in Australia, Indonesia

The demise of the Kalimantan Forest and Climate Partnership and the importance of free, prior and informed consent

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The German newspaper taz.de, recently reported on the demise of Australia’s Kalimantan Forest and Climate Partnership. Journalist Anett Keller visited the KFCP project area in 2011. “This is money thrown out of the window,” a villager told her back then.

A translation of Keller’s article is posted below. For German speakers, the original is available here: Klimapolitik in Indonesien: Missglückter Waldschutz.

Last week, REDD-Monitor had an exchange on twitter with someone working with the Indonesian government in Central Kalimantan, on a project that includes blocking up drainage canals. The failure of KFCP is “is exposed out of proportion”, he wrote.

“The hardest part of REDD is to deal with the community,” he told me. “They don’t want the ex-MRP [mega-rice project] drainage canals blocked.”

However, after “long persuasion with the locals” canal blocking has started.

I asked him whether, by “long persuasion” he meant a process of free, prior and informed consent. “They don’t care about FPIC,” he replied. “You can’t make them understand climate change when they’re hungry.”

“We learned from KFCP’s failure in negotiating with the community,” he added.

You can read the full exchange, here. REDD-Monitor looks forward to hearing more about the Indonesian government’s project to block peat drainage canals in Central Kalimantan. And for more on FPIC and REDD, see this report published by RECOFTC and GIZ, also available in bahasa Indonesia.

Climate Policy in Indonesia: Unsuccessful forest protection

By Anett Keller, taz.de, 25 August 2013

For the residents of the village of Katunjung, that taz visited in November 2011, the comings and goings of international consultants was already then suspect. Katunjung is located in Central Kalimantan, the pilot province for REDD+ in Indonesia.

REDD stands for “Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation”. In the process states and companies gain the right to CO2 emissions by funding forest protection projects. In Central Kalimantan, the Australian-Indonesian Kalimantan Forest and Climate Partnership (KFCP) attempted to implement a REDD+ pilot project on an area of ​​120,000 hectares.

KFCP aimed to provide important insights in the fight against climate change on the peatswamp areas of Kapuas district. Over a period of 30 years, 100 million trees were to be planted, compensating for 700 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions. KFCP also planned to block drainage canals that Indonesia’s former dictator Suharto had built to drain the peat swamps for a mega-rice project in the 1990s.

The residents of Katunjung, mainly members of the indigenous Dayak peoples, live off the electricity grid. Water comes from the Kapuas River that flows in front of their stilt houses. There is no road leading to the village. Since 2007, villagers have seen expensive speedboats go by, bringing climate change experts. They have listened to the presentations about why it is so important, precisely there where they live, to save the world’s climate. Famous politicians have visited the province and smiled into the television cameras with great optimism about REDD.

Planning without the villagers

But the villagers paint a different picture. The project was planned without them. Important information was withheld from them. The result is that only 50,000 trees were planted. Even fewer actually grew in the area selected for tree planting. The blocking of the drainage canals also failed in many places because of the resistance of local residents. For years the drainage canals have been the way villagers travel to their rubber trees.

After growing international criticism, the flagship project was cancelled in late June – without seeking any public attention. The KFCP website states, “KFCP will not extend in its current form.” Indonesia and Australia are discussing “which parts might benefit from additional work in the next 12 months to maximise outcomes.”

Environmentalists point out that transparent information looks different. In an open letter, Friends of the Earth Australia is calling on the Australian government to “front up to the public in an open and honest way,” after it had announced such ambitious goals. “Walking away from a $47 million dollar investment without accounting for how the money was spent and what the outcomes are is unacceptable in any situation,” says Nick McClean, coordinator for climate justice at FoE Australia.

Concrete problems described in practice

Among the questions that FoE sees the need for clarification is which problems the approach of “rewarding” the local population with financial incentives for planting seedlings and blocking of drainage canals brought in practice.

Also unclear, according to FoE, is why a planned World Bank fund for the project did not happen and why the Finnish government’s planned co-financing did not take place. And in the context of the observance of indigenous rights in the KFCP project, why was a World Bank guideline applied instead of the UN principle of free, prior and informed consent.

“The unwillingness of REDD partners to help secure the rights of customary landholders is proving a key problem with this approach,” said Isaac Rojas of FoE International. “Getting to the bottom of why these problems keep occurring will help in developing partnerships with local communities that can lead to effective conservation programs.”


PHOTO Credit: The Star Online.

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  1. Until projects are approached from the perspective of social feasibility – what are the aggregate of capacity building, institutional, incentive based, social issues that need to be realistically addressed, and ultimately negotiated with local stakeholders, such that REDD has a chance to work – projects will not, well, work.

    It’s be great to learn if and how social feasibility was addressed in this project, and how the “long persuasion” approach will differ from the first time around. Presumably if it means feeding bellies – versus helping people understand why REDD is or is not relevant so as to garner informed engagement – may be effective in the short-term, but will it guarantee permanence and no future conflict?

  2. Chris exchange tweets with me, and published it here without my consent. but it’s ok.

    I just want to clarify that the “long persuasion” DOES NOT mean feeding the villager, such as by giving them money. it’s 1,5 year-long process of consultation and “making them understand”, and it is still ongoing now.

  3. @Bangkit Wiryawan – Thanks for the clarification. “[M]aking them understand” is a long way from a process of free, prior and informed consent.

    I didn’t ask your permission to quote your tweets, because tweets are in the public domain. See Jeffrey Zeldman’s post “You can’t copyright a tweet”, for more details, in particular this bit:

    [Y]our Tweets are like the air. Anyone can do anything like to them, including quoting them with or without your permission. If an enterprising company wants to take something you said on Twitter and slap it on a tee shirt, they may do so.

  4. well I thought you said FPIC has nothing to do with climate change – or making “them understand”.

  5. @Bangkit Wiryawan – FPIC is part of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It’s a right that applies to any development on indigenous peoples’ territories, not just projects relating to climate change.

    FPIC does not have anything to do with making “them understand”, as should be clear from the summary of FPIC that the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues endorsed in 2005:

    Elements of Free, Prior, and Informed Consent

    • Free should imply no coercion, intimidation or manipulation;
    • Prior should imply consent has been sought sufficiently in advance of any authorization or commencement of activities and respect of time requirements of indigenous consultation/consensus processes;
    • Informed – should imply that information is provided that covers (at least) the following aspects:
        a. The nature, size, pace, reversibility and scope of any proposed project or activity;
        b. The reason/s or purpose of the project and/or activity;
        c. The duration of the above;
        d. The locality of areas that will be affected;
        e. A preliminary assessment of the likely economic, social, cultural and environmental impact, including potential risks and fair and equitable benefit sharing in a context that respects the precautionary principle;
        f. Personnel likely to be involved in the execution of the proposed project (including indigenous peoples, private sector staff, research institutions, government employees, and others); and
        g. Procedures that the project may entail.

    • Consent
      Consultation and participation are crucial components of a consent process. Consultation should be undertaken in good faith. The parties should establish a dialogue allowing them to find appropriate solutions in an atmosphere of mutual respect in good faith, and full and equitable participation. Consultation requires time and an effective system for communicating among interest holders. Indigenous peoples should be able to participate through their own freely chosen representatives and customary or other institutions. The inclusion of a gender perspective and the participation of indigenous women are essential, as well as participation of children and youth as appropriate. This process may include the option of withholding consent. Consent to any agreement should be interpreted as indigenous peoples having reasonably understood it.