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Indonesian President visits Greenpeace ship 3 years after it was deported

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono met with Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo aboard the activist group’s ship, the Rainbow Warrior, today in Jakarta to discuss Indonesia’s environmental issues. The meeting took place 31 months after the Rainbow Warrior was barred from Indonesian waters under pressure from interests in the forestry sector.

Remarks from the Indonesian president while aboard the vessel underline the country’s policy shift in forest management since 2010.

“I am pleased to meet with my friend Kumi Naidoo from Greenpeace. I would like to express my gratitude to Greenpeace for having made​these efforts to save the environment of Indonesia and the rest of the world,” said President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

“As a developing country, Indonesia needs economic development, but of course it must be environmentally sustainable. Although, we are facing several challenges, we are committed to working on both. I want to guarantee my grandchildren a clean and peaceful environment in the future.”

The Rainbow Warrior arrives in Jayapura, Papua, Indonesia, 09th May 2013. © Paul Hilton / Greenpeace

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has become increasingly outspoken on environmental issues over the course of his presidency. Under his watch, Indonesia signed a billion dollar pact with Norway to reduce deforestation, launched a moratorium on new forest concessions across millions of hectares of peatlands and primary forests, and established a ground-breaking effort to reform the forestry sector, including creating a special office that has far-reaching powers to investigate agencies involved in granting concessions and improve government transparency. At the same time, Indonesian courts have recognized the rights of indigenous people to manage their traditional forests and private-sector companies, including Asia Pulp & Paper and palm oil giant Golden Agri Resources, have announced forest conservation policies.

Still the rate of environmental degradation in Indonesia remains high. Forests continue to be converted for oil palm plantations, strip mined for coal, and damaged by poorly managed logging operations. Marine resources are being depleted by unsustainable fishing practices. Therefore Greenpeace is using the Rainbow Warrior as a platform for highlighting areas where it believes more action is necessary.

“Greenpeace is honored to welcome the President on board the Rainbow Warrior and hope that his presence on board this symbol of environmental protection will lead to ever greater protection for Indonesia’s incredible natural heritage and the people who rely on it to survive,” said Naidoo.

“We are all working to ensure protection of Indonesia’s biodiversity, not just for the environment’s sake, but also to ensure social justice. It is the poorest rural people who are most dependent on natural habitats for their livelihoods and it is they who suffer first and most deeply when those habitats are degraded or destroyed.”

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