Nature conservation in Indonesia in the 21" century will depend largely on the effectiveness of decentralization of the government. During the last three decades, under authoritarian and military government, Indonesia was able to achieve the reservation of a large proportion of land for state forest and nature conservation. The process, by which this occurred, however, alienated local people who have not been involved in decision-making over land use. The emerging democratic civil society that has resulted from the current reform movement (reformasi) offers the potential to redress this injustice. However, unless the current government is able to respond to demands for inclusiveness in resource management, the movement for greater regional autonomy will grow with pressure for in sub-ordination that lead to further fragmentation based on ethnic-driven politics, separation or even independence of the regions.
This study employs a framework for nature conservation that is based on a combination of top-down and bottom-up approaches. It measures qualitatively the effectiveness of nature conservation management. The dynamic nature of policies, especially in forestry and particularly in relation to biodiversity conservation, is used to illustrate the difficulties of long-term policy making and implementation in the face of short-term political changes. This work maps major causes of ineffective management from both directions.
The top-down and formal approach is largely influenced and controlled by the national elite and the international community in the field of development planning, sectoral planning and biodiversity conservation planning. The bottom-up and informal approach is driven mainly by nongovernment organizations that are concerned with land tenure, community participation and boundary marking. The in-effectiveness of nature conservation is a result of an imbalance evaluation and actions taken between the bottom-up community initiatives and top-down government regulation, which remains dominant.
In response to the ineffective management of nature reserves, several internationally-derived models have been piloted that seek to provide greater opportunities for, and less alienation of, local people than single land-use models. These include Integrated Conservation and Development Projects (ICDP), Biosphere Reserves, Adaptive Collaborative Management, Multistakeholder Forest Management Approach and Social Forestry projects. These approaches seek to foster a close relationship between government forest managers and local people. However, the legacy of the past three decades has been that the relationship between local people and forest managers has become increasingly tenuous, with little trust between stakeholders. Consequently, recommendations produced through the implementation of case studies of these approaches are ignored or treated at best as the right recommendation at the wrong time. Decentralisation, as part of government reform in Indonesia, may provide a way to improve the relationship.. The ideas and regulations of decentralisation have existed in Indonesian politics since early independence and the tension between decentralisation and centralisation has always existed. When the New Order Government of Suharto came to power more than three decades ago, the balance of political power was very much in the outer provinces. In subsequent years however, the need to maintain a strong and united nation led to the re-emergence of strong central government. Attempts by Suharto to move power back to the provinces received limited support by the strongly centralised bureaucracy. An implication of the economic meltdown of the late 1990s has been a fundamental shift towards decentralisation, initially under President B. J. Habibie and subsequently under the reform government of President Abdurrahman Wahid and currently under President Megawati Sukarnoputri.
This thesis was written during the most dynamic political, social, and economic period in Indonesian history, which began in the golden era of the new order government, continued during the reform era, and ended in the first democratically elected government. This situation brought contradictory consequences. The process of change has revealed a clearer picture of the power struggle between the national provincial and locals and clearly exemplified in natural resources management in general and in the forestry sector in particular. The study suggests that the forestry department exercises national policy largely independently of the other sectors and continues to resist decentralisation at the cost of effective on-ground management. The result is loss of natural capital and non-sustainability of many protected areas.
Findings emerging from this study indicate that first world derived initiatives in reserve based nature conservation that continue to rely largely on the biophysical characteristics of the landscape alone, do not guarantee the effectiveness of management. The application of these approaches in such a populous country as Indonesia has created social stress and can only be sustained under an authoritarian government system. Once such a government loses its power and capacity to enforce its authority, the consequences of this latent social stress can be expected to emerge.
To balance the institutional or formal and informal natural resources management evaluation, reformed government needs to invert the emphasis on evaluation from centrally driven to locally-driven. The proposed strategy involves adjustment to imbalance distribution of arable land to increase the allocation of lands to communities from the forest estate; encourage popular participation in decision-making process regarding natural resources management; and exercise spatial planning reform considering redistribution of land resources from centrally owned companies to deliberately implement affirmative action to local community.
A solution to forest sector policy problems cannot be separated from overall government policy. It is proposed that land reform by way of redistribution of forest resource control to balance state and local community responsibilities and authority is the solution to the complex problem of natural resources management in Indonesia. Such a solution is becoming feasible given the current socio-political changes, where decentralisation and power devolution may shorten the distance between the decision-maker and the people. The solution proposed in this study lies beyond the decision making process of forestry, but will clearly affect forestry management in the future. This proposed solution requires a higher level of commitment than at the ministerial sector level and will involve whole of government commitment and possibly constitutional reform. A major shift in power relations from the centre to the periphery is needed. This will involve major changes in the current resource management paradigm that relies on centralist power.