News / 6 June 2013

Native communities' forests no longer ‘state forests’

I’m very happy about the judgement of the Indonesian Constitutional Court, which has ruled on May 16 that woodlands of native communities may no longer be indicated as state forests. This means that the Forest Act, which says all woodlands are owned by the state, has to be adjusted. Because of this law, it was easy for large companies to get permission to start large-scale palm oil and acacia plantations on woodlands that often have been managed by local communities for decades.

Historic ruling for civil society organisations

This is a historic victory for Indonesian civil society organisations, which have been campaigning against this Forest Act for years. The ruling is the result of a judicial review of this Act, applied for by AMAN, the national alliance of native communities. AMAN accused the Indonesian government of violating the rights of various native communities by expropriating lands they own according to traditional community law and classifying these lands as state forests.


Appeal to the President

I attended AMAN's press conference In Jakarta, May 28th. Abdon Nbanan, secretary-general of the alliance, emphasised this is an important step towards acknowledgement of the rights of native communities, but that, for now, it's only a ruling on paper. And it might remain just that. He appealed to President Yudhoyono to implement the law through a decree, appointing the responsible government institutions. It will not be easy to implement this law: woodlands have to be remapped with active participation of local communities. Opposition from the private sector is to be expected. That the Minister of Forestry was yet to react to the ruling seems a bad omen.


Christa Nooy is programme officer at Both ENDS. She has a lot of experience and contacts in Indonesia.


* Background information on communal mapping in Indonesia

* Both ENDS and filmmaker Peter de Koning made a beautiful short documentary / film about communal mapping in Kalimantan.


Read more about this subject