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Realizing Social-Ecological Justice through Agrarian Reform and Natural Resource Management

By. Rabiyatul Adawiyah

A coalition of civil society organizations and communities held the third Tenure Conference on October 16-17, 2023, at the Gelora Bung Karno Multipurpose Building in Jakarta. The conference aims to encourage the implementation of agrarian reform and natural resource management to realize social-ecological justice.

The conference began with a series of regional discussions in seven regions in September to address the agrarian crisis throughout Indonesia. The results served as a reference for drafting a national consensus document through the 2023 Tenure Conference.

The conference commenced with a ritual for the safety and smooth running of the event conducted by indigenous people from Kasepuhan Cikarang. This was followed by the presentation of the results from the Regional Conferences held in Java, Bali Nursa, Papua, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Sumatra, Maluku and the Small Islands, as well as a National Dialogue on agrarian and natural resource social-ecological justice was also held, featuring speakers representing various movements, academics, religious organizations, cultural leaders, and the younger generation.

The 2023 Tenure Conference is very important because the accumulation of agrarian problems and natural destruction that amputate the basic rights of the community is increasingly massive on a national scale. This multidimensional crisis requires a response, attitude, and collective action from the civil society coalition network for tenure justice and other people’s movements,‘ said Dewi Kartika, Chair of the Steering Committee at the opening of the 2023 Tenure Conference.

In her presentation, Dewi Kartika also stated that this conference was strategically important to build a national consensus on the ideals of social-ecological justice, through genuine agrarian reform and equitable natural resource management. The consensus in the future was expected to become a strategic agenda, an offering, as well as a demand for solutions from civil society movements across sectors to policy makers and government administrators in the future.

The Consortium for Agrarian Reform (KPA) noted that during the two periods of Joko Widodo’s administration, as many as 2,710 agrarian conflicts occurred in Indonesia, which were dominated by plantation concessions. Meanwhile, 72% of natural resource conflicts were caused by private companies, and 13% occurred in National Strategic Projects (PSN).

The land tenure inequality index has reached a peak of inequality that has never occurred in history before, where 1% of entrepreneurs and financiers control 68% of the country’s wealth assets. In the oil palm plantation sector alone, approximately 25 company groups and conglomerates dominate the control of 16.3 million hectares of land, with 30.7 hectares of forest area claimed by 500 companies. Meanwhile, the mining business covers 37 hectares in all regions of Indonesia,‘ Dewi Kartika added.

In addition to land and natural resources that are only seen as economic goods so as to eliminate the value and function of social, cultural, religious and dignity of the land, the 2023 Tenure Conference also highlighted the many challenges and threats, such as the fertile practice of agrarian- natural resource corruption by the state and the neglect of the principles of Gender Equality, Disability and Social Inclusiveness (GEDSI). This conference became a forum for consolidating civil society movements across sectors such as farmers, laborers, indigenous peoples, fishermen, urban poor communities and CSOs outside the tenure coalition. A total of 750 participants attended from Sabang to Merauke and 37.2% of them were women, who are also members of indigenous communities.

KEMITRAAN is one of the members of the tenure coalition, through Laode Muhammad Syarif, Executive Director of KEMITRAAN at the media gathering for the Tenure Conference stated that the government needs to fulfill its promise to protect vulnerable groups, one of which is by passing the Indigenous Peoples Bill. The ratification of this bill is also one of the things that will be emphasized at the Tenure Conference.

Women and Double Burden

Various agrarian issues were raised at the conference through 10 panel discussions held over two days. These included Tenurial issues in the Authority, Special Region, and Special Autonomy areas. Secondly, the challenges faced by women, the young generation, marginalized, and vulnerable groups in the multidimensional Agrarian-SDA crisis were discussed. Thirdly, tenure of fishermen’s catchment areas, customary territories, and community living areas on coastal and small islands was examined. Fourthly, political and policy obstacles hindering the achievement of food sovereignty were analyzed. Fifthly, labor conditions in the extractive industry sector (mining, plantations, forestry, etc.) were scrutinized. Additionally, the position of civil society on climate change, energy transition, and carbon trading was deliberated upon. The conference also focused on reforming the recognition of various Agrarian-SDA rights and wealth, as well as on protecting and fulfilling human rights for environmental, agrarian, and indigenous community advocates. Lastly, Reflection and learning of people’s victories for the establishment of institutions to implement True Agrarian Reform and natural resource management.

“In our village women have no space to speak, if women speak then the men will disagree. The forest is our place to speak, for a source of life, but our forest is cut down. So indigenous women unite to fight for their forests, because the forest provides for their children. The government does not respond at all to this problem,” explained Mama Marice, Chairperson of the AMAN Tobati Women’s Committee, Jayapura when sharing in panel 2 on Women, young people, marginalized and vulnerable groups in the multidimensional agrarian-sda crisis.

In the same panel, Hasnia from the Sumbawa Coastal Women’s Community said that the burden of women is not only in the domestic but also in the public sphere, as they are considered to have obligations and are required to support their husbands to earn additional income. This results in women not being involved in broad domains, and not being actively involved in gender issues. Therefore, it is important to conduct critical education as the main capital so that they are not easily exploited and build their awareness immediately.

Advocate for the ratification of the draft laws (bill) on Indigenous Peoples and Agrarian Reform.

The 2023 Tenure Conference produced national consensus and strategies for the realization of social-ecological justice through agrarian reform and natural resource management, both for civil society and the government in the future. The following are four proposed recommendations, namely first, straightening and correcting paradigms, policies, practices of agrarian reform, and natural resource management, as well as other regulations that are counter to social-ecological justice, as well as recommendations for drafting the Agrarian Bill and accelerating the ratification of the Indigenous Peoples Bill.

Secondly, institutional reforms are needed to ensure the realization of agrarian reform and equitable natural resource management. Thirdly, there is a need to accelerate and develop state recognition of the diversity of forms of control over agrarian wealth – natural resources, both on land, coastal areas, and small islands. Fourthly, it is essential to ensure the protection, respect, and fulfillment of human rights for indigenous peoples, farmers, fishermen, and women who are striving to protect the environment, customary territories, and land and sea.

This conference recognizes and acknowledges that many victories have been achieved by grassroots movements that have been struggling to restore the rights of vulnerable communities in agrarian conflicts. However, these victories will not be sufficient if they are not complemented by support from higher-level movements. The four recommendations are expected to encourage the government to establish an equitable and inclusive mechanism for all levels of society.