August 8 is International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples. In Riau, Indonesia, ICCO empowers indigenous communities to stand up for their rights.
The Riau Province in Indonesia have seen many human rights abuses by pulp and paper companies in the beginning of the 21st century. According to the National Human Rights Commission of Indonesia, there were more than 1,110 cases involving business-related human rights violations in 2010. These human rights violations included seizing the land of local communities and intimidating villagers, for example by prohibiting villagers' access to previously public areas.
Frustrated with a slow-moving justice system and the persistent unresponsiveness of the state to their complaints, villagers have protested, in many cases obstructing company operations in order to get the company and government's attention. These community protests included harvesting of plantation trees, sewing their mouths shut, re-occupation of land, charging "tolls" for use of village roads, or setting up road blockades, and at times have included seizure of company vehicles and equipment. Such actions have been met with violent attacks by company enforcers, trained by and sometimes accompanied by state police.
Endangering of endemic species
The exploitation of forests and peatlands by pulp and paper companies at Riau province has directly driven to the escalation of conflicts and resulted in fatalities of indigenous people. But also to endangering indigenous and endemic species. Including 140 species of mammals identified by the World Conservation Union as threatened, and 15 identified as critically endangered like the Sumatran Tiger and Orangutan.
ICCO works on empowering these affected indigenous communities, living in 21 villages throughout Riau province, to defend and claim their rights through peaceful mechanisms. Dialogues between communities, governmental bodies and companies are essential in this. Top achievement of this year is that official guidelines for communal land claiming will be developed by the provincial government, an important policy change.