

January 27th, 2011

Published on East Asia Forum, Author: Fitrian Ardiansyah, ANU

As a country with one of the largest areas of rainforest in the world, it is not surprising that Indonesia is also considered a pioneer in the development of REDD+ (Reducing Emission from Deforestation and Forest Degradation).

In early 2007, the Ministry of Forestry (MoF) formed the Indonesia Forest Climate Alliance (IFCA) with the help of various government departments, donor agencies, research institutions and NGOs to initiate the development of REDD+ policies. Later that year, IFCA managed to outline key elements of REDD+, including methodologies, land-use policies, institutional arrangement and benefit distribution mechanisms.

Following the work of IFCA, the MoF has issued a number of ministerial decrees, which aim at governing REDD+ demonstration activities and providing an umbrella for benefit distribution mechanisms.

Last year in Oslo, on the same occasion as the signing of a letter of intent between the Indonesian and Norwegian governments, to signal his support for REDD+, the Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono announced his commitment to halt all new concessions for conversion of peat and natural forests in two years, supposed to start in January 2011.

To realise this, the Indonesian government has to produce a clear strategy and legal framework which guides the moratorium of forest conversion and the overall REDD+. However, these existing and potential future regulations may not be sufficient to provide firm legal direction in developing and exercising REDD+.

A number of organisations argue that to have successful REDD+ the country has to reform its forest and land use governance, starting from the regulations that have shaped this governance system.

The latest institution to speak out about this issue is Indonesia’s Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK). When releasing its study on forestry late last year, the KPK emphasised that unclear definitions of forest areas in Law No. 41 of 1999 on Forestry and other relevant regulations (i.e., Government Regulation No. 44 of 2004, and MoF’s Decree No. 32 of 2001 and 50 of 2009) can be considered as one of the indirect causes of deforestation.

According to the KPK, this unclear definition and boundary of forest areas, coupled with the lack of applied fair procedure in designating forest areas, has weakened the legitimacy of 88.2 per cent of forest areas (more than 105.8 million hectares).

To make things worse, the KPK found that not all of these forest areas have been gazetted in law.

A study carried out by the MoF in 2009 concurs with this argument by stating that one of the indirect causes of deforestation is the difficulty of controlling the boundaries of production and protected forests, leaving them vulnerable to illegal logging.

This situation, according to the commission, has created a legal loophole for illegal loggers and illegal miners to continue their actions and avoid legal implications.

Another revelation by the KPK is that the division of authorities, roles and responsibilities among different layers of governments remains unclear and problematic, especially in determining forest areas in the spatial planning process.

In its study, the KPK found that an agreed synchronised map of forest areas which can be used by stakeholders does not as yet exist. Instead, there are at least four different versions which, utilising various scales, are not compatible with each other.

It is of course very challenging to resolve this given the variety of sectors that have interests in forest and land use — sectors which, furthermore, are regulated under different ministries and layers of government. These institutions are known to have issued overlapping policies on land use and land use changes, and influenced the issuance of different documents and maps of forest and land use.

For example, based on Law No. 41 of 1999, the authority to manage state forest is under the national-level MoF. The ministry has control over almost every activity in state forest and this law has repealed much of the authority decentralised under Law No. 22 of 1999 on Regional Governance.

This arrangement appears to be centralistic and contradict with the authority of local governments in their spatial planning under the decentralised system. As a result, there are often cases in which spatial planning which allocates forest areas at district level is contradictory with the planning at the higher ruling.

With de facto decentralisation processes, particularly in the forestry and land use sectors, occurring more quickly than de jure ones it is therefore imperative to deal with this issue seriously. The KPK has recommended the MoF to patch these legal loopholes, at the latest, by the end of this year. And, if REDD+ is to be actively and effectively carried out, it is urgent this advice is heeded.

Fitrian Ardiansyah is advisor to WWF Indonesia on climate and energy, a PhD candidate at the Crawford School of Economics and Government at the Australian National University and a recipient of the Australian Leadership Award and Allison Sudradjat Award.

Original link:

Local nuance at the heart of climate policies

Fitrian Ardiansyah, The Jakarta Post, Climate Solutions Column | Tue, 08/31/2010 10:00 AM | Environment

In his Independence Day speech, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono announced the results of the latest population census, sparking concern as to how the country was handling the looming challenge of a population boom.

According to the Central Statistics Agency (BPS), Indonesia is now home to 237.6 million people, an increase of about 32.5 million since 2000. Within the next five years, Indonesia’s population will grow to 250 million, according to estimates.

In the context of climate change, this may well lead to a dramatic growth in consumption and other human-induced activities, which could significantly increase greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as by-products of economic growth.

As we may learn, an increase in GHG emissions correlates with an increase in the concentration of GHG in the atmosphere, resulting in climate change and its associated impacts — which will eventually affect Indonesians.

Even without climate change, the exponential growth rate of the country’s population has contributed to continuous pressures on remaining natural resources and ecosystems.

Climate change may worsen existing environmental degradation resulting from illegal and destructive logging, forest conversion, overfishing and overexploitation of natural resources.

Because this massive archipelagic nation has adopted a decentralized system, local governments and people must shoulder the burden of this issue.

One of the country’s biggest challenges right now is to formulate climate policies and initiate programs that seriously reflect local aspirations and incorporate ongoing efforts at the local level.

A number of climate policies developed since 2007 mostly focus on strategic intervention to reduce GHG emissions by 26 percent by 2020 at the national level, or prioritize action in key development sectors.

This approach, however, leaves a substantial gap when it comes to action on the ground. Comparing polices at the national level, or in key development sectors, with intervention at a local level, has never been easy. Decentralization in Indonesia is a highly complex subject.

Many experts have praised Indonesia’s decentralization and transformation but concerns over the division of authorities and fiscal distribution remain.

For instance, policies formulated and actions taken by national government (in all sectors) often differ or clash with those taken at the provincial or district level.

This is also true in the case of climate change.

According to Dr. Meine van Noordwijk of the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), how reductions of GHG emissions are likely to be allocated over sectors and, more importantly, over parts of the country, has not been decided yet.

Provinces and districts in Sumatra, Kalimantan and Papua, for instance, are still drafting their low-carbon development plans.

In these drafts, provinces and districts have voiced their aspirations to address climate change and sustainability.

In a decentralized model, it is crucial that the already developed and currently formulated national and sectoral climate change policies take into account these sub-national or local policy aspirations.

If the figures from different layers of the government do not match, it will be a Herculean task for the country to commit to pledge to reduce GHG emissions.

Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, head of the Indonesian team negotiating the bilateral agreement with Norway to reduce carbon emissions, recently said the Indonesian government had acknowledged the need for a system with high integrity, which left no room for leakages, to implement REDD+ successfully.

He explained a high degree of integrity was fundamental since compensation for REDD+ implementation would depend on the credibility of this system.

Setting up positive incentives, including financial ones, is another way to encourage local governments and actors to be more involved in climate change mitigation.

This is important since benefits resulting from any climate change policies need to be felt and distributed in an equitable manner.

Moreover, these incentives need to be framed by rules that ensure benefits created flow to, and are retained by, local and indigenous people — as well as poor communities — who are among the most resource-dependent people and providers of important environmental services.

In the past, the position, rights and interests of local and indigenous people were often overlooked or marginalized when the government formulated environmental policies.

As a result, poverty and environmental degradation are still prevalent.

Including local and indigenous people is therefore key to instituting better climate governance.

The recipient of the 2009 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, Elinor Ostrom, said social arrangements were crucial in determining the outcomes of policies, particularly when these were aimed at influencing human behavior interconnecting with economic matters.

In the Indonesian context, understanding the complexity of decentralization, taking into account aspirations of local governments and people, can be viewed as appropriate social arrangements.

This is not only likely to ensure successful outcomes from climate policies, but could also help minimize the cost of implementation of these policies, reduce social conflicts and provide social insurance in case of hazards.

Most importantly, this would strengthen the confidence and trust among all stakeholders and right holders — which is crucial for the nation itself.

The writer is a PhD candidate at the Australian National University, a recipient of the Australian Leadership Award and Allison Sudradjat Award, as well as an advisor to WWF-Indonesia on climate and energy. He can be reached at

Original link:

Untangling the web of REDD governance

Fitrian Ardiansyah, Climate Solutions Column, The Jakarta Post | Tue, 08/03/2010 8:08 AM | Environment

Following the signing of an agreement between Norway and Indonesia implementing the UN’s reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation plus (REDD+) program, the Indonesian government is seriously considering an idea to establish a REDD council.

This council is expected to report directly to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to coordinate REDD+ implementation efforts in the country.

In addition, the council would regulate REDD+ projects and decide which projects would be endorsed prior to registration at the United Nations (UN).

The government thinks that unapproved REDD projects would be prevented by the creation of
this council.

Unsurprisingly, the idea to establish a REDD council has sparked different responses. Some have supported it and others have responded skeptically.

Those supporting the idea state that the council is crucial for the country to reduce emissions from deforestation comprehensively — across sectors — and lift the burden of this gigantic task from the Forestry Ministry.

According to Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan, the REDD council may reduce his ministry’s authority on forests, but could also help the ministry focus on its main (and huge) task of managing Indonesia’s dwindling forests.

Proponents of a REDD council believe it would smooth the process of developing policies, institutions and a legal framework for the implementation of REDD+.

On the other hand, others argue that REDD council may not be the appropriate institution to ensure coordination across sectors and among different layers of governments and actors when it comes to dealing with deforestation and land use changes.

Deforestation and the destruction of terrestrial ecosystems are often associated with the development of major sectors such as forestry, agriculture, mining and infrastructure.

These sectors are regulated under different ministries (i.e., forestry, agriculture, energy and mineral resources and public works). These ministries are known to have often overlapping policies on land use and land use changes.

It is therefore essential that any institution developed to oversee the formulation and implementation
of REDD+ has to actively and directly involve and coordinate these sectors and the ministries overseeing the sectors.

A REDD council needs to get these sectors involved and to gain support when it comes to issuing and implementing policies on REDD+.

Good policies on REDD+ are required to cover and clarify forest tenure and management, overlapping land use and agricultural policies and coordination of district, provincial and national level agencies and actors.

Some experts suggest that the country needs to learn a lesson from the current National Council on Climate Change (DNPI) as well as other relevant institutions and policies created by the President and his ministries.

The creation of DNPI in 2008 by Yudhoyono is an attempt to guide Indonesia’s efforts in integrating climate change into its development agenda.

To be able to do this, support from different sectors, governments and actors at national, provincial and district levels is crucial. However, securing this support remains a continuous challenge for DNPI.

DNPI itself has a working group on forestry issues that has been dealing with REDD Plus. It is yet to be seen as to how this unit will be positioned vis-a-vis a new REDD council.

The country also has the Coordinating Board of Spatial Planning (BKPRN) — led by the Coordinating Economic Ministry and supported by at least 13 ministries and agencies — that has the task to prepare, coordinate and monitor national spatial and land use planning.

In the context of these policies, the government has released a number of official documents that  emphasize the challenges of key climate change actions in sectors such as forestry, land use and agriculture.

These include the Finance Ministry’s Green Paper, the Environment Ministry’s Indonesia Second National Communication and the National Development Planning Ministry’s Indonesia Climate Change Sectoral Roadmap.

Without careful and thorough assessment, the establishment of a REDD council and its future policies would further tangle already a complicated web of forest and land use management.

Studies show that decentralization in this country, particularly in the forestry and land use sectors, has been incredibly rapid, with decentralization occurring effectively more quickly than legally.

Local governments, groups and individuals appear to have more power and authority. This has contributed to the gradual decline of the central government’s ability to both manage and protect forest and land use resources.

Having learnt from this and to demonstrate a good process in integrating sub-national and national levels of effective land use policies, recent initiatives to promote sustainable development have been

These include “The Road Map for Saving Sumatra Island and Ecosystem”, “the Heart of Borneo” and “Papua Government Initiative”.

If formally established, it is important for REDD council to accommodate local voices and concerns and adjust its system to ensure effective implementation of REDD+.

The proposed REDD council is perceived as the litmus test to Indonesia’s ability to curb deforestation.

All will only end well if the government can come up with a design that can overcome the challenges mentioned above.

The writer is a doctoral candidate at the Australian National University, recipient of Australian Leadership Award and Allison Sudradjat Award and advisor to the World Wildlife Fund Indonesia on climate and energy issues. He can be reached at

Original link: