REDD Task Force Calls for More Indigenous Rights

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Indonesia has its work cut out in efforts to reduce carbon emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, the presidential adviser entrusted with overseeing the effort said on Friday. One of the key challenges facing REDD, as schemes to reduce forest carbon emissions are known, is poverty among communities living in and around forests, said Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, a former minister who now leads the president’s REDD task force.

“It’s not as simple as the destruction of forests by logging companies,” he said. “That certainly happens, but the real issue in REDD is poverty, and we must link the two together.”

The issue of poverty relates to a failure to recognize indigenous land rights, he said. As an example, he cited the case of a conservation forest on Siberut island in West Sumatra that is home to a clan of indigenous people who want to continue living there. “But the central administration wants them out because the area has been designated a conservation area,” he said. “These sorts of anomalies must be handled properly. Forests are not just woods, but people’s livelihoods.” Kuntoro hopes to establish a precedent of all REDD schemes involving local communities from the start.

“We will not implement a ‘father knows best’ approach, but instead we’ll do this cooperatively,” he said. “There won’t be programs handed down from Jakarta.” REDD is not just about counting carbon emissions but also about sustainable forest management, he said. “We are also talking about biodiversity,” Kuntoro said. When the task force’s mandate expires in December, he said, its work could continue through an independent body or a task force attached to the Forestry Ministry.

“Whatever form it takes, the organization must report directly to the president, must enjoy ministerial level status, and be beholden to no other institution,” he said.

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