CHE hosts climate change study visit to Scotland by government delegation from Papua Province, Indonesia

The Centre for Human Ecology has hosted a study visit to Scotland by planners from Papua Province, Indonesia.


Why would government officials from the planning agency in Papua Province, Indonesia, come all the way to Scotland to learn about climate change and sustainable community development? Why, indeed, as part of a programme that has now been running with the Centre for Human Ecology since 2012? The answer is that Scotland’s community-based land trusts are leading the world in practices that try to tackle climate change from the bottom up. This is based on local empowerment and deepening the connection between people and the land.

For the past four years the CHE has been involved in a training programme with BAPPEDA, the government planning agency of the Indonesian province of Papua. This is focussed on climate change mitigation and adaptation, especially through the conservation of tropical forest cover. The CHE team’s approach seeks to develop bottom-up leadership that can work with the various levels of government to build capacity that enhances community resilience. The programme is also tied in with the South-African based Training for Transformation approach through Vérène’s work as a TfT trainer. This has been instrumental in TfT sending their head trainer to run workshops in the Highlands and Islands of Papua. The programme commenced in 2011. Maria Latumahina of West Papua Province was working for the British Embassy in Jakarta and was sent on a course about land and spirituality run by Alastair McIntosh and Tom Forsyth of Scoraig at Schumacher College in the south of England. This led to the first Papua-Scotland study tour in 2012 run by CHE graduates or Fellows, Camille Dressler (Eigg), Iain MacKinnon (Skye), Sibongile Pradhan (with Nepalese experience), Alastair, and his wife, Vérène Nicolas, who previously coordinated the CHE MSc programme at Strathclyde University. On the isles of Eigg and Skye they studied bottom up community empowerment linked to crofting and land reform, including the creation of local renewable energy systems such as that on Eigg,  where, as a result of land reform, over 90% of domestic and business energy requirements are now generated from local and community-managed sources.

In 2013 Vérène and Alastair carried out further training within Papua Province and a further study tour in Lowland Scotland, looking at Development Trusts in settlements like Fintry. Whereas previously BAPPEDA has drawn upon its own budgets, this year a further study tour was funded by the UK government’s Climate Change Unit in Jakarta. This time the study tour’s purpose was to deepen the understanding of planners as to how bottom-up community empowerment can work harmoniously with the requirements of government its policy instruments of regulation and legislation. It was led by Vérène and Alastair with support from Sibongile and also, CHE graduate Maire McCormack. Maire is a civil servant in the Scottish Government who speaks Indonesian from her time as a VSO volunteer in Java.

In this work CHE’s role is to provide an institutional context and base in Govan, and to serve as the official body through which visas can be processed, finance audited, etc., all of which is supported by a 15% institutional “tithe” on agreed budget lines. As such, the work in Papua strengthens the whole organisation and not just the individuals directly concerned.

The full report on the visit to Glasgow and the Hebrides in March 2015 can now be downloaded in PDF format.

CHE fellow Alastair McIntosh reports on a recent Papuan delegation to Scotland:

A further delegation of a dozen Members of Parliament and senior civil servants from Papua Province, Indonesia, including three party political leaders, was hosted by the Centre for Human Ecology during the first week of December. What distinguished this visit was the presence of elected politicans from a cross-section of parties in Papua. The focus of the visit was climate change, and how this impacts upon land use, community empowerment, and the wider context of sustainable development.

Building on a four-year period of work with the Govermnent of Papua, conducted through its Planning Department, BAPPEDA, the team was led by CHE fellows Vérène Nicolas and Alastair McIntosh, with support this time from CHE graduates, Maire McCormack (who speaks Indonesian), Sibongile Pradhan (who produced the poster artwork) and CHE board member Mike McCarron for discussions about an ongoing programme to educate about sustainable development.

On previous visits members of the Planning Department had variously visited communities on Eigg, Fintry, Pairc in Lewis, the Stornoway Trust and North Harris to understand how the people’s relationship with the land can lay a firm foundation for sustainable development. This visit, as it involved politicians sent by the Parliament of Papua, was very short, and involved a day spent at the Scottish Parliament and a further 2 days of training at the University of Edinburgh, tied in with the School of Divinity’s AHRC research programme that involves Alastair McIntosh and CHE’s former Academic Chair, Professor Michael Northcott, Caring for the Future Through Ancestral Time.

What was achieved?

The visit to the Scottish Parliament was hosted by Michael Russell MSP, formerly Minister for the Environment and, later, for Education. Also involved were Rob Gibson MSP who takes special interest in land reform, and Lindia Fabiani MSP who has a special interest in internatioal relations such as Fair Trade. A lunch was hosted by Paul Grice, the Parliament’s CEO, and those of the group who had arrived by that time were introduced to the Presiding Officer (the Speaker), Patricia Marwick, and taken to view First Minister’s Questions from her VIP gallery. The discussions centred on how Scotland is acting to mitigate and adapt to climate change, and how it is doing so making the best use it can within Devolution, which is very similar to the provisions of Papua’s Special Autonomy Act.

At Edinburgh University, the group explored the pros and cons of differing models of development across the spectrum of mutualist to individualist approaches, or communitarian to neo-liberal. Different members of the group favoured different positions on this spectrum, and robust discussions took place as to what types of approach can best serve the needs of people in Indonesia.

The Government of Papua has requested that CHE continue to engage with it in this programme. It is basically an education in human ecology, one that will better equip both the politicians and the civil servants to appraise their development options, understanding the strengths and weaknesses of both the neoliberal approaches, and the alternative apporaches based on a mutualist social understanding, and how these variously impact upon climate change, that is a probable driving factor in the terrible drought, with famine in some areas, that is currently afflicting the Highland areas of New Guinea (of which Papua Province is one of two provinces in the western half).