Overview

Indonesia

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 a 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 levels, Indonesia’s Indigenous Peoples remain without legal recognition, and there has been little progress on the ground in recognising indigenous lands.

A visual history of Indigenous Peoples' land rights in Indonesia

1980s

Resistance to President Suharto’s forest policies begins.

1980s

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.

Photo credit: Joel Redman / If Not Us Then Who

1999

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

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.

1999

Indonesia’s government formally commits to resolving forest tenure issues.

1999

Indonesia’s 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.

2002

Constitutional amendment recognises the rights of Indigenous Peoples.

2002

Constitutional amendment recognises the rights of Indigenous Peoples.

After failing to recognise Indigenous Peoples’ rights for centuries, an amendment to the Indonesian Constitution recognises the cultural identity and traditional rights of Indigenous Peoples.

2007

New laws confer limited rights to communities.

2007

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).

2011

“70% of forest areas with indigenous land claims are subject to conflicting claims by communities and concessions.

2011

“70% of forest areas with indigenous land claims are subject to conflicting claims by communities and concessions.”

– Abdon Nababan, former Secretary General of AMAN

2012

AMAN challenges Forestry Law No. 41 in Constitutional Court.

2012

AMAN challenges Forestry Law No. 41 in Constitutional Court

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.

2012

“About 40 million Indigenous Peoples are now the rightful owners of our customary forests.

2012

“About 40 million Indigenous Peoples are now the rightful owners of our customary forests.”

– Abdon Nababan, former Secretary General of AMAN

Photo credit: Joel Redman / If Not Us Then Who

2014

‘Joko Widodo wins presidency.

2014

‘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 “Nawa Cita”, or Presidential candidate’s pledge, includes six main agenda points that pertain to the rights of Indigenous Peoples.

2015

Plantation guards murder local land rights activist.

2015

Plantation guards murder local land rights activist.

While traveling to a harvest festival in Jambi, Indonesia, farmer and land rights activist Indra Pelani is 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 is later found tied up several kilometres away, showing evidence of stab wounds and severe beating. The seven guards suspected in the killing later surrender to police.

2015

AMAN begins partnership with the Tenure Facility.

2015

AMAN begins partnership with the Tenure Facility.

With financial and technical support from the Tenure Facility, AMAN expands its participatory mapping efforts, as well as its collaboration with government agencies and civil society organisations. AMAN and the Tenure Facility recognise 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 project in Indonesia amplifies AMAN’s efforts to mobilise support at the national and district levels to use 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, former Secretary General of AMAN

 

2017

AMAN ignites a movement that spreads from district to district through peer-to-peer exchanges, as local authorities adopt local legislation to secure Indigenous Peoples’ land and forest rights.

2017

AMAN ignites a movement that spreads from district to district through peer-to-peer exchanges, as local authorities adopt local legislation to secure Indigenous Peoples’ land and forest rights.

AMAN assists local governments in the drafting of 32 district-level regulations, and three provincial regulations, that respect the land and forest rights of Indigenous Peoples. Once passed, these regulations will lead to titles for more than 1.5 million hectares of land and forest belonging to 200 indigenous communities. Click on the video below to learn more.

2018

AMAN expands participatory mapping of Indigenous Peoples’ lands and introduces gender-sensitive participatory mapping in more than 38 communities.

2018

AMAN expands participatory mapping of Indigenous Peoples’ lands and introduces gender-sensitive participatory mapping in more than 38 communities. This to ensure the meaningful participation of women.

1970

President Suharto allows for forest exploitation.

1970

President Suharto allows for forest exploitation.

From the 1970s to the late 1990s, an authoritarian regime led by President Suharto facilitates massive exploitation of Indonesia’s forests, 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—is handed to private companies by the government over 50 years, leading to land-grabbing, displacement, and tenure conflicts.

1990s

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

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.

Photo courtesy of T Rowsell

 

1999

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

1999

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

2001

Consultative Group issues a still unimplemented decree on tenure.

2001

Consultative Group issues a still unimplemented decree on tenure.

People’s Consultative Assembly Decree No. IX 2001 is established, mandating the president to 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.

2007

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

2007

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 favour.

2011

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

2011

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

In May, a new memo from the president postpones any new licenses for the conversion of primary natural forests and peatland for two years. Unfortunately, these moratoriums do not halt the infringement of rights on the ground.

2011

Indonesian Government commits to expanding rights of Indigenous Peoples.

2011

Indonesian Government commits to expanding rights of Indigenous Peoples.

During a 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 prioritise the needs of its forest communities.

2012

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

2012

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

It 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.” This revision of the law lays the legal groundwork for indigenous communities to assert their legal rights, though implementation of the ruling remains minimal.”

2012

AMAN progresses in mapping ancestral territories.

2012

AMAN progresses in mapping ancestral territories.

AMAN maps approximately 6.7 million hectares of ancestral territories with input and agreement from communities. When AMAN starts its mapping efforts in 2010, it establishes the Ancestral Domain Registration Agency to register these maps. AMAN aims to map all ancestral territories by 2020. These efforts receive significant impetus from the Indonesian Constitutional Court decision in May.

2014

“Nearly 96% of Indonesia’s forests remain under government control.

2014

“Nearly 96% of Indonesia’s forests remain under government control.”

– What Future for Reform? Rights and Resources Initiative, 2014

2015

APP pledges assistance to the investigation.

2015

APP pledges assistance to the investigation. 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. A recent evaluation of APP’s social responsibility performance in Indonesia reveals a troubling lack of progress, particularly in regards to resolving community conflicts with the company’s suppliers.

2016

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

2016

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

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.

2017

Government recognizes indigenous communities.

2017

Government recognizes indigenous communities.

With the support of the Tenure Facility, five district regulations on Indigenous Peoples are approved, involving 26 indigenous communities and leading to the recognition of 250,000 hectares in 2017.

AMAN from The Tenure Facility on Vimeo.

2018

Indonesian indigenous and farmers’ organisations join forces to secure more than 2 million hectares of land and forest.

2018

Indonesian indigenous and farmers’ organisations join forces to secure more than 2 million hectares of land and forest.

Building on the successful Tenure Facility pilot initiative, three organisations have joined forces to upscale the implementation of tenure rights and agrarian reform throughout  Indonesia. Launched in November 2019, the initiative is called ‘Accelerating agrarian reform and recognition of indigenous territory in Indonesia.’ It twins the strengths of AMAN with those of the largest farmers’ organisation in the country, the Agrarian Renewal Consortium (KPA), and the Indigenous Territory Registration Body (BRWA).