An Indonesian court has upheld public access to information, vital to public participation and the implementation of, inter alia, the Indonesia-EU Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA), concluded in 2009, ratified by Presidential Regulation Number 21 in 2014 and incorporated into Indonesian law.
Independent forest monitoring cannot work effectively in the absence of accurate data and, among its provisions, Annex IX of the VPA details the types of forestry information that must be made public by government bodies, in keeping with the provisions of Indonesia’s Public Information Disclosure Act, Number 14, 2008.
Unfortunately, transparency fell at the first hurdle: the Ministry of Environment and Forestry (MoEF) rejected Forest Watch Indonesia’s (FWI) request for pertinent information. FWI complained to the Central Information Commission, and won on 8 May 2015, with the court ruling that MoEF must immediately submit the requested information. MoEF has still not complied, appealing instead to an administrative tribunal.
The court decision grants FWI access to basic documents – such as General Planning on Timber Management and Timber Utilisation Permits – necessary for independent forest monitoring to support the Indonesian forestry system based on the VPA, and specifically Indonesia’s Timber Legality Assurance System.
As the attitude of MoEF illustrates, the involvement of the public is critical to ensuring good governance and to monitoring and implementing the VPA; and the disclosure of information is essential to that involvement.