The presence of CSOs in Indonesia has been rooted in the struggle for independence, initiated by student and youth groups who had the opportunities and privilege to study in schools and universities both in Indonesia (then Netherlands Indies) and in the Netherlands. Religious groups too have significantly contributed to the promotion of capacities of rural and urban communities and the establishment of local social groupings. Two Islamic organizations have been prominent: a traditional Muslim organization called Nahdatul Ulama (NU) and Muhamadiyah, a modern Muslim organization. Since the beginning of the colonial period, both organizations have contributed to education, the health sector and local social and economic promotion. Several other minor religious groups to a certain extent have also contributed to these sectors in the country.

The rising of roles of NGOs in development and advocacy activities emerged from the establishment of the military dictatorship under President Suharto whose development programs were mostly driven or supported by foreign aid. Former student activists challenged top-down technocratic development policies and repressive politics of the military regime. NGOs started initiating alternative approaches promoting grassroots-based and participative development, while providing legal aid to the people whose rights had been violated by the military regime as well as opposing large infrastructure programs.

Rising concerns on foreign aid

Development programs during the dictatorship were driven and supported largely by foreign aid. As a result, donor organizations formed the Inter-governmental group on Indonesia (IGGI) chaired by the Minister of International Development of the Netherlands. Human rights violation and the dependence on foreign aid encouraged big NGOs in Indonesia and NGOs from the donor countries to establish an international forum to watch and provide critical inputs to the IGGI. The forum was called the International NGO Forum on IGGI Matters (INGI). Based in The Hague, Netherlands in the office of NOVIB, now Oxfam, a small secretariat was hosted in Jakarta. In 1992 IGGI was dissolved by President Suharto. In 1993 the donors established a new group called Consultative Group on Indonesia (CGI) chaired by the World Bank. The NGOs Forum was also renamed to form the International NGO Forum on Indonesian Development (INFID). INGI and INFID hold annual meetings and conferences before the IGGI and CGI meetings in the donor countries.

Regularly critical issues are being raised in the meetings and conferences of INGI and INFID such as: environmental destruction (lead by Walhi), repressive actions in the family planning program, big dams, violation of human rights in East Timor, Papua and Aceh, and the violation of human rights of families from ex-Communist Party members, and many other issues generally related to development projects and programs supported by foreign aid.

The end of the dictatorship brought fundamental changes in the relations between Indonesia and donors, and between the government and CSOs. The financial crises that hit Indonesia since 1997 gave leeway to donors led by IMF and World Bank and pressured the Indonesian government to implement fundamental changes to its economic policies and political processes. The CGI began to hold meetings in Indonesia and the chairmanship changed from the Netherlands to two co-chairs held by the Indonesian Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs and the World Bank respectively. Although the leadership in the donor coordination forum (CGI) had changed, the agenda continued to be dictated by the World Bank. Notably, papers and documents from the civil society organizations have to be approved first by a World Bank team before they are distributed in CGI meetings.

In 2007, the CGI was dissolved by the Indonesian government coinciding with the end of the stand-by loan agreement with IMF. This was perceived positively by civil society organizations that have long demanded the termination of the CGI due to its dominating role in dictating development policies for Indonesia and consequent dependency on foreign aid. The termination of the CGI however, did little to end Indonesia’s dependence on foreign aid. Foreign aid continues to flow in even bigger amounts primarily focusing on programs for policy changes. The government budget framework stipulated in the laws for the annual budgets provides the space for continuous dependence on foreign aid. To make matters worse, even the sub-national governments have been given the ability to request for foreign aid support from the central government (on-lending policy).

Promotion of aid effectiveness

To encourage the government to stop its dependence on foreign aid, INFID and several NGOs and CBOs (Community Based Organizations) throughout Indonesia began the promotion of aid effectiveness under the Paris Declaration Framework. In 2007, INFID and the Reality of Aid Asia-Pacific (RoA-AP) held a seminar and workshop on aid effectiveness in Jakarta. The seminar and workshop triggered discussions and debates among NGOs and CBOs in Jakarta and at sub-national levels. The Women Coalition of Indonesia (KPI – Koalisi Perempuan Indonesia) started its own consultations among its members throughout Indonesia, through a mix of own initiatives and UNIFEM support. YAKKUM (the Christian Foundation for Public Health) based in Solo, Central Java, active in disaster prevention and recovery programs and through its members promotes community based organizations in several provinces in Indonesia, also started meetings and consultations with community-based organizations. Peasant Movements for Agrarian Reform (AGRA) were also active promoting consultations within the peasant sector.

As a result of their local involvement, INFID, YAKKUM and KPI participated in the CSO Forum and the High Level Forum in Accra in 2008.

The government launched the Jakarta Commitment for Aid Effectiveness in January 2009, at a time when NGOs and CBOs were in the process of consultations to increase the knowledge on the Paris Declaration (PD) and Accra Agenda of Action (AAA). This development came as a surprise to NGOs and CBOs that worried about the establishment of a new donors forum similar to CGI; a step that could be counterproductive to the aid effectiveness framework. The concerns from CSOs were plausible since the government of Indonesia did not play an active role in High Level Forums on Aid Effectiveness, and failed to involve CSOs in the process towards the Jakarta Commitment. However concerns from CSOs were taken seriously by the government, particularly the National Development Planning Ministry that took the lead in the Jakarta Commitment. The implementation of the Jakarta Commitment is coordinated by the ’Aid for Development Effectiveness Secretariat’ (A4DES). Although the government dominates A4DES, the opportunities for CSOs to engage are open.

Since July 2010 A4DES began raising the awareness on aid effectiveness issues at the sub-national level involving local governments, local business sectors, universities and local CSOs. A4DES engaged also with INFID and a semi-NGO, the Partnership for Governance (an organization initially founded by UNDP, the government, CSOs activists, University academes and other donors). Since then three sub-national meetings and workshops have been conducted by A4DES in cooperation with INFID and the Partnership for Governance.  2011 will see a continuation of meetings and workshops at the sub-national levels to cover all provinces in Indonesia.

The evaluation of the Paris Declaration in Indonesia in 2010 involved CSOs both as respondents and as members of the National Reference Group (NRG). INFID was appointed by the Ministry of National Development Planning to become a member of the NRG for the Paris Declaration Evaluation together with representatives from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JAICA), chaired by the Vice Minister of the National Development Planning. The evaluation process represented a good opportunity for CSOs to engage openly with the government and donors. The second phase of the Monitoring of the Paris Declaration in Indonesia is still on-going with a continuation of CSO participation.

The second CSO national consultation on aid effectiveness was held in April 2010 in Yogyakarta and followed by a National Open Forum involving the national government, donors, international NGOs, local governments, local NGOs, CBOs and the business sector. The CSOs national consultation was used as an opportunity for CSOs to discuss and debate the Accountability Charter for CSOs and concluded that CSOs needed their own Accountability Charter. Participants in the National Consultation selected one representative to participate in the Global Open Forum in Istanbul in July 2010. A4DES supported another CSO representative to participate at the Istanbul Global Open Forum. In total, three representatives from Indonesian CSOs took part in the conference, one supported by BetterAid (AGRA), one supported by A4DES (KPI) and one self-funded (YAKKUM).

Aid Effectiveness has been slowly, but increasingly, integrated in the framework of CSOs actions in Indonesia, particularly in advocacy CSOs mechanisms and within the development and service delivery CSOs.

Increasing opportunities bring increasing challenges

The increasing roles of CSOs in development have been part of democratic processes in Indonesia. However, political democracy has not been accompanied by changes in the behavior of bureaucracy. There is still a certain level of reluctance among government bureaucrats to allow participation of CSOs, and even use the Paris Declaration as a tool to control national, local and international CSOs working in Indonesia. To increase harmonization and alignment, CSOs have to be more controlled in their actions. Local CSOs and international CSOs are severely impacted by these bureaucratic actions. At local levels, CSOs requesting support from international NGOs have to get approval from local authorities before they can obtain funding from the international agencies (international NGOs or bilateral donors). The government is increasing its control mechanisms of international NGOs, particularly working on issues such as human rights. The government also prohibits certain international NGOs to support local NGOs in regions such as in Papua, Molluccas and Central Sulawesi. These regions are still considered susceptible to conflicts and hence human rights violations.

Despite its democratic openness, control of CSOs by the government is actually increasing. This raises certain challenges for CSOs and donors that actively support projects in regions where human rights violations and environmental destructions are common. While PD and AAA stipulates special commitments on accountability (including anti-corruption) and democratic ownership; corruption, human rights violations and freedom for CSOs to operate continue to be the principal concerns of CSOs in Indonesia. Reports on corruption in foreign aid-supported projects have been publicly revealed; even projects implemented using debt swap mechanisms.

On paper, aid effectiveness has been a strong commitment by the government and donors working in Indonesia, however corruption and human rights violations continue in projects and regions supported by the donors.

Lessons learned

INFID and several NGOs and CBOs have been active in promoting aid effectiveness, while campaigning for reducing dependency on foreign aid; instead the government is encouraged to maximize the mobilization of domestic resources. At the central level the government has to some extent been open to civil society participation. Unfortunately this participation has been limited to those actors strongly involved with development service deliveries and not to others engaging in the advocacy for human rights and anti-corruption. At the local level, the space for CSOs is limited due to strict controls by local governments and huge flows of donor funds through the local governments using mechanisms parallel to the government structures. The joint meetings and workshops held by A4DES, INFID and Partnership at the local level to some extent have helped local governments, local CSOs and local business actors to bridge the existing communication gaps.

The PD and AAA on aid effectiveness have been used as a joint framework for developing more open and broader cooperation between CSOs, governments and the business sector. Donors have been limited in their cooperation, however it is expected that donors will evolve to accommodate more participatory mechanisms as systems are being brought into existence to facilitate participation particularly through A4DES. It is worth highlighting several lessons from the on-going processes of promoting aid effectiveness, particularly for CSOs:

  1. CSOs are able to use the mechanisms to link up with government policies and programs, both by providing critical inputs and to some extent in implementing programs.
  2. There is increasing understanding of aid effectiveness among CSOs and local governments.
  3. There is increasing awareness of maximizing local and domestic resources among CSOs, as seen from activities of domestic fund raising and experts.
  4. There is increasing awareness and needs for specific CSOs Accountability Charter, in line with the Istanbul Principles. Indonesian NGOs are now in the process of finalizing the Accountability Charter based on the studies done in early 2000s.

There will be more lessons learnt from on-going and future work that will contribute to the strengthening of CSOs position as development actors in Indonesia. CSOs will continue to engage with A3DES through its working groups both at national and local levels, to ensure that all commitments in the PD and AAA are implemented so that development programs will be more effective and produce clearly defined results.

Share this Article