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Despite Military Crackdown in Papua & Other Rights Abuses, Obama Hosts Indonesian President in D.C

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Indonesia Presiden, Joko Widodo and US President, Barack Obama - Suplied

Indonesia Presiden, Joko Widodo and US President, Barack Obama – Suplied

Jayapura, Jubi/DemocracyNow – On Monday, President Obama met Indonesia’s new president, Joko Widodo, at the White House to discuss climate change, trade and strengthening U.S.-Indonesian ties. President Obama described Indonesia as one of the world’s largest democracies, but human rights groups paint a different story, citing the military’s ongoing repression in West Papua as well as discriminatory laws restricting the rights of religious minorities and women. Indonesia has also been criticized for attempting to silence any discussion about the 50th anniversary of the 1965 Indonesian genocide that left more than 1 million people dead. We speak to John Sifton of Human Rights Watch and journalist Allan Nairn, who has covered Indonesia for decades.

TRANSCRIPT
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We begin today’s show looking at Indonesia, the world’s fourth largest country. On Monday, President Obama met at the White House with Indonesia’s new president, Joko Widodo, who is also known as Jokowi, to discuss climate change, trade and strengthening U.S.-Indonesian ties.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Our partnership is very much in the interests of the United States, given Indonesia’s large population, its leadership in the region, its democratic traditions, the fact that it is a large Muslim country with a tradition of tolerance and moderation, and its role in trade and commerce and economic development.

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AMY GOODMAN: During his visit to the White House, Indonesian President Jokowi announced Indonesia intends to join the TPP, the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal the United States has forged with 11 other nations.

PRESIDENT JOKO WIDODO: [translated] Indonesia is an open economy. And with the 250 million population, we are the largest economy in Southeast Asia. And Indonesia intends to join the TPP.

AMY GOODMAN: Indonesian President Jokowi was planning to head next to the West Coast but has decided to cut his U.S. trip short due to raging fires that have resulted in haze and toxic fumes covering much of Indonesia, as well as parts of Malaysia and Singapore—many of the fires illegally set in order to clear land for palm oil and paper plantations. The fires have been described as one of the biggest environmental crimes of the 21st century. According to the World Resource Institute, since September the fires have generated more carbon emissions than the entire U.S. economy.

Meanwhile, Indonesia’s human rights record is also coming under criticism. On Monday, President Obama described Indonesia as one of the world’s largest democracies, but human rights groups paint a different story, citing the military’s ongoing repression in West Papua as well as discriminatory laws restricting the rights of religious minorities and women. Indonesia has also been criticized for attempting to silence any discussion about the 50th anniversary of the 1965 Indonesian genocide that left more than a million people dead. Last week, Indonesia’s largest writers festival, the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival, was forced to cancel a series of events tied to the anniversary of the massacre, including a screening of Joshua Oppenheimer’s documentary, The Look of Silence.

To talk more about Indonesia, we’re joined by two guests. In Washington, John Sifton is with us, Asia advocacy director of Human Rights Watch. His new book is titled Violence All Around. Allan Nairn is also with us, journalist and activist who’s been reporting on Indonesia for decades. He’s joining us from Guatemala City.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! John Sifton, in this meeting that Jokowi is having, the Indonesian president is having, with President Obama, can you talk about the issues you feel President Obama needs to raise with the Indonesian president?

JOHN SIFTON: Well, it’s too late now, and President Obama already used the clichéd term of Indonesia as a tolerant Muslim democracy. We had hoped he would have talked about how Indonesia is going astray. It’s losing some of its tolerant qualities and principles, and starting to give too much power to Sunni extremist groups, which want to basically make Indonesia a place that’s unfriendly to Shia, to Christians, to Baha’i, to secularists and to women.

AMY GOODMAN: You consulted with the State Department, is that right, on this visit? What did you tell them?

JOHN SIFTON: Of course. Whenever there’s a world visit, you know, we talk to the State Department and to the White House. And in this instance, we said, “Please avoid this cliché.” Unfortunately, President Obama didn’t. But did he raise issues of human rights behind the scenes in his bilateral meetings with President Jokowi? I’d like to hope so. He has expressed interest in the Papua issue in the east, a very problematic situation in the east which has been going on for years. In the past he’s raised that issue, and I would have hoped he would do so again.

But really, the more existential threat to Indonesia right now is this growing religious intolerance toward Sunnis—I mean, excuse me, toward Shia, towards Christians, towards others who are not Sunni extremists. It’s not really, you know, part of the Indonesian society, but there are fringe groups which are pushing this agenda and have exercised the heckler’s veto.

The worst problem, though, is the onerous new restrictions that are being placed on women at the local level, all kinds of little laws restricting their movements at night, making sure they have to wear a hijab, wear skirts of a certain length, prohibiting them from riding motorcycles, or, rather, straddling motorcycles—they can sit sideways, but not forwards. These little laws have a cumulative impact that are incredibly derogatory and discriminatory towards women and girls.

AMY GOODMAN: Allan Nairn, can you talk about the significance of President Widodo’s visit to the United States? John Sifton just mentioned West Papua. And if you can place it, especially for viewers and listeners in the United States who may know very little about the Indonesian archipelago?

ALLAN NAIRN: West Papua is on the eastern end of the archipelago, and it’s legally, in the eyes of the U.N., considered part of Indonesia. But the Indonesian government—the army, the police, the intelligence—treat it as if it’s an occupied foreign land. They shoot demonstrators. They arrest anyone who speaks for independence or against the army, who raises a Papuan flag. A few years ago, I released a series of internal documents from Kopassus, the U.S.-trained special forces, which showed that they had a massive network of intelligence informants, modeled on that that Israel uses in the West Bank, and there’s this ongoing terror in Papua.

President Jokowi has indicated that he would like to pull back on a lot of this army and police and intel repression in Papua, but the security forces have resisted them—resisted him, and he has not been brave enough to overrule them. Obama could have, with one word, facilitated the pullout of the repression from Papua by saying that the U.S. would cut off all military aid unless they stop the terror in Papua. By doing that, he could have strengthened the hand of Jokowi and others in the government, because the government is divided on this, who want to rein in the army and the police. But apparently, Obama didn’t do that.

The U.S. has always maintained a separate channel to the army, from the days of the Suharto dictatorship, and even before, when the U.S. was trying to overthrow the founding president, Sukarno. And that strengthens the hand of the army—and the CIA works with the police—against an elected civilian president like Jokowi. It previously happened with Gus Dur, who was a Muslim cleric, a reformist president, who was undermined and, in effect, ousted by the army. And one of the key sources of army power is the fact that they had their separate channel to Washington. In fact, as Jokowi was meeting with Obama, Ash Carter, the secretary of defense, was welcoming General Ryamizard, the defense minister of Indonesia, who is the chief ideologist in favor of killing civilians. He said, previously, that anyone who dislikes the army is a legitimate target for killing. Reacting to a massacre of civilians, of children, in Aceh a number of years ago, he joked about it and said, “Well, children can be dangerous, too.”

In terms of the religious intolerance, there is indeed a trend toward religious intolerance in Indonesia, as there is in Europe and the United States in this moment since the 9/11 attack, and then the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq had set in spiral a series of events. And the main backer, the main outside backer, of this religious intolerance in Indonesia is Saudi Arabia. They’re going into the local mosques, spreading around a great deal of money, pushing this intolerant ideology. And also, I’ve seen, just talking to people over the past couple years, that one of the main things that gives credibility to a lot of these Saudi-funded extremists who go around urging people to abandon the Indonesian tradition of tolerance is when they see in the news the news of the Obama drone attacks against various Muslim countries and things like the Israeli invasion of Gaza. If Jokowi had stood up and said privately and publicly to Obama, “The U.S. should stop this, the U.S. should stop arming Israel,” that would have been consistent with a lot of the pro-Palestinian rhetoric, hypocritical rhetoric, that one sees from politicians inside Indonesia. And it also would have had real impact, because the U.S. always likes to claim that the moderate Muslim nations are with Washington. Indonesia is the largest Muslim nation in the world. Usually, when the U.S. says “moderate Muslim nations,” they mean radical dictatorships like Saudi Arabia. Indonesia isn’t like that, though. Indonesia is a quasi-democracy like the United States, and if Jokowi had spoken out in that way, it would have had a huge impact.

Also, there are other major issues on the table between Jokowi and Obama, Indonesia and the U.S. One is Freeport-McMoRan, the massive mining corporation, based largely in West Papua, which extracts huge amounts of gold and copper. They pay bribes to the Indonesian army and officials to be able to do that. They spoil the rivers. Many of the rivers there turn colors never seen in nature. They cut off the mountains. And the local Papuan population surrounding the mines often live with hunger and lack of clean water. The Freeport contract is up for renewal. There’s a big battle going on within the Indonesian government as to whether it will be renewed or whether Indonesia will take over the mine itself, as it has the technical capacity to do. But the U.S. and Obama have been pushing Indonesia to, yes, extend this contract. The U.S. has for years backed the repression in Papua in large part because of Freeport. The previous leader of Freeport, Jim Bob Moffett, used to be a golfing partner of the dictator, Suharto. Accounting records leaked would show that Freeport was paying massive bribes to the Kopassus special forces to repress the local population. Last year, I interviewed a former senior Indonesian official who told me that he had received two personal checks from Freeport worth hundreds of thousands of U.S. dollars as bribes, although he said to me he didn’t cash the checks. This is a violation of local Indonesian law and also the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, but neither the Indonesian or U.S. governments have dared to move against Freeport to try to stop this type of corruption. But this contract is on the table, and Indonesia could change things drastically by not renewing it, but Obama and the U.S. is twisting their arm to continue to give Freeport free rein in West Papua. (*)

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Analysis

The origin of Indonesian racism towards Papuans and its implication to a Free West Papua Movement

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Lukas Enembe, the governor of Papua Province talks to thoousands protester in Jayapura – Supplied

By Yamin Kogoya

ESCALATING violence and attacks on Papuan students saw thousands of young people march on the streets and set fire to the Parliament building in West Papua on 19th August 2019. This was in response to Papuan students being attacked in their dormitory in Surabaya last week after they had alleged bent a flagpole during the Indonesian Independence Day celebrations (on 17 August).

Surabaya police chief, senior commissioner Sandi Nugroho, said the attack on the Papuan student dormitory was carried out by Indonesian nationalist community groups who were angered by the treatment of their national flag.

In an effort to restore calm, the Papua Governor, Lukas Enembe called on all Indonesian citizens to respect their  national value of “unity in diversity” (Bhineka Tunggal Ika), and for the security forces to act professionally and in accordance with Indonesian laws and to not let activist groups take the law in their own hands. He reiterated that Papuans studying in Indonesian cities and towns must be treated with dignity and respect and is how Papuans treat Indonesians studying in West Papua.

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The timing of last weeks’ attacks, retaliations and protests could not be more significant for both the Papuans and Indonesians. On 16th August 2019, the leaders of Pacific Island nations passed several resolutions regarding the Papuan genocide at the Pacific Island Forums, while 17th August 2019 was the 74th anniversary of Indonesia’s Independence Day.


PAPUANS HAVE ENDURED YEARS OF RACISM AND VIOLENCE
Papuans are no stranger to Indonesia’s cruel and violent racism and which they have endured since the 1960s. Papuans have died, been marginalized, and had their rights denied because of racism.

Filep Karma, a West Papuan political activist experienced firsthand racism by Indonesians during his university years, and in 2014 said: “As If We Are Half Animal: Indonesia’s Racism in Papua Land”.

Fifty-six years later, and these cruel racial slurs are alive and thriving as Papuans continue to be called monkeys, insinuating that they are primitive. This insult cuts deep in the hearts of Papuans.

Just last week, Indonesian Human Rights Lawyer, Veronica Koman posted videos on her Twitter feed of Indonesian demonstrators holding up picture monkeys and chanted “kick out, kick out the transmigrants, kick out transmigrants now”.

While the world’s media is focusing on the violence involved in the demonstrations, they are ignoring what is at the heart of the demonstrations, that being racism. It is not acceptable to call Papuans monkeys, effectively denying them their fundamental intrinsic value of being human. And while President Joko Widodo called on his brothers and sisters in Papua and West Papua to forgive and forget, the racial harassment and discriminations against Papuan students has been ongoing.

Governor Enembe said “Papuans students throughout Indonesia always get called Monkey and are not safe”. During an interview on Indonesian TV ONE, he condemned the way Papuan students are treated in other parts of Indonesia. “It has been 74 years since Indonesia gained its independence from the Dutch and this country still treats my people inhumanly. If the situation doesn’t improve, I will bring my Papuan students back home”.

Racism is a weapon deploy by the colonial power to break down the Papuan human spirit.  This is the same weapon Indonesia is using that was used on them by the Europeans, and who killed millions of the first nation people around the world over 500 years.


IS IT A CASE OF MONKEY-SEE-MONKEY-DO FOR INDONESIA?
As the Jakarta Post[1] reported “racism” is at the heart of the Surabaya -West Papua conflict, and highlighted Indonesia’s own experience of racism under the Dutch colonial rule.

It appears that after 74 years of independence from the Dutch, and despite Indonesia’s national ideology of “Pancasila” and “Bhineka Tunggal Ika” (Five constitutional Pillars and Unity in Diversity”, it is still suffering from the decades of racial abuse under Dutch rule.

Indonesian treatment of Papuans is like a revenge towards unexamined grievances they suffered. Papuans’ genocide at the hands of Indonesia in West Papua and unprecedented destruction of their ancestral homeland originated in the minds of racist Europeans.  But they are projecting their anger onto the wrong people. They should direct their anger onto the Dutch and Western Governments.

The Dutch used guns and the Bible to tame the Indigenous Indonesian over 300 years. They broke their human spirit and imagination through racial discrimination. They were dehumanized and used as a lethal weapon against all other non-Dutch Europeans.

The Dutch implemented a class system whereby the Indonesians were third class citizens, well beneath the first-class Europeans, and the second-class Chinese and Arabs.

And so, the cycle continues, with Indonesia trying to dehumanize and break the Papuan spirit so they can rebuild them to identity with Indonesian colonial ideas.

Indonesia wants to love Papuans and accept them as part of Indonesia. However, they can’t because, just like their former European colonialists, Indonesia has wrong and distorted information about Papuans.

As articulated by sociologist Thomas Scheff in the Jakarta Post[2] on Friday, May 31, 2013:

“there is no love between Papuans and Indonesians. It is infatuation. Genuine love requires detailed knowledge of the other”.

Another tragic learned behaviour from the Dutch is Indonesia taking the role of “definer”. Essentially, Indonesia sees itself as the tape measure that other people and cultures have to measure up to or ‘be defined’.

Papuans are subjected to racism everywhere they go, from university dormitories, the marketplace and on the streets. The Papuan values, feelings, emotions and psychology are under constant attack by the colonial racist system. This is the institutionalized racism to poison the soul of Papuans.


PAPUA HAS BEEN THE RACISM FOOTBALL THAT’S BEEN KICKED AROUND FOR YEARS
West Papua has been treated as a commodity for years, being passed around and sacrificed as world leaders saw fit. The USA, Australia, Dutch and Indonesia decided its fate during the negotiations in the 1960s. It was sacrificed for world peace on UN’s alter in 1963 and handed over to Indonesia in an attempt to halt the spread of communism in Indonesia (by way of providing an army).  Remarkably, West Papuans was never considered nor were they invited to participate in this meeting

US president Kennedy referred to West Papuans as “The 700,000 living in the stone age…a few thousand square miles of cannibals land.” Papuans was used to secure the interest of Western governments and the Soviet Bloc. They had no value and rights. The result of these negotiations cost millions of Papuan lives.[3]

Western policy makers were more concerned with teaching Papuans how to eat with knife and fork rather than their rights for political independence.

Unfortunately for Papuans, their relationship with Europeans has always been tainted by racism. The Western governments, Chinese, Indonesian and industrialised countries always assume that natural state of being Papuan is not desirable which is why they always attempt to dehumanise the Papuans.

According to Dr. Tarcisius kabutaulaka, associate professor at the Centre for Pacific Islands Studies at the Univeristy of Hawaii, European’s have always placed Melanesian people at the bottom of human hierarchy because of their darker skin colours and cultural traits that led to them being viewed as primitive. They bare the internal stigma of “Oceanic Negroes”.  The crimes Melanesian committed to be boxed at the bottom of Europeans category was simply the fact. [4]

IS THIS THE PATH TO INDEPENDENCE
The intriguing aspect about this recent demonstration is how seriously Papuan students and young people are taking the issue of ‘racism’. They are using the ongoing racism to voice their deep aspiration for independence from Indonesia.

Recently, Indonesia has been focusing on building diplomatic relationships with the Pacific island countries but, how can a genuine relationship be built and sustained when one party approaches the other with a paternalistic colonial mental outlook? This was evident during the 2019 Pacific Exposition in Auckland[5] whereby the Indonesian government did not disclose the real issues faced by Papuans. What Indonesia did display was misconstrued image of the Papuan.

If Indonesia continues to see Papuans through the lens of racism (monkey), why would they treat any other black race in the Oceania with love and respect. To build a sense of brotherhood among all men across all our cultural and religious prejudices, we need a new interconnectedness worldview, not racially fragmented one.

if President Jokowi was sincere about calling Papuans “brothers and sisters” then it is time for Indonesian to treat Papuans with dignity and respect, including the overwhelming desire by Papuans for “Independence”.  Otherwise these words are meaningless.

Despite the Indonesian effort to truncate the growing support for an independent West Papua, the Pacific island leaders did pass a few resolutions in during last week PIF’s meeting in Tuvalu.

What do these resolutions really mean to Papuans? Whether it was a mere Orwellian exercise concocting the final communique -a pure fiasco or it is one of the steps that will enable the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) to enter UN General Assembly, one thing is clear that support for the West Papuans plight is growing.

This support from Pacific island communities will likely grow in the future if Indonesia continues to mistreat their fellow Papuans.

Calling Papuans a monkey can and will ignite the fire of resistance (as seen by thousands of Papuans protesting and setting fire to parliament house). The issue of racism is serious and failure to recognise this will end up costing Indonesia the very thing they are trying to hold on to.

As Evi Mariani warned Jakarta in her paper published yesterday by the Jakarta Post[6]:

“Racism in the love story in Bumi Manusia is the prequel to Indonesia’s budding nationalism against the occupation of the Dutch before our independence in 1945. Surely, we would not want the racism befalling Papuans to pave the way for their struggle for independence from “Indonesian occupation” on their land”.

The outspoken Free West Papua advocate, the governor of PNG Oro Province, Gary Juffa has warned through his official Facebook page that:

“In case any of you have any misconception about your future fate at the hands of expanding Indonesian influence…here is a grim remainder…if they call our brothers and sisters monkeys…on their own land…that is exactly what they are calling us now”

The leaders of “Blue Pacific” cannot be naïve like a rabbit by inviting the wolves from Jakarta, Beijing and Canberra to discuss about what they are going to have for dinner. Dangerous and yet virtues rabbit is better than harmless and virtue less creature that lives only to be eaten by predators.

It is West Papua’s deepest hope that the Pacific Island leaders will not sacrifice West Papua by accepting a worldly materialistic offer by Jakarta, Beijing and Canberra. How remarkable it would be in this modern world for the racially abused and subjugated people are able to stand firm against the might and reject the gold in favour of their own souls. That would be the retelling of an old story written anew. (*)

Author is Australia-based anthropologist

[1] https://www.thejakartapost.com/academia/2019/08/19/todays-minkes-racism-at-heart-of-jakarta-papua-conflict.html

[2] <https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2013/05/31/the-continuing-infatuation-with-papua.html>

[3] https://tasmaniantimes.com/2010/10/apology-to-the-west-papua-people/

[4] http://www.pireport.org/articles/2010/06/22/solomons-expert-cites-racism-against-melanesians

[5] https://asiapacificreport.nz/2019/07/16/yamin-kogoya-why-indonesian-trade-expo-deception-wont-win-pacific-hearts-and-minds/>

[6] <https://www.thejakartapost.com/academia/2019/08/19/todays-minkes-racism-at-heart-of-jakarta-papua-conflict.html>

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Analysis

Who actually benefits from the Trans Papua Highway?

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President Widodo’s entourage visiting Trans Papua Highway construction (Biro Pers)

Papua, JubiIndonesian Institute of Science (LIPI) researcher Cahyo Pamungkas says that the Trans Papua Highway has yet to bring any benefits to the Papuan people.

“The benefits for indigenous people can’t be seen yet. So people ask who exactly is the road for? Because the there is still illegal logging in the central highlands, the highlands are being destroyed, it’s easier for outsiders to exploit natural resources”, said Pamungkas at a press conference on the conflict in Nduga regency at the Jakarta Legal Aid Foundation (LBH) offices in Jakarta on Thursday July 18.

Pamungkas explained that instead of benefiting ordinary Papuans, the Trans Papua Highway threatens their economic wellbeing.

“Pig livestock from Toraja comes into Wamena. So the Wamena’s people’s pigs don’t sell. This threatens their economy. It is increasingly easy for outsiders to come to Wamena, so Wamena people see the road as a threat to their future”, explained Pamungkas.

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Pamungkas said that the Trans Papua Highway project only connects regencies or cities and the benefits of this are not felt by the Papuan people. Meanwhile roads between villages and districts which are in fact what is actually needed are not being built.

“Yet roads like this (between villages and districts) are very important, for example simply to sell vegetables produced by farmers in markets”, said Pamungkas.

According to Pamungkas, the Trans Papua Highway actually facilitates the exploitation of natural resources which can be seen from large number of trees being felled and gold mining.

“Moreover when LIPI researched development on this road, we found many logging camps for logging in the direction of the Papua Lorentz National Park, which should a protected area”, explained Pamungkas.

Pamungkas is of the view that the government should immediately hold a dialogue with Papuan social leaders with the assistance of appropriate mediators.

“Because the most important thing at the moment is liberating the Papuan people from the memory of suffering which has built up over time. Particularly the acts of violence by security forces which has resulted in trauma for the residents of Nduga regency, Papua province”, he explained.

Local people’s rights

Expressing a similar view to Pamungkas, Amnesty International Indonesia researcher Aviva Nababan believes that the Trans Papua Highway does not provide any clear benefits. He also questions the government’s planning process for the road.

“Looking at it again from the process. Did the government design its function by thinking about the rights of the people the road impacts on? Did they really follow the principles of involving local communities? If not, this needs to be fixed. We think it shouldn’t be seen from the perspective of western Indonesia. There’s a road, lovely. There’s a road, great”, said Nababan at Jakarta LBH on Friday July 19.

Nababan warned that Indonesia has a commitment to fulfill the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) meaning that it must involve local communities in all development planning.

He also asked the government to respect the rights of indigenous Papuans. Because according to Amensty’s research, there have been alleged human rights (HAM) violations which have made Nduga residence traumatised and afraid of the security forces.

“When there are problems of HAM violations related to law enforcement in Papua, the tendency is that the cases are rarely investigated. Let alone followed up, or satisfactory accountability”, he explained. (*)

 

Source: indoleft.org

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Analysis

Do you know how vital Papua is for the environment?

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By Benjamin Ware

DO you know how vital Papua is for the environment? This province in Eastern Indonesia is home to the last big area of intact forest in the country, and one of the world’s most biodiverse. It is also the poorest part of Indonesia – nearly 30% of people here live in poverty.

Growing palm oil can be a way out of this poverty trap, but it also brings with it the risk of deforestation. In 2018 Greenpeace exposed large-scale deforestation in Papua linked to palm oil business Gama, which was then suspended from our supply chain.

That same year, Nestlé suspended 10 companies for violating our Responsible Sourcing Standard. Three for illegal deforestation in Papua, and one for the same offense in neighboring West Papua. This shows the seriousness of deforestation as a local issue.

What happens after we suspend a company from our supply chain?

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Some companies continue with ‘business as usual’, while others sell off their remaining forested lands. Others, like Gama, act to halt deforestation and commit to ‘No Deforestation, No Peat and No Exploitation’ (NDPE) – the basis of responsible palm oil production and a requirement of our Responsible Sourcing Standard.

responsible sourcing papua

At Nestlé, we want to support companies like Gama to produce sustainable palm oil. Indeed, efforts are ongoing to develop standard re-entry criteria that suppliers found guilty of illegal deforestation must meet, before buying companies let them back into their supply chains.

Verifying supplier claims

We wanted to see Gama’s commitment to responsible production first hand, which is why Nestlé visited Papua in early 2019 with the NGO Aidenvironment Asia and one of our suppliers.

On the ground, we saw how Gama is implementing its new NDPE commitment, which involves working with Aidenvironment Asia on a remediation strategy for their lands in Papua and other parts of Indonesia.

action aid

Their work involves replanting ‘riparian zones’ (transitional zones between land and water) and deforested areas unplanted with palm oil, developing conservation plans for forested lands in Gama’s ‘land bank’, and generating compensation plans for lands cleared and planted.

Using concession maps from the supplier, Nestlé was able to monitor Gama’s sites via Starling. Since September 2018, this satellite-based system allows us to monitor our entire global palm oil supply chain for evidence of deforestation.

Satisfied with what we saw, we allowed Gama back into our supply chain on the condition that it does not clear any more forest or peatland (Aidenvironment will monitor this, and Nestlé also using Starling). Gama must also implement recovery and compensation plans that take account of local community needs.

Safeguarding people and planet

To some people, our move to allow Gama back into our supply chain before it completes its remediation plans might seem hasty. But we took this decision with one of our key Responsible Sourcing objectives in mind – what is best for people and planet.

papua forests

In Papua, proper planning to support conservation and sustainable economic development is vital. Local communities want Gama to develop their lands. If Gama does not do so, it runs the risk of losing the lands, which another, less scrupulous company could then clear.

At the same time, conservation is vital. Locals we met also want to conserve their local forest, which is central to their culture. Indonesia’s government thinks similarly – it wants to develop the region whilst conserving 90% of its forest cover under the Papua Province Vision.

The situation is complex, and the need to balance conservation and development objectives is not unique to Indonesia. In South America, West Africa and beyond, we face similar challenges.

Nonetheless, if you take one message from this blog – this is it. We can only preserve forests by supporting those companies that embrace forest conservation as part of a sustainable economic development plan.

By excluding those companies that are found guilty of deforestation, but work hard thereafter to do the right thing, we risk endangering the magnificent forests that remain. (*)

The author is Global Head of Responsible Sourcing

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