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Illegal Logging and the Fate of Indonesia's Forests in Times of Regional Autonomy

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Obidzinski, Krystof
Conference: The Commons in an Age of Global Transition: Challenges, Risks and Opportunities, the Tenth Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of Common Property
Location: Oaxaca, Mexico
Conf. Date: August 9-13
Date: 2004
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/1575
Sector: Forestry
Region: East Asia
Subject(s): IASC
forest policy
Abstract: "In the aftermath of decentralization and regional autonomy processes in post-1998 Indonesia, forests have become a de facto open access, resource in the country. Where previously the central government had held exclusive control over forest estate through state-based forestry management regime, the initial period following the implementation of decentralization and regional autonomy was marked by the emergence of claims to forest resources by a wide range of stakeholders. Such claims led to the fragmentation of forest policy in Indonesia, with districts and provinces promulgating local forestry rules and regulations with little regard for the central government authorities in Jakarta. The fragmentation of the forest policy in Indonesia resulted in widespread confusion about what rules did and did not apply in the forestry sector, ushering in legal uncertainty and the potential for conflict. "As the processes of decentralization and regional autonomy unfolded in Indonesia following the fall of Suharto's New Order regime in 1998, illegal logging in Indonesia appeared to have increased tremendously (Contreras-Hermosilla 2001; ITTO 2001; EIA/Telapak 2002; FWI/GFW 2002). Such apparent intensification and the spread of illegal logging activities prompted suggestions, particularly from Indonesian government officials but also from NGOs and international research organizations, that it was a relatively recent form of forest crime resulting from post-1998 breakdown of central government controls (EIA and Telapak 1999; EIA and Telapak 2000). In more recent times, such a critique is increasingly being used to stress the alleged correlation between illegal logging and deforestation to underline the districts and provinces irresponsibility and lack of capacity for self-rule. Within such context, decentralization in the forestry sector is being presented as a failure. Such views are the main driving force behind the calls for decentralization review (Jakarta Post 2003a; Jakarta Post 2003b; Jakarta Post 2003c; Pontianak Post 2003; Kaltim Post 2003), which leads to multi-layered political conflicts. This paper questions these assumptions. In the second section, it shows that spatial data on deforestation and forest degradation in Indonesia for the last several years do not provide a conclusive link between forest loss and decentralized forest governance. In the third part, it examines the historical foundations of illegal logging and determines that it is not a new phenomenon. Rather, illegal logging has long been a part of Indonesian forestry. Its recent prominence is merely due to its increased visibility as a result of the fragmentation of the forestry management regime. Fourth, the paper explains the 4 persistence of illegal logging through time as due primarily to clearly distinguishable and important functions that illegal logging plays in local economies, politics and social relationships. In this context, the long-standing inequalities in access to forest resources in Indonesia are an important factor driving illegal logging as well."

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