Indigenous People and Customary Land Ownership Under Domestic REDD+ Frameworks: A Case Study of Indonesia


Glen Wright
ANU College of Law
The Australian National University
Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia



Deforestation is an immense, complex and multifaceted problem, responsible for approximately fifteen percent of global emissions of carbon dioxide. The primary international response to deforestation and land degradation has been the development of the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Land Degradation (REDD+) mechanism whereby developed nations pay developing nations to keep their forests standing and well-managed, and generating carbon credits that can be sold on international carbon markets or used to offset other emissions.

The international legal arrangements for REDD+ are not yet finalised, yet projects are already being implemented, adding new voices and complexities to forest governance. A particular concern is the well-being of the people that live in forests – customary land owners and Indigenous People – and the need to ensure the recognition and protection of their rights.

This paper aims to explore the interaction between domestic legal frameworks implementing the REDD+ mechanism and customary land ownership by using the regulatory regime of Indonesia as a case study. The paper will analyse the domestic legal framework for land ownership, customary law and customary tenure, forestry and REDD+ in Indonesia, and assess how REDD+ projects interact with the rights of Indigenous People under this framework. This analysis explores how threats to Indigenous People and customary land ownership are entrenched at the domestic level.

The paper concludes that very little security of tenure is provided to Indigenous People by Indonesia’s domestic REDD+ legal framework and that this shortcoming is likely to result in poor protection of customary land rights under the REDD+ mechanism, regardless of the protection afforded by an eventual international agreement. The paper also notes that Indigenous People are unlikely to be protected unless land tenure reforms are undertaken as a matter of priority to ensure secure customary land tenure. Strong tenure must be used as the basis for the interaction of Indigenous People with the REDD+ mechanism.


Customary land ownership, forestry law, indigenous people, Indonesia, land law, REDD+ mechanism.             LEAD Journal - ISSN 1746-5893