Fighting for ecological justice

The Importance of Supporting Independent Forest Monitors for Effective Forest Policy Implementation

Support for independent monitors is essential to provide space for the involvement of civil society in carrying out the function of checks and balances effectively in implementing forestry policies and improving governance in Indonesia. Christian Purba, a member of Kaoem Telapak, is working on this issue.

Christian Purba, usually called Bob, was born in Pematang Siantar, North Sumatra. Since his studies at the Faculty of Agriculture, IPB, he has been active as a nature lover student. Then in 1998/1999, when he was about to graduate from college, he joined as a volunteer at Kaoem Telapak, previously called Telapak. “At that time, there was a Java eagle observation project on Mount Salak,” said Bob.

For more than 23 years as an activist for social and environmental movements in Indonesia, his colleagues gave Bob the mandate as Chairman of the Governing Body and Executive Director of FWI, Vice President of TELAPAK, National Dynamics of JPIK, as well as a member of the National Water Resources Council (DSDAN) and the Forestry Council National (DKN).

Bob is active in the Independent Forest Monitoring Fund (IFM Fund), an institution committed to supporting independent forest monitors. “The stakeholders established IFM Fund in 2017, whose mandate is to strengthen independent monitoring through investigative activities, consolidation, capacity building, and publication of monitoring results,” said Bob.

Until now, the IFM Fund has facilitated various independent monitoring activities through 35 small grants spread across 15 provinces. However, Bob considers this number to be small compared to the areas they must monitor. “Hopefully, in the future, the support provided will be wider so that the range of monitoring friends will also be wider,” said Bob.

After that, Bob hopes that the IFM Fund can design a sustainable funding mechanism to continue supporting independent monitoring work without dependence on donor agencies.

Christian 'Bob" Purba, member of Kaoem Telapak

He added that his agency had identified several options, for example, taking an approach to access funding from the Environmental Fund Management Agency (BPDLH) or obtaining it from the cost of V-Legal certification. “So, independent monitoring work can retrieve funds from a certain percentage of the certification cost,” said Bob.

According to Bob, there are two internal and external challenges to finding and distributing funds for monitoring work. On the inner side, he considers that the IFM Fund’s capacity is still an intermediary, so it does not yet have the capacity as a trust fund. “There is a need to increase the capacity of the IFM Fund in managing and seeking funds,” Bob explained.

From the external side, the challenge is to integrate the independent monitor’s role into the SVLK system. So the system can give funding for monitoring works. “Including matters of access to information and safety when monitoring,” said Bob.

To answer this challenge, Bob thinks there needs to be an effort to sit down between the parties to discuss this issue. “This challenge must be discussed together, not only the independent monitors but all parties who consider the role of independent monitors important to maintain the credibility of implementing the SVLK policy,” he said.

To the government, Bob hopes that there will be regulations governing the funding mechanism for independent monitoring. “If V-Legal gives funding, It will need a regulation to maintain its independency,” said Bob.

To advocate for this regulation, Bob admits that there have been efforts to lobby, consult and dialogue with the government. However, he considered that the presence of this regulation still needed time.

For Bob, independent monitors remain an essential element in the development of forestry governance. There needs to be a party that consistently becomes a watchdog and strengthens public participation so that monitoring work can provide constructive input or correction. “We want good forest governance, sustainable forests, and prosperous communities,” said Bob.