Wednesday 19 Sep 2018 | 15:37 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 19 Sep 2018 | 15:37 | SYDNEY

Reader riposte: More on Indonesia and corruption


Sam Roggeveen


10 November 2008 13:10

Ben Davis writes about our ongoing discussion about Indonesia's anti-corruption drive. What started this thread was a claim by Gerry van Klinken in a conference presentation that this drive had been imposed on Indonesia by foreign actors (a claim he has since retreated from a little). Gerry van Klinken's presentation can now be found here:

I fully support Rod Brazier's argument that there were elements in civil society, namely advocacy NGOs, that were vital to post-Suharto anti-corruption efforts.

I conducted an honours thesis last year on advocacy NGOs' efforts in eradicating corruption in the post-Suharto era, and to say that the good governance agenda was created purely by foreign donors is a stretch. But to downplay their role and other societal efforts is equally problematic. The story is a bit more complex than that.

The transition to democracy and the expansion in political space in the post-Suharto era created a new system of politics where a multitude of actors promoted the anti-corruption agenda; from political parties, media observers and civil society, good governance and transparency are at the forefront of political efforts. The host of anti-corruption NGOs, such as Indonesia Corruption Watch and Transparency International, effectively institutionalised the broader social movement.

The situation is actually quite complex. You have political parties monitored by NGOs, who themselves are monitored by other NGOs and are accountable to their donors. You have donors responsible to their local/domestic constituencies and  the media. The media monitors NGOs and the government. The government also monitors NGOs and has a law requiring NGOs and other civil society organisations to publish their funding, activities and aims. The KPU (General Elections Commission) and KPK (Corruption Eradication Commission) are also key institutions involved in monitoring and governance. Everyday Indonesians will get another chance to put pressure on the government in the 2009 elections. NGOs have mainly focused on the government in tackling governance. Political parties have pressured NGOs to be more accountable, and in next year's election I would be very surprised if anti-corruption did not feature prominently in the major party campaigns. 

Donors were vital in supplying the technical expertise and funding for NGOs and the government to fight corruption. In an article I wrote for Inside Indonesia, I argued that 'Good governance became a bridge between local NGO activists frustrated with the lack of economic and political reform and foreign donors keen to make Indonesia more accountable'. I think this is how the foreign/domestic argument needs to be considered.