At the Borneo Project, we believe that the first step to just conservation efforts is to help communities gain legal rights to their land. The second step is to help them conserve it. One of the fundamental ways we approach this viewpoint is to support on-the-ground efforts that make land conservation a reality.
Since 2008, we’ve collaborated with Baru Bian, a land rights lawyer and State parliament member in Sarawak, Malaysia, allowing us to do just that. We teamed up with Baru Bian specifically because of his commitment to land rights and because his efforts would help us ensure that even the poorest citizens of Sarawak could protect rights to their land.
Over the past five years, the Borneo Project has been working with Baru Bian, giving money to communities in Borneo to help them gain legal access to their land. Thus far, because of our financial support, Baru Bian has handled 13 separate cases impacting over 200,000 people involving 15 longhouses and 22 villages. Many of these cases have been won, but many are also being appealed. Given the appeals process can often take many months, if not years, our financial support is especially vital to ensure these cases are properly tried and heard.
Financial backing from the Borneo Project specifically includes much-needed efforts such as filing of court fees, service charges, traveling expenses to and from court – including airfare, taxi, food, and accommodation – as well as telephone bills. It’s important to note that no professional fee is paid for Baru Bian’s work.
We at the Borneo Project are deeply committed to continuing to support Baru Bian and other indigenous land rights lawyers in Sarawak as they continue to fight for indigenous land rights in Borneo and we’re proud of these important collaborations.