Working closely with partners in Indonesia, Forest Peoples Programme helped convene a global meeting of The Forests Dialogue about how to make sure that the right to ‘Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC)’ is respected in Indonesia. The four day field dialogue held in Riau Province on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia, in October 2010, brought together over 80 participants from a great variety of backgrounds including indigenous peoples, representatives of local communities, non-governmental organisations, international financial institutions, government agencies and the private sector. The meeting was the first in a planned series of field dialogues which have the main aim of exploring how in practice government agencies, commercial enterprises and non-government organizations should respect the right of indigenous peoples and local communities to give or withhold their free, prior and informed consent, as expressed through their own freely chosen representative organisations, to activities that may affect their rights.
The dialogue included visits to three locations in Riau Province including: a community affected by transmigration and oil palm plantations; a community whose customary lands have been seriously impacted by pulpwood plantations; and another community whose customary lands are now slated for further plantation development and a possible carbon sequestration project to reduce emissions of green house gases from deforestation and forest degradation. Two days of analysis and discussions then followed to learn lessons from these field visits.
The field visits and discussions brought out clearly that one of the root problems preventing companies from respecting communities’ rights to FPIC was the lack of clarity in Indonesian law of communities’ rights in land. Not only are customary rights not recognised in practice but the legal framework itself does not provide for effective means by which land rights can be recognised. Most communities in agricultural lands are considered to be on State land and almost all forests are classed as State Forest Areas. As a result, State agencies are granting leaseholds to palm oil companies on agricultural lands and to forestry companies in State Forests without taking community rights or views into account.
Participants emphasised the importance of recognising a wider set of rights than just FPIC alone. FPIC is not a stand-alone right, observation of which can substitute for addressing the other rights and values of importance to local people, especially their rights in land. As Mina Setra of the national indigenous peoples organisation, AMAN, noted: ‘At the moment the whole system is collapsing. FPIC is like the pillar which holds up the roof but for it not to fall there is a need for other support and for foundations.’
For a summary of the meeting and other back ground papers see: