A team of scholars and policy experts from both Indonesia and the larger international community review political and economic developments in post-Soeharto era Indonesia. Together, they consider the kinds of structures that would foster social, economic, and environmental sustainability. The fall of Soeharto in 1998 provided the impetus for the transformation of Indonesia's political system to one that is considerably more democratic and decentralized. But what has this meant for Indonesia's natural resources? The stakes for the nation and the international community are considerable. In physical and biological resources, Indonesia is a wealthy country. It is a world leader in mineral exports, its rainforests account for more than 50 percent of the tropical forests in Southeast Asia and more than 10 percent of the world's total, it has unique and extensive biodiversity resources, and its fisheries are some of the world's most productive and threatened.
The challenges in using and managing the vast natural resources of Indonesia, the world's fourth most populous nation, are immense. They include ensuring that resources are exploited in a manner that is optimal for the economy, equitable for the population, and sustainable for future generations. While recent and rapid political change under Reformasi and decentralization may seem to have provided opportunities for long-term development that embraces these goals, they have also generated an environment of political uncertainty, weak law enforcement, insecurity over property rights, and increased local conflict. This situation, together with an imperative to accelerate the pace of socio-economic progress, has created a pressing need to address the challenges of proper use and management of natural resources.