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UNODC extends fight against illegal logging and corruption to Kalimantan

Palangkaraya (Indonesia), 1 November 2011 - A UNODC assessment team visited Indonesia's Central Kalimantan province as a preliminary step to preventing illegal logging and corruption in the country's third-largest province.

Indonesia loses 1.6-2.8 million hectares annually (4-7 football pitches a minute) to illegal logging and land conversion due to a lack of effective management and law enforcement, estimates the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry. This is a major contribution to greenhouse gas emissions affecting global climate change.

Originally launched in Papua Province, the three-year project - "Countering Illegal Logging and the linkage between Forest Crime and Corruption in Indonesia" - aims to fight illegal logging and the illicit trade in forest products in Indonesia by strengthening the country's law enforcement and anti-corruption capacities.

At the request of the Government of Indonesia, the project will now be expanded to Central Kalimantan. A necessary first step was to introduce UNODC to local community service organizations, NGOs, prosecutors, police, Provincial Forestry and Forestry Conservation officers, and to conduct a needs assessment for training to counter illegal logging and corrupt practices in the forestry sector.

Located on the island of Borneo, Central Kalimantan is no stranger to environmental degradation. Financial crises in 1997 and 2002 worsened social, environmental and economic dislocations and provided opportunities for corruption. Huge tracts of carbon-dense peat land in Kalimantan have been cleared and burned to make way for lucrative palm oil and pulp and paper plantations. The burning creates haze that affects neighbouring countries and releases enormous amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

The UNODC assessment team was guided through deforested riverside areas bordering Sabangau National Park by a locally-born community empowerment officer, Mr. Dadang Riansyah, who believes that forest crimes and illegal logging are a cultural, social and political problem.

"Growing up here, I felt that the law enforcers actually allowed illegal logging - sometimes they even acted as foremen," Mr. Dadang.

"Plantation regulation now causes corrupt practices," Mr. Dadang argues, explaining that while some districts have fairly good local regulations, there are always problems with inept executors - the officer who issues an encroachment permit, the police, prosecutors, and even local non-governmental organisations.

Large palm oil plantation companies, he claimed, force contracts on villagers that pay only 50,000 rupiahs (US$ 6) per hectare of land and denied them access to the rivers, a source of food and their connection to the outside world.

The project seeks to strengthen the Special Responsive Police Forest Task Force (SPORC), improve the capacity of prosecutors and judges, and support civil society's response to illegal logging and corruption. It also aims to counter the enabling environment that corruption provides to illegal logging in Indonesia by strengthening the capacity of Indonesia's anti-corruption agencies and law officials to investigate, prosecute and adjudicate corruption cases linked to forest crimes. Use of the anti money laundering regime to target the kingpins behind forest crimes will be a key output.

"The community wants someone on their side and they want a sustainable livelihood. My hope is that the government will uphold the rule of law and give justice to natural resources management. They must be willing to collaborate, involving the people, the private sector and streamlined international assistance," he said.

The project is funded by Royal Government of Norway and supported by the Indonesia Ministry of Forestry, the Corruption Eradication Commission, Indonesian National Police, the Attorney General's Office and the Indonesian Financial Transaction Reports and Analysis Center.