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UN Special Envoy Hans Brattskar visits the Kajang people of South Sulawesi

Last week Hans Brattskar – former state secretary of Norway and current special envoy on forest, sustainable development, indigenous people and local communities to the UN Development Programme visited Indonesia.

– Without the forest the world would lose its essence of life. Forests preserve the water source, the fertility of the soil, and is the source of our cultural preservation. Without the forest, the land becomes a desert

The Ammatoa, customary leader of the Kajang people

Mr. Brattskar has been to Indonesia on several occasions, including during the period when the Letter of Intent for the bilateral partnership on REDD+ between Norway and Indonesia was negotiated five years ago. At the time he was Director of the Norwegian International Climate and Forest Initiative.

During his visit, Brattskar met with government officials and civil society representatives in Jakarta, including Minister of Environment and Forestry Siti Nurbaya; well-known NGO representatives from organizations like AMAN, Walhi, WARSI, HUMA, Epistema, Samdhana, JKPP, Wetlands International Indonesia, CIFOR and World Resources Institute.

He also met with close partners from the international community. At the top of his agenda was to take stock of the situation regarding customary (adat) rights, including the follow-up of the implementation of the MK35 constitutional court ruling on adat rights to land. He also discussed this year’s devastating fire and haze problem which has affected millions of people in the region.

During the last two days of his visit, Brattskar and representatives from the Norwegian Embassy as well as the Norwegian International Climate and Forest initiative in Oslo travelled to south-Sulawesi with partner organisations Kemitraan and AMAN South Sulawesi to meet and talk with the customary group Kajang in Bulukumba district.

By coincidence we learnt that only days before the visit, a local regulation by the district parliament had been approved which recognized the Kajang people and their customary territories. The local government and AMAN South Sulawesi has been working closely to support this process, which started in 2008.

The Kajang have very strict customary rules regarding the use and exploitation of the natural resources within their territories. The community follow Pasang (message/norms) as their principle and guidance of life. Pasang includes rules about Honesty, Assertiveness, Consistence between words and action and Unity in kindness. Pasang also includes strict rules on sustainable management of the community forests and its resources. Because of this, the forest within their territory has been managed well for decades.

The head of the District Forest office, ibu Misbawati expressed that “the forest of the Kajang people is the forest that is best managed in the district. The recent formal recognition through Perda (local regulation) is a critical initial step for converting the status into customary forest”.

In the inner territory of the Kajang people the delegation paid respects to their customary leader – the Ammatoa. Brattskar, who will participate in various events during this year’s climate conference in Paris, asked the Ammatoa what message he would like to give to the world. His response was that he would like the UN and Norwegian delegates to convey to the world how the Kajang people live and use their forest and natural resources.