[Press Released] As a Democratic State, the Government of Indonesia is Obliged to Involve Civil Society in the Chair of ASEAN 2023

[Jakarta, March 10, 2023] ] – The criminalization of human rights defenders Fatia Maulidiyanti and Haris Azhar under the guise of defaming, Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan has raised concerns about freedom of expression in Indonesia. Freedom of expression is central to democracy. An assault on free expression is an assault on democracy and human rights.

Not only in Indonesia, but throughout the Southeast Asian region, democracy is deteriorating and civil space is shrinking. According to an assessment conducted by international civil society organizations, civil space in ASEAN is on the verge of being blocked, repressed, and closed. One prominent trend is the criminalization of human rights defenders.

As the most democratic country in the region, Indonesia should ensure freedom of expression by setting an example for other ASEAN member countries not to silence critical voices. As ASEAN chairman, Indonesia is responsible for advancing democracy by involving civil society, and advancing, respecting, and protecting human rights must be a priority for Indonesia. Nonetheless, Indonesia chose the theme ASEAN Matters: Epicentrum of Growth, which is focused on economic development while maintaining regional stability.

The world will be watching Indonesia’s chairmanship as it pushes for a resolution to Myanmar’s military coup two years ago. Does the five-point consensus effective? How can Myanmar promote an inclusive national dialogue agenda? Furthermore, the Rohingya issue must be prioritized. The Rohingya’s population status must be fought for, and their rights must be restored. Human trafficking prevention in the digital context will also be promoted.

In terms of the economy, Indonesia wishes to initiate blue-economy cooperation, energy transition by encouraging electric vehicles, and an inclusive digital economy with the industrial sector as one of its main pillars. Civil society in the region must be involved in the planning and implementation of regional development agendas. Don’t let ASEAN to later only facilitate natural resource exploitation that harms the environment.

The issue of migrant workers will also be a concern, especially crew members on fishing boats. The government is required to invite fishing boat crew (AKP) participation in any protection agenda in the area, both for human rights and labor rights protection. As chairman, Indonesia should lead the charge to end the low-wage regime.

A number of these challenges are not only on the government’s agenda, but also on the agenda for regional civil society solidarity, which will be carried out at the 2023 ASEAN Civil Society Conference/ASEAN People’s Forum (ACSC/APF). This is an annual civil society conference in the ASEAN region that aims to build solidarity and form joint actions to influence pro-community policy changes in the region.

Only with full participation of civil society in ASEAN agendas, including the civil society interface meeting agenda with ASEAN leaders, Indonesia as chair of ASEAN will be considered successful and ASEAN will become more relevant as a people-oriented platform.

However, if Indonesia does not welcome civil society participation, it is violating the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC) blueprint, which states that the ACSC/APF should “… convene the ASEAN Social Forum and the ASEAN Civil Society Conference on an annual basis to explore the best means for effective dialogue, consultation, and cooperation between ASEAN and ASEAN Civil Society.”

Jakarta, 10 March 2023

National Organizing Committee – Asean’s People Forum 2023


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