According to a recent press report, the nine main Indonesian government agencies concerned with lands and forests have declared their support for indigenous peoples’ rights. The Declaration was issued jointly on 1st September 2014 by the Coordinating Ministry of People’s Welfare, Ministry of Internal Affairs, Ministry of Law and Human Rights, Ministry of Forestry, Ministry of the Environment, National Land Agency (BPN), the National Geospatial Information Agency, National Commission on Human Rights, and the national REDD+ Agency.
The announcement was welcomed by the national indigenous peoples’ organisation, AMAN, which noted the need for legal reforms to secure their rights and efforts by indigenous peoples’ themselves to build their capacity to manage their lands and forests in line with local wisdom.
This official Declaration provides a helpful starting point for the incoming President of Indonesia, who is due to take office in October. It builds on recent rulings in the Constitutional Court which have recognised the unconstitutionality of elements of the forestry law which deny indigenous peoples’ rights and on a promise last year by the outgoing President to recognise indigenous people’ rights. Campaigns for legal reforms to recognise indigenous peoples’ rights date back to the 1980s and gained strength after the fall of the Suharto regime in 1998, which allowed for a flourishing of civil society organisations and the setting up of AMAN.