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Featured Commitment – Indonesia

Rachel Ostrow|

Country: Indonesia
Commitment: Accelerate open and good governance practices in natural resources management
National Action Plan: 2014-2015

Learning from a forestry failure: What a withdrawn commitment from Indonesia tells us about the politics behind success

Indonesia’s 3rd national action plan had an innovative commitment on extractives transparency, but with a twist: it covered forestry. Indonesia has the world’s 3rd largest tropical forest, and forestry and commodity-based exports account for over 2% of GDP in Indonesia, compared with oil at just a little over 1%. This huge industry has been at the center of Indonesian politics, as well as the global discussion on climate change.

The commitment (number 12.8 in the action plan) had several aims. First, it aimed to curb illegal traffic in timber. Illegal traffic in timber accounts for lost revenue, land grabs, and environmental destruction (including international trade in endangered species). In addition, illegal logging causes climate change through deforestation. Indonesia ranks second in the world for tropical deforestation, with 79% of Indonesia’s greenhouse gas emissions linked to deforestation and land use. In total, Indonesia counts for4% of the world’s carbon emissions – a giant proportion for a developing nation. By making transparent which companies have the right to harvest the forest and what rights they have, the Indonesian government can begin to bring rule of law to a chaotic sector and begin to control deforestation that affects climate change.

Another aim was to improve land rights by improving permitting and licensing on forest products (timber, pulp and paper). Specifically, the Indonesian government would publish data on licensing, production, and revenue management. This commitment would operate in synergy with Indonesia’s One Map system (also an OGP commitment), which is attempting to improve the administration of land rights by tracking land use and ownership using geospatial data. This is critical when there are so many overlapping jurisdictions between agencies and local governments each of which is involved in different aspects of forest and land management.

However, the Indonesian commitment was actually withdrawn. Nonetheless, we can draw a few important lessons from it. The withdrawal shows just how difficult some commitments may be to implement. The IRM report for Indonesia found two particular reasons for withdrawal. Within the President’s office level, there is a fair amount of goodwill towards environmental legislation, but not much support for implementation. Namely, not all ministries had bought into the OGP action plan and the relevant officials in the ministry were not enthusiastic about sharing data. The issue became more acute at the state and local levels, with a more devolved system and local politics coming into play. A director general in the Ministry of Environment and Forestry even introduced legislation to make publication of concessions data illegal, an idea that had some traction until Greenpeace sued, calling the proposed law unconstitutional.Greenpeace won; however, the government has appealed that decision. 

The second reason for the withdrawal is that the government ruled that data involved was exempt from publication due to business confidentiality, meaning that corporations could not – and would not – be forthcoming about data on permitting and licensing. Indonesia’s rapidly growing economy is a source of national pride, with officials tying economic growth to prosperity for the Indonesian people. However, there is very little transparency about concessions themselves – ownership, nationality of majority holders, and how the concessions came about.

OGP focuses a lot on building cooperation between government and civil society; what this Indonesian commitment’s failure tells us is that building cooperation and trust between sectors is important, whether it is between the lead ministry and other ministries, or working to get the willing part of the private sector and civil society to form coalitions to move beyond old ways of doing things.


Filed Under: OGP News
Open Government Partnership