By Soumya Karlamangla
13 Jul 2011, LONDON - Indonesia’s government made some big promises Tuesday: to resolve land tenure conflicts that plague the country while also protecting the rights of people in forest-based communities.
Both of these steps could help pave the way for the country to achieve its goals of limiting deforestation and adapting to climate change, said Konturo Mangkusubroto, head of the Indonesian President’s special delivery unit, at a global forestry conference this week.
To applause from policy-makers and researchers in the audience, he said that Indonesia’s president supports protecting the land of indigenous communities and that “this is our chance to untangle our convoluted past and make a lasting difference.”
“Land tenure relationships are the convergence of social, cultural, technical, institutional, legal and political forces that push and pull, creating absolute tension,” said Mangkusubroto, who heads Indonesia’s REDD+ task force, aimed at reducing deforestation. “We recognize this tension when we observe, among others, illegal logging, conflict resulting from overlapping land permits, and exploitation of natural resources, women and vulnerable groups.”
Conflict over forest land tenure has come to a head in Indonesia in recent years, with about 33,000 villages breaking the law because the forest areas they have been settled in for centuries are actually designated preserved state land, Mangkusubroto said.
MAPPING FOREST LAND
The government will immediately begin creating a map, with input from forest dwellers and other local residents, that aims to lay the groundwork for forest decisions going forward, he said. The government will also speed up the the process for determining the status of various lands while still recognizing local rights, which should help clear up land conflicts, he said.
“These are people who live in the forest and they have a very close emotional connection with the forest, so anybody, any company who wants to make use of the forest for other economic proposals … they should have a clearance from the people who live in the forest,” Mangkusubroto told AlertNet by telephone after the conference.
Any land tenure conflicts must be settled before Indonesia can be involved in conservation programs like REDD+, a United Nations effort to award developing countries for preserving their standing forests through Reducing Deforestation and Forest Degradation, he said. Without a clear understanding of who owns land, receiving and distributing funds through REDD+ will be difficult, he said.
“Conflicts are a huge constraint on the economic development of the country and also the achievement of their own climate change goals,” agreed Andy White, coordinator of the Rights and Resources Initiative, a global coalition that encourages forest land tenure and policy reforms and helped host this week’s conference, Forest Tenure, Governance and Enterprise: Experiences and Opportunities for Asia in a Changing Context, in Lombok.
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