Impact Stories - Indonesia: A New Roadmap for Securing Forest Tenure Reform

The Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI) has influenced support and policy building for forest tenure reform in Indonesia that can affect an estimated 60 million forest residents, and 94.4 million inhabited hectares of forested land.

  • In July 2011, RRI, ITTO and the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry hosted a highly-publicized conference on Forests, Governance, and Enterprise in Lombok, Indonesia, triggering a new era of much-awaited forest tenure reform in the country.
  • RRI also brought the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry face to face with CSO representatives, for an unprecedented discussion on the state of forest communities' rights and resources.
  • The result: a historic government commitment to expand the rights of communities and Indigenous Peoples for the first time, leading to the development of an official Road Map by the CSOs and Government Officials toward forest tenure reform in Indonesia

On July 12 in Lombok, Indonesia, about 300 participants from Indonesia and 33 other countries in the Asia-Pacific, Europe, Africa and the Americas, heard a historic announcement at the International Conference on Forests, Governance and Enterprise: Experiences and Opportunities for Asia in a Changing Context. The conference, organized by RRI, the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO), and the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry in collaboration with a range of local and regional civil society groups, brought together communities leaders, Indigenous Peoples, NGOs, donors, academic researchers, and government officials from around the world.


Pak Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, head of the Indonesian President's Special Delivery Unit, declared his government's intention to recognize the rights of its forest communities by implementing legislation that had been in the works for a decade.

"This represents a tipping point in Indonesia's policies toward the rights of the people who live in and around the nation's forests."
Development Agency (FORDA)
Ministry of Forestry


"We must accelerate the delineation of the legal status of the nation's forest area, guaranteeing the recognition of adat customary rights," Pak Kuntoro told activists, Government Officials, researchers, investors, and international media.


Pak Kuntoro's speech put a serious dent in an old pattern of inaction within the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry and the many, but discordant, agencies involved in controlling the country's vast natural resources. Most significantly, it displayed the highest-level government commitment in Indonesian history toward recognizing the rights of forest-dwelling people.

"Until now we have always been the outsiders. This is the first time we have been asked to participate at such a high level with the Ministry of Forestry."
Abdon Nababan
Secretary General, AMAN (the Alliance of Indigenous Peoples of the Archipelago)


"Until now we have always been the outsiders. This is the first time we have been asked to participate at such a high level with the Ministry of Forestry," said Abdon Nababan, head of AMAN, Indonesia's largest coalition of indigenous and forest community groups.


The conference initiated calls for cross-sectoral government collaboration to address the complexities of forest and land tenure as a prerequisite to achieve economic growth and climate change mitigation, and resulted in an official declaration which solidified the government's commitment to working with community and indigenous groups. It also led to the allocation of 89,000 hectares of forestland by the Ministry of Forestry, almost doubling the land currently under community-based forest management.


Moreover, representatives speaking for the CSOs and RRI communicated their messages to reporters representing some of the world's most notable print, online and broadcast media, from the New York Times, CNN and the Economist, to Reuters, de Volkskrant (Netherlands), Deutsche Welle and the South China Morning Post. The Jakarta Post also published an opinion piece by RRI Coordinator, Andy White, stressing the importance of unlocking the potential of Indonesian forests through tenure reform.


The commitment made by the Indonesian government jumpstarted the creation of a formal platform of 15 Indonesian CSOs to develop an official Road Map on Forest Tenure Reform. The CSOs, working together since the early planning stages of the conference to develop a set of clear advocacy positions, have since met with increased willingness on behalf of the Indonesian government to carry out the official recommendations set forth in the final Declaration emerging from the Lombok Conference.


Successful implementation of the Road Map, titled Towards Tenure Certainty and Justice: Indonesian civil society groups views on land and forest tenure principles, prerequisites and policy reform measures in Indonesia, will be a significant step forward for not only Indonesia, but tenure reform initiatives across all Asia. Perhaps even more importantly, the rapidly strengthening linkages among the CSOs, the Ministry of Forestry, and the National Land Agency have finally put Indonesia on an evolving path to secure community rights in forest lands.