Shirking Matilda: The Realpolitic Case for Australian Recognition of West Papua – West Papua No.1 News Portal
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Analysis

Shirking Matilda: The Realpolitic Case for Australian Recognition of West Papua

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Free West Papua Protest at Melbourne on August 2012 – Supplied

By Sandy Greenberg

The Indonesian occupation of West Papua has been described as a “neglected genocide”, a crime against humanity being committed on a multi-generational scale, but overlooked by international observers as a matter of course. Following the departure of Dutch colonial presence in 1962, the Indonesian government had agreed to grant the people of West Papua a free and fair plebiscite between independence and integration with Indonesia, to be overseen by the United Nations. Instead, Indonesian General Sarwo Edhi Wibowo handpicked a mere 1,025 people (a fraction of 1% of the Papuan population) and forced them to vote by a public show of hands in the presence of armed Indonesian soldiers, before announcing that the vote had been unanimously in favor of Indonesian control. Jakarta justifies its control of West Papua by asserting that Indonesia is the legitimate post-colonial successor state to the entirety of the former Dutch colonies in the region; in reality, its interests lie mostly in the immense commodities wealth, principally in gold and copper, that can be extracted from its Melanesian holding. Since the occupation began in May of 1963, international media have ignored the Indonesian military as it has denied basic political rights and freedoms to Papua’s indigenous population, prevented journalists and NGOs from operating in West Papua, killed as many as 500,000 Papuans in wildly disproportionate “responses” to Papuan resistance, actively attempted to supplant or destroy Papua’s Melanesian cultural traditions (including by forcible trafficking in Papuan children), tortured Papuan political prisoners, and facilitated far-ranging ecological devastation.

Indifference to Papuans’ lives goes well beyond the media; indeed, some of the worst culprits are national governments. For many years the United States actively chose to support Indonesian claims on West Papua to prevent a shift in the Cold War balance of power (Indonesia during the Suharto dictatorship being a valued anti-communist force in the region), while today private Anglo-American mining interests unashamedly bankroll oppression. Similarly, the threat of lost economic activity in the form of Indonesian trade has compelled states, including Fiji, Papua New Guinea, and most importantly Australia, to support the occupation with money, votes, or rhetoric. Australia has been and remains a major source of weapons, matériel, and training for the Indonesian military, even supplying the type of attack helicopters with which Papuan villages were firebombed and repeatedly engaging in joint maneuvers with the Indonesian military. Perhaps more importantly, Australia has provided sustained diplomatic cover for the genocide (including by means of treaties signed as late as 2006) and created a hostile environment for Papuan activists, from former Liberal Party Prime Minister Tony Abbott saying in 2013, “…people seeking to grandstand against Indonesia, please don’t look to do in Australia. You are not welcome” to former Labor Party Minister of Foreign Affairs Bob Carr calling engaging in pro-West Papua advocacy,an appalling thing to do”.

The Australian position is key because of its geographic proximity to Papua, its diplomatic capital and close links with NATO and Commonwealth powers, its military and political facilitation of the occupation, and its status as a major economic driver in the region (alongside Indonesia and ASEAN). Moreover, given that the only hope of West Papua attracting international backing is effective organizing targeted at international audiences (as has been the strategy of such groups for decades), Australia’s hostility towards and disempowerment of such advocacy precludes activists from the most effective regional platform via which they might reach these audiences.  Recognizing Australia’s importance, the Widodo government has recently pushed Australia to intervene more strongly in favor of Indonesian control. In recent years, Melanesian states have sought to construct a greater degree of political, cultural, and economic solidarity between themselves, and greater visibility on the world stage, by forming the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG), a body consisting of the governments of Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, Fiji, and Papua New Guinea, along with Front de Libération Nationale Kanak et Socialiste, a pro-independence political movement in French-held New Caledonia. The United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) has sought to join this coalition, seeing as an effective means through which to gain visibility and supporters through cross-Melanesian solidarity. Though Fiji and Papua New Guinea, over which Indonesia has much economic influence, have opposed ULMWP’s application, the other three members, particularly Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands, have supported the West Papuan cause with increasingly forceful rhetoric, and continually pressed for ULMWP representation in the group. Concerned about the increased attention that ULMWP membership might cause, Jakarta has asked Australia to dissuade South Pacific nations, notably Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands but also others, from these efforts — for obvious reasons, Australia has more diplomatic capital and goodwill with these countries than Indonesia does.

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While Indonesia pressures Australia to direct its crucial influence to maintaining the occupation, Canberra could also choose to use its influence to end the slaughter. Public Australian recognition of West Papuan cause would attract much higher media attention. Australia is well-placed to call upon diplomatic partners and work towards shaping a powerful multi-national bloc for self-determination, possibly supported by the post-Cold War UN. Moreover, by giving asylum and aggressive support to Papuan activists Australia could amplify their activism and keep them safe from Indonesian reprisal (Australia has, in the past, provided a limited number of Papuan activists with asylum, but this is neither a consistent policy nor applied to anything other than trivial numbers of people). Some Australian political factions have called for such a course of action, notably the Australian Greens. However, there exists a broad consensus between the leaders of both major Australian political camps (Labor and the Liberal-National coalition) against providing any meaningful support for West Papua. That consensus is misguided. Even putting aside questions of moral obligation or the inherent value of human life, even constraining ourselves entirely to an unalloyed realpolitik, it would be in Australia’s best interest to end its complicity.

Australia is well-placed to call upon diplomatic partners and work towards shaping a powerful multi-national bloc for self-determination, possibly supported by the post-Cold War UN. Australian politicians who fear a loss of economic activity from alienating Indonesia are correct in noting the deep economic links between Australia and Indonesia. Each country represents about 3 percent of the other’s export market, with bilateral trade growing in recent years at an average annual rate just over 7 percent. In 2012, the two nations signed the Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA), and each applies most favored nation status (or its equivalent) to the other’s imports. However, estimations of the actual fallout from alienating Indonesia tend to be greatly overstated.

For one thing, a significant percentage of Australia’s exports to Indonesia are beef and cattle. Because of proximity, Australia can supply beef to Indonesia dramatically less expensively than any other major beef-producer in the world, particularly given that Indonesian law recognizes the health and safety protections on Australian beef to be superior to those of other nearby countries that could conceivably supply beef. Because Indonesians’ beef demand is relatively inelastic, and because any other country that could supply beef in sufficient quantities would necessarily price beef exports to Indonesia far above the Australian price-point, Indonesia would have active economic incentives to continue trade with Australia, at least in the area of livestock.

Second, Indonesia is by far the largest recipient of Australian foreign aid, totaling USD 2 billion between 2005 and 2010 and USD 646.8 million in 2013-2014 alone. This gives Australia certain bargaining power over Indonesia — more than, of course, the likes of Vanuatu. Though Indonesia would almost certainly impose sanctions upon Australia in the wake of an Australian position-reversal, this consideration alone would disincentivize Indonesia from seeking to cut all trade relations with Australia. Incidentally, if Australian revenue did end up dropping significantly, cuts to this aid would present to some extent a compensatory windfall.

Finally, Australia and Indonesia are both part of the Australia-New Zealand-ASEAN Free Trade Area, which predates CEPA. Though Indonesia would certainly withdraw from CEPA should Australia support West Papuan sovereignty in any way, it’s unclear that Indonesia, and ASEAN member, would be able to force the other ASEAN nations to kick Australia out of this agreement; ASEAN operates on a consensus-voting system, so even one member state’s opposition to forfeiting significant Australian trade (and many member states do engage in significant Australian trade) would keep ASEAN, and therefore Indonesia, in the agreement. Theoretically, Indonesia could withdraw from ASEAN itself, but the intra-ASEAN free trade and political power it would lose in doing so make this unlikely. Thus, though the potential economic fallout for Australia is real, the degree of the fallout is constrained by structural and legal factors.

Further, any economic fallout would be outweighed in the long run by the geopolitical benefits Australia stands to gain by supporting West Papua. In particular, Australia needs favorable relations with small island states in the South Pacific. Currently, Australia’s policy on asylum seekers relies on “processing” facilities established in South Pacific states like Nauru. Though this policy is considered barbaric by respected international NGOs like Amnesty International, even after Australian immigration policy changes Australia will, for the foreseeable future, rely on cooperation from these island states on issues like people-smuggling. It therefore has an incentive to maintain friendly relations with Pacific island nations. In recent years, many of these very nations have become increasingly vocal supporters of West Papua; not only Vanuatu and the Solomon islands, but also Tuvalu, Tonga, the Marshall Islands, and Nauru have recently voiced their support at the UN. This being the case, support for West Papua would be one way for Australia to gain these nations’ goodwill.

When polled, Australians support self-determination for West Papua. It’s time for their government to do the same. Australia’s continued complicity in the West Papuan occupation is not only immoral. From a purely practical perspective, it’s irrational as well. (*)

Sandy Greenberg is an author at Brown Political Review

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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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