Growing Concern Over Indonesian President’s Investment Remarks

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Palm oil deforestation in Indonesia

As the 2019 Indonesia Accelerator in Bali moves into its third day of local women environmental leaders collaborating to find solutions to the ecological crises facing their communities, Indonesia’s president Joko Widodo pursues an aggressive, exploitative resource policy approach which threatens indigenous communities, environmental activists, and Indonesia’s famed tropical rainforests. 

In a July 14th speech, Widodo outlined his goals towards investment in Indonesia:

“This is how we create as many jobs as possible. Therefore, anything that obstructs investment must be trimmed….Be careful, going forward I guarantee that I will chase, I will control, I will check and I will beat [them] up if necessary! There should no longer be any obstructions to investment because this is the key to creating more jobs.”

Playing to a false narrative that economic development requires lenient or absent policies and regulations that protect some of our most precious resources, Widodo’s attempts to prioritize investment in Indonesia at the expense of the environment contribute to resource exploitation that has a disproportionate impact on marginalized communities. Already, Indonesia is the world’s largest producer of palm oil, the most commonly produced vegetable oil, but huge tracts of rainforest and indigenous land are razed daily for the palm oil industry, releasing massive quantities of carbon. In 2015, Indonesia passed the US in greenhouse gas emissions. Indonesia also is the second largest plastic polluter in the world with a total of 3.2 million metric tons of plastic waste. Despite these devastating numbers, Widodo has urged high-level officials to turn a blind eye to regulations for the sake of increased GDP, which he promised to raise by 7% during his campaign.

As this article via Mongabay shares, The language used [in Widodo’s speech] has raised concerns among environmental and indigenous rights activists, who say there are plenty of justifiable reasons to oppose or at least slow down development projects that involve the clearing of forests and customary lands.”

A recent government-sanctioned report shows that if Indonesia continues to exploit its natural resources by cutting down trees and digging up coal to power its cities and villages, its environment will reach a tipping point beyond which the economy will suffer, with an attendant increase in poverty and mortality rates and a decline in human development.

Furthermore, this policy shift effectively reverses Widodo’s social forestry program, which sought to resolve land disputes Indonesia through distribution of titles. This program, initially well-received by the indigenous communities, resulted in bureaucratic roadblocks which obstructed indigenous Indonesian’s access to reclaiming their land rights. 

WEA recognizes the dangers of unrestricted access to commercial land rights in Indonesia, as the palm oil and mining industries have already ravaged the nation with deforestation, among other environmental crises. These are some of the reasons we launched the 2019 Women’s Earth Alliance Accelerator in partnership with Indonesia organizations For Good, Mother Jungle and Ranu Welum; women in Indonesia experience the brunt of these climate disruptions, and therefore step forward as key leaders in designing solutions to these critical issues. We hope that in connecting these grassroots women environmental activists and equipping them with the tools to protect their communities and the environment, an “unclobberable” force will be created. 

Read the entire article from Mongabay here.

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