The Rights of Forest and Indigenous People

By Wimar Witoelar


As for most of the people in Indonesia that resides in border of urban area, forest seems so far away.

It is often being amazed and respected, but actually it is not clearly a well thought in order of its importance in daily life. Actually, forest is the core of nation and prosperity future. Forest contains natural capital. It reduces carbon emission and green house gasses so it helps muffling climate change.

Hence, we must be grateful of great surprise on 16 May 2013, when historical decision of Constitutional Court (MK/Mahkamah Konstitusi) cancelled state rights of customary forest landmass of millions hectare that up till now becomes indigenous people and local community residences.

Government claim was declared illegal, it was mentioned at Forestry Law Number 11 Year 1999 that classify customary forest as state forest. It gives authority to central government of out state forest. Ministry of Forestry still holds authority to give permit for wood logging, plantation business and mining eventhought its land forest was hereditary managed by indigenous people in advance.


Land Conversion

Big company often obtained forest conversion permit that was owned by indigenous people. They had authority to logging, to made it as palm oil, and mining. This forest land conversion could be the biggest cause of conflicts between government and local community. Hence, MK decision of material test petition by Alliance of Indigenous People Archipelago (AMAN/ Aliansi Masyarakat Adat Nusantara) was really such a relieve. AMAN representative estimated that 40 millions indigenous people were finally become the legal owner of their customary forests again.

This decision should be a big blow for Ministry of Forestry after decades years got huge revenure from forest. Thought there is still no real impacts of MK historical decision, but one of official from Ministry of Forestry said that customary forest is smaller than estimated 40 millions hectare and this decision took years to be legalized.

The certain matters are, its decision such a power to support indigenous people to do mediation and law process in the court regarding land problems. It would decreasing criminality that occured to indigenous people. In the long term, MK decision would deduct conflicts of forest management that involved almost 20.000 villages in Indonesia nowadays.

Most of us did not realize that tenure problems were the biggest conflicts causal factor, it had been followed by religion and ethnic factors. Hence, it is reasonable that Abdon Nababan (AMAN representative) said that this decision kind of take back indigenous people nationality and rights. State could not drive out indigenous people from customary forest that became their daily livelihood for sure.



On 27 May 2013, AMAN launced declaration and petition to be signed by Indonesian people. Three highlighted points of these were: 1) Push the Indonesian Government to implement MK decision as soon as possible, including conflict resolutions of customary forest and natural resources within indigenous people area; 2)  Push President to give amnesty for indigenous people that were involved in law process or in contravention according to Law Number 41 Year 1999 about Forest; 3) Push the launching of Law about Patronage and Acknowledgement of Indigenous People Rights.

Forest is Indonesia life resources. According to study on 2007 by World Bank, Indonesia became the third biggest country that generated green house gasses after USA and China, particularly because forest and peat moss damage. Actually, Masterplan of Indonesian Economic Development Acceleration and Expansion (MP3EI/ Masterplan Percepatan dan Perluasan Pembangunan Ekonomi Indonesia), environmental impacts were not always reckoned.

Now, SBY President still in the effort to reduce negative impacts of these masterplan. Green economy concept would be the part of it. On 2009, President targeted emission decreasing of carbon in minimum 26 percents on 2020. On 2011, President also did 2 years moratorium of forest function management that also was supported by 1 milliar dollars agreement with Norwegia Government.

On 16 Mat 2013, SBY signed President Decision to extended it till 2 years later. The customary forest which has been given back would be the right ways to be accomplished. Declaration of Customary Forest 27 May 2013 such a local community screaks regarding MK decision.



Consultant of Green Economy Communication