Written by Anggit Saranta
The agrarian and ecological crisis, which has increasingly become a concern in Indonesia over the last decade, was the main topic of discussion at the opening of the 2023 Tenurial Conference, held at the Gelora Bung Karno (GBK) Multipurpose Building in Senayan, Jakarta from 16-17 October 2023. The two-day conference was organised by a civil society coalition that forms part of the Coalition for Tenure Justice.
Adopting the theme ‘Realising Social and Ecological Justice Through Agrarian Reform and Natural Resource Management’, this conference advocated the implementation of true agrarian reform and the civilised management of natural resources in support of ecological and social justice. As Chair of the 2023 Tenurial Conference Steering Committee and Secretary General of the Agrarian Reform Consortium (KPA), Dewi Kartika stated that this year's conference has a vital and relevant role to play in addressing agrarian issues in Indonesia.
“The 2023 Tenurial Conference is very important, because the accumulation of agrarian problems and natural damage is becoming more massive on a national and global scale,” said Kartika at the opening of the 2023 Tenurial Conference. “This multidimensional crisis requires a collective response, attitude and action from the civil society coalition network for tenure justice and other people's movements," she added.
The Secretary General also noted that the government is yet to fully implement and honour the Tenurial Conference roadmaps prepared at the 2011 and 2017 Tenurial Conferences, pointing to a number of subsequent policies and development programmes that have been implicated in the degradation of constitutional rights for farmers, fishermen, farm workers, Indigenous Peoples and marginalised groups in urban areas. Moreover, Kartika posited that such development programmes tend to favour investment groups and large-scale business entities.
The KPA revealed that from 2015-2022 there were at least 2,710 instances of agrarian conflict, impacting an area covering 5.88 million hectares. These conflicts were caused by businesses and investments, infrastructure development, mining and national strategic projects in various regions, including the development of high-end tourism.
“Agrarian conflicts and land grabbing have increased the number of smallholders and landless farmers in Indonesia,” said Kartika, who is also the Secretary General of the Agrarian Reform Consortium. “This is because land acquisition for development and investment purposes mostly targets people's productive agricultural lands," she added.
Data from the 2013 Agricultural Census states that at least 11.51 million farming families had smallholder farmer status at that time. In just five years (2013-2018), the agricultural class increased sharply to 15.8 million families; an increase of around 4.29 million families (BPS, Inter-Census Agricultural Survey, 2018). The latest data indicates that 72.19% of farmers are smallholders, of whom 91.81% are male and 8.19% are female (BPS-Synthesis, 2021).
Nevertheless, regulations in support of social and environmental justice are seldom ratified and implemented; recent examples include TAP MPR IX/2001, UUPA 1960, the Farmers Protection and Empowerment Law, the Presidential Decree on Agrarian Reform and even the Indigenous Peoples Bill.
“The government has actually issued various regulations aimed at facilitating investment by business and political elite groups,” noted Erasmus Cahyadi from the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN), in a statement to the media during a press conference held on 16 October 2023. “Beginning with the revision of the Mining and Coal Law, to the Job Creation Law, the IKN Law and a revision of the Law on the Formation of Legislative Regulations (UU PPP)," he added.
This condition paves the way for natural damage and associated ecological disasters. The Indonesian Forum for the Environment (WALHI) pointed to an ecological disaster – the worst flooding seen in the last 50 years – which occurred in the provinces of South Kalimantan and West Kalimantan in 2021-2022. BNPB recorded that 24,379 houses were inundated, resulting in 15 deaths and the displacement of approximately 112,000 residents.
"The unequal development model has resulted in natural destruction, exacerbating ecological disasters and social conflict," said Zenzi Suhadi, National Executive Director of WALHI. According to him, the community not only lost land, but also lost a wealth of local, traditional knowledge that has been proven to support environmental protection and the preservation of natural resources.
The 2023 Tenure Conference was organised by the Tenure Coalition, which consists of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), community groups and academics who have been responsible for holding Tenure Conferences since 2011. This coalition also produced the Agrarian Reform Road Map, which is updated on an annual basis and at every conference (every 5 years) to measure progress and assess the challenges faced by communities in regard to tenurial justice.
The 2023 Tenurial Conference ended on 17 October 2023. It produced a total of four recommendations, which were read by the Chair of the Steering Committee, Dewi Kartika, following consultation of the reports via 10 discussion panels that took place during the conference.
The recommendations are as folows: first, correcting paradigms, policies, agrarian reform practices or natural resource management, as well as other regulations on social-ecological justice; second, urging institutional reform; third, accelerating and developing recognition of the diversity of forms of control of agrarian wealth, both on land, coasts and small islands; and fourth, ensuring the protection, respect and fulfillment of human rights for Indigenous Peoples, farmers, fishermen and women.
The conference also noted that the government has been unsuccessful in the realisation of agrarian reform commitments covering an area of 9 million hectares and social forestry covering an area of 12.7 million hectares. This failure can be correlated with instances of inequality, agrarian conflict, unilateral determination of forest areas and poverty, while also representing a paradigm that is divergent from the principles and goals of true agrarian reform.
In addition to these issues, the conference also presented a number of multi-party collaborative initiatives and highlighted victories that have been achieved via similarly community-led movements. This covered the active and participatory registration of land and other agrarian resources; development of the Advanced Village Movement for Agrarian Reform; land redistribution; recognition of women's rights, resulting from the resolution of agrarian conflicts over private plantation concessions (HGU); community economic development; and recognition of the rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Other topics discussed included the recruitment of agrarian fighters from the younger generation of farmers, Indigenous youth and women; accelerating the mapping and registration of customary territories as a basis for recognising Indigenous Peoples; developing the economy through Indigenous Community-Owned Enterprises (BUMMA); expanding and strengthening cooperatives owned by fishermen and women; encouraging legal recognition of products related to Indigenous Peoples at the regional level; and the Customary Forest Decree and RTRW policy.
In addition, the conference addressed victories of the civil society movement in its mission to uphold people's constitutional rights through a judicial review (lawsuit) process at the Constitutional Court, regarding the Farmers Protection and Empowerment Law (Perlintan), the International Agreement Law, the Plantation Law and the Omnibus Law on Job Creation (UUCK), which was declared unconstitutional.
"All the initiatives and successes of this people's movement are collective achievements,” explained Dewi Kartika, who also referred to criticism of the government, which she believes has proven itself to be “unable to implement true agrarian reform and fair management of natural resources."
She also implored all parties who share the same ideals and vision regarding social-ecological justice to work together to ensure that results from the people's struggle in the last 10 years become the agenda that guides the civil society movement. Informed by the results of regional conferences that culminated in the 2023 Tenurial Conference, this agenda should involve fighting for true agrarian reform and fair management of natural resources, while also offering direction for future government.
"After the conference, we will work together to ensure that the results of the conference become the main work programme for executive, judicial and legislative institutions at the national, provincial, district/city and village levels," concluded Dewi.
The 2023 Tenurial Conference was attended by 750 people from various regions, with women's representation reaching 37 percent. Presented by the Civil Society Coalition for Tenurial Justice, its aim was to spur improvements in governance related to land control for forests, coasts and waters. 2023 marked the third iteration the Tenurial Conference, following two previous conferences in 2011 and 2017, held in Lombok and Jakarta, respectively.
The Tenurial Conference involves all elements of civil society, including farmers, Indigenous communities, fisherfolk, women, workers and poor communities in rural and urban areas. As a result, all efforts and aspirations to improve policies are represented, and the rights of many members of society are accommodated.
Implementation of the 2023 Tenurial Conference was divided into three distinct parts, namely the national conference itself, supported by the pre-conference and post-conference agendas. The pre-conference agenda focused on conveying issues, experiences and success stories at the site level in order to strengthen the conference documents that had been prepared by the Substance Team.
The Tenurial Conference began with the Asia Share Learning activities, held in Bali from 28 May to 2 June 2023, followed by regional consultations in seven regions across Indonesia from 20-30 September 2023. The Conference was held to formulate proposals that would serve as recommendations for policy improvements regarding agrarian reform and natural resource management for policy makers, as well as providing a road map to be used within civil society when pushing this agenda.
This was followed by a national conference, which provided a space for finalising and legitimising the materials that had been created during the pre-conference. Finally, the post-conference created a national consensus and a road map that will be developed further into a strategic document.