The idea to form a community forum between the peoples of the Highlands in Malaysia and Indonesia came to late Datuk Dr Judson Sakai Tagal, a former Sarawak Assistant Minister in the Sarawak Chief Minister Department, in 2003. He was determined to see the Highlands of Borneo develop in sustainable ways, while protecting the environment and preserving the culture and traditions of its peoples.

Inspired by the idea, the Lundayeh/ Lun Bawang, Kelabit, and Sa’ban Indigenous Peoples of Bario, Ba’ Kelalan, Long Semadoh (Sarawak), Ulu Padas (Sabah), Krayan and Krayan Selatan (Indonesia) got together and established the Forum Masyarakat Adat Dataran Tinggi Borneo (Alliance of the Indigenous Peoples of the Highlands of Borneo) or FORMADAT in Long Bawan (Krayan), October 2004.

The initiative finds its legitimacy in the traditional leadership of the Highlands. The Krayan Selatan customary chief, Lewi G. Paru, is the National Chief of FORMADAT Indonesia, and the Ba’ Kelalan customary chief, George Sigar Sultan, is the National Chief of FORMADAT Malaysia.

FORMADAT is a trans-boundary, grassroots initiative that aims to increase awareness and understanding of the communities of the Highlands, maintain cultural traditions, build local capacity, and encourage sustainable development in the Heart of Borneo without risking the degradation of the quality of the social and natural environment.

The aim of FORMADAT is to encourage sustainable development by means of community-based ecotourism, organic farming and agro-forestry, communication and information technology, and the preservation of cultural and natural heritage of the Highlands to benefit present and future generations. The organisation of FORMADAT is comprised of the sub-districts of Krayan and Krayan Selatan in Indonesia; and Bario, Ba’ Kelalan, Long Semadoh, and Ulu Padas in Malaysia.

FORMADAT has already been formally registered in the district of Nunukan (Indonesia) and in Sarawak as a social organisation, in accordance with legal requirements and procedures. If the process of registration might be necessarily different in respect of state sovereignty, the spirit, vision and mission of FORMADAT remain one and the same, and are clearly articulated in the organisational charters.