The Jakarta Post
In his first 100 days as President, one major move Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo made was the merging of the environment and forestry ministries. It was a four-in-one act.
Under Presidential Regulation No. 16/2015 on the Environment and Forestry Ministry that Jokowi signed on Jan. 21, the functions of the REDD+ Managing Agency (BP REDD+) and the National Council on Climate Change (DNPI) are now under the wing of the Environment and Forestry Ministry. Indonesia's climate change program is consolidated into the Environment and Forestry Ministry's directorate general for climate change mitigation.
REDD+ is the national program to reduce carbon emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, a core climate change initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 41 percent in 2020 against business as usual levels. Given that more than two thirds of Indonesia's carbon emissions come from deforestation and peatland conversion, BP REDD+ played a determinant role in climate mitigation.
DNPI, meanwhile, was charged with climate policy formulation, and its executive chair was Indonesia's chief delegate in international climate negotiations. The argument for the merger, as underscored by Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar, is to prevent overlapping functions.
The benefits for merger are in line with two management rules Jokowi has pronounced. First is efficiency. On Dec. 4, Jokowi disbanded 10 state agencies and councils deemed as underperforming or unnecessary. Second is a stop of ministries harboring what he termed as egosectoral tendencies. Ministers should not have their own vision and mission. All must have an operational program that supports the President's vision and mission, Jokowi told his first Cabinet meeting Oct. 27.
In principle a merger was acceptable, viewed Abdon Nababan, secretary-general of the Alliance of Indigenous Peoples of Indonesia's Archipelago, AMAN.
The benefit of BP REDD+ merging into the Environment and Forestry Ministry was that, in the long term, the diverse concepts of legal, policy and institutional reform planned and developed by the UKP4, the REDD+ task force and BP REDD+ over the past four years could be implemented systematically and permanently in a structured form within the ministerial bureaucracy, Abdon explained. The UKP4 was president Susilo Bambang
Yudhoyono's delivery unit for Development Monitoring and Oversight. It drafted the REDD+ agency.
BP REDD+ had worked well. It should have been allowed to continue its work for another two years and then an assessment could have taken place as to whether a merger into the ministry was feasible, said Abdon, who has appreciated the contribution of BP REDD+ to the legal land rights of customary-based forest communities.
The argument against the merger can be equally plausible, if not impelling. In the case of the BP REDD+ , established by a 2013 presidential regulation and led by an agency head with ministerial status, its task was 'to help the President in coordinating, synchronizing, planning, facilitating, managing, monitoring, overseeing and controlling REDD+ in Indonesia'.
Coordinating means partnering with cross-sector stakeholders inside and outside the government. Its small but agile staff of 60 professionals allowed BP REDD+ to work fast across sectors. In its one year of operation, the agency signed MoUs of cooperation with 11 provinces and 76 districts that have large tracts of forest and peatland.
BP REDD+ was engaged in what it called 10 imperative actions. This ranged from monitoring the moratorium on the issuing of new licenses to convert forest and peatland, checking the one map policy to resolve overlapping sectoral permits, assisting in land-dispute resolution, the mapping of customary-based forest and capacity building of indigenous forest communities, to mitigating forest and peat fires and supporting spatial planning activities.
The argument for BP REDD+ to retain its independent status is that it had delivered measurable results. Likewise, the National Family Planning Coordinating Agency (BKKBN) also with a coordinating function, had delivered tangible results in bringing down Indonesia's birth rate, BKKBN could have been integrated into the Health Ministry but it was not.
When BP REDD+ was set up in August 2013, after a three-year gestation period, a prime consideration to allow it to perform unhindered was that the agency should be quasi-autonomous and sterile from the machinations of existing ministries.
The merger, moreover, on the downside, has international implications. BP REDD+ was sired by the 2010 letter of intent (LoI) on climate change partnership between Indonesia and Norway.
Norway agreed to contribute to Indonesia for its REDD+ efforts up to US$1 billion for verified reductions of greenhouse gas emissions. Section VI of the LoI emphatically states a special agency established, meaning BP REDD+, to implement Indonesia's REDD+ strategy reports directly to the President.
With the ministry merger, the responsible administrator for carbon emission reduction would be the director general for climate mitigation, who reports to the minister. Jokowi's ministers would have to renegotiate the LoI to safeguard the billion dollar pledge from Norway, insisting that the Environment and Forestry Ministry is the REDD+ administrator. In any case, the LoI remains valid until the end of 2016 but can be terminated at any time by either party.
Much depends now on how soon the ministry can go through its paradigm shift after its four-in-one merger. A sticking point would be the status of former BP REDD+ and DNPI staff.
Any lack of functional certainty for clear-cut deliverables could degrade, devitalize and degenerate the country's REDD+ action agenda. That in turn could delay, if not derail, Indonesia's pursuit to reach the 41 percent emissions reduction target in 2020.
BP REDD+ was engaged in what it called 10 imperative actions.
The writer teaches at Dr. Soetomo Press Institute (LPDS), Jakarta.
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