Urgent action needed to halt the takeover of indigenous peoples’ lands for megaprojects in Indonesia

Indonesian palm oil
Indonesian palm oil

Urgent action needed to halt the takeover of indigenous peoples’ lands for megaprojects in Indonesia

“Urgent action is needed to halt the takeover of indigenous peoples’ lands for megaprojects in forested provinces like Kalimantan and Papua in Indonesia. The destruction of forests and rivers is undermining local indigenous livelihoods, and destroying ancestral lands. Between 40 and 70 million people in rural Indonesia depend on access to lands and resources, including water for drinking and sanitation, protected by customary laws.

 

Forest Peoples Programme continues to fight alongside local organisations for the rights of indigenous peoples to be upheld and calls on re-consideration of the projects by the Government of Indonesia, and has made the following submission to the ‘Asia-Pacific Regional consultation on the impact of mega-project on the human rights to water and sanitation’

 

Indonesian indigenous peoples and supportive NGOs have made repeated submissions about these two projects to CERD In both cases, and CERD has validated the concerns and called on the Indonesian government to respect indigenous peoples’ rights, reform laws accordingly and halt developments until rights are safeguarded. The Government of Indonesia has not responded to CERD. Both projects continue. Appeals have also been made to the national human rights commission which has highlighted the need for legal reforms to protect indigenous peoples’ land and resource rights. We will continue to raise this issue at the highest levels.”

Input by Forest Peoples Programme1 to the ‘Asia-Pacific Regional consultation on the impact of mega-project on the human rights to water and sanitation’ in Indonesia

 

1.   Between 40 and 70 million people in rural Indonesia access lands and resources, including water for drinking and sanitation, through customary laws. Despite Constitutional guarantees and Indonesia’s ratification of the main human rights conventions, the rights of these ‘indigenous peoples’, as they are known in international law, are ignored or diluted in the basic agrarian law and forestry law. As a result, the great majority lack title to their lands. Most of these peoples’ customary territories are overlapped by some 650 logging concessions, 10m ha. of pulpwood concessions and some 23 m ha. of agribusiness concessions. Most concessions have been handed out without recognition of customary rights or communities’ consent. Extractive industries, dams and nation-wide infrastructure projects compound these violations. The National Agrarian Office has recorded some 9,600 land conflicts nationwide. 

While all these developments have been legitimated through national economic programmes and spatial plans, thereby attenuating peoples’ rights to protest, some have been officially described as ‘megaprojects’. This submission highlights two of them: the 850 kilometre-long Kalimantan Border Oil Palm Mega-Project and the 2.3 m ha. Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate in Papua, which overlap the ancestral lands of numerous Dayak and Malind indigenous peoples respectively. Government data and many independent studies confirm the deleterious impacts of these projects in terms of human rights abuse and damaged livelihoods, including reduced access to clean water. Agribusinesses pollute rivers, undermine limnology, desiccate watersheds and spread diseases. There are widespread protests against both these mega-projects. Such problems are widespread in South East Asia.2

2.   The current administration has adopted new policies and targets to: recognise indigenous peoples’ rights (a draft bill is before Congress, but has been for almost 10 years); address land conflicts; redistribute 9 m ha. of land through agrarian reforms; allocate 12.7 m ha. of forests as social forestry leases and; impose a moratorium on new palm oil concessions. Local legislatures have now recognised some 1.3 m hectares of indigenous territories (wilayah adat). There are some legally significant precedents recognising customary forests (24,000 ha.) and even restituting communities’ lands from oil palm and pulpwood concessions. The Constitutional Court has upheld submissions that the Plantations Act and the Forestry Law be amended to recognise customary rights and livelihoods.  However, despite these important gains, mega-projects continue to be promoted in the ‘national interest’.  

3.   Indonesian indigenous peoples and supportive NGOs have made repeated submissions about these two projects to the CERD.3,4 In both cases, CERD has validated the concerns and called on the Indonesian government to respect indigenous peoples’ rights, reform laws accordingly and halt developments until rights are safeguarded.5,6 GoI has not responded to the CERD. Both projects continue. Appeals have also been made to the national human rights commission which has highlighted the need for legal reforms to protect indigenous peoples’ land and resource rights.7  Building on the precedents and policies outlined above, urgent action is needed to halt the takeover of indigenous peoples’ lands, the destruction of their forests and rivers and the undermining of livelihoods.

1 Forest Peoples Programme, international human rights organisation with UN (ECOSOC) consultative status, www.forestpeoples.org   

2https://www.forestpeoples.org/en/node/50282   

3 http://www.forestpeoples.org/sites/default/files/publication/2010/08/indonesiacerdjuly07eng.pdf 

http://www.forestpeoples.org/sites/fpp/files/news/2011/08/EW_UA%20Indigenous%20Peoples%20Merauke%20Indonesia%20July%2031%202011%20Final.pdf

   http://www.forestpeoples.org/sites/fpp/files/publication/2012/02/2012-cerd-80th-session-ua-update-final.pdf

   http://www.forestpeoples.org/sites/fpp/files/publication/2013/08/cerduamifeejuly2013english.pdf

5http://www.refworld.org/pdfid/473424062.pdf

6http://www.forestpeoples.org/sites/fpp/files/publication/2011/09/cerduaindonesia02092011fm.pdf

   http://www.forestpeoples.org/en/node/4650

7 https://www.forestpeoples.org/en/node/6096