Statement by David Kaimowitz, Director General, Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR)

“Interlaken Workshop” on Decentralization, Federal Systems of Forestry & National Forestry Programs

April 20, 2004, Press Conference – Ministry of Forestry, Jakarta, Indonesia

Secretary General of the Ministry of Forestry, Pak Wahjudi Wardojo, Your excellency the Ambassador of Switzerland, Georges Martin, Ladies and Gentlemen,

CIFOR feels honored to coordinate the technical content of the up-coming “Interlaken Workshop” on Decentralization, Federal Systems of Forestry, and National Forestry Programs in Switzerland.

CIFOR works in approximately thirty tropical countries around the world and we have seen that the great majority of them are currently involved in processes of decentralization that have given district and provincial governments a greater role in forest – related activities. This includes everything from reforestation and land use planning to protecting watersheds and fighting forest fires.

The results of these processes have been decidedly mixed. In some cases, decentralization has been good for local people and the forests. In other cases it has been quite negative. It is very important for all of us to figure out why. As with globalization, some sort of decentralization is probably inevitable in most countries, but we need to find ways to manage the decentralization process that encourage the positive aspects and limit the negative ones.

That is the basic idea behind the Interlaken Workshop. It provides an important opportunity for Indonesia, Switzerland, and many other countries to learn from each others’ experiences, to find out what works and what does not. Many of the more developed countries, including Switzerland, have had more decentralized forest management systems for some time. Countries such as Indonesia, Brazil, Russia, the Philippines, and Bolivia, that have begun decentralization processes much more recently, can learn from the more developed countries’ experience. Switzerland in particular has one of the world’s most decentralized and successful systems of forest management. At the same time, the countries that have begun decentralization more recently, also have a great deal they can teach the other countries, based on their own recent successes and failures.

Ever since the Minister of Forestry Prakosa first took office he has made decentralization one of the priority topics for his administration. He has always emphasized the need for a step-wise, gradual approach and to make adjustments as the process goes along. CIFOR strongly believes that the up-coming international workshop will provide good lessons for Indonesia’s decentralization process. The fact that Indonesia is one of the two main co-sponsors of the workshop along with Switzerland shows that the country is providing global leadership on the topic. Yesterday I attended a meeting hosted by the World Bank where David Cassells, one of the World Bank’s most senior forestry advisors in based Washington, mentioned that he thought the Interlaken Workshop was going to be one of the most influential global forestry events in recent years. I believe that should make Indonesia proud. CIFOR is certainly grateful to the governments of Indonesia and Switzerland for inviting us to be part of this process.