EU Owning Up to Illegal Activity in Indonesia
By Hwaa Irfan
The beauty of craftsmanship reveals itself most through natural resources’ like wood. Not many would deny that, and therefore spend much on handcrafted materials made from wood. The amount of money some people are ready to spend on the basic craftsmanship that is churned out of factories to be displayed at exorbitant prices, with a limited wear and tear once bought is part of the materialist mentality. The industrialized processes have undermined not only that craftsmanship through mass production, but have also devoured those natural resources like wood.
At last, not only has the EU owned up to the deforestation of the natural resources of Indonesia, measures have been put in place to discontinue illegal logging. The agreement between the EU and Indonesia means that the EU will have to comply with Indonesian environmental law, which prevents the exportation of the wood obtained from illegal logging. This falls in line with the U.K. Forest Partnership for Action’ s 2002 report, which was committed to signing a Memorandum of Understanding with Indonesia. The problem was outlined as follows:
“Illegal logging and associated trade is a big problem. It denies a livelihood to many poor people, robs governments of billions of dollars, results in environmental degradation and provokes and sustains conflicts in several parts of the world. It is a consequence of poor governance, at local, national and international levels. Countries that import illegal timber are part of the problem: they sustain demand for illegal products.
“The UK allegedly imports significant quantities of illegal timber and timber products. The issues are how to exclude illegal timber from markets and help producing countries ensure supplies are legal and come from well-managed forests.”
The Forests of Indonesia
It was only 50 years ago, that Indonesia was a dense forest, 40% of which has been lost to deforestation within the last 50 years alone! Over 2 million hectares annually have been lost to illegal logging with the growing demand for wood fibre to produce plywood, pulp and paper. The level of corruption form former President Suharto contributed greatly to the problem as he awarded relatives and friends concessions. After his term as President in 1998, the people demanded greater accountability and transparency including members of the forest dependent communities. Nearly all the forests are state owned, but they are home to 30 million people, who live by traditional means i.e. off the land, through the cultivation of rice and other crops, herbs, herbal medicines, fishing, hunting, harvesting of honey, rattan, and resins for sale.
Indonesia is one of the top five countries rich in diversity of plants, mammals, birds, and reptiles. Possessing 11% of the world’s species of the plant kingdom, 16% of the world’s species of the bird kingdom, and 10% of the world’s species of the animal kingdom the tropical forests of Indonesia are as important to global biodiversity, and natural resources for medicines for example, coming third after Brazil, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. With towering trees that reach up to 50 metres into the sky, the rich evergreen lowlands, seasonal monsoon forests, savannah grasslands, alpine areas, and the most extensive mangrove in the world, are home to the orang-utan, rhinoceros, the tiger, and the elephant, of which the Balinese and the Javan tiger have become extinct.
Signs of Change
The forests of Indonesia have been accurately ranked as the most threatened, with Europe imports from Indonesia totalling $1.2bn (£720m) annually. As such, has become the first country to sign the Voluntary Partnership Agreement, with Liberia, W. Africa to follow and three other African countries. Companies looking to export will have to track their goods from source to export port with independent auditors to verify and report back to a joint Indonesian-EU committee. At the same time, this calls on a level of honesty and transparency to ensure the standards have been complied to, and that some degree of corruption is afoot.
Black, R. “EU and Indonesia Sign Illegal Timber Deal.” http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-13272393
“Indonesia’s Forests in Brief.” http://www.globalforestwatch.org/english/indonesia/forests.htm
World Resource Institute. “The State of the Forest: Indonesia.”