Putting Indigenous Peoples on the Path of Adaptive Social Protection

Dian Maya Safitri (Inclusive Policy Enthusiast)

07 December 2022

Recover Together, Recover Stronger—this is the theme of this year’s G20 summit currently taking place in Indonesia. It is also an urgent call for the Indonesian government to address the alarming issue of increasing numbers of indigenous peoples being left behind in the wake of Indonesia’s many natural disasters because of its geographical location in the Pacific Ring of Fire and an exacerbated climate crisis. In 2021 alone, 1749 floods, 579 forest fires, a volcanic eruption, 15 droughts, 1321 landslides, and 1577 extreme weather incidences occurred in Indonesia, according to official data.

To exchange experiences and discuss solutions for disaster threats and climate change internationally, the Government of Indonesia organised The Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction (GDPRR) forum in Bali four months ago in June 2022. This resulted in the Seven Bali Agenda for Resilience, namely incorporating disaster risk reduction into financial policies and regulatory framework, initiating systemic transformations, scaling up climate adaptation, adopting participatory method and human rights-based approach, implementing early warning systems, and comprehensive reporting of Sendai Framework targets.

As a country prone to disaster, this is a perfect occasion for Indonesia to strengthen mutual partnership with other countries in handling emergency situations in humanitarian settings and to better rebuild itself in the post-pandemic world in compliance with the Sendai Framework.

One of the thematic issues to be discussed is Global Indigenous Knowledge Research Infrastructure, which aligns with the commitment of GDPRR to include all parts of society to enhance climate resilience and disaster preparedness. This is known as: “nothing about us without us”.

A focus on indigenous communities is essential because, according to the ILO report in 2017, indigenous peoples are very vulnerable during disasters and suffer from the impacts of climate change, such as drought and food scarcity. Furthermore, their limited access to social and healthcare services, and disruption of economic activities during the COVID-19 pandemic have exacerbated the vulnerability and poverty of indigenous communities. Indigenous women experience even more hardships from environmental injustice through exclusion, discrimination, and gender-based violence.

Indigenous communities are very vulnerable to natural and manmade shocks. Shutterstock.

Although indigenous peoples account for only 5% of the world’s population, they comprise 15% of the poorest. It is estimated that more than half of the world’s indigenous peoples live in Asia, including Indonesia. There are approximately 17 million indigenous communities in Indonesia alone, a majority part of AMAN (Aliansi Masyarakat Adat Nusantara or Alliance of Archipelagic Indigenous Peoples).

There are three major obstacles to improving the welfare of indigenous communities that need to be addressed by governmental and non-governmental stakeholders.

First, many indigenous communities are not registered in the population database and their members do not have an ID card, impeding their rights to social protection. This administrative issue might be caused by their nomadic lifestyle, a lack of information available in indigenous languages, and isolated living areas.

Second, there is an absence of data on indigenous peoples in the Indonesian disaster database established by the National Disaster Management Authority (BNPB or Badan Nasional Penanggulangan Bencana). There is an urgent need to integrate data on the indigenous population in the national vulnerability mapping dashboard. Local authorities have to be able to evacuate indigenous people immediately during a disaster, especially children, women and older people. This is also bearing in mind that large numbers of indigenous people are vulnerable in disasters because of a lack of information in their native languages and their lower exposure to disaster preparedness.

Third, legal protection for indigenous people is still weak, especially for indigenous land ownerships. Even worse, a draft indigenous law is yet to be approved by the president, making the social, economic and political status of indigenous people in Indonesia even more vulnerable. In 2021 alone, there were 13 land grabbing conflicts involving indigenous communities which have affected 103,717 people. To respond to this long overdue issue, AMAN has worked hard to lobby the House of Representatives to legislate and enforce the law, but to no avail.

In my opinion, engaging indigenous voices and needs in the ongoing discussions on Adaptive Social Protection can be an effective solution. According to a World Bank report, Adaptive Social Protection (abbreviated as ASP) refers to the government’s support for improving resilience of vulnerable households by “investing in their capacity to prepare for, cope with, and adapt to” the growing risks of natural threats. In Indonesia, ASP became a national priority and was incorporated in the National Medium-term Development Plan 2022–24 as mandated in the Presidential Regulation on Adaptive Social Protection. Currently the design and mechanism of ASP are still being developed, a process involving multilateral partners.

One ASP-type programme which could be explored (as a silver bullet) is climate insurance. Considering that Indonesia’s GDP could decrease by more than 40% by 2030 due to climate shocks, investing in climate insurance is crucial as extreme weathers could cause crop failure and land degradation, tipping into poverty more indigenous communities, many of which still live in rural areas and collective land where they cultivate vegetables and forage for food.

Apart from threatening food security, natural hazards could also affect the health of indigenous communities, particularly women and children, who are the most-at-risk groups.

Insuring against climate can be implemented through parametric insurance which will cover potentially the most climate-affected communities by projecting index-based disasters intensity in advance. Within the last 15 years, several Sub-Saharan African countries have been adopting parametric insurance pay-outs in high-risk areas to protect their agricultural populations. Parametric insurance enables more proactive, rapid, and data-driven social assistance rather than wait for disasters to strike and damage livelihoods, and cause malnutrition and loss of lives before distributing humanitarian relief and cash to survivors. In this regard, piloting parametric insurance could help the Indonesian government to reduce households’ vulnerability, given the fact that Indonesia ranks third in the world among countries most vulnerable to disaster, according to World Risk Report 2022.

To ensure that parametric insurance reaches indigenous communities, there should be collaboration among various stakeholders—central, provincial, district, and village government officials, as well as civil society organisations—to include representatives of indigenous populations in the annual Musrenbangdes (Musyawarah Rencana Pembangunan Desa or Public Consultation for Village Development Planning). Indigenous women and youth should be given the priority to speak their minds. This Musrenbangdes could facilitate access for marginalised groups to be registered in the national social protection database which will be a vital lever to tackle climate-induced poverty funded by the Village Fund. It is also especially important to disseminate information in indigenous languages.

Collaboration with indigenous stakeholders and across organizations is important. Credit: ANTARA/Virna P Setyorini.

Finally, there should be a robust cross-ministerial collaboration and a climate academic task force to collect indigenous data and vulnerability indices for the national disaster database and dashboard to ensure and monitor reliability and effectiveness of parametric insurance. The climate academic taskforce should include multidisciplinary subject-matter experts (economists, anthropologists, and environmentalists) to gain a more comprehensive insight.

All the above strategies will not be useful without the government’s commitment to protect indigenous peoples from land grabbing conflicts. By keeping the draft indigenous law approval on track, followed by enforcement and compliance, Indonesia can show the world that it can indeed recover stronger without leaving anyone behind.

The G20 slogan should not merely be a beautiful slogan; it should be the actualisation of the government’s commitment to deliver for all.

This article is originally published in the Scope Blog managed by Asia Research Institute of the National University of Singapore