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Posts Tagged ‘Indonesia’

Logging the Moratorium Zone in Indonesia’s REDD+ Pilot Province

Yesterday, EIA and Telapak released a new briefing paper – Caught REDD Handed- exposing illegal deforestation in Indonesia.

In summary, the briefing exposed how, on the very day Indonesia’s president signed a new moratorium on forest exploitation in areas of peatland and primary forest across Indonesia, EIA and Telapak were filming a Malaysian owned plantation company actively clearing about 5,000 hectares of it in the REDD+ Pilot Province, Central Kalimantan. The moratorium was breached on day one – hardly a good sign for what is already a weak moratorium.

Excavator clearing forest in PT Menteng area May 2011

Investing in Criminal Deforestation

Worse still, EIA’s research also reveals that Norway, Indonesia’s biggest REDD+ donor, stands to profit from the illegal deforestation of moratorium land through the $41.5 million of shares the country’s pension fund holds in the Malaysian company Kuala Lumpur Kepong. This is despite both the moratorium and the REDD+ Pilot Province being cornerstones of a US$ 1 billion Letter of Intent (LoI) on REDD+ between the two countries. Jago’s previous blog on the moratorium

The briefing also reveals how this is not Norway’s only investment in deforestation in Indonesia. EIA’s research reveals that during 2010, Norway’s portfolio of logging and plantations investments had increased in value from $437 million to $678 million, with $145 of this increase being profits to Norway from increased share values.

EIA has repeatedly warned Norway that its Pension Fund is in danger of profiting from the violation of the forests of Indonesia, but, it seems, to no avail. Indeed, as the briefing explains, Norway has actually put more money into, and made more money from deforesting industries in Indonesia and its neighbouring countries over the year, than it has granted to Indonesia under the Letter of Intent on REDD+.

Despite the whole idea of REDD+ being to reverse the structure of financial incentives – from those that encourage deforestation to those that encourage forest protection, the case of Norway’s pension fund reveals how the financial incentives in the forestry sector remain perverse.

Log in land cleared by PT Menteng, May 2011

EIA and Telapak have submitted the briefing to the Indonesian and Norwegian authorities, in the hope that both parties might prevent the moratorium being swept aside by realities in crime riddled Central Kalimantan.

While Indonesia needs to deliver on its pledges to clean up crime, corruption and illegal plantations in Central Kalimantan and nationwide, Norway’s finance ministry needs to get its pension fund REDD Ready by divesting from companies that drive the very deforestation Norway is hoping to see reduce in Indonesia.

For further information on the breach of the moratorium, see the following resources:

EIA/Telapak Press Release in Englishand Bahasa Indonesia

Caught REDD Handed Briefing in English& Bahasa Indonesia

EIA interviewed on Radio Australia

News coverage on Reuters & Mongabay, and in REDD Montor

 

Jago Wadley

Senior Campaigner

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As the plane dipped to one side, the window revealed a sea of deep green below. Thousands of trees packed together like tiny cotton balls, their canopies forming a roof over one of nature’s greatest shows. Beneath, a beguiling cast of orang utans and gibbons, birds and insects.

Orang-utan, Borneo, Indonesia. Credit Jason Cheng

Orang-utan, Borneo, Indonesia. Credit Jason Cheng

Just a few decades ago this majestic scene would have met visitors anywhere they arrived on the island of Borneo. It’s the good fortune of passengers between Jakarta and Palangkaraya, in Central Kalimantan, that their flight path passes over Sebangau National Park, a vast expanse of peat swamp and one of the last bastions of rainforest on Borneo. But it’s a throwback to a seemingly distant past, a time when the level of destruction that would subsequently unfold in Borneo would have been unimaginable.

Today, the island’s landscape is scarred by logging roads that carve deep into the interior, pockmarked by coal and gold mines, rendered monochrome by palm oil plantations that stretch to the horizon. It serves as a salutary lesson in how much damage humans can do in a relatively short space of time; in 1950, almost all of Borneo was under forest cover. By 2005, almost half of it had gone. Rampant, unsustainable development proved just how fragile the rainforest can be. Even Sebangau has barely escaped the teeth of the chainsaw.

If this dystopian vision jars with Borneo’s evocative reputation, and is too gloomy for a Friday afternoon, now might be a good moment to point out that the game isn’t up: it just means the stakes are higher.

Since beginning its forest campaign at the end of the last century, EIA has demonstrated how a combination of hard evidence, relentless campaigning and, fundamentally, a belief that things can change can make a difference. The rate of deforestation in Indonesia, while still high, has slowed. Illegal logging has fallen and new regulations in both Indonesia and the EU gives us our greatest chance yet to clamp down further, addressing our culpability as consumers in driving this crime.

While EIA occasionally grabs the headlines, the unsung heroes of this work are the Indonesians who face the realities of forest crime every day. These men and women have seen their homes destroyed and their livelihoods stolen from them in the name of development. While EIA campaigners can always leave Indonesia, can at times switch off from the work, they lack that luxury. People like Wancino, who I met in Central Kalimantan last month, stand up to vested interests with wealth and power vastly beyond their own.

Together with EIA’s partners Telapak, we spent several days touring the less salubrious sights Borneo has to offer. We raced down peat drainage canals in a boat rigged up with a car engine, Indonesian pop music blaring out of a boom box. We drove for almost an hour through a bizarre, desert landscape; rainforest replaced with bright white sand after the illegal gold-miners had plied their trade. We fell in peat swamp that came up to our knees in newly opened palm oil plantations, the baking sun beating harshly down now the canopy has gone. It’s not hard to be overwhelmed by the sheer scale of destruction, or the brazen nature of the crime, but people like Wancino don’t give up.

Those on the front line. Papua province, Indonesia. Credit Jason Cheng

Those on the front line. Papua province, Indonesia, another area of Indonesia EIA work in. Credit Jason Cheng

‘In the past the forest was friendly to the people,’ he told me. ‘We looked after each other.

‘Then one day the government gave a plantation to people who had money. They cleared the forest. The people’s forest, where the animals were, was gone.

We had no power. However much we protested, there was no response – not from the government, or the people who took the land.’

Wancino has no option but to fight for the forest that’s left – and neither do we.

Tomasz Johnson

Forest Campaigner


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Saving the world's forests, EIA has been working on this campaign for over 10 years. Credit EIA.

Saving the worlds forests, EIA has been working on this campaign for over 10 years.

Sitting on the Eurostar, once again on my way to Brussels and this time for what should be a defining moment for our campaign against illegal logging, I have been thinking about the amount of time I have spent in meetings and how much I have learned over the years about getting legislation through the European Union.  

As campaigners, we’re supposed to be flexible enough to take whatever is thrown at us, and turn complicated and over-talked issues into something anyone can understand. But nothing prepared me for what I had to deal with when I first went to Brussels. I have sat through meetings where I have literally not understood a single thing that has been said to me as to why something could not possibly happen. This, I have now learned, is the whole idea. A lot of governments I have lobbied over the years have used a similar practice and, drawing on that experience, I decided that if we wanted something to go through and if we couldn’t do it directly, then we would go over, under and around ’the problem’ in our own way.

I remember the first time I was invited to speak to a hearing on forestry issues, which at that time did not have illegal logging issues on the top of its agenda but instead focused on forest issues that were going nowhere. I had been invited by Europe-based NGO’s to talk about our campaign to a large group of Commission representatives from about five different Directorates. (Ministries).  I had no idea what I was walking into. The Commission was keeping everyone focused on some issue that was going around in circles and seemed totally pointless to me, but I was told “this is a consultation and it’s formal, so we need to ensure what we are saying goes on the record”. I sat there with huge admiration for my colleagues as they continued to make their point to the grey suits sitting on a panel in front of us in an enormously large room. Then it was my turn.

EIA have been in Brussels finalising the VPA between Indonesia & the EU

EIA have been in Brussels finalising the VPA between Indonesia & the EU

“Europe has made a lot of money from illegal logging and the illegal trade in timber for so long now that it’s become the norm.” I said. “Traders and importers know who the bad guys are. Our desire for cheap tropical timber means that we’re fuelling corruption, ensuring the middle men make all the money and there’s no chance for anyone wanting to work legally, let alone sustainably. It’s ensuring that those who do the right thing are unable to work with a level playing field and only those who have connections are able to make real profits. Producer countries are losing millions in lost state revenue and we’re creating a new breed of timber barons. Let me tell you how this works in the case of Indonesia.”

“Excuse me, but this is not on the agenda,” said a grey suit.

“Really? I am going to continue because it should be on your agenda.”

And I did. Our main objective in Europewas to have a law that would make it an offence to supply and sell illegally sourced timber. With illegal logging rampant in Indonesia at that time, the EU needed to take some responsibility. It sounded so simple.

Yesterday, EIA and Telapak held a debriefing on the conclusion of an accord between Indonesia and the EU called a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA).

Indonesia has agreed to implement a credible timber licensing scheme to eliminate illegally produced timber in its trade with the EU. Although this is a milestone for Indonesia, it is the way this agreement was reached that is so extraordinary. Read more about the new VPA.

Over the years, the divide between stakeholders was huge. But yesterday, as we spoke of the journey we have all taken to get to this point, emotions ran high. Compared to the meeting I first went to in Europe all those years ago, this was something entirely different and the feeling of ownership from everyone made the difference.

Faith Doherty

Faith Doherty

Senior Campaigner

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‘So why should people in this country care?’

Spreading word of EIA’s activities and investigations via broadcast, print and electronic media can present all sorts of interesting challenges in the shifting landscape of how information is delivered and consumed in the early 21st Century.

But with traditional forms such as newspapers under mounting pressure and the rise of the blogosphere and online news outlets, it’s almost reassuring that many journalists still often seize on the hoary staple concerns of their profession: ‘What’s the local angle?’

Before joining EIA, I spent the best part of 25 years in the regional UK press on a variety of daily and weekly titles, so it’s a question with which I’m probably too familiar, having doubtless irked many a press officer and organisation in my time with the same parochial demand.

It’s not necessarily a shortcoming of the news-gatherers, more a pragmatic awareness of the fact that getting their audience to stay with a story past the first two or three paragraphs can be a tricky proposition and anchoring a story in a geographical context with which they’re familiar is one way to respond to that.

My first editor was a twitchy obsessive on the point – if you couldn’t get the name of a community within your circulation patch, and therefore an intimately local angle, into the first paragraph then you’d fail to connect with the readers and it was assumed they’d glance disinterested at the opening words and swiftly move on to the WI meeting reports and photo spreads of fancy dress dog shows (a deranged-looking poodle dolled up as Queen Victoria seemed to win every time). Either you rewrote the story or it was spiked.

Credit Jason Cheng

‘So why should you care?'

Most EIA investigations are conducted in far-flung countries and address issues of global significance; anchoring its findings in such a localised manner can sometimes seem a little perverse but it’s not impossible – and if it helps readers and viewers to consider their role in the issue, it’s all to the good.

And some campaigns are certainly easier to track back to a journalist’s local patch, whether it’s Little Bimblington-on-Sea or the country as a whole.

The Forestry Campaign’s work on illegal logging is a good example; if a UK reporter is at a loss to think how their audience can connect to protected trees being plundered from Indonesia’s national parks by a powerful criminal timber mafia, there’s a wealth of localised access points and issues with which to engage them, from climate change and carbon emissions to the introduction of EU legislation banning stolen timber (a prohibition which owes an enormous debt to EIA’s work).

It’s possible to get even closer in to Joe Normal’s life; in fact, to right outside his back door when you can tell him that the timber thieved from many thousands of miles away has found its way into the outdoor furniture and decking in his garden.

Similarly, the Global Environment Campaign is an easier sell because it involves issues on which our domestic taxes are being spent every day.

While recently pitching a story concerning e-waste, the journalist candidly asked me: ‘So, you’ve got a mountain of discarded technology from this country that’s supposed to properly disposed of but is instead winding up in huge piles in Africa, where children are being poisoned because they’re stripping out toxic raw materials in primitive circumstances? Why should people in this country be concerned about that?’

Because we in the developed world are morally obliged to deal with our own waste and not offload it on poor, developing countries? Because we’re paying our taxes in this country to have it properly and safely disposed of? Because the chain of personal responsibility can start with the very television set or computer monitor through which the individual is learning about the issue? It doesn’t come much closer to home than that.

Other issues and campaigns can be a harder sell, and are sometimes dependant on the personal concerns of the journalist to whom one is pitching.

Images from EIA investigation, March 2010. Credit EIA

Images from EIA investigation, March 2010.

Last year, one reporter succinctly summed up for me her difficulties in convincing her editors to run a story about the annual slaughter of Dall’s porpoises in Japan, which EIA was again attempting to highlight: ‘So, Japanese people are killing unprotected porpoises and then selling the toxic, mercury-polluted meat to Japanese people who might be getting sick from it? That’s not a story, that’s more like poetic justice.’

Despite raising considerations such as the unsustainability of the hunts and the fact that Japanese consumers are by and large deliberately kept ignorant of the health risks, it remained a no-sale. Fortunately, the good people at Al Jazeera felt that not all stories need to be happening on their audience’s collective doorstep to be of interest and value, and put together an excellent report.

It seems to me that the more interconnected we all become, whether it’s via the internet or international trade and political agreements, the more the world becomes one big ‘local patch’ in which everyone has a vested interest, where thinking globally and acting locally is becoming more than a cute slogan. It’s becoming a necessity.

Paul Newman, Press Officer

Paul Newman

Press Officer

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Things are starting to slow down here at HQ, we’re down to just 6 people in the office! Looking back, 2010 has been a very eventful year. I have split this blog in two, firstly, I will review the year and highlight EIA’s achievements. Secondly, and you can find the second part here, we share the fantastic things you have been doing too.

Thank you to everybody who has supported us over the last 12 months, here are just some of our successes this year.

  • Copyright EIA/Mary RiceEIA played a crucial role in ensuring proposals by Tanzania and Zambia to sell 112 tonnes of stockpiled ivory through CITES failed.Despite limited resources we were able to carry out investigations in both countries, gathering irrefutable evidence that levels of poaching are much higher than reported. We published a report and video ‘Open Season’ and presented this evidence at CITES. EIA was the only voice to speak out against the real situation in Zambia and thanks to us both proposals were rejected. Read what Mary had to say.
  • New Chilling Facts Survey, coming soon.We provided evidence to ensure nine leading UK supermarkets reduced their use of climate changing HFCs following our second ‘Chilling Facts’ survey in February.
  • Once again EIA was at the forefront of protecting whales at the IWC. In June, proposals by Japan, Iceland and Norway to be allowed new commercial catch quotas threatened to seriously undermine the 24-year moratorium on whaling. Thankfully, our strenuous lobbying helped to stop them.

  • Copyright EIA/TelepakOur forest team had a major success as the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly in favour of banning imports of illegally logged timber and wood products. This follows the success of EIA’s efforts in the US to introduce a ban in 2008. It is a testament to EIA’s tenacity and commitment that after 10 years of campaigning, the world’s two largest markets for wood products, have now shut the door on imports of stolen timber. Read on.

  • Working with our Indonesian partners we highlighted the illegal exploits of timber barons Ricky Gunawan and Hengky Gosal in a damning report: ‘Rogue Traders: The Murky Business of Merbau Timber Smuggling in Indonesia’. The report received huge coverage, putting Gosal uncomfortably in the spotlight. Read Julian’s reaction.
  • Copyright istock.The Year of the Tiger made history as the highest level political meeting ever held for a single species in St Petersburg, at the International Tiger Forum. Debbie Banks and Alasdair Cameron were invited to the Forum, as experts in the field of illegal trade and enforcement in consumer countries. $330 million was pledged and Leonardo di Caprio donated $1 million, all the press were there. Read Debbie’s comments following the forum.

  • Our award-winning documentary Inside: The Tiger Trade continues to be broadcast internationally and is raising our profile telling the rest of the world how we work. Watch out for more documentaries next year. See the trailer here.

None of this would have been possible without your support – Thank you.

Our blog is in its 5th month and I am sure you will agree, it has gone from strength to strength. We have had nearly 5000 visits in that time and by far our most popular post has been this one. Thank you to all the campaigners to have contributed and all of you who have made comments.

I’ll leave you with the words of Louie Psihoyos, director of Oscar-winning documentary, The Cove

The Cove. Credit - thecovemovie.com“EIA is an amazing example of a small group of individuals using great science and passion to help save the environment … in the environmental movement, EIA is the equivalent of Her Majesty’s Secret Service.”

From everyone at EIA, Seasons Greetings and thank you once again.

Signing out for 2010,

Sophia Cheng

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In March this year, Indonesia and Norway signed a Letter of Intent (LoI) on REDD+  an ambitious scheme to compensate countries such as Indonesia for reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation.

Under the agreement, Norway has pledged $ 1 Billion fund –  a mix of REDD preparation activities in Indonesia, such as policy reforms and institutional strengthening, and also to make performance-based payments for measurable and verifiable emissions reductions in Indonesia’s forestry sector.

View of an illegal logging camp on Salawati Island, one of the Raja Ampat Islands, West Papua, Indonesia. Copyright EIA/Telepak

View of an illegal logging camp on Salawati Island, one of the Raja Ampat Islands, West Papua, Indonesia. Copyright EIA/Telepak

A major plank of the phased agreement is a so-called “moratorium” on the issuance of new forest conversion permits over the next two years. The exact text of the LoI states that Indonesia will implement “A two year suspension on all new concessions for conversion of peat and natural forests”.

The suspension, or moratorium, is due to be implemented from January 2011, and is hoped to offer much needed breathing space for forests while the government identifies already “degraded” lands to be used for new plantations instead of forests and peat lands, and generally reforms its forestry and agriculture sectors.

The world is placing its hopes on this initiative, and is watching with much interest and expectation.

However, signs are emerging that Indonesia is seeking to substantially water down the spirit, and the letter, of the moratorium, at least in relation to global expectations.

Not long after having signed the LoI with Norway, Indonesian officials, including the Minster of Forestry, began describing the moratorium as applying to “primary forests”, not “natural forests” as is written in the agreement.

“What is the difference”, I hear you say? A lot.

If a forest has been logged, it is not longer “primary” – despite remaining viable natural forest. If Indonesia  limits the moratorium to cover merely primary forest, lots of natural forest will be permitted for conversion – fundamentally breaking the spirit of the country’s agreement with Norway – and placing the political will of Indonesia to honour its agreements on forests in serious doubt.

A Presidential Instruction, supposed to be issued in October, and which was to legally institute the Moratorium, is still being drafted.

Mixed messages from Indonesian officials on the scope and scale of the moratorium have persisted, with recent news articles suggesting that it may be further weakened.

How much land will be really saved in Indonesia? Copyright EIA/Telepak

How much land will be really saved in Indonesia?

Special interests have generated much argument over the definitions of “degraded lands” and “natural forest” – arguments that threaten to add to the opacity that all too often colours the legal base of forestry and forest governance in Indonesia. One forestry official close to Indonesia’s REDD+ negotiations with Norway (but since arrested for corruption in Forest Ministry procurement deals) has stated thatLots of people want this policy, and the planned moratorium, to fall through, often by using legal arguments against the definition of natural forests”. The same official also implied that none of these definitions will be clarified in any Presidential Instruction that does emerge, further exacerbating policy uncertainty.

In October, The Jakarta Post reported that “the moratorium will not be countrywide but limited to the three provinces … – Papua, Kalimantan and Aceh. It appears agricultural expansion will be allowed in other provinces and outside the designated primary forest and peatland areas in the three key jurisdictions, according to the minister’s comments.”   

More recently still, Hadi Daryanto, the new Director General in the Ministry of Forestry reportedly explained that “the government would only halt conversions of primary forests and peatlands, not the productive forests allocated for businesses.”

Hadi reportedly informed the Jakarta Post that “the government had allocated up to 41 million hectares as so-called special forest areas.”

Hadi Daryanto cites the example of the Medco Group, Indonesia’s biggest oil and gas company, that has aggressively moved in on biofuels sector in anticipation of increased demand in polluting economies such as the US and EU. Medco has been granted 170,000 hectares of industrial timber estates in Merauke, Papua, which it intends to use for wood pellet production. Burning forests for energy is considered to be “carbon neutral” by traders of carbon offsets credits.

The suspension of “all new concessions for conversion of peat and natural forests” is clearly looking unclear – if news reports are accurate. Let’s hope they are not.

 Indonesia always intended to exempt all companies already operating in their concessions from the moritorium. This includes virtually the entire pulp and paper sector, and many of the big  listed palm oil plantations companies.

Did you know palm oil is used every day products including, soap, chocolate, crisps and cosmetics? Copyright EIA/Telepak
Did you know palm oil is used every day products including, soap, chocolate, crisps and cosmetics?

 Effectively, any company that began operations before January 2011 is exempted.

Many analysts, including myself, expect every bulldozer in the country to be fully employed clearing forests over the next two years.

Any further watering down of the moritorium, if as bad as implied in media reports, would be to render it largely ineffective. The world will see what happens.

What's the fate for those who inhabit the forest? Copyright Mark Gudmens

What's the fate for those who inhabit the forest?

Jago Wadley

Senior Campaigner

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Illegal logging copyright EIATen years ago when EIA and our Indonesian partners Telapak started to investigate illegal logging and all the concerns that this environmental crime brings, an issue that kept coming up was the role of civil society and how to ensure our voices were heard.

We have all taken risks investigating what goes on in the forests and some of our partners live with that risk every single day. Our exposure of timber barons and the corruption that allows them to operate without penalties, have been the trademark of the EIA /Telapak partnership.

In Indonesia a few years ago, I remember being in a meeting with some Indonesian officials from the Ministry of Forestry and asking why nothing was being done to formally investigate a person of interest, even with a dossier of evidence sitting on the table in front of us. His response was to ask if we could investigate further, “find out more” he said, “We need more information”.

I was absolutely furious, here was someone who had the power, had the mandate and had the resources to investigate arrest and ensure some judicial proceeding occurred no matter how corrupt. We were taking huge risks with no protection and no mandate, to ensure any proceedings went ahead. What made this even worse was that the international community had always relied on the verification of commercial activities within the forests to foreign companies. Which meant that those with vested interests, were monitoring themselves. Our evidence was considered at times but we had no avenue to ensure action was taken. Until now.

Meeting in JakartaTwo weeks ago I attended a meeting organised by EIA and Telapak to talk about the formal role of civil society in the independent monitoring of Indonesia’s forests. This was a crucial meeting and at a critical time, as Indonesia had in September enacted a new law that outlines the legality system of the trade in timber and wood products from Indonesia. This law is also applicable to domestic consumption.  It has taken a long time to get this law out there but the process that Indonesia took was open and inclusive.  Civil society were included and in fact at times needed, due to a lack of capacity within the government. And this has continued, so that civil society is now formally part of the independent monitoring of Indonesia’s forests. Instead of being outside the loop, we’re right in there and will have to operate within the system of this new law.  We all recognise that this law is not perfect. In fact, some people think you can drive a logging truck through it!  But it’s a start and something we intend to build on.

Our meeting, held in Jakarta, was to ensure a commitment from all the groups, individuals and indigenous communities to be part of the Independent Monitoring system that is part of the new law.  Meeting in Jakarta just last week After a day of presentations by officials from both the Indonesian government and the European Union, our meeting went in to an intense 2 day discussion of the details and work plans needed for this to work.   People from all over Indonesia were represented at this meeting, so when we all came together at the end of the smaller group discussions, it was clear that everyone was completely committed to ensuring this would work.  People were placed into responsible positions, work plans from each region were presented and from that, a new network was formed.

Choosing the name for this was an amazing time with everyone involved in throwing a name or names into the mix. And what a result! A new network was born. The Independent Forest Monitoring Network or in Indonesian Jaringan Pemantau Independen Kehutanan (JIPIK).

After all the years of being outside the system and having to rely on companies monitoring themselves, JIPIK is there to be the voice for civil society.  And now the real work begins. Our investigations will continue but this time we have an avenue for that information to be formally recognised and acted on.

 

Faith Doherty

Faith Doherty

 

Faith Doherty

EIA Campaigner

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Promising Signs of Hope for Papua’s Forests

Recent news from Indonesia on revisions made to the Papua Provincial Spatial Plan, made public this month, gives rise to significant hopes that large areas of Papua’s forests may be saved from conversion to plantations and agricultural estates, at least in the short-to-medium term.

In late 2009, EIA and our Indonesian partners, Telapak, released Up for Grabs, a report and film revealing the massive scale of the threat to Papua’s last frontier forests from large scale plantations and agriculture expansion.

As the report explained, substantially different visions for land use in Papua are in competition.

On one hand, elements in the central government in Jakarta and local elites in key districts in Papua have been facilitating major investment in plantations and agriculture – with dire consequences for millions of hectares of forests and the people and biodiversity dependent on them.

On the other hand, Papua Province’s Governor Suebu, working with progressive elements locally, nationally and internationally, has been seeking a different low-carbon and pro-Papuan path to development that seeks to protect forests from the business-as-usual model that has decimated Indonesia’s forest estate over the past three decades.

This month, Papua’s government finally registered its Provincial Spatial Plan with the central government. The plan defines land use zoning and functions from 2010 – 2030, and must be incorporated into the national spatial plan.

Under the new plan, Papua’s Protected Forest area has been increased by 3 million hectares (7.4 million acres), a massive 44% increase.

More significantly, the area classified as “Conversion Forest” – the focus of big plantations companies – has been decreased by 2.85 million hectares (around 7 million acres), also a 44% decrease.

This is fantastic news, sending a clear signal to supporters of major plantations expansion in Papua that such land is no longer up for grabs. Under Indonesia’s old forest function classifications, a whopping 9 million hectares of Papua’s forests were classified as “Conversion Forest”.Copyright Mark Gudmens

The new plan also decreases the area classified as “Production Forest” (forests allocated for industrial logging) by 4.9 million hectares, or 12 million acres, a huge 60% reduction. Mush of this land is now reclassified as protected forest and as “Limited Production Forest” – placing environmental and social constraints on industrial logging that the Governor and Papuans more widely hope will translate into sustainable community forestry by Papuans themselves.

One significant area of contention these changes have effected is the Merauke Integrated Food & Energy Estate (MIFEE), a controversial central government plan to convert between 1.2 and 1.7 million hectares of Merauke District into mechanised oil palm, sugar, and industrial timber plantations, with finance from China, the Middle East, South Korea, and some of Indonesia’s most aggressive deforesters.

Copyright EIAMIFEE has been widely criticised by Indonesian campaigners, who have highlighted, amongst other issues, the serious environmental, human rights and demographic threats to Papuans from the project. The project was “launched” by the central government before the Merauke government’s Spatial Plan had been agreed. Papua’s new spatial plan now limits the scheme to just 500,000 hectares, theoretically saving at least 700,000 hectares of forest from conversion in just one project area.

How Papua’s new land classifications are respected by central government planners, and those at the district level, is yet to be seen, and the plan must still be agreed by Parliament in Jakarta. However, with Indonesia aiming to reduce carbon emissions by 26%, largely from the forestry and land use sectors, Papua’s revisions offer the country a clear route to achieving these aims. Papua embodies the largest areas of remaining forests and peatland in the entire country – a fact not lost on Governor Suebu, who has repeatedly explained that “the capacity of Papua’s 42 million hectares (104 million acres) of forests to process CO2 is equivalent to the carbon footprint of nearly all the population of Europe”.

Jago Wadley

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Copyright EIA/TelepakOther good news from Indonesia in the past month relates to timber legality and trade. On the 1st September, Indonesia’s SVLK (Timber Legality Verification System) came into force, having been passed by a Minister of Forestry Regulation in 2009 (No P.38/Menhut-II/2009). Telapak have been centrally involved in the development of this standard over the years, with our joint exposes of illegal logging and timber smuggling helping develop the political and commercial space required to enact it.

While the SVLK is mandatory for all timber producers and traders in Indonesia, it is also the basis of a timber licensing system that will be a central plank of a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) between Indonesia and the European Union, which is now expected to be signed by the end of this year. VPAs are key elements of the European Commission’s Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) initiative, the EU’s core policy on illegal logging and trade.

This follows the passage of the European Illegal Timber Regulation in June this year, which will prohibit the placement of illegal timber from countries such as Indonesia on the EU market. The EU law explicitly exempts VPA-licensed timber from the Due Diligence requirements of the regulation, presenting clear incentives for Indonesia and other countries to agree a VPA.

Such developments have been key strategic goals of EIA’s forests campaign, and are testament to the role EIA and Telapak have played in this important issue for over a decade.

But we can’t rest on our laurels.

Next week, EIA and Telapak are organising and hosting a National Indonesian Civil Society Conference on the new legality standard, in Jakarta, where we hope to facilitate the establishment a network of local and national NGOs and community groups to monitor the implementation of the standard – just in case the authorities don’t do so properly themselves.

Why not trust the authorities? One reason is that one of the recently government accredited “auditors” set to certify supply chains for compliance with the legality standard, PT Sucofindo, featured in our latest timber smuggling expose – Rogue Traders – after staff were found to have accepted bribes to allow logs to be smuggled out of the country in containers. Sometime you have to watch the watchmen, and audit the auditors…

Faith Doherty will be updating you on how the conference goes in the not too distant future, so watch this space…

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“I’ve been working in Indonesia for over a decade on EIA’s illegal logging campaign. Despite best intentions my Indonesian language skills stubbornly refuse to progress beyond what I call “taxi driver” level; the ability to chat about the weather, food, football and even a bit of politics while stuck in taxis. It comes in very useful when snarled up in Jakarta’s notorious traffic. One of the first words I ever learned in Indonesian was macet or traffic jam, and varieties such as macet total or gridlock.

I’ve always found good taxi drivers to be an indispensable asset when carrying out an investigation in a strange foreign city, where local knowledge can be vital. Chatting with drivers can also give a quick insight into the pulse of a nation; the issues of most concern to the locals.

Over the last few years on trips to Jakarta the word on the lips of most of the drivers I have encountered is korupsi - corruption. Drivers rail against the country’s endemic corruption; how it keeps the bulk of the population in poverty while a small elite prospers and how it leads to the squander of Indonesia’s natural resources. On occasion, I’ve even witnessed the reasons behind the anger, as my taxi driver is shaken down by the traffic police for a real or imagined offence.

Right now Indonesia is in the midst of a crucial  struggle to tame the corruption which infects every aspect of public life. Current President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono came into office on an anti-corruption ticket and the main agency leading the charge has been the Corruption Eradication Commission or KPK. Until 2009 the KPK was making headway, with its clever use of technology such as wiretaps and special courts to try corruption suspects. But when it started going after members of parliament, police and prosecutors (all viewed by the Indonesian public as some of the most corrupt institutions in the country), the dark forces kicked back.

First some members of parliament tried to shut down the special anti-corruption court. Then the police entered the fray. When the KPK had the temerity to wiretap a senior police officer suspected on involvement in banking fraud, the police hit back with allegations that two KPK directors had taken bribes to dismiss a case involving kickbacks paid to secure a lucrative radio systems contract for the country’s Ministry of Forestry. The battle between the police and KPK became known as the crocodiles versus the gekkos and galvanised the public into an effective Facebook campaign to defend the KPK. It culminated in the live television transmission of court proceedings where wiretaps exonerating the KPK were played.

Yet the battle is far from won. In July, the courageous news magazine Tempo published details of senior police officers who held huge sums in their bank accounts. Copies of the magazine mysteriously disappeared from newsstands and an activist from Indonesia Corruption Watch, which had been monitoring police corruption, was badly beaten by unknown assailants.

Forced into a corner the police were compelled to respond. The line they came up with was that of 23 suspicious accounts held by officers, all apart form two involved wealth gained through legitimate business interests, outside of their full-time job in the police, apparently. One of the remaining two accounts was held by an officer based in Papua, called Martin Reno. The police explained that he had already been cleared in court in 2006. EIA knows the Reno case well. I have seen documents detailing a series of payments made to Reno’s bank account by two companies involved in illegal logging in Papua; I’ve even observed his luxurious house in Bali, although I never had chance to track down his portfolio of business investments in Papua and properties in Jakarta. As EIA reported in 2007 in its report The Thousand-Headed Snake, Reno’s acquittal was a classis home town court verdict, with the judge dismissing the case as the main witness did not show up at court; the fact that this witness was one of the timber bosses who had paid Reno and was on the run seemed to escape the judge.

Corruption is a key factor in explaining why major illegal logging culprits in Indonesia continue to evade justice. Last week I was in Jakarta to launch our new report, called Rogue Traders, along with our Indonesian colleagues from Telapak. The report exposes how well-connected individuals are able to smuggle valuable merbau timber out of the country to China, mainly by bribing customs officials and inspection agencies. One of the smugglers, Ricky Gunawan, first came to our attention in 2006. Despite reporting his illegal activities to the authorities of  two occasions, Gunawan remains untouched.

Just before the launch of the report Telapak provided a dossier of our findings to the KPK.  We hope that it will be able to stat looking into the corruption which riddles Indonesia’s forestry sector. That is if it is allowed to do its job of cleaning up and can stand firm against the powerful vested interests currently lining up against it.”

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