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Jakarta must set up forest bodies to unblock aid - Norway

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Mon, 1 Aug 2011 11:19 GMT
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 By Amantha Perera

LOMBOK, Indonesia (AlertNet) - The second instalment of a $1 billion aid package promised by Norway to help Indonesia slow deforestation and reduce emissions will only be released once Jakarta sets up two independent bodies to govern forest protection efforts, Norwegian officials have said.

Both countries agreed to an annual third-party review of progress on their forest preservation deal signed in May 2010, according to Leif John Fosse, senior adviser for the Norwegian government's International Climate and Forest Initiative.

The Norwegian funds are due to be released over a period of seven to eight years, subject to implementation of the agreement. The first instalment of $30m was paid in August 2010.

“The first review concluded that there was adequate delivery on most counts for the initial phase of the partnership,” Fosse said on the sidelines of an international conference on forest tenure held on the Indonesian island of Lombok from July 11-15.

“But (there are) important remaining issues including the setting up of an independent REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) agency and an independent institution for monitoring emissions from forests. The next payment will be made only after these are in place."

Indonesian officials said they are making preparations to establish the bodies.

“We are at the moment looking into the job description of the two bodies,” Iman Santosa, director general of the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry, said. “They will be set up before the end of the year.”

The Southeast Asian nation has pledged to cut emissions levels by 26 percent by 2020, while achieving an economic growth rate of 7 percent. Santosa said President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s government remains committed to achieving those targets.

“We want to show the world that we can do this so that they can follow our example,” he said.

Worldwide, deforestation accounts for as much as a sixth of all greenhouse gas emissions from human activities, blamed for heating up the planet and bringing more droughts, floods and rising sea levels. Trees soak up carbon dioxide as they grow, and release it when they rot or are burned to clear land.

TEETHING TROUBLES

A year after inking the agreement with Norway, Jakarta froze the issuance of new licenses for clearing fresh areas of forest in May this year. The moratorium - which stops additional land being used for logging or cleared for plantations for the next two years - came after a five-month delay.

Some environmentalists say the forest clearing ban - which has a long list of exemptions - is too weak. But Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, the head of Indonesia’s task force on protecting forests, has said the moratorium is the strictest possible, after taking account of the rival interests of palm oil producers, loggers and miners.

Another key part of the forest protection deal is the production of a unified map incorporating all forest land and its traditional, or customary, usage. A version released earlier this month shows 72 million of Indonesia’s 133 million hectares of primary and peat-land forest as off limits to logging or development.

But critics say the map does not illustrate customary usage, the quality of forestry in demarcated zones, nor degraded forestry areas.

Forestry chief Santosa admitted the latest version falls short of expectations, as well as the parameters outlined in the agreement with Norway. His ministry is talking to AMAN, a coalition of Indonesia’s indigenous and forest community groups, about incorporating traditional forest land use, he added. 

 “It is a difficult process, getting information on customary usage, but we will get (it),” he said. Data is hard to come by because there is very little written documentation, with most information passed down orally between generations.

Norway’s Fosse said the map will be updated twice a year.

“This one map will be the one and only map used by all ministries and government institutions as the basis for decision making,” Mangkusubroto, who is also an advisor to the president, told the Lombok conference. “Stakeholders, including indigenous communities, will be encouraged to provide input through a transparent and participative process.” 

MORE LOCAL MANAGEMENT

Norway has continued to back Indonesia's drive to slow deforestation despite the delays in introducing the forest clearing moratorium and producing the map to pin down exact conservation areas.

"The success of the map and the moratorium will be very important to the Indonesian government. It is the government that has pledged to make these changes," Fosse said.

At the Lombok conference, the Indonesian authorities also said they would hand over the management of more forest areas to local communities. That indicates a clear policy shift, as the government still controls over 70 percent of the country’s land area of 190 million hectares.

Research released at the meeting said other Asian countries like India, China and Vietnam have curbed their emissions by allowing indigenous communities to run forests in the last two decades. Some 60 percent of Indonesia’s emissions come from land and forest use, such as logging and agriculture, according to Mangkusubroto.

The forest ministry said it will start discussions with AMAN and other indigenous community representatives to come up with an action plan in the next six months that will hand more rights over forest land and resources to local communities.

“The policies we have now are not effective in solving the (forest) tenure problem, but at least we have committed to doing much better,” Pak Hadi Pasaribu, a high-level forest ministry official said at the end of the conference.

Amantha Perera is a freelance writer based in Sri Lanka.

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