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On the stumps loose

The prestigious environmental cooperation between Norway and Indonesia cost NOK 28 million and would save the rainforest. 16 years later, a quarter of the forest is fields. In 1993, Gro Harlem Brundtland advocated a mass deed for the world's biodiversity. Norway embarked on Sumatra's rainforests. The criticism of the Norwegian environmental projects that followed was merciless.


[indonesia] «The library of life is burning. We must put out the fire before it's too late, ”Gro Harlem Brundtland said in a speech to hundreds of scientists from 79 countries in 1993.

Norway's former prime minister – who at the time was given the title "world environment minister" after leading the work leading up to the Rio conference on environment and development in 1992 – aimed at the accelerating loss of biological diversity. Not least, this was due to the enormous destruction of the earth's rainforests.

In 1990, Norway and Indonesia signed an agreement on environmental cooperation, which focused on the conservation of biological diversity and the fight against deforestation. 16 years, 17 environmental projects and around 28 million Norwegian aid crowns later, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is inflating the two projects that are still being run.

The enormous destruction of rainforest areas in Riau Province on Sumatra is evidence of a development that has gone from bad to worse in the world's largest island kingdom. From 1990 to 2005, Indonesia lost a quarter of the country's forest area.

The reason why environmental cooperation in the present form is being revoked is an evaluation report prepared by Norconsult on order from Norad.

The report was submitted to Norad in June 2004, but has so far been unknown to the public. Norconsult is ruthless in its judgment against the projects in progress in the Riau province of Sumatra.

Here are some of the objections to the report's conclusions:

Over-ambitious goals have provided minimal opportunity for success.

  • Locals and indigenous people have not been included.
  • The training of the local players has been inadequate.
  • Technical assistance has been ad hoc, with no follow-up and quality control.
  • The capacity of the Indonesian Ministry of the Environment has been blown up.

- Everyone who was interested in knowing that knew well in advance that the Indonesian Ministry of the Environment did not have constitutional competence, technical capacity or time to carry out the Norwegian collaborative projects, says social anthropologist and environmental consultant Øyvind Sandbukt.

He is one of Norway's leading environmental and development experts in Indonesia, and has lived in the country for almost 20 years.

Ever since the environmental cooperation between Indonesia and Norway started in 1990, biological diversity has been at the center of the projects. Over the course of 16 years, four work programs with 17 projects have been implemented. However, despite the extensive cooperation, there has been little focus on the impact the projects have had.

The Ministry of the Environment and Norad, which was responsible for the first three work programs, inform Ny Tid that no external evaluation of the 15 projects related to these programs was carried out.

Only during the fourth and final work program, planned for 2001-2005, was Norconsult called in to conduct a mid-term evaluation. The program's two projects in the Riau province of Sumatra focus on the area in and around the Bukit Tigapuluh National Park and the Barelang and Bintan archipelagos.

The goal was to create a plan for local implementation of the Biodiversity Convention in Riau Province – with a focus on poverty reduction. It was yawning too much, Norconsult believes.

- There is a big mismatch between available resources and the objectives of the projects, says Kevin Burton, one of the authors of the evaluation report.

Should have taken the consequences

- The idea was sensible, namely to concentrate the funds on something that could give results. However, the project plans from the Norwegian side were poor, both in substance and structure. The implementation from the Indonesian and Norwegian sides was no better, says Øyvind Sandbukt.

The Indonesia expert believes that the Norconsult report gives a fairly realistic picture of "how bad this has been".

- It should probably have been more in the evaluation report about the shortcomings also on the Norwegian side. But those who designed the conditions for what Norconsult should evaluate, averted this, says Sandbukt, who is not gracious in his judgment of the Norwegian authorities' lack of willingness to learn.

- The Norwegian authorities, who were responsible for environmental cooperation, should have taken the consequences of the problems a long time ago. When the last work program started, they had already been working on similar projects for ten years. I could have given examples from these project implementations that would make the evaluated slaughtered environmental projects seem brilliant in terms of conditions, says Sandbukt.

Not satisfactory

In 2004, the same year that Norconsult presented its critical report, the Norwegian embassy in Jakarta assumed administrative responsibility for the environmental program.

- It is the embassy's conclusion that the recommendations in Norconsult's report were not followed up in a satisfactory manner, says embassy councilor Eva Irene Tuft.

- The embassy informed the Indonesian Ministry of Environment in August 2005 that it wanted to concretize a good end to the program. Due to lack of documentation, it has not been possible to hold the annual meeting where the form of the conclusion was to be decided, she adds.

According to the embassy council, Norway has nevertheless agreed that one can use 2006 to phase out the program in a sound way. To date, Norwegian authorities have donated just over NOK 20 million to the projects in Riau Province, out of a budget of NOK XNUMX million.

- Norway and Indonesia will continue to cooperate bilaterally within the environment, but then on a more general environmental policy level. It will not be in the form of a continuation of this program, says Tuft.

Despite the embarrassment of the embassy, ​​Tuft believes that Norway has achieved results of value.

- A strategic action plan has been prepared, both for sustainable natural resource management in Bukit Tigapuluh National Park with associated buffer zone, and for coastal zone management on the Baralang and Bintan islands. A working group involving stakeholders has also been set up. In the final phase of the program, the focus was on ensuring that the plans are well anchored by local authorities, Tuft concludes.

Sand Bay has little faith in this.

- It is difficult to expect that something particularly sensible can be achieved as the bilateral cooperation is organized, Sandbukt says.

Section Manager Jon Barikmo at the Directorate for Nature Management, on the other hand, believes that the Norconsult report is a work of haste. DN coordinates environmental cooperation with Indonesia.

- I am very critical of the evaluation report that Norconsult carried out for Norad. It was done very quickly and without quality assurance, says Barikmo.

DN and Barikmo have coordinated the Norwegian efforts in environmental cooperation between Norway and Indonesia since it began in 1990. Now he backs both against the Norconsult report's slaughter of the ongoing environmental program and against the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' decision not to continue the work.

- Norconsult did not even send the interviews they did with people in Indonesia for reading. At the same time, for example, they suggested that we remove elements from the program that we had already removed ourselves. It is also not true that we do not include representatives of the indigenous peoples in the project. In many areas, the Norconsult report is a target, says Barikmo.

He also points out that Indonesian environmental protection authorities have gone through the conclusions of the evaluation report point by point and rejected many of the points.

Nice walks

- There are many of the Norwegian players who think it is nice with pleasant and lucrative trips to Indonesia. This may contribute to a lack of will to really critical input, comments environmental consultant Sandbukt on his side.

Kim Loraas, project co-worker for the Rainforest Foundation in Indonesia, is also critical of the 16-year environmental cooperation.

- I do not know these projects in detail. But in general, it seems that they have not had enough focus on the rights of local people and indigenous peoples in the area. Among the most central problems in Indonesia are governance and corruption. This is important to take into account. Much of the timber that is illegally felled is smuggled out of the country to China under sanction by the military. The paper and cellulose industry also has a large overcapacity in relation to forest resources, says Loraas.

He believes that the Norwegian authorities must now learn from what went wrong in the 16 years that environmental cooperation has been.

- It can often be of little value to focus on technical aspects of local management plans, if one does not take relevant social and political factors as a starting point, says Loraas.

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