GENEVA (31 March 2021) UN human rights experts today urged the Indonesian Government to respect human rights and the rule of law amid reports that a US$3 billion tourism project on Lombok island has involved aggressive land grabs, forced evictions of Sasak indigenous peoples, and intimidation and threats against human rights defenders.
“Farmers and fisher folks have been expelled from their land and have endured the destruction of their houses, fields, water sources, cultural and religious sites, as the Government of Indonesia and the ITDC (Indonesia Tourism Development Corporation) groomed Mandalika to become a ‘New Bali’,” said Olivier De Schutter, the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights.
“Credible sources have found that the local residents were subjected to threats and intimidations and forcibly evicted from their land without compensation. Despite these findings, the ITDC has not sought to pay compensation or settle the land disputes,” the experts said.
Mandalika, in Lombok’s poor West Nusa Tenggara Province, is set to be turned into an integrated tourism complex, comprising a Grand Prix motorcycle race circuit, parks, luxury hotels and resorts, including Pullman, Paramount Resort, and Club Med.
The project is partly financed by the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and has attracted more than US$1 billion investment by private businesses. The French group VINCI Construction Grands Projets is its largest investor, in charge of the Mandalika Circuit, hotels, a hospital, a water park, and other facilities.
The experts also criticised a lack of due diligence by the AIIB and private businesses to identify, prevent, mitigate and account for how they address adverse human rights impacts, as set forth in the UN Guiding Principles on business and human rights.
“In light of the dark history of human rights violations and land grabs in the region, the AIIB and businesses cannot look the other way and carry on business as usual. Their failure to prevent and address risks of human rights abuses is tantamount to being complicit in such abuses,” the experts said.
“The Mandalika project puts Indonesia’s laudable commitments to the Sustainable Development Goals and its underlying human rights obligations to the test. Large-scale tourism development that tramples on human rights is fundamentally incompatible with the concept of sustainable development,” De Schutter said.
“The time has passed for racing circuits and massive transnational tourism infrastructure projects that benefit a handful of economic actors rather than the population as a whole. Post-COVID economies should focus on empowering local communities, enhancing their livelihoods and participation in decision-making. We urge the Indonesian Government to ensure that the ITDC respects human rights and the rule of law, as well as the AIIB and private businesses not to finance or engage in projects and activities that contribute to human rights violations and abuses.”
In March 2021, several UN experts highlighted their concerns in joint communications to the Government of Indonesia, the ITDC and the AIIB, as well as to concerned private companies such as VINCI Construction Grands Projets, Club Med, Accor, Dorna Sports and EBD Paragon and their home States (France, Spain and the United States of America). The communications to Indonesia, the ITDC and the AIIB and any response received will be publicly available in the Special Procedures communications database on 3 May 2021, and on 25 May 2021 for the communications to the private companies and their home States.
The Special Rapporteurs, Independent Experts and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.