The World Bank and Recognising Indigenous Title in Indonesia

By Ben Needleman

Ben attended the 2015 World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) Annual Meetings in Peru. 


In contravention of international law, Indonesia’s domestic legal system does not adequately respect Indigenous land rights. Although said rights are nominally acknowledged, they cannot be registered. Since the state claims ownership of all unregistered land, it can expropriate Indigenous land without justification or the provision of compensation. This regularly occurs and is one of the primary causes of poverty in Indigenous communities.

This paper proposes that given recent legal and political changes, scope now exists for the World Bank to assist local governments implement legislative reform on Indigenous title. Such reform should be accompanied by the establishment of an Indigenous Legal Aid Program to ensure Indigenous people benefit from the change.

By improving the tenure security of Indigenous communities, the Bank will promote its objectives of shared prosperity and sustainability. It will also strengthen the requirement for Free, Prior and Informed Consent in its new Environmental and Social Framework.

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