Tackling Indonesia’s Deforestation Crisis Together

By Rainforest Action Network
A Duta Palma-owned palm oil plantation in Indonesian Borneo (Kalimantan). Until Cargill adopts supply chain safeguards and publicly discloses its supposed 'No Trade List,' this rainforest destruction will persist in its palm oil supply chain. Photo: David Gilbert
A palm oil plantation in Indonesian Borneo (Kalimantan). Photo: David Gilbert

Jakarta – As fires continue to burn the rainforests of Sumatra and customers around the world continue to raise the volume of their demands for deforestation-free products, a group of powerful individuals have gathered to align on how to stop this spiraling crisis. The workshop is organized under the auspices of the Tropical Forest Alliance (TFA) and the goal is to find ways to eliminate deforestation in the supply chains of the 400+ Consumer Goods Forum companies.

I am encouraged that everyone here—from Indonesia’s President and regional government representatives to high level executives of international commodities corporations to the region’s most active environmental NGOs—seems to understand that this issue is urgent and that they have a responsibility to play a role in achieving real and lasting solutions.

Auspiciously, the President of Indonesia stated in his welcoming address that he supports the Constitutional court’s recent decision recognizing traditional ADAT (Indigenous community) land rights as separate from state forests. A lack of clear land rights and a jumbled mess of different and often conflicting land ownership maps used by different levels of governments in Indonesia lies at the heart of the rampant rainforest destruction and human rights violations taking place throughout the country.

The President discussed his government’s initiative to develop ‘One map for the Nation’ that all levels of Indonesia’s government can use that show the legal land tenure, ownership and usage rights for all lands in Indonesia. This is an important step, and inclusion of ADAT lands in this map could lead to the recognition of Indigenous people’s customary land rights. According to the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN), there are an estimated 40 million hectares (nearly 100 million acres) of ADAT lands in Indonesia, most of which are unrecognized.

Legal recognition and respect for human and land rights is urgently needed as Indigenous people and rural communities continue to have their land stolen from them to make way for more palm oil and pulp and paper plantations.

Now that the stage has been set there is an opportunity for governments, consumer and producer companies and civil society to develop action-oriented partnerships to tackle deforestation and human rights violations in the pulp and paper and palm oil sectors. But real, concrete actions must be committed to today if we want to end deforestation and human rights violations in Indonesia.

For example, companies can require that pulp and paper or palm oil companies that clear rainforests and violate human rights are not welcome in their supply chains and products. And in time, the Indonesian government can create mechanisms to better recognize and respect Indigenous Peoples’ rights.

RAN has developed a set of recommendations with our civil society partners in Indonesia that will help to protect Indonesia’s rainforests and the people who live in and depend upon them.

There is reason for guarded optimism coming out of these meetings—I anticipate that some companies will return home with a deeper commitment to zero deforestation and conflict in their supply chain. I also expect that we will need to continue to hold companies and policy makers accountable and to push them to move quickly to implement the solutions being generated. Your support will be crucial in the coming months to keep the pressure on and move the ball forward.