Indonesia Court decision hopes to bring land rights back to the indigenous

WNN – Earth Watch – Indonesia

Indigenous Dayak woman
An Indigenous Dayak woman weaving a basket from jungle vine she collected in the rainforests surrounding her home in West Kalimantan, Indonesia. This photo is from an investigative report from Rainforest Action Network that found wood fiber linked to the clearing and conversion of Indonesia’s rainforests in the paper of some of America’s favorite children’s books. Image: David Gilbert/RAN

(WNN) Jakarta, INDONESIA, SOUTHEAST ASIA: Indonesia’s indigenous people have just succeeded in getting larger power and access to land rights with authority over their own lands in what the FPP – Forests Peoples Programme says “…may well prove to be a historic judgment.”

The FPP was founded in 1990 in response to the global forest crisis, specifically to support indigenous forest peoples’ struggles to defend their lands and livelihoods.

Indonesia’s Constitutional Court in Jakarta ruled on May 16, 2013 that power over the management of land in the region of Indonesia shall now fall to the indigenous communities themselves who live on the land, instead of outside corporate business interests who often work to reap profits while destroying land and forest areas.

This is a triumph that experts say may definitely help save forests and eco-conservation systems that have been threatened, but they also worry that disputes may begin to arise under specific land allocation as opposing sides mark a ‘line in the sand’. The hope now is that lands belonging to indigenous communities in Indonesia may encourage best conservation efforts to go forward in the region for the next coming centuries.

The legal Indonesian Constitutional Court decision came after indigenous organization AMAN – Alliance of Indigenous Peoples of the Archipelago, known regionally as the Aliansi Masyarakat Adat Nusantara, pushed through a petition to Indonesia’s Court over a year ago asking for greater land ‘use rights’ for Indonesia’s State-owned Forest areas.

The key objection given to the Court in the petition asked for a change to be made to the 1999 Forestry Act which failed to give indigenous communities power over land rights.

“The judgment now opens the way for a major reallocation of forests back to the indigenous peoples who have long occupied them and looked after them. The Government’s own statistics revealed last year that there are some 32,000 villages whose lands overlap areas classed as ‘State Forest Areas’,” said the FPP – Forest Peoples Programme.

Corporate land-grabbing under ‘heavy handed’ business development of indigenous lands in Southeast Asia has brought with it a mounting regional crisis, including mounting negative impacts to indigenous women and their families. Impacts on women have often hit hard as they have brought marginalization, intimidation, expulsion and loss of home under forced removal to women who often have little to no recourse or resources. It has also at times brought injury, sexual violence and death.

“With the alarming and worsening serious implications and consequences of imposed development models, plans and projects to indigenous women, this development-induced violence against indigenous women needs urgent attention, sustained support and collective action,” outlined a formal combined statement by the Indigenous Women’s League of AMAN along with other impacted women’s indigenous organizations.

The formal statement was given to the United Nations through the coordinated assistance of UN Women, last November 2012.

“Our active defense of our land, territories and resources against these development projects are responded to with military force, divide and rule, deception and coercion, vilification and resulting to systematic and widespread violations of our individual and collective rights such as sexual violence and abuse, threats and harassments, killings, forced relocation, destruction of our cultural heritage, lands, territories and resources, traditional and other livelihoods and undermining our indigenous institutions, self-governance and social cohesion, ethnicity and identity among others,” continued Indigenous Women’s League of AMAN’s co-authored statement.

The Indigenous Women’s League of AMAN has been fighting for the collective rights of indigenous women in Indonesia and throughout Southeast Asia.

Asking for full participation in decision-making for process toward progress for Indonesia’s indigenous women, the organization continues to work toward dignity and human rights for many of the communities who have often been left out of the conversation with legal law and policy decisions. The Indigenous Women’s League continues today to document human rights abuse cases as they push for change within indigenous communities on regional and international levels.


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