Jakarta/Indonesia (19/2). After decade long complaints by many of the iconic industry actors, allegations by the NGOs against the paper and palm oil industry the re-elected cabinet of Jokowi the Indonesian Environment and Forestry Ministry has cut ties with WWF Indonesia.
Foresthints.news, a mouthpiece service for the Indonesian government stated from the Indonesian side the 1998 joint agreement was ended, with effect from the beginning of January this year, because the organization was determined to have committed violations of principles, violations of substance, as well as violations on the ground level.
In a written response posted on its website (Jan 28), WWF Indonesia lamented the ministry’s legal move, claiming it was made unilaterally with no room for direct communication or consultation to deliberate and reach a consensus, as stipulated in their cooperation agreement.
In reaction to this WWF claim, the Ministry’s Director General of Nature Conservation and Ecosystems Wiratno instead questioned the conservation organization’s lack of awareness about violations it has committed for years.
Observers noted that WWF is not the only NGO in the crosshairs of the administration. This applies for Friends of the Earth, the U.S. Rainforest Action Network and Greenpeace. The latter facing an variety of accusation ranging from Organized Racketeering, to mail wire fraud and fake news in great regularity. Many even called to abolish Greenpeace altogether.
However the problem with the NGOs is not a one-sided affair. The main culprits, APP/Sinar Mas and APRIL/RGE have a long history of corruption, environmental damage and social upheaval inviting the wrath of the NGOs. In a recent tweet the controversial APRIL group claimed its economic value proposition.
Since we opened our mill in 1993 we’re proud to have helped local communities and the Indonesian economy to grow, providing jobs, opportunities and sustainable development as we produce products used by millions of people around the world. See more here. #economy #infographic pic.twitter.com/bhiiG0XxLl
— APRIL Pulp and Paper (@APRILpulp) February 19, 2020
A claim many expert say is overstretching the truth. “Many corporations perform what I would call “green artistic accounting” for the benefits society supposingly gain. Reality is these colourful reports are difficult to prove.”, a senior EU policy advisor told the Brussel Observer.
“Whereas many in the public and policy domain think the green accounting schemes are simplistic and easy the facts show a complex array of methods to calculate if a company really is “sustainable”.” She added, “Many fail that tests and so should the claims made by the corporations taken with a large grain of salt.”
A Brussel based expert from the EU council pointed out, “If the of the claims made by companies like APRIL, APP, Wilmar or any of the commodity industry players be true, we would not have broken roads, no lights, no corruption, no erosion, no forest fires, no polluted water and a working health care system for the local people, prosperity and no social conflict. It’s that simple.”
“Today, 80 percent of the global paper and pulp and palm oil market is dominated by two families, the Tanotos and the Widjayas.”, he added, “that is crazy and violates any normal standard in doing business today. Its anti-competitive, it’s basically the old U.S. trusts leading to unfair practices, it invites fraud and abuse, as we have seen in the Asian Agri (RGE), tax fraud case. And moreover, it has been proven to destroy the habitat and environment.”
The Indonesians strike back
“Is it permissible for WWF to make work plans unilaterally, then raise funds from this and work beyond the boundaries of the joint written agreement? The answer to this is obviously a big no. Nonetheless, these practices have been carried out by WWF for years,” he said.
“WWF has not engaged in any communication or consultation either, nor has it reported any progress to the ministry as part of the implementation of the joint agreement. Is WWF not aware of this? Is WWF allowed to do this? Once again, this is obviously a big no,” the director general added.
WWF Indonesia is the majority shareholder of PT ABT, parts of whose ecosystem restoration concession were burned again in 2019 (as depicted in the photos below) after also being seriously affected by fires in 2015. This was also one of the key reasons underlying the ministry’s severing of cooperation with WWF.
Destroying WWF’s reputation?
WWF Indonesia, the country’s largest conservation organization, also wrote that the unilateral termination of the joint agreement is detrimental to the reputation it has built over more than half a century of active support for conservation and sustainable development efforts in Indonesia.
Wiratno once again refuted this assertion by WWF, saying “On the contrary, WWF is destroying its own reputation by working in transgressive ways that do not respect the joint agreement.”
“WWF has engaged in numerous unilateral practices in relation to the implementation of the joint agreement. As such, WWF has only itself to blame for harming its reputation,” he explained.
He strongly advised WWF to improve its own reputation, including by allocating sufficient resources to meet legal compliance in terms of forest fire control facilities and infrastructure in its company concession (PT ABT), as well as by restoring burned areas (as seen in the photos below) in line with the sanction imposed on it by the ministry.
Legal action welcomed
WWF, in its written response, went on to state that it is “also within our rights to consider other measures, including legal action, if appropriate.” Director General Wiratno retorted by encouraging the organization to consider legal action if it so wishes.
“We would certainly welcome any decision by WWF to take legal action because the ministry is very ready with a myriad of legal evidence to prove the serious violations this organization has committed for years in implementing the joint agreement.”
The ministry is accustomed to and often fights lawsuits in court, added the general director, especially against companies linked to forest and land fires.
“WWF also owns a company linked to fires which is now under sanction by the ministry. So, the WWF is welcome to go ahead with its option of taking legal action (against the ministerial decree),” he stressed.
Peat agency evaluating collaboration with WWF
“We are evaluating our collaboration (with WWF Indonesia) and of course the ministerial decree (which ended the joint agreement with the organization) will serve as a reference,” Peat Agency Chief Nazir Foead confirmed in writing in response to a question from foresthints.news (Jan 29).
The peat agency’s evaluation of its collaboration with WWF is appropriate given that one of the clauses of the ministerial decree clearly stipulates that the joint agreement between WWF and other government institutions linked to the coverage of forestry and environmental authorities cannot be used as a valid legal basis.