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A visual history of Indigenous Peoples’ land rights in


AMAN is leading this Tenure Facility initiative and has achieved:

training for 200+ people, including members of local parliaments and government representatives

mapping efforts in 167 indigenous communities

"Indigenous Peoples' rights and related regulations ... being talked about and discussed in public spaces."
- Rukka Sombolinggi, AMAN

Learn more about the initiative
Jump To The Most Recent Moment


Decades of advocacy open the door for implementation and recognition of Indonesia’s Indigenous Peoples

The political environment in Indonesia changed radically with a 2013 Constitutional Court ruling and the 2014 elections, which created space for Indonesia’s Indigenous Peoples’ Alliance (AMAN) and the Tenure Facility to dramatically extend the legal recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ rights, as well as their protection on the ground.

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Decades of advocacy open the door for implementation and recognition of Indonesia’s Indigenous Peoples

Since the fall of Suharto’s regime in 1998, the Indigenous Peoples of Indonesia have achieved significant policy and legal breakthroughs in the struggle for the recognition of their collective land rights. This struggle culminated in the May 2013 Constitutional Court Ruling, which declared that the state had wrongly appropriated customary forests and should return them to indigenous communities.

Yet after 15 years of high-minded reforms at the constitutional and legislative level, Indonesia’s Indigenous Peoples remain without legal recognition, and there has been little—if any—progress on the ground recognizing indigenous lands.

The political environment changed radically with the 2014 elections, which created space for Indonesia’s Indigenous Peoples’ Alliance (AMAN) and the Tenure Facility to dramatically extend the legal recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ rights, as well as their protection on the ground.


President Suharto allows for forest exploitation

From the 1970s to the late 1990s, an authoritarian regime led by President Suharto facilitates a massive exploitation of Indonesia’s forests by licensing forest lands to private and state-owned logging companies and industrial plantation companies.

30% of Indonesia’s land —much of it belonging to Indigenous Peoples—was handed to private companies by the government in the past 50 years, leading to land-grabbing, displacement, and tenure conflicts.


Resistance to President Suharto’s forest policies begins

Indonesian NGOs campaign against state forest policies and logging companies’ destructive practices, while the environmental movement in Indonesia starts to coordinate with Indigenous Peoples.

Early 1990s

Forest bureaucracy grants timber industry concessions on Indigenous Peoples’ customary territories

The Ministry of Forestry gives licenses to timber plantation companies with the idea that over-logged areas will be reforested.

However, several companies are granted licenses to develop plantations in natural forests that are still intact. Many of the concessions are on Indigenous Peoples’ lands, leading to displacement, poverty, and other social injustices for these groups.

March 1999

The Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN) is established

After the fall of President Suharto, the first congress of Indigenous Peoples establishes AMAN, which advocates for human rights and citizenship rights for Indigenous Peoples in the Republic of Indonesia.


Parliament passes Forest Law No. 41, which does not recognize Indigenous Peoples’ rights and is used to legalize the claim that customary lands belong to the state.


Indonesian government formally commits to resolving forest tenure issues

In February, the Indonesian government makes a commitment to resolve forest land tenure issues to the Consultative Group of Indonesia, a consortium of countries and institutions providing funding to the country, set up by the Indonesian government and the World Bank.


Consultative Group issues a still unimplemented decree on tenure

People’s Consultative Assembly Decree No. IX 2001 is established, mandating the president review agrarian and natural resource regulations and address forest and land tenure issues.

Implementation of the decree has not yet taken place, due at least in part to a lack of political will.


Constitutional amendment recognizes the rights of Indigenous Peoples

After failing to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ rights for centuries, an amendment to the Indonesian Constitution recognizes the cultural identity and traditional rights of Indigenous Peoples as human rights.


UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP)United Nations (UN) General Assembly adopts the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP)

In September, the General Assembly adopts UNDRIP with 144 countries, including Indonesia, voting in favor.

New laws confer limited rights to communities

The government enacts two new laws conferring limited rights to communities (kemitraan) and to individuals, households, and village cooperatives (hutan tanaman rakyat).

Nearly 96% of Indonesia's forests remain under government control. - What Future for Reform? Rights and Resources Initiative, 2014


Presidential Instruction No. 10/2011 places a moratorium on forest concessions

In May, a new memo from the president postpones any new licenses for conversion of primary natural forests and peatland for two years.

The moratoriums, which the government renews in 2013, are driven by increasing recognition of the negative impacts that concessions have on the rights of indigenous owners of forest land and the dawning recognition that any agreements negotiated between governments and concessionaires must include the indigenous owners of the land.

Unfortunately, these moratoriums have not halted the infringement of rights on the ground.

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The president places a moratorium on forest concessions

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono issues an instruction to the Ministries of Forestry and Home Affairs, among others, to “[t]ake the necessary steps according to the tasks, function, and authorities of each to support the suspension of new licenses/permissions for primary natural forests and peatlands.” This moratorium on new licenses will be in effect for two years.

This instruction represents an important step towards the Indonesian government’s fulfillment of its commitments under REDD, the United Nations’ initiative for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries. Yet in spite of this moratorium on further forest concessions, private and public infringement continues on Indigenous Peoples’ lands in Indonesia.

70% of forest areas with indigenous land claims are subject to conflicting claims by communities and concessions. - The Participatory Mapping Network (JPKK), an organization that supports the mapping of indigenous lands in Indonesia

Indonesian Government commits to expand rights of Indigenous Peoples

2011-indonesia-tenure-bannerDuring a riveting keynote speech given at a global forestry conference in July, Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, head of the Indonesian President’s Special Delivery Unit, announces the government’s intention to prioritize the needs of its forest communities. He acknowledges the need to “recognize, respect and protect adat rights,” promising to enforce the 2002 Constitutional Amendment, legislation that has been on the books for 10 years but is rarely implemented.


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Indonesian Government commits to prioritizing rights of forest communities

During a major forestry conference in Lombak, Indonesia, just two months after Presidential Instruction no. 10/2011, the Indonesian government signals their commitment to work closely with civil society and indigenous groups to develop and implement a new national strategy to recognize significant land rights for the people who live in and around the archipelago’s estimated 130 million hectares of forest.

The historic statement, made by Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, head of the president’s Special Delivery Unit, follows the release of studies by the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI) suggesting that Indonesia’s failure to implement meaningful land rights has made it an outlier among Asia’s forest nations. Over the last 20 years, several Asian countries have successfully stopped the destruction of their own forests after turning over hundreds of thousands of hectares to forest communities. The research also shows the pivotal role of insecure rights in ongoing conflict and increased carbon emissions from Indonesia’s forests.

In his closing remarks, Pak Hadi Pasaribu, a high-level official with the Ministry of Forestry said, “the policies we have now are not effective in solving the tenure problem, but at least we have committed to doing much better.” Despite optimism about the agreement, negotiators and observers at the conference noted that the reform process in Indonesia confronts daunting obstacles.

“The Indonesian political scene is dominated by business interests with huge financial clout,” said Dominic Elson, an economist and researcher who authored one of the RRI studies presented at the conference. “The palm oil industry alone is worth US$20 billion a year, and this has led Indonesia to become stuck in a development model that is over-reliant on natural resources.“


AMAN Challenges Forestry Law No. 41 in Constitutional Court

In March, AMAN challenges the law, which fails to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ rights, in Constitutional Court on the basis of the Indonesian Constitution’s recognition of the rights of Indigenous Peoples.


Indonesian Constitutional Court sides with AMAN on Forestry Law No. 41

In May, the Indonesian Constitutional Court declares that customary forests are no longer part of state forests by changing the law to read: “Customary forests are forests located in the territory of Indigenous Peoples.” On the ground, however, implementation of this ruling remains minimal.

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The Indonesian Constitutional Court sides with AMAN on Forestry Law No. 41

AMAN files an objection to Forestry Law no. 41, which fails to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ rights and has been used to legalize the claim that customary lands belong to the state. AMAN argues that the law allows the Indonesian government to sell concessions to private companies on Indigenous Peoples’ land.

The Constitutional Court agrees with AMAN’s assessment and strikes the word “state” from the law, which previously read that “customary forests are state forests located in the territory of customary law communities.” This revision of the law lays the legal groundwork for indigenous communities to assert their legal rights, though it also raises the possibility of further conflict on the ground over these lands.

"About 40 million indigenous peoples are now the rightful owners of our customary forests." - Abdon Nababan, AMAN

AMAN progresses in mapping ancestral territories

AMAN has mapped approximately 6.7 million hectares of ancestral territories with input and agreement from communities.

When AMAN started its mapping efforts in 2010, it established the Ancestral Domain Registration Agency to register these maps. AMAN aims to map all ancestral territories by 2020. These efforts received significant impetus from the Indonesian Constitutional Court decision in May.

6.7 million hectares have been mapped


Joko Widodo wins presidency

Indonesians elect Joko Widodo for president. He is inaugurated October 20, and introduces several indigenous rights activists and friends of AMAN into his cabinet. In June 2015, President Widodo meets with representatives from AMAN to discuss their projects. His nawacita, or Presidential candidate’s pledge, includes six main agenda points that pertain to the rights of Indigenous Peoples.


Plantation guards murder local land rights activist

While traveling to a harvest festival, Indra Pelani, a local farmer and land rights activist, is murdered following an argument with guards stationed outside a pulpwood plantation owned by PT Wira Karya Sakti, a subsidiary of Asia Pulp and Paper.

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Land rights activist Indra Pelani is murdered

While traveling to a harvest festival in Jambi, Indonesia, farmer and land rights activist Indra Pelani was allegedly murdered after an argument with guards stationed outside a pulpwood plantation owned by PT Wira Karya Sakti (WKS), a subsidiary of Asia Pulp and Paper (APP). According to reports, Pelani’s body was later found tied up several kilometers away, showing evidence of stab wounds and severe beating. The seven guards suspected in the killing later surrendered to police.

“This appears to be a pre-meditated, brutal murder,” said Riko Kurniawan, Executive Director of Walhi Riau, member of a coalition of local environmental organizations in Sumatra. Pelani’s community had been engaged in a decade-long conflict with WKS over the ownership of 2,000 hectares of farmland. “We hope that justice is done this time,” Kurniawan added, “unlike 2010 and 2012 cases in which two farmers were killed under similar circumstances arising from social conflicts with APP suppliers in Jambi and Riau.”

APP pledged assistance to the investigation, saying that it required WKS to suspend all personnel allegedly involved in the incident. The murder comes on the heels of APP’s recent efforts to reverse its reputation as one of the world’s most notorious tropical deforesters. In 2013, APP issued its first zero-deforestation policy, reaffirming the commitment in 2014, when the company signed the New York Declaration on Forests, a pledge from companies, governments, and NGOs to cut deforestation in half by 2020. However, a recent evaluation of APP’s social responsibility performance in Indonesia revealed a troubling lack of progress, particularly in regards to resolving community conflicts with the company’s suppliers.

Pelani’s killing proves that promises alone are far from adequate when it comes to protecting the rights and lives of forest communities. As Mina Setra of AMAN said at a land rights conference in February: “Zero deforestation commitments have to come along with zero evictions, zero criminalizations, and zero killings. We cannot start talking about stopping deforestation while we keep killing the people who are actually doing it on the ground.”

AMAN begins engagement with the Tenure Facility

AMAN engages with the Tenure Facility to receive financial and technical support for the variety of efforts already underway by the organization. These include participatory mapping, collaboration with government agencies and civil society organizations, and widespread mobilization to utilize the current political momentum within the land rights reform agenda to advance the rights of Indigenous Peoples.

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AMAN begins partnership with the Tenure Facility

With financial and technical support from the Tenure Facility, AMAN expands their participatory mapping efforts, as well as their collaboration with government agencies and civil society organizations.

AMAN and the Tenure Facility recognize that Indonesia’s current political environment, after the Constitutional Court ruling on Forestry Law No. 41 and the election of President Widodo, presents an opportunity to expand recognition of land rights. The Tenure Facility initiative in Indonesia amplifies AMAN’s efforts to mobilize support at the national and district levels to utilize the current political momentum to advance the rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The partnership also supports AMAN’s community mapping project, which seeks to incorporate gender perspectives in community mapping activities, ensuring that the knowledge and management practices of women are taken into account and accurately represented.

Learn more about the initiative.

"The Tenure Facility's main mission is to enable Indigenous Peoples to respond to legal and political opportunities." - Abdon Nababan, AMAN


Participatory mapping of Indigenous Peoples’ territories expands

With Tenure Facility support, AMAN’s participatory mapping efforts are underway or concluded in 38 communities (22 concluded or nearly concluded, 16 ongoing) in 10 districts.

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Participatory mapping of Indigenous Peoples’ lands expands

AMAN supports community mapping activities and works with local legislatures to draft regulations for the recognition and protection of Indigenous Peoples and their territories in various districts, including the District of Sumbawa, on the western side of Sumbana Island. AMAN estimates that there are about 20,000 Indigenous Peoples in the district—all of whom the local government has yet to officially recognize.

On April 27, 2016, AMAN holds a public hearing with over 200 attendees, many of them representatives from indigenous communities. The hearing presents an opportunity for five indigenous communities (Kanar, Pusu, Cek Bocek, Ponto, and Pekasa) to officially submit their finished territorial maps to Members of Parliament. These communities and AMAN carry out advocacy activities to ensure that the upcoming regulation includes within its text the official recognition of the five community territories. This recognition would secure the land rights of the communities and create a legal precedent embedded in the regulation itself.

The regulation still faces several legislative hurdles, including consultations with the district executive government. But the chair of the local House of Representatives, Lalu Budi Suryata, is very positive and supportive, and has expressed confidence that the regulation will be approved before the end of 2016.

AMAN holds skills trainings

With the support of the Tenure Facility, AMAN has greatly expanded the reach of their efforts to train government officials, civil society members, and staff.

To date, AMAN has trained 176 people in ethnographic research and participatory mapping, and 32 people—including members of local parliaments, government representatives, and AMAN staff—on legislative processes to further the recognition of indigenous communities.


Government releases report on human rights of Indigenous Peoples living in forests

The Indonesian National Inquiry on Human Rights releases a report on their investigation into human rights violations against Indigenous Peoples living in forest areas. The report finds that while in some cases respect for the rights of Indigenous Peoples has improved, in other areas indigenous communities continue to face violence and other human rights violations. Read more about this report here.

Government recognizes indigenous communities

With the support of the Tenure Facility, two district regulations on Indigenous Peoples are approved, leading to the recognition of 74,000 hectares in eight indigenous communities.

Seven additional regulations are drafted and will recognize more than 700,000 hectares in 33 indigenous communities when approved.

AMAN’s success at scaling their mapping processes and methods provides a model for government agencies and civil society organizations looking to build on these efforts.

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Indonesian government recognizes indigenous communities

Enrekang and Lebak districts’ regulations on Indigenous Peoples are approved by the government, leading to the recognition of 74,000 hectares in eight indigenous communities. When fully implemented, these regulations could lead to secure rights for another 115,00 hectares claimed by 19 indigenous communities.

Seven more district regulations are drafted to include the recognition of more than 700,000 hectares in 33 indigenous communities. When approved, this could lead to secure rights for over 1.9 million hectares of another 485 indigenous communities.

titles for 74,000 hectares in 8 communities with 700,000 hectares and 33 communities waiting for approval

AMAN extends engagement with the Tenure Facility for a second year

AMAN and the Tenure Facility agree to extend their engagement for a second year. AMAN looks to build on their efforts to obtain legal recognition for indigenous communities and expand their participatory mapping efforts.