Senior Research Fellow, Energy, Environment and Resources
Research Associate, Energy, Environment and Resources

The Indonesian government has taken a number of important steps to tackle illegal logging and the associated trade but  implementation and enforcement challenges remain, in particular a poorly functioning decentralized governance system, persistent corruption and insufficient transparency of information.

Timber and logging railroad used to transport logs made by illegal loggers at Kerumutan protected tropical rainforest on July 12, 2014 in Riau province, Sumatra, Indonesia. Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images.Timber and logging railroad used to transport logs made by illegal loggers at Kerumutan protected tropical rainforest in Riau province, Sumatra, Indonesia. Photo by Getty Images.

This paper is part of a broader Chatham House study which assesses the global response to illegal logging and the related trade.

The Indonesian government has taken a number of important steps to tackle illegal logging and the associated trade, most notably with the ratification of the Indonesia–EU FLEGT voluntary partnership agreement in 2014. The process of negotiating this agreement has contributed to the introduction of a national timber legality verification system (SVLK), clarification of the relevant legal framework and significantly improved engagement with stakeholders in the forest sector. There have also been important developments in recognizing indigenous peoples’ tenure rights to forest land and resources.

However, implementation and enforcement challenges remain. In particular, progress is hampered by a poorly functioning decentralized governance system, persistent corruption and insufficient transparency of information.

The private sector has responded positively, with growing awareness of the issue of illegal logging. While uptake of voluntary legality verification has recently declined, with the need for this now circumvented by the introduction of the SVLK, the area of forest certified as being managed sustainably increased in 2012.

An analysis of data on timber production and consumption suggests that illegal logging has decreased since 2000, and the findings of the expert perceptions survey tend to confirm this for the period 2010 to 2013. In part, these findings reflect a shift towards plantations and away from natural forest harvesting. However, legal ambiguity over the permitting process for forest conversion may mean that levels of illegality are higher than these data suggest.

Building on the government’s response to illegal logging will require effective implementation of the SVLK including addressing identified shortcomings. Improved land-use planning to support effective control and monitoring of forest conversion is also needed. Increased resources and training for enforcement officials are required, while efforts to tackle corruption in the sector should be stepped up. The government should clarify the rights of indigenous peoples through concrete actions such as developing clear processes for mapping and registering their land claims.