Monday, December 17, 2007

Indonesia to build nuclear reactor

Indonesian authorities have given the go-ahead to build the country's first nuclear power plant on the densely-populated island of Java, with the aim of producing electricity by 2016.

Atomic and Nuclear Energy Agency spokesman Deddy Harsono says the site of the project, the Muria peninsula on Central Java province's north-east coast, was chosen for its tectonic and volcanic stability - a major concern in a country that sees regular eruptions and earthquakes.

Mr Harsono says the project will be tendered in 2008, for start of construction in 2010 and production in 2016.

The project, which was shelved in 1997 due to mounting public opposition and the discovery and exploitation of the large Natuna gas field, involves the construction of four plants, each with a 1,000 megawatt capacity.

Under the original plans, 12 nuclear power plants were slated for the northern coast of Java, with a total capacity of 7,000 megawatts.

Indonesia, the world's fourth most populous country with more than 214 million people, currently relies on hydro, coal and fuel-generated electricity.

The rapid growth in energy consumption has required Jakarta to double its electricity production over the past 25 years.

Critics of the nuclear project, including legislators, environmentalists and academics, say Indonesia has many alternative energy sources and that a decision on whether to build the plants should rest with the people.


Indonesia Benefit From World Bank-UNODC Stolen Asset Recovery (StAR) Initiative Report

The Jakarta Post - September 26, 2007

Mas Achmad Santosa and Nenad Bago, Jakarta

During his visit to the U.S. to attend the UN General Assembly this week, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is slated to meet World Bank President Robert Zoellick to discuss the joint World Bank-UNODC Stolen Asset Recovery (StAR) Initiative Report.

This report ranked former president Soeharto at the top of its list of the most corrupt political leaders. Soeharto's ill-gotten money is estimated at between US$15 billion and $35 billion, which he allegedly embezzled during his tenure from 1967 to 1998.

The essence of the StAR Initiative, prepared by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the World Bank (WB), is to introduce an action plan that emphasizes international and global cooperation to help victim countries (i.e., developing countries) recover assets stolen and hidden by former political leaders and their associates.

StAR also underlines the critical importance of cooperation between developed countries, especially the financial center jurisdictions (which often serve as havens for assets stolen by former political leaders), and the developing countries from where assets were stolen.

Learning from countries such as Nigeria, Peru and the Philippines, which have enjoyed some recent successes in the recovery of assets stolen by their former political leaders, Sani Abacha, Alberto Fujimori and Ferdinand Marcos, respectively, it is clear that the asset recovery process is time-consuming -- it took Nigeria 6-7 years, Peru 4 years and the Philippines 18 years -- and costly due to expensive legal and investigation fees.

There have been already been some attempts to recover assets allegedly stolen by Soeharto. They include a move by President BJ Habibie to send then attorney general Andi Ghalib and justice minister Muladi to Switzerland back in 1999. The pair returned home empty handed. The government has intervened in the case involving Soeharto's son Tommy and Paribas Bank in Guernsey, which is currently underway, and has filed a civil suit in the Jakarta District Court aimed at getting back the assets of foundations established by Soeharto.

The efforts of post-Soeharto governments to recover stolen assets needs to be translated into a clear national strategy with a clear action plan that includes international support.

Therefore, the result of the meeting between SBY and the World Bank and UN agencies this week will reveal the extent of the current government's political will.

There are two main reasons why SBY should show strong political will in recovering the assets allegedly stolen by Soeharto. First, it will be a burden on the nation that will have far-reaching moral and historical consequences if we don't overcome the obstacles that are impeding the process of returning the assets allegedly stolen by Soeharto. Second, two influential international reports (TI's Corruption Perception Index and the StAR Initiative report) that have named Indonesia as one of the most corrupt countries in the world, and Soeharto as the most corrupt political leader in the world have implications for national pride and Indonesia's international standing.

Indonesia needs a clear strategy for asset recovery. Under the StAR initiative, Indonesia should contact the governments that have successfully recovered stolen assets, including Nigeria, Peru and the Philippines, to learn about their experiences.

Generally, as StAR points out, little can be achieved without the effective cooperation and good will of the countries where proceeds of corruption are hidden. Jurisdictions where stolen assets are hidden, often in developed countries, may not be responsive to requests for legal assistance.

While the entering into force of the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) is a big step forward, it is important to realize that half of the G-8 countries have yet to ratify it. Even when the conditions are right for pursuing asset recovery, some developed countries may not cooperate as they do not trust the requesting country, lack confidence in their legal systems, or for political reasons.

Therefore, StAR is relevant to Indonesia in both the short and long terms. In the short term, StAR can put pressure on countries where assets are hidden to seriously engage in the asset recovery process. StAR can also provide support to Indonesia through financial and technical assistance for its own asset recovery efforts. In the longer term, StAR can assist Indonesia to strengthen its legal and public financial management systems by supporting initiatives that will lead to good governance in these areas.

Indonesia also needs to show everyone, at home and abroad, that it intends to use the recovered assets in a transparent and accountable manner so as to support domestic programs aimed at alleviating widespread poverty.

The writers are legal reform and anticorruption analysts.

Making democracy work, Islamically

Indonesia’s Muslim educators support democracy, but grapple with how to make that commitment consistent with Islamic law.

*Robert W Hefner*

Ever since the Taliban rolled into Kabul, Afghanistan on 26 September 1996, many people have asked whether Islamic schools are the fount from which contemporary Islamist radicalism flows. In the weeks following the departure of Indonesia’s authoritarian President Suharto in May 1998, political observers expressed similar concerns about Indonesia’s Islamic schools. Just days after Suharto’s departure, dozens of Islamist paramilitaries, many with ties to Islamic boarding schools, sprang up in towns across the country. Many launched ‘sweeping’ campaigns, looking for alleged purveyors of drugs, alcohol, and sex, as well as young women unfortunate enough to be found out and about without a head scarf. In several locales, militias engaged in street-battles with Christians, democracy activists, and even the local police.

More than anything else, however, it was the October 2002 terrorist bombings of a beachfront pub in south Bali that pushed concerns about Indonesia’s Islamic schools to a new high. Students from an Islamic boarding school in Lamongan, East Java were eventually convicted of the crime. They and several of their teachers were shown to have ties to the al-Mukmin boarding school in Central Java. Al-Mukmin is the boarding school founded by Abu Bakar Ba`asyir, a senior Islamic scholar who is
widely thought to have served for several years as the spiritual leader of the terrorist organisation, Jemaah Islamiyah (JI). For some Indonesian observers, facts like these confirmed that at least some of Indonesia’s Islamic schools had been turned into training camps for terrorist militants.

The forward-looking mainstream

However, Islamic education in Indonesia is nothing if not varied, and its central streams look little like the radical fringe. With some 11,000 Islamic boarding schools (pesantren) and 36,000 Islamic day schools (madrasah), Indonesia has one of the largest Islamic educational sectors in the world. A full 13 per cent of the country’s elementary school population receives their primary education in Muslim day
schools. More than twice that number take evening or weekend religious classes at Islamic schools. About one per cent of Indonesia’s Islamic schools might be described as socially radical, and the number that seems inclined to support militant violence is no more than a few dozen.

Far more representative of the educational mainstream, then, is Indonesia’s system of State Islamic Universities (UIN, IAIN). Under the leadership of Mukti Ali – who was Minister of Religion from 1971-1978),Indonesia’s Ministry of Religion undertook an ambitious modernisation of the state Islamic colleges, which had been formally established in 1960.

Today, every student admitted to the state Islamic university system fulfills divisional studies requirements that begin with courses on Islamic history and contextualising methodologies for the study of Islam. With their undogmatic emphasis on alternative interpretations of key historical events, these courses use methods similar to those in comparative religion programs in the West, but rarely used in higher education in other Muslim countries.

Since the early 2000s, seven of the state Islamic universities have begun a far-reaching restructuring that includes establishing new faculties in non-religious fields like medicine, psychology, general education, and business. No less surprising, since 2004, all students entering the state Islamic system have been required to take a civics course which introduces students to the ideals of democracy, civil society, and human rights. No where else in the Muslim world do Muslim colleges provide comparable instruction on democratic values. One reason
this is so significant is that the state Islamic college system acts as a cultural broker for new ideas and programs to most of Indonesia’s 47,000 Islamic schools.

Democracy and God’s law

The question these broad-minded reforms raise is whether the democratic values being promoted in the state Islamic system are in fact representative of general cultural currents among Muslim educators. In an effort to examine Muslim educators’ views on Islam and democracy, in early 2006 I worked with staff at Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University in Jakarta to carry out a survey of 940 Muslim educators in
100 madrasah and Islamic boarding schools in eight provinces in Indonesia. The survey had 184 questions, the aggregate results of which are too complex to present here. But even a summary overview of the educators’ views is revealing.

Indonesian Muslim educators’ ideas on democracy are neither
formalistic nor crudely majoritarian; they also extend to
subtle civil rights.

The most interesting of the survey’s findings concern educators’ views on democracy and syariah, or Islamic law. An impressive 85.9 per cent of Muslim educators agree that democracy is the best form of government for Indonesia. In surveys of Muslim public opinion in other countries, analysts have greeted results like these with scepticism, claiming that the concept of democracy respondents had in mind is just majority rule, with little concern for another of democracy’s key ingredients, civil
and minority rights. The Indonesian survey, however, had a battery of questions designed to get at these latter points. The results confirm that Indonesian Muslim educators’ ideas on democracy are neither formalistic nor crudely majoritarian. In fact, the educators’ views extend to subtle civil rights.

These rights include support for the idea of equality before the law (94.2 per cent of educators agree); freedom to join political organisations (82.5 per cent); protections for the media from arbitrary government action (92.8 per cent); and the notion that party competition improves government performance (80 per cent). These figures are as high as comparable data collected by the World Values Survey for Western Europe and the United States.

If this was all there was to educators’ attitudes on Islam and democracy, the results would be brightly optimistic indeed. However, educators’ views on democracy are not stand-alone. They co-exist with an almost equally strong commitment to syariah. For example, notwithstanding the strength of their commitment to democracy, 72.2 percent of the educators believe the state should be based on the Qur’an and Sunnah (traditions of the Prophet Mohammed) and guided by religious experts. A full 82.8 per cent of educators think the state should work to implement syariah. Support for syariah wobbles on a few points. For example, it drops to 59.1 per cent when the regulation in question concerns the amputation of thieves’ hands, or government efforts to require performance of the Ramadan fast (only 49.9 per cent agree). On
these matters, at least, some educators seem to have second thoughts about a too-literalist implementation of the law.

Nonetheless, when asked whether inobservant Muslims should be allowed to serve in the National Assembly, 74.3 per cent of educators feel they should not. A full 64.4 per cent agree with ongoing campaigns in Indonesia to implement Islamic law. On matters of women and non-Muslim religious minorities, we see a similar tension between educators’ enthusiasm for democracy and their commitment to syariah. Some 93.5 per cent of the educators believe that a non-Muslim should not be allowed to serve as president. A full 55.8 per cent feel that women should not be allowed to run for the office. Some 51.3 per cent feel that women do not have the intellectual capacity to serve as judges. About 20 per cent would bar non-Muslims from teaching in public schools; a similar percentage want to ban non-Muslims from performing religious services near the neighborhood in which the interviewee resides. Twice that percentage would bar non-Muslims from erecting houses of worship in the same area. In short, on three matters – gender, non-Muslims, and the place of Islamic law in government itself – the educators’ do not appear to be particularly tolerant.

The sacred and the practical

We see in these survey data, then, the tip of a larger problem for Muslim politics and public ethics. The Muslim educators’ stated commitments to democracy, freedom of assembly, and freedom of the press are about as strong as anywhere in the democratic world. However, on religious matters, Indonesian Muslims are not secularist liberals.
Where a democratic principle runs up against an issue on which syariah is seen as having something to say, most educators feel that they must defer to syariah. At times this deference results in judgments that many observers, including most Muslim theorists who write on democracy, would regard as undemocratic.

However, in the complex circumstances of actual life, the tension between syariah and democracy does not appear to be as clear-cut as these survey data initially indicate. However strong educators’ support for syariah, most do not vote for parties dedicated to implementation of Islamic law. An additional battery of interviews that I carried out with 200 educators between 2004 and 2007 revealed that fewer than 30 per cent
said they had voted for an Islamist party advocating the implementation of syariah, and fewer than 10 per cent voted for parties advocating the law’s immediate implementation.

Does this mean that the data indicating broad support for syariah are inaccurate or, alternately, that Muslim educators are hypocrites? The discrepancy between the survey data and electoral choices can be interpreted in several ways, but, based on my interviews, I think it reflects two primary influences. First, the discrepancy shows that Indonesian Muslims do indeed believe that syariah is God’s direct and sacred guidance for humanity. Rejecting syariah amounts to rejecting God’s commands. That is something most educators are not prepared to do.

Most Muslim educators affirm the importance of syariah but
want its implementation to be consistent with justice and

Second, and some might think paradoxically, this idealised commitment to syariah does not result in most Muslims making immediate implementation of the law their first political priority. Some interviewees pointed out that syariah can only be implemented in its entirety when a fully just social order is in place (which may be a very long time indeed). Until that time, stoning adulterers and amputating thieves’ hands is just not consistent with the broader conviction that syariah is supposed to be a blessing for humanity. Whereas conservative Islamists insist the meaning of the law is clear and unambiguous, some interviewees pointed that it is in fact neither, but requires continual contextualisation.

Rather than agreeing with the radical Islamist claim that syariah is the key to solving Indonesia’s problems, then, most Indonesian Muslim educators seem to engage in a subtle rational calculus as to the proper approach to the law’s enactment. They affirm the law’s importance, but are keen to make sure that its implementation is consistent with their general ideas on justice and fairness.

If this conclusion is correct, it means that the educators’ commitment to syariah is sincere, and a social fact that all political analysis must acknowledge. But the commitment coexists with an equally significant recognition that tackling the practical challenges of modern government and society requires effective empirical measures, not just vague invocations of the benefits of God’s law. Parties or actors that can demonstrate that implementing syariah can solve practical problems may yet be able to tap this otherwise amorphous reservoir of support for God’s law. But those that simply repeat that the law is a panacea for all society’s problems will not necessarily be rewarded for their views.

Inasmuch as attitudes like those of the educators are widespread in Indonesian society (and other surveys indicate that they are), these findings suggest that Muslim Indonesians are likely to continue to grapple for some time to come with the question of how to balance the ideals of syariah with those of democracy. At times the effort may give rise to ‘culture wars’ as intense as those that have taken place in the United States and other Western countries over the proper place of religion in public life. What is certain is that the results of this ongoing debate will have serious implications for the culture and practice of Indonesian democracy. *ii*

*Robert W. Hefner ( )* is Professor of Anthropology and Associate Director of the Institute on Culture, Religion, and World Affairs at Boston University. He is the author of several books on Indonesian Islam, including /Civil Islam: Muslims and Democratization in Indonesia/ (Princeton, 2000) and the recent volume (co-edited with Muhammad Qasim Zaman), /Schooling Islam:
The Culture and Politics of Modern Muslim Education/ (Princeton 2007).

Reforming jihadists

Preachers to the converted

Dec 13th 2007 | JAKARTA
From /The Economist/ print edition

The persuasive powers of reformed jihadists are being used to “re-educate” terrorists.

MEETING Nasir Abas at one of Indonesia's trendiest hotels, it is hard to imagine that this polite man in casual Western clothes was once a leader of Jemaah Islamiah (JI), the region's most dangerous terrorist group. Now his job is to persuade his former comrades to give up the idea of perpetrating violence against the West in the name of Islam.

As he explains in his mild-mannered way, he uses two lines of argument.

One is theological: he points out the verses in the Koran that forbid aggressive warfare, and which insist that the lives of non-combatants, especially women and children, must be protected. The other line is more strategic: to convince his listeners that not all Westerners are anti-Muslim, he stresses the fact that many Americans opposed the war in Iraq. And he challenges them: have terrorist bombs made people respect Islam more? Some prisoners angrily reject his arguments, he says—but as long as they are still prepared to listen to them, he thinks it worth continuing to try.

Indonesia's anti-terrorism police, like their counterparts in many other countries, have set up a programme to “deradicalise” Islamist militants. Just as the internet now provides “courses” designed to persuade young Muslims that terrorist violence is legitimate—by arguing, for example, that killing civilians might be necessary in some
circumstances—governments and traditional theologians are working hard to develop and use arguments that guide people the other way.

In many countries, moderate Islamic clerics are expected to do most of the persuading—and they must run the risk of being viewed as government stooges. The Indonesian authorities have taken the risky step of using ex-militants, some of whom have only slightly moderated their views on when violence is acceptable.

Like many of the jihadists round the world who enjoy sufficient “street credibility” to sway younger hearts and minds, Mr Abas won his spurs as a fighter in the American-backed campaign against the Soviet occupation

of Afghanistan. While some Saudi veterans of that campaign began directing their energy against their homeland, Mr Abas—who was born in Singapore but grew up in Malaysia—returned to his own native region to spread the ultra-Islamist fire. He set up a JI network in the Philippines.

He had moved to Jakarta by the time the group bombed a nightclub in Bali in 2002, killing 202 people. He insists he was not involved in that operation and always disapproved of attacking civilians. But as a leading strategist in the organisation and the brother-in-law of one of the main conspirators, Mukhlas, he was arrested and given a short jail sentence.

The 2002 bombing, followed by others against foreign targets in Bali and Jakarta, forced an overhaul of Indonesia's police and intelligence services. As JI members were rounded up, two new police squads decided to see if they could get some of them to co-operate. Through kindnesses, such as arranging family visits, they hoped to dispel the jihadists' assumption that all policemen are /thoghut/ (un-Islamic), and thereby to encourage them to reconsider other deeply held views. The next step was to get those militants who still believed in the rightness of the bombings to listen to those, like Mr Abas, who had disapproved of them all along, or other co-operating but harder-line militants like Ali Imron, who had become convinced that the attacks were wrong only more recently.

Unlike many other Muslim countries that are experimenting with deradicalisation schemes—these include Egypt, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Algeria—Indonesia has a relatively open political system where the actions of the police must face public and parliamentary scrutiny. There was uproar when the police handlers of the scheme were seen treating Mr Imron, who was directly implicated in the Bali bombings, to coffee at a fancy Jakarta mall in 2004. Since then he has kept a lower profile, staying at the capital's police headquarters. In another sign of Indonesia's openness, the authorities gave an independent think-tank, the International Crisis Group (ICG), enough access to make a broad evaluation of their scheme.

The ICG's report, in late November, was fairly positive, though it expressed some serious worries. Its main one was that the extreme corruption and disorder found in Indonesia's prisons may be negating all the scheme's attempts to persuade jailed militants that the system they are fighting is not utterly /thoghut/. With some prisoners rejecting attempts to deradicalise them, the ICG says the scheme may be
succeeding only on those who are not particularly dangerous. The ICG's Sidney
Jones says JI has gone “dormant”, so it may no longer make sense to focus efforts on its members. Meanwhile, the unreformed radicals may be recruiting among the ranks of ordinary prisoners as fast as the police-run scheme is deradicalising. And, outside the prison walls, other influences such as the dozens of /pesantren /(boarding schools) run openly by JI men, may be turning out more young militants.

A policeman close to the project admits that probably, more radicals are being created than are being won over to moderation. But he insists that the project has at least got prisoners to divulge valuable intelligence.

The country now has some policemen with insight into the militants' thinking—before, they hadn't a clue. This has helped police round up many of JI's leaders including, in June, the group's presumed military chief, Abu Dujana, who went on trial this week. And there have been no more bombs since 2005.

Still, any crime-fighting strategy based on the idea of “taking a thief to catch a thief” can encounter ethical dilemmas. In Indonesia, some of the people the police hired to deradicalise prisoners are only marginally less militant than those being lectured to. Mr Imron apparently still argues that bombings could be legitimate in
Indonesia—if there were sufficient public support for them.

The police's rationale for letting him argue this is that his fairly extreme views give him more credibility among his “pupils” than someone more moderate and pro-establishment could ever have. As the ICG report notes, the whole project is based on the assumption that, by bolstering a somewhat more moderate Islamic view of the world, the most radical, violent variety is weakened. That is hard to disprove—but by lending credibility to some relatively fundamentalist views by paying someone to argue them, the authorities may be in danger of appearing to endorse them.

For all the doubts, Indonesia's deradicalisation programme does at least seem more likely to produce positive results than the methods being tried in Thailand's Muslim-majority southern provinces. The army (which seized power in a coup last year) has scooped up hundreds of young Muslims merely suspected of “links” to the region's separatist uprising, and sent them to camps for compulsory “job training”. Last month a group of almost 400 of them won a court order declaring their detention illegal. If any policy is likely to turn locals against the authorities and act as a recruiting-sergeant for militants, this is it.

In Bali, new incentive for developing nations to curb emissions

Forest-preservation pledges of $166 million this week could entice them to take part in a post-Kyoto climate deal.

Nusa Dua, Indonesia - Efforts to map the way to a post-Kyoto climate treaty have sailed into rough water this week. But amid the turbulence, a key climate initiative is gathering momentum.

Dubbed REDD, it would reward nations for keeping chain saws out of threatened tropical forests, serving as a powerful magnet that could pull several developing countries with significant emissions into a new global-warming pact.

Deforestation accounts for roughly 20 percent of the greenhouse gases that human activities pump into the atmosphere. This means "REDD is going to be a critical element of a global deal" on climate for 2013 and beyond, says Andrew Deutz, senior policy adviser for the Nature Conservancy.

This week, the World Bank pledged $160 million for pilot projects to test the idea, with Norway chipping in an additional $5 million. In response, some 30 developing nations expressed strong interest in the idea, first proposed by Costa Rica and Papua-New Guinea at the 2005 UN climate talks in Montreal. Even the US-based Nature Conservancy – a group that typically finds itself asking others for cash – has ponied up $1 million toward the effort.

REDD, shorthand for "reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation," is a triple winner, explains the organization's Dr. Deutz. Developing countries would set targets for avoided deforestation and earn carbon credits for beating those targets, but would incur no penalty if they fall short of their goals. Those credits would be in demand among industrial countries as a relatively cheap way for them to meet more-stringent emissions reduction goals. And the move could protect biodiversity and preserve the critical services healthy forests provide.

The bottom line: Developing countries could pocket from $2.3 billion to $23 billion a year from avoiding deforestation under REDD, according to Frances Seymour, director general of the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) in Jakarta, Indonesia. The range reflects different assumptions about the price of carbon on international markets and on the expanse of forest involved. And as talks on crafting a framework for negotiating a successor to the Kyoto Protocol wind down
here, REDD looks as though it will be incorporated into that framework,analysts here say.

Tough negotiations in Bali

Efforts to craft such a post-Kyoto road map grew testy on Thursday after the European Union threatened to boycott a US summit of major emitters next month. The EU perceives the meeting, as well as US balking here in Bali, as efforts to dilute or derail the UN process. The highest-profile issue has been a reference that cites scientists' projection that to hold global warming to about 3.6 degrees F., global emissions must fall from 25 to 40 percent below 1990 levels. EU leaders are baffled and angry that the wording, which the White House didn't object to in a pre-Bali agreement, suddenly has become an apparent deal breaker for the US.

Including the 25-to-40 percent range would signal that industrial countries remain serious about making further emissions cuts – a key factor in getting developing countries to agree to take part in a post-Kyoto deal.

While REDD has also been championed as a way to get developing nations on board, the idea has its critics. Groups championing indigenous people's rights say they doubt that many if any of the benefits from REDD would trickle down to the people who need it most. And it could trigger land grabs by individuals or companies who want to cash in on REDD's credits.

Others, such as Marina Silva, Brazil's environment minister, argue that the use of credits in conjunction with REDD would allow industrial countries to duck their responsibility for reducing their own emissions.

Still, what a difference seven years make. At the 2000 global climate talks in The Hague, environmental groups split on the issue of getting credit for the carbon reservoirs that forests build up protested each others' press conferences. Now, most environmental groups back the idea.

Several factors account for the change, says Claudia McMurray, US assistant secretary of State for Oceans, Environment, and Science. One is a recognition of what impact deforestation can have on a country's ranking as a greenhouse-gas emitter, she explains. Indonesia and Brazil are third- and fourth-worst globally, after China and the US, because of deforestation and the wildfires related to it, she says.

In addition, the science related to forests, their carbon content, and the processes that can boost or reduce emissions has improved.

And politically, tropical-forest countries are joining forces to press for help on the issue in ways they haven't been able to for other issues. They recognize that "rates of deforestation are really staggering, and if nothing is done – in the climate arena or anywhere –we're going to lose some very precious forests," says Ms. McMurray.

Earlier this week, the Woods Hole Research Center unveiled a study on the impact climate is having on tropical forests in the Amazon and on the impact deforestation there has on climate.

REDD a 'powerful proposal'

"If current trends continue, by 2030 ... 55 percent of the Amazon will have been cleared or impoverished by some combination of logging, drought, and fire," says Daniel Nepstad, the scientist who compiled the report. "In my 23 years working in the Amazon, I've never seen so may powerful forces coming together" to threaten the world's largest tropical forest.

He calls REDD a "very powerful proposal" that could play a significant role in holding back the tide of deforestation.

Over the past several years, researchers have been whittling away at some of the technical problems that made forest issues so contentious at past climate talks.

For instance, Sandra Brown, of Winrock International in Arlington, Va.,this week unveiled the results of work she and her colleagues have done to develop mapping techniques that highlight areas vulnerable to deforestation.

And satellite technology has been a major help in developing baseline estimates of the amount of carbon a forest holds, notes Doug Boucher, with the Union of Concerned Scientists. Within the next five to 10 years, he says, remote sensing technology will become still more precise – determining the species of trees, as well as their height and distribution over spaces as small as a few yards.

But enthusiasm for REDD is tempered by an acknowledged lack of experience with it. That's why pilot projects such as those the World Bank aims to underwrite are important.

Some argue that to halt deforestation, countries may need to restructure their ministries, bringing portfolios such as agriculture and energy into the environment ministry. Carlos Rodgriguez, former minister of environment and energy in Costa Rica, says that was crucial to his country's success at halting and in some areas reversing tropical deforestation.

These practical considerations may frustrate those developing countries who are eager to jump on the REDD bandwagon now, suggests CIFOR's Ms. Seymour. "We're going to be facing a tension between dealing with climate change as an emergency, reducing emissions as quickly as possible, but doing so at a pace that makes sure we don't make mistakes

by rushing forward too quickly and not having the institutions in place to make sure it's successful," she says.

S. Korea, Indonesia Join to Produce Armored Vehicles


South Korea’s rolling stock maker Rotem will transfer technology to Indonesia to help the Southeast Asian nation develop wheeled armored fighting vehicles, the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) announced Dec. 13.

Representatives from Rotem, a unit of Hyundai Motor, and Indonesia’s PT.PINDAD signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on the joint development and production of six-wheel-drive armored vehicles during aceremony at DAPA’s headquarters in central Seoul.

“We believe this MoU will pave the way for the future export of South Korea’s armored vehicle technology to foreign countries, particularly Asian and Middle Eastern nations,” said Cmdr. Park Sung-soo, a public affairs officer for DAPA.

Indonesia plans to equip its military with about 400 advanced armored combat Vehicles, Park said.

The MoU with Indonesia is Rotem’s second contract on the transfer of technology abroad, following a contract in June with Turkey over the XK2 Black Panther main battle tank.

Jakarta is considered Seoul’s key arms trade partner. South Korea sold seven KT-1 Woongbi basic trainers and spare parts to Indonesia in 2003 under a $60 million contract, which made the country one of the few aircraft exporters in the world.

In 2006, Indonesia purchased 12 more KT-1s. The country is also a potential buyer of South Korea’s indigenous submarines.

In a move to boost bilateral cooperation in the defense industry, South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun and his Indonesian counterpart, Susilo Bambang Yodhoyono, issued a joint declaration on “strategic partnership relationship” during a summit in December 2006.

The two leaders agreed to improve cooperation on defense-related technology transfer and joint development.

The Rotem-PT.PINDAD contract was reached during a joint defense committee between South Korea and Indonesia in Seoul in August, DAPA officials said.

The climate conference: What's in it for us?

*Endy M. Bayuni*, The Jakarta Post, Nusa Dua, Bali

The ongoing climate conference in Bali is quite a show for a developing country like Indonesia to host. More than 10,000 delegates, observers and journalists, and five heads of state and dozens of dignitaries are gathered to bring the Dec. 3-14 conference to its climax this week as they discuss ways of saving our planet, which seems to be getting warmer at an ever-increasing rate.

Granted it is a United Nations conference, which is picking up the huge bill. Indonesia volunteered to host it when the world body canceled on Thailand following the military coup in Bangkok in September last year.

The gathering has already been billed as the largest ever on climate change, a testament to the importance of the issue at hand. Either that,or many people have come because it's being held in Bali.

Still, for this privilege, Indonesia is spending some of its own money, and deploying thousands of people to help with the protocol, security and many other arrangements, in order to make sure that the meetings proceed smoothly and safely.

Naturally, the most frequently asked question in the minds of people in this country is "what's in it for us?" Without intending to sound selfish, what do we, as a nation, get out of this to justify the huge expense and trouble that we must go through?

In terms of tangibles, there are not that many.

Bali tourism is obviously one of the beneficiaries, with all hotel rooms in the Nusa Dua and nearby Jimbaran resorts taken up. Restaurants, cafes, souvenir shops, car rentals and tourist sites are reporting brisk businesses, an added bonus ahead of the Christmas and New Year holiday.

Tourism in Indonesia's renowned holiday island has been clawing back its share of the international tourism market following the devastating impacts of two terrorist attacks in 2002 and 2005. This conference is important, not only for the presence of the 10,000 people, but more importantly for the big publicity that it attracts, and for providing a testament that Bali is safe now.

The government has also been at pains to explain to the Indonesian public that with the right strategy, Indonesia stands to gain billions of dollars from the growing global carbon trade, one of the substantial issues being discussed at the climate change conference.

To bolster its chances of securing that money, Indonesia and other countries that are home to large tropical rain forests are pushing the Reduction of Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) program into the carbon trading mechanism. As chairman of the conference, Indonesia inserted REDD, which essentially makes funds available for countries with large tropical forestry resources, on to the conference's main agenda.

What else is there for Indonesia?

Other benefits are less tangible and are difficult to quantify. The experience of hosting such a major international conference is in itself quite a feat. Those who are involved, directly or indirectly, have gained valuable skills and knowledge in organizing big events.

There is the knowledge to be gained just by sitting through the meetings and witnessing at close hand the process of negotiations and of lobbying behind the scenes.

The Foreign Ministry and Trade Ministry will have more people with greater insights into the complexities of negotiating deals after this. There is the massive publicity Indonesia gets from being in the international spotlight. This is a new Indonesia that is very different to what it was 10 years ago -- it is more democratic, more humane, more peaceful and more confident. This is a story that is probably not that
well known abroad. This is an opportunity for Indonesia to tell its story.

The conference serves to show the world that Indonesia is capable of not only hosting an international conference, but also of providing the necessary leadership in directing the conference to bridge the huge differences that remain on climate change issues.

The message we want to convey is that after going through economic and political turmoil and a series of devastating natural disasters, Indonesia today is very much back on its feet, ready to play its part in the search for solutions to international problems, including global warming.

Thanks to extensive media coverage, the Indonesian public has become much more aware about global warming and its consequences, as well as the need to act, than would be the case if the conference took place elsewhere, like in Thailand.

So the answer to the question, "what's in it for Indonesia?" is: a lot.

It has made Indonesia a better host, a better organizer, a better negotiator and better at environmental issues. After this conference, Indonesia will come out a much better country and a better nation. That is priceless.

UN climate conference expected to embrace forest protection as part of climate change plan

BALI, Indonesia: Fighting illegal logging has for decades mostly been
marked by failure. There was never enough money or political will to
overcome the corruption and poverty that drove people in tropical
nations to cut down trees.

But with new evidence showing deforestation contributes about 20 percent
to global warming — emitting more heat-trapping gases than cars, ships
and jet planes do every year — delegates at the U.N. climate conference are taking a fresh look at the problem.And, for the first time, they are expected to include forest protection measures in negotiations on replacing the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012. They also are likely to set up a mechanism that would resolve a problem that has been at the heart of the deforestation — how to make it more
valuable for governments to protect their trees than allow timber and
palm oil barons to cut them down.

"If we lose the world's forests, we lose the fight against climate change," Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister Michael Somber told conference delegates Wednesday. "Action to reduce emission from deforestation is too important to wait."

For nearly three decades, saving tropical rain forests, especially in
the Amazon, Indonesia and Congo basin in Africa, from chain saws has been marred by missteps and disappointments. Efforts to include protection schemes in the Kyoto agreement were rejected over concerns that credit for saving forests would take
pressure off the West to reduce emissions, but also because some nations were unconvinced it would be possible to verify reforestation efforts. Western governments, instead, rolled out programs aimed at getting villagers in Africa or Southeast Asia to shift to other businesses or ensuring logs being exported from, say Indonesia or Brazil, came from sustainable sources.

But few efforts have been able to slow the pace of deforestation, resulting in the loss of 13 million hectares (32 million acres) of forest each year or twice the size of Panama, according to The World Bank.

Brazil and Indonesia — where 80 percent of carbon dioxide emissions come from deforestation — are the hardest hit mostly because of rampant illegal logging and the growing demand for biofuels and other commodities like soybeans.

"Changing forest-use patterns in developing countries is at least as difficult as cutting industrial emissions in developed countries," Brazil's Foreign Minister Celso Amorim told delegates. "Yet it is a task that must be confronted ... Positive incentives from the international community would greatly help that effort, especially in the case of the poorest countries."

Ten years since Kyoto's signing, donors, environmentalists and tropical countries say they hope results will be different. Dubbed Reducing Emissions From Deforestation and Degradation or REDD, the tentative program will essentially pay countries who can show they are making efforts to reduce their levels of deforestation and, in the case of Indonesia, protect peat lands. The program is being hailed not only as a climate change solution, but also as a way of helping protect biodiversity and providing a cheap way to shield communities from the worsening floods and landslides that are so common in much of Southeast Asia.

"If you agree with Al Gore that we have a climate emergency, you can't afford to have 20 percent of the problem off the table. We have to do it," said Frances J. Seymour, the director general of the Center for International Forest Research in Indonesia, referring to the Nobel prize-winning former U.S. vice president.

"There are so many other reasons to conserve forest from sustainable development forest." Still with as much as US$23 billion (euro15.6 billion) expected to be available for forest protection, countries have been jockeying in Bali to include language that would make them eligible for REDD. Some like India and Costa Rica are pushing to be able to gain assistance for conserving their forest since they already have strong protection measures in place. African countries want to include the word
degradation — tree loss to such things as farming and small scale logging — since their deforestation levels are relatively low.

"Everybody is sure that reduce emissions from deforestation will be in there so they all want their little piece of it," said Douglas Boucher of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

The form of assistance has also been an issue with Indonesia and Papua New Guinea leading an effort for countries to get carbon credits for conservation — which they could eventually trade on a commodities market for cash much as emissions are done in Europe. Brazil, on the other hand, supports creating a fund created through direct aid from Western countries, or taxes on such things as international air travel or the energy sector.

Other concerns are the methodology for verifying a country's reforestation efforts, the corruption that remains rife in forest departments and concerns that the bid to save forests will force indigenous people off their land or deprive them of their livelihoods.

That debate played out Tuesday outside a World Bank meeting, where seven Western governments were announcing plans to donate US$160 million (€109 million) to the agency's newly created Forest Carbon Partnership Facility. Norway on Thursday agreed to contribute US$5 million (€3.4 million) to the fund, bring the total to US$165 million (€112 million). It is a forest protection program that will fund pilot projects in five developing countries to better understand what methods will best work for REDD. So far 30 countries from Africa, the Asia-Pacific and Latin
America have requested to participate in the program.

"We reject REDD," said Mina Susana Setra, a member of the Indigenous People's Alliance Archipelago and one of 60 people protesting the plans with chants of "Hands Off World Bank". "Who will take control? Who will benefit? When these projects happen, we are forced from our land."

World Bank President Robert Zoellick insisted the projects would consider the concerns of indigenous people while at the same time providing a global solution to climate change. Countries involved in REDD have 85 percent of tropical forests, and proponents of the scheme note that doing nothing to protect the trees — which release carbon dioxide into the air when they are cut or burned — would be like allowing the United States or China to continue to pollute unabated.

"This signals that the world cares about the global value of forests and is ready to pay for it," he said. "This can change economic options for many people who depend on the forests for their livelihoods. There is now a value for conserving, not just harvesting forests."


Canadian protesters upset with treatment at climate change summit in Bali

By Mike De Souza, CanWest News Service

NUSA DUA, Indonesia — A youth delegation protesting the Harper government’s climate change policies say that a Canadian representative intimidated them on Wednesday with a warning about Indonesian prisons to get them away from a news conference held by Environment Minister John Baird.

“He said that we might have free speech in Canada, but we don’t know if we have it here, and we wouldn’t want to be arrested by the Indonesian police,” said Elizabeth McDowell, 24, who travelled to Bali from Vancouver.

McDowell was among a handful of Canadians who held up a sign questioning the government’s leadership at the climate change conference while Baird was arriving to speak with reporters.

But she said the federal government representative who is in charge of Canadian security at the summit quickly yelled out to Indonesian police asking them to question the youth.

“He called them over and he was quite aggressive,” said McDowell.

A spokesperson for Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the Canadian representative was not part of the government, but defended his actions.

“My understanding is that he was watching out for them and ensuring their safety,” said Harper’s press secretary Dimitri Soudas. “He was trying to be helpful. That’s a shame that they took his kindness towards them and spun it.”

Soudas has urged Canadian reporters covering the climate change summit to be skeptical about the dozens of Canadian youth who are promoting action on global warming, since some of them are card-carrying members of the Liberal party.

But McDowell said the accusations suggest the government is scared of criticism, noting that Baird bailed out of a scheduled event the previous night to present his own climate change plan to the conference.

“I think they’re a little bit threatened by us,” she said. “They’re not ready to defend their plan because they don’t have one, and they’re not ready to defend their actions here.”

She stressed that she had no particular political affiliation, adding that the youth coalition is made up of people from all political stripes.

The Indonesian police officer who was called over by the Canadian representative asked the youth a few questions, but soon walked away after determining they were no threat to security.

The youth have complained that they have been excluded from the official Canadian government delegation — along with environmental groups and opposition parties — while industry representatives, including an oilpatch executive, were welcome. Baird has not responded to requests for a meeting with the youth, she said.