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Down to Earth No. 56, February 2003

New report: most 'legal' logging is 'illegal'

A new study by Indonesian and international forest experts throws doubt on the legality of most of Indonesia's 'legal' forest concessions. A discussion document prepared for a January 2003 dialogue on the application of two of the Forest Stewardship Council's principles in Indonesia, included a detailed review of Forestry Department records in the Planologi section. The team made the startling discovery "[p]erhaps the majority of forest concessions, including community forestry options, issued in Indonesia are of questionable legality owing to major deficiencies in the process of gazettement of forest lands. As a result of these procedural failures as much as 90% of 'forest lands' have never actually been properly transferred to the jurisdiction of the Department of Forestry."

Previously, it was reported that only 68% of land claimed by the forestry department had been formally gazetted and delineated as required by law (see Fay and Sirait cited in Forests People and Rights).

The question of legality is one that must be addressed if international agreements on clamping down on the logging trade are to be properly enforced, since what is illegal to indigenous communities may be perfectly legal to timber concessionaires. DFID, the UK government aid agency that helped draft the UK - Indonesia MoU on illegal logging signed in April last year, has recognised the need for a workable definition of illegal logging, and agreed last year to fund a round of consultations on the question. However, these have not yet been held. (See also DTE 53/54)

(Source: The Application of FSC Principles 2 & 3 in Indonesia: Obstacles and Possibilities, a Discussion Document, by Marcus Colchester, Martua Sirait and Boedhi Wijardjo with contributions by Silvester Tomas Daliman and Herbet Pane, January 2003.)

Note: We hope to include a full report on this dialogue and its important findings and recommendations on indigenous peoples' rights in the next issue of DTE.

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