Remarks by Ambassador Blake to Open @America Program on Aceh’s Road to Development, Jakarta

Good afternoon, selamat sore everyone, and a special welcome to:

  • My good friend Wali Nannggroe Malik Mahmud
  • Aceh’s Development Planning Agency (BAPPEDA) Head Abubakar Karim
  • Greenomics Aceh Coordinator Elfian Effendi
  • Other panelists, ladies and gentlemen.

I’m happy to be here this afternoon for this important discussion of how to balance forest protection in Aceh while providing for growth through infrastructure development.

We are pleased to partner with Aceh to find out how to minimize the impacts of road construction within the Leuser Ecosystem while sustainably developing the province.

Sustainable development is a complex topic that requires government, business, and civil society to work together to find a balance between conservation and economic development.

And because of Indonesia’s unparalleled biodiversity, there is no more important place to find this balance than for the forests of Aceh.

Indonesia already protects Sumatra’s tropical forests as a UNESCO world heritage site.  But four million Sumatran people live in and around Leuser and must also have the right to increase their livelihoods and provide for their families.

Development in Aceh is important and the Wali and I have discussed many of his ideas improving Aceh’s economy to benefit the Acehnese people.

The United States has actively supported conservation in southern Aceh through USAID projects in Leuser and in capacity building for district level spatial planning.

We are also making significant investments in rural economic development in Sumatra and elsewhere – natural resource management, agricultural expansion, and renewable energy.

In 2010 USAID started our $41million Indonesia Forest and Climate Support program to protect forests and work with local and indigenous communities who live on the edges of these forests to develop more sustainable livelihoods for them – this includes Aceh.

We are now starting a new $47M follow-on program called LESTARI to continue this important work.

In addition, the US Government forgave over $70 million in two debt for nature swaps we co-manage with the Government of Indonesia and international NGOs, including the World Wildlife Fund, to conserve orangutan-rich forest habitats in Sumatra and Kalimantan.

I’m proud to announce that the USG has invested approximately $28 million to date on the conservation of more than 3.3 million hectares – which is the home of the tropical rainforest orangutans which they need to survive.

We look forward to continuing these efforts and our engagement.  This is why we have invited several urban planning firms here tonight – development of Aceh’s people is important.  These U.S. firms are experts at helping with development that is both sustainable and brings strong economic benefits.

I look forward to what I am sure will be a terrific discussion.

As prepared.