However, the many changes to forestry sector legislation do not address the deeper paradigm shift that is needed. Instead, these regulations and laws retain a narrow focus and a short-term orientation.
Concern about the uncertain future of Indonesia's forests is justified. The high deforestation rate (3.2 million hectares a year), over-capacity in the wood industries, weak law enforcement, policy distortion, corruption and conflict paint a bleak portrait of forest management in Indonesia. The various measures aimed at addressing the problems merely respond to superficial issues, without reaching the root of forestry problems. Forestry policies are like medicines which deal with the symptoms, not the disease.
Forestry Law No.41, passed in 1999, acknowledges the existence of forests subject to rights/proprietary forests (Hutan Hak/Milik), customary forests (Hutan Adat)1 and state forests (Hutan Negara). In fact, only 15% of the total state forests claimed have been gazetted2, meaning that the government's claim over state forests is only 15% valid. At the same time, customary forests are treated as practically non-existent because they overlap with areas claimed as state forests. This situation, plus the fact that the drafters of the Illegal Logging Law deny that there is conflict over tenure, is bound to lead to yet more conflict. And it is the forest-dependent communities living in and around forests who will suffer the most.
Another implication of the draft law is that a large number of loggers will be arrested in the effort to enforce it. If each case of a person suspected of illegally logging is brought to court, and each court session requires an ad hoc panel of judges (one of whom must come from a forestry background) just imagine the difficulties and inefficiencies in the legal system, procedures and process that will result.
Moreover, the public consultation on the Draft Illegal Logging Law was inadequate. People who will feel its impact - communities living in and around forests, especially those in areas where there are conflicts over tenure - were not asked their opinion. The public consultation was only held in several large towns such as Jakarta, Jambi, Makasar, Pontianak and Jayapura. Was this a true and legitimate representation of public opinion?
Put simply, unless the main problems in forestry are addressed, any initiative will have the potential to create new conflicts. Those drafting the illegal logging law are over-simplifying the problems.
According a decree issued 5 years ago by the People's Consultative Assembly (Indonesia's highest legislative body) - TAP MPR IX/2001 - there should be an overhaul of all legislation related to natural resources management, including a requirement to bring all sectoral laws in line with the decree4. This is still needed to assess whether the paradigm of all laws and draft laws is still appropriate with the situation today.
These are signals that natural resources management is in a critical condition and show just how urgently policies and laws governing natural resources need to be overhauled. While the laws are reviewed and in order to maintain legal certainty for natural resources management, interim legislation needs to be created for the transition period. The Perpu (Government Regulation In Lieu of a Law, designed for use in a national crisis or emergency) is a mechanism that could be brought in during this transition. However, the Perpu has not always been used properly, with 'crisis' conditions often translated unilaterally by the government. This happened in the case of Perpu No 1/2004 on Changes to Law No.41 on Forestry, which legitimised the opening of protected areas to mining. By contrast, a series of natural disasters (due to mismanagement) and destruction caused by resources exploitation is not considered a national emergency.
It is evident from Indonesia's degraded resources, disasters and conflicts, that natural resource management is in a state of dire emergency, but not everyone wants to pay proper attention to this, least of all the government. Even the intelligentsia are not doing much to raise awareness of this issue.
It is the people who suffer the impacts themselves who must take action and speak out, and civil society ought to be more focused on strengthening communities at grass roots level. On the other hand, in campaigns work there needs to be a greater focus on decision-makers, in the Indonesian parliament, for instance. If these efforts don't get the results, we may need to make improvements in how we work, how we assess target groups and where we put our energies. Consistency is extremely important - in focusing on the target, and continuously evaluating our achievements.
For campaigning NGOs, determination is not enough: we need to keep expanding our capacity so that we can speak and debate eloquently and with conviction. Many NGO ideas do reach a wider audience so its necessary to move on from just playing a watchdog role to offering positive ideas for changes.
Although the prospects for natural resource management are far from bright and there will be more conflicts in future, there is some hope because there are still people who are endeavouring to make things better (including people in the government and in national and regional parliaments). Information about natural resources and environmental destruction and the role of the media is vitally important to educate the public and raise awareness. At the same time, rescue attempts, however small, and campaigns which reach key policy-makers directly also have a wide impact, if these are done in a sustained manner.
1 There has still been no clarification of the terms Hutan Adat (customary forest) and Hak Ulayat (customary right/ right of usufruct) in Forestry Law No. 41 because the required government regulations have not yet been issued.
2 Gazetted means the forests are classified, their boundaries surveyed, agreed interdepartmentally, and then officially registered as state forests
3 This was drafted as part of the follow-up to the 2002 MoU to combat illegal logging and the illegal timber trade, signed by the Indonesian and British governments - see DTE 67,