Kemitraan and Perludem

These past weeks have been incredible. Working with Perludem and Kemitraan has led to a number of wonderful connections. I’ve had the opportunity to meet former constitutional judges, constitutional law experts, the U.S. ambassador in Indonesia, and the head of IFES Indonesia (International Foundation for Electoral Systems).

The two CSOs that I am working with this summer, Kemitraan and Perludem, are both wrapping up a project to codify Indonesia’s election laws. Currently, national elections are governed by four law that are reviewed and updated separately each election cycle. There are many inconsistencies between these four laws, such as time requirements for reporting election results, different terms with the same meaning, and the same terms with different meanings. This leads to a lot of confusion during elections and can lead to votes marked as invalid. The election management bodies (EMBs) are left without a clear legal course. The overlapping and contradicting provisions also creates a legal vacuum, leading to legal uncertainty. By overhauling the election code, the CSOs wish to fix other issues as well, such as eliminate opportunities for election results manipulation, ensure the principle of one-man-one-vote, and make voting accessible for the disabled.

Several civil society organizations have come together to advocate for the omnibus election law initiative aimed at strengthening the electoral legal framework in Indonesia. Perludem, Kemitraan, and LIPI have each drafted a version of a code that streamlines the election laws into one bill. This effort has been a culmination of work from scholars, election experts, and international supporters. Now that the drafting of the code is complete, the next hurdle to cross is ensuring that the law is passed in parliament. Despite the general receptiveness of the omnibus election law bill by the legislature, media, and EMBs, the bill has to make its way through a congress that is even less productive than the U.S. congress. The goal is pass it by early 2017 to allow time for its implementation ahead of the 2019 election cycle.

My work focuses on identifying issues that relate to the codification efforts, including ways to increase civic participation, effectively implement election technology, and how to narrow the current multi-party system (there are currently seventeen main political parties) into a limited multi-party system.In between doing research on these initiatives, I help out with other project teams at Kemitraan as they compose project proposals and drafts.

One such project is aimed at improving the marine and fisheries management system in Indonesia. Indonesia contains around 20% of the world’s coral reefs. Unfortunately, Indonesia’s marine ecosystem is facing a diverse array of challenges and threats from unsustainable practices and prolonged bad governance.

The current over-exploitation of the marine and fishery sectors poses serious risks to the environment and the livelihood of the communities who depend on it. Illegal unregulated unregistered (IUU) fishing has resulted in extreme inequality to millions of people living in and around 11,000 coastal villages (approximately 11% of the 78,000 villages) who rely on fishing as their source of protein and economic sustainability. This has contributed to unequal access to economic capital and the continued ineffective governance at the village level. The improvement of governance, livelihood, and sustainability in marine and fisheries will significantly contribute to the welfare of traditional fishers and mitigate bad governance from the national level, down to the village level, where most traditional fishers are located.

Aggregating this problem further, many of the fish are caught by IUU fishing vessels that use the most reckless fishing techniques, including slavery and crimes at sea. This has resulted in unsustainable fishing and the degradation of the marine ecosystems. The Government of Indonesia continues to face challenges in promoting IUUF as an international political-economic issue to address this problem. As a result of the continued unsustainable and destructive fishing practices, the percentage of healthy coral reefs, mangroves, and sea grass is rapidly diminishing. The collateral effects of reduced fish stocks are creating potentially irreversible economic, health, and environmental impacts on Indonesia and the world.

Thus, there is a very serious need to formulate a comprehensive and holistic programmatic approach to address the eclectic list of challenges in the marine and fishery sectors, including but not limited to: (i) IUU fishing by foreign and national vessels, (ii) coral reef destruction, (iii) depleting fishery resources, (iv) destructive fishing practices, (v) land-based pollutions, (vi) climate change, (vii) spatial planning, and (vii) ineffective law enforcement.

Each day at work I am faced with exciting and challenging issues. Working with NGOs is wrought with its own unique challenges, such as the ongoing hunt for funding and often times delayed results, but the work itself is extremely rewarding. It is a reminder of the things that really matter and goes to show that with some effort and cooperation, even the world’s toughest issues can be tackled.